I went to Barley Brothers three times last week. I went on Saturday with my band for a pre-jam warm up, once on Tuesday because I forgot to write anything down about my experience on Saturday, and finally back this past Saturday for the Half Pints Pro/Am Brew Challenge awards ceremony.
It was quite busy on the first Saturday, but once the server was able to make her way to us, she was quite proficient at getting the beer and food to our table in a timely manner. John and Howie each had a flight of the Pils Poppers and I had a flight of the IPA Heaven. Each flight consists of four 4.75-ounce glasses of either pre-arranged beer or you can customize your own flight with anything on tap. Sometimes it’s just easier to go for the already decided lists rather than deliberating about what you should have and worrying about if the flavours are going to clash.
I tried a few sips of the Pilsner flight and the one that piqued my interest was the Bad Batch pilsner. After tasting it, I realized it was indeed a bad batch. It could have been a decent beer if it wasn’t for the taste of wet cardboard. It wasn’t terribly pronounced, but it was there. The brewery was kept secret (I don’t blame them, I try not to share any of my faulty brews).
Wet cardboard means that the beer has been oxidized. Oxygen is only acceptable when you are just about ready to ferment your wort because yeast needs it for healthy reproduction and great tasting beer. Oxidation can happen when hot, pre-fermented or cold, post-fermented beer is splashed around. Beer in bottles, kept around for too long will slowly take in oxygen via the cap. If you plan on aging beer in bottles, you should consider coating the edges of the caps with wax to prevent oxygen from seeping in and hop flavours from leaking out.
We also bought a couple pounds of their cold-smoked chicken wings with hot sauce. I personally prefer the wings to have the sauce on already, but I can see why they wanted to showcase the wings instead of the sauce. It’s an interesting technique and the flavour of the wings definitely grew on me. They were coated in a light, powdery, mildly smoky tasting breading. The hot sauce was a little bland and reminded me of Frank’s Red-Hot with some vinegar added to it. I did enjoy the wings. I would have them again when they go on special (I’m a Winnipegger, I’m cheap).
I came back the next Tuesday, by myself, to have a more focused experience. I reordered a flight of the IPA Heaven and a plate of pretzels. The server seemed impressed that I knew the proper order of the beers on the flight paddle (the first beer on the list is at the spot furthest away from the handle).
I had a slight issue with the flight glasses. It’s a very narrow glass and it’s hard to get a nose on the aromatics of the beer. That’s especially problematic with IPAs because the aroma is one of the highlights of this style.
The first taster that I had was Monkey’s Fist from Big Rock. It was a nice copper colour with mild aromatics and hints of field berry flavour. That was different. It also had a sharp bitterness to it, which is appropriate for the style. I will definitely have a full pint in the near future.
The second taster was Head Stock from Nickel Brook. It had a hazy straw appearance and was a light bodied, dry beer with a heavy grapefruit taste. It’s okay, but I would not order that one again.
The third beer was Total Eclipse of the Hop from Howe Sound Brewing. It had a pleasant aroma but the grassy, earthy notes reminded me more of an English IPA than an American IPA. Nothing wrong with that, I still enjoyed that beer. There was a little bit of citrus from the Pacific Northwestern hops, but not as much as I expected.
Loki, from Paddockwood Brewery was the highlight of the flight. I was surprised that the percentage of alcohol is over eight percent. It was well balanced with an awesome nose. I didn’t find it very bitter either. When I first drank it, I thought it was more of an American pale ale rather than an imperial IPA. Still, I would drink more Loki. Not too many, though, because I’m not a big fan of not being able to stand after drinking.
The pretzels were very good as well. They were nine dollars for two big pretzels with a delicious cheese sauce and a pretty good beer mustard sauce. I would definitely order those again.
I went back for the Half Pints Pro/Am Brew Challenge awards on Saturday. Paulo and Raj of Barley Brothers were wonderful hosts. They gave us the corner room. Nicole Barry of Half Pints was the emcee and announced all the winners. Barley Brothers supplied us with prizes for the IPA category and gave us more food than we could eat even though it was standing room only. Loads of chicken fingers, perogies, lasagna, and salads were laid out for us in a delicious spread. It was a great night. I even walked away with a couple medals; gold for my Irish Red and silver for my Black American Pale Ale.
I’ll be heading back to Barely Brothers again soon to try more flights and beer friendly fare.
You can check out Barley Brothers menu at http://www.barleybrothers.ca/