Behind the Curtains of the Mini Real Ale Fest

Update April 26, 2013

All our firkins have been identified and we are set to go!  The last three to unveil themselves are pretty exciting.  First, Four Strings Brewing Company here in town let us know that they are bringing their White IPA, dry hopped with Falconer’s Flight and Citra.  This should be a nice floral, citrusy experience, especially as a firkin.

Then Eric Bean let us know that Columbus Brewing Company is releasing a firkin of their barrel-aged, coffee infused Steel Dawn.  Since this one is caffeinated, perhaps this one should be your first at the Fest, so you can keep your energy up to get through the rest of them.

Finally, we scored a special treat.  You know that there have been a bunch of new craft breweries planned and opened here in the Columbus metro area.  One of those, Actual Brewing Company, has not yet started their production runs.  They have been brewing many pilot studies, though.  One of them will be at the Fest.  It’s called Fat Julian, and it’s a Russian Imperial Stout.  This one’s been aging in a French red wine barrel.  I had a sample, and it’s good.  Real good.  I can’t wait to see what conditioning does to it.

We’ll all find out together on Saturday, May 4.


Note that all tribute art is now downloaded below.  To see the entire lineup, go here.  Click on any of the beers to find out more about them.  Since Actual isn’t in production yet, there’s no description of their beer; instead, we give you a short video of Fred Lee, owner and Brewmaster.  To purchase tickets. click here.


Our tenth annual Mini Real Ale Fest X is May 4 this year.  It’s a lot of fun that day, but it’s also a lot of work for us.  It’s really a labor of love, because if we counted the hours it takes to put on this event, it would probably never happen.

We start at the beginning of the year by contacting craft breweries that have participated in the past (and that have sent beers previously that we really dug.)  Then we consider new players in the arena and contact them.  This starts the lo-o-o-ong process of lining up the field.

You probably guessed that craft brewers are really busy.  That pint in front of you when you order your favorite represents a lot of work by a lot of people.  As you can imagine, none of us have unlimited resources, so when we ask a brewer to participate, we realize that we’re asking him (or her) to put forth extra effort to accommodate us.  Most brewers don’t do real ale routinely, but they know it’s cool, so they think out something that would be memorable.

Case in point is Founders Brewing Company sending us their Founders Porter this year, but with chocolate and Thai chili peppers added for that extra dimension you won’t get every day.  We never dictate what beer gets shipped to us.  We allow the creativity of the participants to take center stage.  For that, we’re thankful that they take the extra effort for our festival.

As a result, we sometimes don’t know what’s being sent until days before the fest.  We try to keep you informed by updating as soon as we get information.  We know you’d love to know the entire lineup before you commit to a ticket (and we wouldn’t mind knowing early either!) but that’s the nature of the beast.

Then there’s the issue that some of the breweries don’t even own a firkin.  In those cases, we ship them one of our empties (at our cost!) then pay for the full firkin when it arrives.  It’s not cheap to secure these awesome real ales.

On a parallel track, we set up the on line ticket sales process, print tickets, design the pint glass and program.  One last labor of love that we do is create the graphics so you know what beer is where at the fest.  We call these graphics “tribute art.”

When we first started doing the Mini, we’d ask the breweries for graphics that would support the beer they’re sending us.  Company logo, and artwork that’s already prepared, etc.  What we found was that it was harder to get this information than finding out what beer we’d get.  In many cases, artwork didn’t exist, because we were getting a “one-off” beer crafted just for our event.

“Tribute art” is created for each beer at the fest.  Like the beers, these posters are also “one-off,” to be used that day for three hours, probably never to be seen again.  When we find out what’s going to be in a firkin, and the brewery tells us the name, we get to work.

Usually whimsical, we design a poster that we hope will match the beer.  The more unusual the beer name, the more likely the poster will be unusual too.

As of this writing, we know about 14 firkins that will be here on May 4.  The artwork is complete for those beers, and we’re previewing them for you below.  We sincerely thank you for your support of the Mini Real Ale Fest at Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub.  If you didn’t appreciate our efforts, it wouldn’t be worth it for us to do it.  But we love putting on

the show for you and we love you.

Oh yeah, one more thing… we also managed to come up with something new for the Fest:  Cherry Zoltar, an Imperial Porter that’s been bourbon barrel-conditioned on Michigan cherries.







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Ingredients Matter

This weekend, I learned again that ingredients matter.  Yesterday, I decided I wanted to make some gravlax.  For those of you who don’t know what gravlax is, it is salmon cured at a minimum, with salt and sugar.  I decided to do an experiment.

I purchased two salmon sides–one farm raised and one wild caught.  I don’t usually buy farm raised salmon, due to sustainability and environmental reasons, and I’d rather go without salmon than succumb to this alternative.

But I saw farm raised salmon at an outrageously low price, so I asked the fish monger to package me one of each.  The wild caught was a beautiful dark orange, and the farm raised side was a pinkish, well, salmon color.

The wild caught was nearly three times as expensive as the one from down on the farm, and I wondered, other than the issues mentioned, if it was worth the cost.

I made my cure using kosher salt, sugar, fresh cracked black pepper, the zest of an orange, lemon and lime, and a little vodka to pull it all together.  I covered the sides with fresh dill, then packed the cure on top.  The sides were wrapped in plastic, then weighted.

Today, twenty four hours later, I removed the skin and sliced the sides thinly and wrapped them for future enjoyment, saving a tiny slice from each to try.  The results were shocking.  The wild caught salmon slice was incredibly flavorful, and if I may say so myself, worthy of being on a plate in any fine dining restaurant.  The farm raised sample, on the other hand was, to put it politely, meh.

Ingredients matter.

You won’t see gravlax on the menu at the ‘House becaue that’s not our groove.  But there is something on the menu that you know well, and proves this same point–our smoked chicken wings.

Most places get frozen wings by the case (OK, ours come in cases too) and are bruskly dropped in a deep fat fryer until crisp.  Then they’re tossed in a sauce that likely includes corn syrup and stabilization agents.  Boy, do we wish it was that easy for us.

First, we immerse our wings overnight in a brine that we developed.  The next day, we lay them out on racks in our smoker and fire up some hardwood hickory.  We smoke them until the skin a a beautiful mahogany.  The final step is done when you order them.  We put them on the char-grill to give them an additional dimension.

We then toss with our own sauces made in our kitchens (yes, we have two kitchens back there) free of corn syrup or any additives.  We have won best wings in the city numerous times, when winning those events mattered to us.  We haven’t entered a competition in years…we’d rather spend our time making it right for you.

Ingredients matter.  I’ve known this for years, and I learned it again this weekend.  Today,  I started another little personal project.  I’m making my own bitters.

I love a good Manhattan.  This winter, I tended to use OYO bourbon, distilled in the Short North by Middle West Spirits.  Yes, it’s pricier than farm raised bourbon.  Wild caught bourbon always is.  But it makes a superior Manhattan.

I’m a little different in that I make a Manhattan 50/50 with sweet Vermouth.  Most make theirs around 70/30 bourbon to Vermouth.  But I don’t want the bourbon to be the star, I want the Manhattan to be the star, so I give equal billing to both.  The quality of the Vermouth can’t be skimped on in this case, so I use a high quality (more expensive) Vermouth.

The only other ingredient, other than the red cherry garnish to make it visually old school, is the bitters.  I like seven drops in mine.  No more, no less.  Those seven drops make or break my Manhattan experience.  I found a bitter this winter called Burlesque, made by Bittermens in Brooklyn.  It includes hibiscus, acai and long peppers, along with “natural berry flavor with other natural flavors, spices.”

Those seven drops make my Manhattan sing.  Inspired, today I ordered some ingredients. Gentian root, quassin bark, dandelion root, devil’s club root, black walnut leaf, and a host of other ingredients only known to the witch in Hansel and Gretel.  I’m out to make my own bitters.

These ingredients are organic or ethically wild-craft sourced.  I will be making at least 12 different infusions, using bourbon, rum and vodka.  Channeling my inner alchemist self, I will call these infusions Potion No. 1, Potion No. 2, Potion No. 3, etc, carefully noting what I’ve done in each.  After the potions are sufficiently infused, I will start blending them to get at least one glorious bitter, hopefully two.

Then next winter, I will add seven drops into my Manhattan, and I will add seven drops into Joan’s Old Fashioned.  And I’ll smile.  Why?  Because ingredients matter.

You may never get a chance to experience the results of my alchemy.  On the other hand, someday you just might be able to order a Brewdood Manhattan at the ‘House.  But only if I get it right.

Bitters: Cinchona Bark

Cinchona Bark, the natural source of quinine


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Prequel to Oysters & Stout

We’re hosting another Oysters & Stout this Thursday, February 28, and we’ll have a raft of porters and stouts along with fresh oysters on the half shell; smoked with garlic butter; and crisp fried.  We look forward to it twice a year, and hope you do too.

You might be wondering why we care about oysters in the first place.  People living in Columbus 100 years ago certainly recognized the importance of oysters.  Simply, they wanted to be a part of the world that they couldn’t.

When Columbus was founded in 1812, links to the more cultural and fashionable parts of the world were hard to come by.  Lucas Sullivan once brought back from Philadelphia a small gift to his son.  One orange–the first ever seen in Central Ohio.

Oysters became the symbol of affluence throughout much of the Midwest in the 1800s. Human nature doesn’t change much.  People want what they can’t have.  Oysters were hard to come by.  They spoiled easily (I hate to think of that smell) and had to be consumed quickly.  As if you had to guess, they were expensive too.

By the 1840s, if one was running for President, like William Henry Harrison, an “oyster party” was expected.  The Harrison party drew thousands.

Oysters at Christmas became something of a tradition.  In many homes at Christmas, one is still offered two kinds of dressing:  “plain” or oyster.

By the turn of the century, oysters were offered at fashionable restaurants in Columbus.  The Neil House was one, and another was the rooftop beer garden at the Great Southern Hotel.  There, you could order oysters, swig beers and smoke stogies all night long.  Oysters became a selling point, trying to prove that this or that establishment was THE place in town.

We host Oysters & Stout because this is one of the world-class aphrodisiac pairings in the world.  And they’re delicious.  Just as microbrew and barbecue go hand-in-hand, so do Oysters & Stout.

As you slurp down a few of these delectable mollusks this Thursday, think about our forefathers and what they had to go through to get the same experience.  You’re a part of Columbus history when you devour that sensuous muscle.

GM Dan Pollock shucking oysters at Oysters & Stout, Groundhog Day Edition, 2012

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Advice If You’re in a Beer Rut

My mother always told me not to give advice when it’s not asked for.  But she died before I had a blog, so I’d like to share some advice with you.

When you’ve been drinking craft beer as long as I have, sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut.

I go through periods where this beer or that beer is my “go to.”  I get too comfortable with the routine.  That’s bad, because it can lead to boredom, and craft beer is not boring! Sometimes I even have to take a (short) break from beer.  That’s when I’ll turn to a Manhattan made with OYO bourbon.  Even a vodka tonic will wake up my palate.

We Columbusites are blessed.  There are a staggering number of microbrews we can now get that are fresh.  And local.  To combat “tastebud apathy,”  I have come up with a few suggestions for injecting some new life into your craft beer experience.

Take a Couple of Days Off As I said, sometimes you just have to give your palate a rest.  When was the last time you ordered a single malt?  Or a glass of hearty red wine?  Is it heresy to suggest a plain glass of ginger ale on the rocks?  Last week, I had my first ever single malt mixed with vermouth and bitters.  And I liked it.  Mind blown.  Did I ask someone if I was supposed to?  A couple of days off is all it takes for everything to taste fabulous again.  Think the Wizard of Oz when the color turns on.

Drink Local As much as I love many of the craft breweries from around the country, I HEART our local craft scene.  How many microbreweries do we have in this town now?  A lot.  Try some of the new ones.  Rediscover some of the old ones.  There is such a diversity now that it’s a shame if you don’t try ’em.  I do.

Drink Real Ale Don’t turn your nose up at that cask being drawn by a beer engine, or that firkin sitting on the bar.  Every real ale is an Adventure with a capital ‘A,’ just like Alice in Wonderland’s.  Softer notes, low carbonation, dry hopping.  That’s just some of the forks in the beer road.  Ever had a nitro?  Really, never?  We almost always have one at the ‘House.  Right now, it’s barrel-conditioned Saint Joan’s Revenge, infused with Madagascar vanilla pods.  They don’t make this stuff in Saint Louis, do they?  Celebrate it.  If you’ve never had a cask-conditioned ale, you know why you should?  Because it’s awesome!  And fear not the firkin.  It’s where we try our out-there stuff.

Try a New Beer Every Week  Yeah, I know.  You might order something you don’t like.  So what?  It’s about the adventure, not the dead-end.  Every new experience makes you that much more, uh, experienced.  It will make your favorite stand out that much more.  Get together with your friends for the express purpose of going out and trying something new.  Just like when panning for gold, you’ll go a long time before you strike pay dirt.  You’ll never find your next gem if you’re not mining, though.

Introduce Someone New to Craft Beer Don’t be greedy.  Share your knowledge.  Someone turned you on to craft, so return the flavor.  But please don’t do it as a beer snob. No one likes a know-it-all.  And don’t turn your nose up at someone who’s drinking a beer you haven’t had since 1997.  Everyone starts somewhere.  Usually with the cheapest stuff they can find.  You left that station and so will they, as long as they don’t think you’re an a**hole.

If we stayed in a rut here at the ‘House, we would have never branched out into Belgians.  Or multiple styles of IPAs.  We would have never researched how to make nitros.  We would never have put our ale in a bourbon barrel.  Shake that tendency of same-old, same-old.   It’s good for your taste buds.  It’s good for your life.


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Mini Real Ale Fest is May 4!

Our tenth annual Mini Real Ale Fest is on the calendar for May 4.  We will be filling in details as we go, but we can tell you that we already have commitments.

Four beers are already for-sure:

–Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
–Bell’s Porter
–Southern Tier 2X IPA
–Flying Dog Raging Bitch

We also have commitments from the following breweries, though we don’t know what they’re sending yet:

–Lagunitas Brewing Company (CA)
–Founders Brewing Company (MI)
–Stoudt’s Brewing Company ( PA)
–Epic Brewing Company (UT)
–Rivertown Brewing Company (Cincinnati)

Of course, we’ll be there and most of the locals will too.  They are usually the last ones to let us know they’re coming though!  We’ll keep you up to date and will let you know when tickets go on sale.


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Hello world!

Welcome to Brewdood’s Blog!  Please allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Brewdood, also known as Lenny Kolada, the founder of Barley’s Brewing Company and Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub in Columbus, Ohio.

We’re currently redesigning our website to be cleaner, faster loading and easier to navigate.

Those of you who know me know that’s not my nature.  I like a mess.  Organized, yes, but a mess is more interesting–and tell’s more about what you’re in for–than “clean and put away” will ever reveal.

I had no choice but to start this blog so I can go on about what’s on my mind, and leave our poor website alone.  Here is where I’ll post about what we’re up to, tell you my take on an event that just happened, give you the scoop on a new beer we may be working on, and so forth.

In other words, this is where I’ll be able to leave a mess.  As in, a mess of good stuff.  Here’s to something new that I hope will inform, enlighten and entertain all of you.  Cheers!

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