A visit to The Stumbling Monk


I won’t call this one an adventure. Found on Capitol Hill, it is a quick pedal from downtown. That’s not to say it is without hills of course.

The Monk lives at 1635 E. Olive Way. I have never claimed to be good with directions. That’s partly why I found this place, for a period of time, hard to find. For one thing, there’s an Olive Street and an Olive Place in the area, in addition to Olive Way.

There’s just something about the location that throws me. What’s more, I have approached the place from a variety of locations. It’s not like I would always head there using the same route. For a while I was coming from First Hill. Several times I have come from REI. On other occasions I would head over to the Monk after being just over on Pine Street. I don’t know. This should help me become familiar with where it is, right? Again, no Magellan here. For quite some time, I always felt the Monk was on the other side of the street and at the last minute I would realize my error. One time I left the place and headed up the wrong direction thinking I was going back Downtown. The fact that I was going uphill should have been a hint I was heading away from the water.

Oh well. What’s important is I have had some good experiences at The Stumbling Monk. Allow me to describe them along with how to get there (if you trust me).

Here is a link to the map. I plotted four of my routes to The Stumbling Monk. Keep in mind as always that your return trip through Downtown must be a slightly different route than your departing route due to one way streets.


The Via REI route is a bit out of the way. See, recently I discovered a shorter, less steep way with fewer stop lights an signs to get to REI and Eastlake Ave which I use to get to the U District. I included the old route anyway. You find the route described in detail in my post regarding Elliot Bay Brewing, Lake City (named Route 2).

The Via Howell route shows my new and improved way to get to REI and Eastlake Ave.

The Via Olive Way route seems to be the most direct route. Riding conditions however are, in my opinion, less favorable than the next route:

Via Pine. Riding Pine is nice due to its bike lanes. Sure, it’s a busy road but I just really love bike lanes. The Olive Way route is also busy but only has Sharrows symbols in the car lanes instead of bike lanes. To ride on Pine coming out of Downtown, you first must ride on Pike, its neighboring street to the south. This is because Pine is a one-way street heading west and Pike is one-way east. This changes at 8th Avenue, where you turn left and jut on over to Pine and continue your progress east. A major downfall to this route is your having to ride through the major shopping district downtown until you get up to about 8th or so. You do, however, have to deal with this type of hectic environment to a certain extent whichever route you use – and for that matter riding through Downtown. I don’t know a viable way around it, so be vigilant and deal with all the drivers on whose radars you will not show up. Oh, and beware of taxi drivers as though that needed stating.

Just after you pass 9th Ave, you go by the Paramount Theatre which is, you know, kind of famous. Shortly, you cross I-5 which is decent. Just as you begin to settle into the climb in your nice bike lane, you have to turn left onto Bellevue Ave. If I was going up toward Elysian Brewing (1221 E. Pike) or Trader Joe’s I would have continued ahead on Pine.

I’ve mentioned Elysian Brewing in a couple of my other posts, but haven’t really talked about their flagship location on Pike. In a nutshell, I have a love/hate thing with Elysian. They do make good beer and many kinds of it. A good number of them can be found at any time on tap at any of their three locations in Seattle. The service I get at their taprooms, however, can be a problem; overcrowding is the other problem. One thing I have had success with, if I want to go to Elysian, has been going to their Pike location on Sunday near opening time.

Now on Bellevue Avenue, it’s only some 800 feet to Olive Way where you turn right. Head on up, and I do mean up, this diagonally-runing road with no bike facilities until the Monk appears on your right. If you can take in the sights as you navigate traffic while climbing, you will notice a Starbucks on the left. This Starbucks is notable to me in that it was the first location in the world to serve beer and wine. Now, when I said the Monk would “appear” on your right, I may have exaggerated. I should have said it’s there, and if you’re like me, you’ll pass it and have to backtrack on the sidewalk to find it. It’s next to an Asian takeout place and it is bordered on the other side by the sidestreet named Belmont.

The Stumbling Monk is a corner building made of brick. Its rustic, heavy wooden door with tiny window covered by iron bars is located on the oblique corner of the building. There is a small distinctive sign overhead, but don’t expect to have this get your attention as you are riding on the street. Really, the building’s appearance and the trouble I’ve had in the past in locating it is metaphorical. This place is a bit of a mystery to me. It’s kind of dark in there and relatively quiet – well, quiet relative to its content of young revelers. The Monk opens at 6 pm every day and one generally has a few hours before it gets too busy.

Most of the time, I get a relaxing, cloistered feeling when I’m there. I prefer to be at the Monk when it’s dark and rainy out. It just feels appropriate. I have always sat at the small bar where my eyes always fall upon the small, attractive no-smoking sign with a dove on it. Indeed, it’s so peaceful in there that on one occasion I asked the beertender if using cel phones was allowed. I just had the feeling there was an unwritten rule. There isn’t (I think), as the young man said “you’d be surprised how many people do it.” Of course, I try – as I do everywhere – not to take phone calls at the bar or at restaurant tables.

Before you is the Monk’s chalkboard hanging above the coolers and listing what’s on tap. To their right is a white board (which is less in keeping with the ambiance) that lists the bottles.

I don't know how he feels about this picture, but I thought it was interesting

I don’t know how he feels about this picture, but I thought it was an interesting shot.

What can I say about the beers served here? World class would probably sum it up. Always present on the boards are Europe’s finest such as St. Bernardus and Chimay. Included are America’s finest European style beers. The beers are not always European however. But they are pretty much always beers other than standard pale ales, porters and IPAs. I am certainly not qualified to talk much about these beers. I don’t mind admitting that I really only know Northwest craft beer and to a lesser extent craft beer from the broader U.S. Even on those beers, I can’t speak all that in-depth. That’s not what this blog is about. I can say that on one visit I just had to try a particular draft beer listed on the chalkboard. It was by Dogfishhead Brewing and was listed at 23% alcohol if I recall – supposedly the world’s strongest fruit beer. Raspberry was it? It was pretty tasty with pronounced fruit flavor and even more pronounced alcohol warming as you’d expect. I considered it basically a weak spirit rather than a strong beer. That day the beertender, talking to another patron, said that sometimes they are hesitant to list the ABVs on beers because some people come in and order based on that number. While it is always a consideration for me, (as discussed in another post) on this visit, I most certainly was guilty of ordering based on the ABV. Just had to try it. Wasn’t especially glad I did, but it was fine.

I almost always order from the draft list. The Monk has something like (counting in my mind) 7 or 8 taps. Looking at the included pic makes me believe it has to be 10. A couple times I have ordered from the low end of their bottle list. I’ve gotten Two Beers IPA in a can here (early on in the canning craze, so I thought it was pretty neat). I also used to order a can of IPA from Colorado’s Caldera Brewing. Each was $3 per can. For a while, and maybe he still does this, a cask would be tapped on a certain day. I want to say Thursdays. One time I had Elysian’s Immortal IPA on cask. I don’t like this IPA normally, but it tasted like a different beer from this cask. I loved it! Making the cask thing even more great is the price – something surprisingly good like $3.50 per glass, maybe $4 (and the glasses seem to be imperial pints (20 oz).

Sitting atop the structure that houses the bathroom is a dilapidated, cobweb covered antique bicycle. Seems to me it’s painted black, but maybe that’s just the lighting. I appreciate it when a place has a bike on display though I’m not sure exactly what it means.

One of my only complaints about the Monk has to be the bathroom. There is only one of them, and it is pretty run down. Nasty really. I guess I can’t say it’s dirty, but it’s nasty. Smells like some of the apartments I’ve had. I expect to see roaches skitter away when I go in. The bathroom isn’t really out of place though. That was not an insult. Make sense? I just think the bathroom could be nicer. And I’m not even a woman.

I’ve mentioned the beertender a couple times thusfar. There is the owner guy who most often is pouring when I show up (there is only ever one person working), and other times there is sometimes someone else pouring. I want to talk about the owner just at bit. I like him well enough but I don’t know much about him. I haven’t really spoken to him much beyond ordering my beer. He strikes me as a quiet person. I’ve seen him emerge from an exterior door just beside the Monk in the same building. I’m not sure if that’s just where supplies are kept, or if he lives there. Not sure why I think he might live there. More likely it’s just where stuff is kept. Perhaps it fits in with the whole slightly mysterious aura of this place that the owner would live a hermit-like existence behind the small, unlabeled door next to it.

When you come to The Stumbling Monk, bear in mind two rules: 1.) Order at the corner of the bar nearest the door where there is one of those black rubber mats. If you stand at another spot of the bar, he will likely courteously and quietly remind you that you order at the ordering spot 2.) I think there is a minimum charge on cards – as in, if your order is lower than $5 or something, there is an additional charge to let you use your card. Of course it is pretty much impossible to have your order be lower than $5 unless you just order a bag of chips (yes, they have a small display of bags of chips). So maybe the minimum is $10 or something. On one recent visit, I put one beer on my card because it just worked out that way. The owner guy didn’t say anything and let it slide. I think the owner guy is probably cool. Maybe one day we’ll chat more. But then again I like things the way they are.

Thanks, Stumbling Monk. It’s nice to always have you there as an afterthought in my plans. Next time I’m in the area – hopefully on a chilly, wet night – I’ll stop in for some peace and comfort.

Thanks also, readers for joining me on another ride! Comments, suggestions and corrections always welcome.

Cheers and keep spinning those spokes!


Eureka! No More Grunting and Groaning at My Growlers!

Leave a comment

I’m a fairly strong guy. Not overly big, but made of tough stuff I think. Yet opening growlers is hard! Those standard metal caps just provide very little traction. The joyous occasion of opening a growler most often carries with it straining and the low-level irritation of skin sliding across slightly bumpy, painted metal. Squeeze turn. Squeeze turn. Put more shoulder  into it and squeeze turn. Now throw in some hip and back. SQUEEEEEZE! TURNNNN! REPEAT! Phhizz. Exhale.

One recent night as I set my growler on the counter and prepared for the little fight, I looked up. There it was. In my open cupboard lay a rubber band – the type that holds together bundles of broccoli in the store. It clicked. I tried it. Eureka! Exceedingly pleasing, effortless growler opening!

Look at me. I'm crafty. Maybe I'll change the theme of this blog. Nah, I'll post another adventure soon!

Look at me. I’m crafty. Maybe I’ll change the theme of this blog. Nah, I’ll post another beer-by-bike adventure soon!

Another benefit of this discovery is that I can feel free to make sure the caps are on nice and tightly when I replace them. As it is, I normally make a growler last between one and three weeks (that’s right). I store them on their side in the fridge, which, theoretically, lets less gas escape. Yes, the beer loses fizz and tastes gradually less wonderful as the days go by but I like to make them last. I don’t have the opportunity to visit breweries as often as I’d like, so I stretch out the enjoyment of these reminder-vessels. It works for me. Do what works for you.

This was just too neat to not share. An extremely simple, cost free solution to an annoying problem. No thought required. It literally appeared before my eyes!



%d bloggers like this: