In people years, being in your early 20s is pretty young, but in terms of craft breweries, being over 20 is ancient. At 23 years old, Barley’s is Columbus’ second oldest brewery, and it has been incredibly influential in our city’s craft beer scene, with craft beer heavyweights Scott Francis, Lenny Kolada, and Angelo Signorino all playing major roles, both at Barley’s and beyond.
Laura and I recently stopped into Barley’s on a Friday afternoon while I was playing hooky from work. It seemed like a nice time to stop in to appreciate a piece of Columbus beer history and to grab a bite to eat while there were no cheerleader competitions or comic conventions or anything else at the Convention Center that normally keeps Barley’s bar packed. The scene in Barley’s is a little different than at many of the taprooms across town. The main difference is that it isn’t really just a taproom, but a full-scale restaurant and brewpub. The bar itself actually takes up relatively little space, as booths line the walls and tables fill the middle of the narrow, deep dining room.
The beer, as always, was enjoyable. Angelo is a fantastic brewer, and is a great guy to boot. I honestly don’t know if there’s a better-liked brewer in town. I won’t go into his long and distinguished history at Barley’s, as Pat Woodward has already covered that territory more thoroughly than I could do it justice (http://patspints.com/2015/09/10/talking-ales-with-angelo-part-1-a-look-back/). Suffice it to say, though, the dude knows his stuff. Barley’s core lineup of beers is very traditional. We live in an era where many drinkers assume that beers are better than pilsners and English-style ales because they’re bolder or more extreme, but that often isn’t the case. A well-made beer can be milder and still be very satisfying, and you don’t need a ton of hops or weird adjuncts to cover up its flaws because it was made the right way to begin with. That’s the case at Barley’s – the Scotch ale is mild instead of in-your- face, but it’s delicious. Smooth and mild with a hint of toffee sweetness.
If traditional isn’t your thing though, Barley’s diversifies its lineup with some fancy, new-fangled beers that amp things up a bit. We got the last of the seasonal Bourbon Meyer Buckeye off the beer engine. It’s sweet and gushing with peanut butter flavor. A little chocolate and a little booze round out the palate. We also tried the cask of Beastie Boysenberry, which had huge vanilla flavor with a pleasant berry finish.
I’ve mentioned Barley’s history, but Barley’s has recently taken a big step to secure its bright future. Angelo and General Manager Jason Fabian took us upstairs to tour Barley’s newest endeavor, Brewcadia. The room has a long bar with 40 taps behind it. There are other barcades in town, but I doubt they have this tap list. Beers range from as local as being made in that very building to national heavyweight craft brewers. There’s a skeeball game and three pinball machines, plus a range of arcade games ranging from classic to relatively new, so if you’re not a fan of sitting on your ass and drinking (and if that’s the case, we probably aren’t friends), then you have a great place to get up off your ass and drink while you game. The space is beautiful, with antique wood floors and exposed brick walls and a view out over High Street.
Go check out Barley’s, whether it’s your first time or your one hundredth, play some pinball, and drink some delicious beers.