The Masonry's second location in Fremont turns one year old tomorrow. To celebrate, the world-class beer bar/meatballeria/pizzeria is throwing a ridiculously tasty birthday party. They're even debuting a new collaboration beer with California's Monkish Brewing made just for this anniversary. (People will wait in line for hours and spend ridiculous amounts of money for any can of Monkish, meanwhile Masonry has their very own Monkish beer.)
Masonry is also serving beers from so many amazing breweries that looking at the tap list gives me a slightly nervous swelling sensation in my chest. Is that nervous excitement? It’s probably a fear of missing out. Not because I’m missing the event—I’ll be there—but because there’s so much incredible beer being poured on Saturday that I know I won’t be able to try everything. But it wouldn’t be The Masonry if their anniversary party didn’t have a crazy long tap list of the most ridiculous beers.
The Masonry’s ability to always, and I mean always, be serving a tap list that is the envy of beer bars around the world is due to the company’s owner, Matt Storm. Storm has deep and personal connections with some of the country’s best breweries. I talked with Storm about what goes into his beer selections and why a vegetarian is running a restaurant that's obsessed with meatballs.
Lester Black: The fact that you guys have a Monkish collaboration beer for your anniversary party is wild. Most restaurants couldn’t even serve Monkish if they wanted to, how were you able to get a collaboration beer with them?
Matt Storm: We’ve been bringing in the Monkish beers for three years now. I was put in touch with Henry [Nguyen] the owner and head brewer of Monkish before they were making IPAs. They were really big in the mixed fermentation community but he still had a "No MSG, No IPA" sign up on the wall. It was a much different brewery back then.
Over the years they have blown up and pulled most of their beer back to the brewery. They can just sell it all out of the brewery. But Henry has always been super generous and gracious and he was nice enough to do this for us. This will be the second beer he has done for us. I really like the idea of doing a Meatball trilogy so we now have two beers under our belts. He is silly enough to not mind that he does me a giant favor and then I ask him to do something really fucking stupid and put a blemish on his brewery but maybe that’s why we get along.
What is the deal with meatballs and the Masonry? Why is there such a big connection there? Aren’t you a vegetarian?
I am. I don’t know, people just really like our meatballs and I find the idea of a meatball to be one of the funniest things on the planet. Even as a vegetarian just the word itself meatball is hilarious to me. So I guess I kind of leaned into that. If you’re a vegetarian and you’ve made 50,000 meatballs like I have it just starts to become funny at some point. So I am just going to be the vegetarian that makes meatballs.
Your beer list is always incredible. It’s full of these greatest-hits breweries that “beer geeks” love to find and geek out over. Do you feel like those people are your target audience? The people that walk in and know what it means to see names like Hill Farmstead and Monkish, is that who you are trying to cater to?
I don’t know, probably not. I think whether or not beer is their passion, most people have far better palates than they are given credit for. The people that I really love serving are just the people that are vaguely interested and they walk in without any sort of pretense or anything.
The people that are hyper beer nerds, we don't really see a whole lot of them. I don’t know, it’s because there’s an aspect of beer culture where it’s like, “I’ve had this before so I’m moving on to the next one.” It’s not like I don’t appeal to them. But I say, at the end of the day, the people I am most excited about bringing in are people that just have a general interest and an open mind about what it is they want to drink.
Do you ever see those people have epiphanies where they try a beer and they think, wow I didn’t even know beer could be that good?
Oh, of course, all the time.
There are times when people will walk in and see what they perceived to be a fairly bland beer on our list and be like, 'Why are you pouring this?’ And it’s because we are really passionate about it and we think it’s really good and underserved. And I think those are some of the most fun reactions.
If there was one beer trend that you could permanently ban, what would it be?
Oh god, answering this question will get me into trouble. OK, I would get rid of trading. Early on people traded and it expanded their palates but at this point, I don’t think people sit down and just enjoy a beer. At least on that hyper beer enthusiastic scale, it seems to be more about collecting than actually enjoying a beer.
The Masonry's 1 Year Anniversary Party is tomorrow, Dec. 1 from 10-2 AM.