Overall, a C-
What upsets me most is not that the service was totally lacking in welcoming spirit, but that after paying exorbitant prices for common Belgian bottled beers, they refused to give us a taste of anything on tap.
I had traveled from Denver to Ashville on the advice of a beer enthusiast from England who was staying in the Ashville area. 1700 miles later I found myself inside the Thirsty Monk on a very quiet Friday evening. The many taps and stocked coolers of Belgian ales was exciting. We pulled up to the bar and stood there looking longingly at the manager and two bartenders as they went about their business of ringing things up on the register, tidying up the bar, and asking those already sitting at the bar if they needed refills. It was painfully obvious we were not being noticed. My English friend borrowed a tap menu from someone sitting at the bar and we looked it over. All of us had questions, but when the manager/bartender arrived she seemed in no state to answer questions. What she did do was correct us with her incorrect pronunciations for the names of some of the beers. (Side note: I may spend every year in Benelux tasting the beers from the abbeys and breweries but I'm not about to be a stickler on pronunciation. I mention it here because the points against the Thirsty Monk were rapidly adding up and we had not yet received our first drink.)
Add to the smug and unfriendly service the exorbitant cost of their overchilled beers (more than double what I would pay from a local retailer and served way too cold) and you have a recipe for disaster.
But If you think this is why I had a horrible time at the Monk, then hold on. Remember that I drove 1700 miles to drink here. I purchased two rounds (6 beers) for the three of us and had the total up to somewhere in the area of $53. I returned to the bar to order two bottled doubles and asked for a taster of the Three Philosophers Triple Chocolate they have on tap.
"We don't do that," said the manager. What!!!??? "We don't give tastes anymore." I asked again and again no.
Feeling dejected I returned to my table in and told them we were not allowed to taste anything on tap. My English friend's jaw about hit the table. I then went up to the second bartender and asked again, very nicely, for the slightest taste of the Three Philosophers, letting her know I was leery of the chocolate following my last ale.
Again: "Sorry, we can't give tasters. That's our new policy." "Please," I said. "I just want to know if it's what I'd like to drink next and I've driven a long way to be here tonight." She just stared at me like she didn't have the time for this or me. "Then kindly give me back my credit card, total us out, and we won't spend another cent in here," I told her coolly. And without so much as a blink of apology she did just that and we left.
This is the famous Thirsty Monk!?! What a stupid experience and a classless place. Never, in all my years of visiting bars and breweries around the world, have I experienced such cheap behavior....and at a place tauted as the best of the best in the Paris of the South.