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Desert Companion

Profile: Mark del Monte: King of beers

Mark del Monte general manager of Public House

Dopplebeck. Sour. Helle. Belgian. Trippel. Huh? Most people can’t reel off varieties of beer as easily as they do Cabernet, Merlot or Zinfandel, but that day is coming fast. Drink this in: “Wine is always going to be there, but beer is going to give it a run for its money,” predicts Mark del Monte, general manager of the Public House in the Venetian, Las Vegas’ first gastropub. But Public House isn’t a pretentious boîte full of beer snobs. Think vintage signage, piles of books, photos of monkeys wearing suits, Queens of the Stone Age on the sound system. Oh, and more than 200 beers. From Maui Coconut Porter to Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard to Lakefront New Grist Gluten Free. This ain’t no wine cellar. But there’s a lot of art and smarts behind curating the brews. Del Monte is a licensed cicerone; cicerones are to beer what sommeliers are to wine. However, any similarities end there in light of del Monte’s buzzy enthusiasm about the wide world of beer — and passion for splashing it around in the kitchen. “Let’s not just drink with it. Let’s cook with it!” del Monte says. “We’ve been braising our short ribs in the blackened porter. We’ve got a chocolate stout layer cake that is just fantastic.” There’s IPA batter on the onion rings, Saison batter on the halibut and a cider gastrique on their crispy oysters. Such, ahem, educational dishes are catching on among drinkers tired of bland old light beer. Del Monte will drink to that. “America has been so accustomed to the American pilsner — the Millers, the Budweisers, the Coors, all of your line-level beers we push down people’s throats,” he explains. “But once Sam Adams came in and started getting a reputation as a beer that tasted like something, people got excited. The import explosion has been ridiculous — believe it or not, there are more labels of beers than there are of wine.” Ooh. Sounds like someone’s throwing down the goblet, so to speak. What gives beer an edge? Rich, frothy versatility. “We can use all of these different hops and barleys — strains that have been around for thousands of years,” he says. “But you can only make so much wine and use so many ingredients. You can put anything in beer.” Even bacon, as Rogue has recently done. “Yes. That’s definitely a breakfast beer. You can’t make a wine like that. Only beer can be so eccentric and such a blank canvas. We have a Stone Smoked Porter, it’s a smoked beer. They smoke the barley — you can really taste the smoke.” And then when you’re really ready for something to chew on? Del Monte is full of recommendations, from Flemish sour red ales to India pale ales to beer made by … monks? That would be the Trappist Rochefort 10. “My favorite one of only six Trappist beers. Only a handful of monks brew it, the recipe is ancient — only 20 monks know it and no other monk can learn it until one monk dies. There’s only one water source. Amazing beer.” Amen and pass the pitcher.

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