Beer Man

The Accidental Brewery: Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken Taps Its First Beer

Mono Mono tapped its rice lager last weekend.
Mono Mono tapped its rice lager last weekend. Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken
There's almost no better combination than wings and beer. That's something J.W. Lee knows well as the owner of a dozen restaurants in the Denver area, including three Korean fried chicken joints. So when Lee found out last year that the building he'd just bought for the newest location of Mono Mono in Lafayette happened to come with a small brewing system, he decided to make a few friends who knew how to brew beer.

Enter Nick Kauffman and Andrew Van Tassel from Kettle Top, a consulting company that helps breweries get their systems off the ground and then manage them.

"We can jump in and help a brewery do any aspect of the brew, whether that is recipe building, brewing, packaging, branding, et cetera," says Van Tassel, a software engineer who has also built an app that allows brewers to connect sensors to some of their equipment so that it can be monitored remotely. Van Tassel, who lives near the Lafayette Mono Mono and says he had even looked at the space a few years ago when it was for rent, approached Lee about the brew system after reading that Mono Mono would be opening there.

On Saturday, the restaurant, at 599 Crossing Drive, tapped the first of two brews, a 4.8 percent ABV rice lager made with Sorachi Ace hops, which lend lemony notes and a crisp finish. The beer is now on tap at all three Mono Mono locations (the other two are in Denver), where it can help cool down the spice or balance the sweetness from the Korean-style fried chicken, wings and sandwiches.

The second beer, a 6.4 percent ABV double-dry-hopped New England Style IPA, was also tapped. It's brewed with Mosaic, Citra and El Dorado hops for a big aroma and mouthfeel.
Mono Mono owns a small brewery in Lafayette. - MONO MONO KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN
Mono Mono owns a small brewery in Lafayette.
Mono Mono Korean Fried Chicken
Both beers were designed by Kauffman, who is also a brewer at Lumpy Ridge Brewing in Estes Park and has previously worked for Oskar Blues, 12Degree Brewing, Vision Quest and other local beer makers.

Mono Mono's small system once belonged to Uturn BBQ, which took a somewhat novel approach to beer, selling it by the six-pack or the single can through a drive-thru window, where employees also dished out barbecue. Although Uturn closed in early 2019, after less than two years in business, its owners had renovated and retrofitted the building, a former Burger King, for the beer-making equipment.

But it had sat unused until Kauffman and Van Tassel took a look. "Overall, the brewery was in good shape. It was missing a few things like the keg washer that was supposed to be there, the pump, and some valves also needed to be replaced," Van Tassel says. "Luckily, our friends at Vision Quest helped us with the keg cleaning. Nick has worked on many systems, so it wasn't too hard to get it going."

Mono Mono was actually started in New York City by another chef, but Lee has brought the concept to Denver with locations on in LoDo and in the Congress Park neighborhood. In addition to fried chicken and crispy wings, the restaurants serve dishes like kimchi fries and bulgogi nachos.

Lee owns Seoul Hospitality Group, a Denver-based company that has started more than twenty restaurants, including Menya, which serves Japanese-style cuisine at its three locations; Wasabi Sushi Bar in Lakewood; Seoul Korean BBQ & Hot Pot in Aurora; and Seoul ManDoo.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes