I read a blurb about this place a couple months ago and put it on my "places to check out" mental list. Allison works with a girl who lives in New Brighton and after arranging some logistical details we worked it out so I could pick up her husband and the girls would meet us there after work and serve as sober cabs for us since we'd be there well before them (an hour and a half head start as it turned out). I had been to Granite City many many times before and really enjoy their beers but they've lost a little bit these days when compared to what I've been drinking. Still good beer but doesn't quite stand up to some of the really good stuff. I was curious to see if Barley John's was the same way.
I picked up T and we were there by 5:00 hoping for a happy hour. Well not only were we there in time for happy hour, but apparently Monday's happy hour runs from 4:oopm to midnight. That's my kind of happy hour. After checking their website (http://www.barleyjohns.com/) for a list of beers I knew the one thing I had to try was their seasonal Rosies Old Ale which they describe as:
Triple fermented Wild Rice brown Ale brings an elevated alcohol percentage to the glass. Aged 8 months in Old Fitzgerald Bourbon casks (third use of the barrel) to add a subtle bourbon and vanilla note. Subtle sherry flavor and a brilliant red color. Served in a 5.5oz pour.
I was delighted when our server told me that those casks once held Pappy Van Winkle's bourbon in it. When I made mention of my excitement and saw that she also recognized the significance of it (it's a $100+ bottle of bourbon that's aged for 20 years) and I knew we had a server with some knowledge.
But I decided to start off with their Old 8 Porter first which at $3.25 a pint seemed to be like stealing. Their website says the following about it:
Dark, rich chocolate and coffee notes with huge malt characteristics. This is a meal in itself!
8 percent alcohol
I absolutely couldn't believe how amazing this stuff was. When I decided to check this place out, I expected at worst a place that served beer around as good as Granite City and at best a place that had beer that I liked as much as I used to like Granite City's beer. Just to be fair, I'm not trying to knock Granite City in any way, I still absolutely love going there especially for the food and the beer is still very good when compared to boring yellow fizzy beers but the Duke is just nothing close to a Surly Furious. I do think their beers are great gateway beers to introduce the masses to good craft brews. But I digress.
The Old 8 Porter was literally one of the best beers that I ever had. I wanted to just buy a couple growlers and go home and sit on my couch for the night. I gave it a very hard to attain 4.7 rating on Rate Beer with the following notes:
Dark brown pour with a foamy tan head. Heavy chocolate aroma with some coffee notes. Flavor is slightly sweet chocolate with roasted coffee coming through. Sweet, slightly smokey finish.
I wanted to keep drinking this the entire night but thought I'd switch it up a bit and tried the India Brown Ale both because it was seasonal and the concept of a IPA style mixed with a Brown intrigued me. Their description of it:
This kicked up version of an American Brown Ale celebrates the toasty goodness of a brown ale while exploring the explosive and flavorful world of the Amarillo hop.
I really should have had the Old 8 last because most beers would pale in comparison but this still went over well for me and I gave it a 3.8 and said:
Dark brown pour with a creamy tan head. Hoppy floral aroma, surprising for a brown ale. Hoppy caramel flavor with a slightly bitter finish.
Finally it was time for Rosie. I wasn't even leery of the $9 price tag for 5.5 ounces of beer because somehow I knew it would be worth it. She brought it in a small wine glass which raised my eyebrow because I figured if you were going to serve something like this you'd have a good snifter but whatever I guess. The color was a dark brown and it had little to no head. One whiff and I definitely could smell the effect that Pappy had on Rosie. It was a sweet aroma with lots of bourbon coming through. The taste was very overpowering in a good way, heavy alcohol came through (our server said it was an estimated 20+% ABV) and the bourbon was very evident. It finished very sweetly with some caramel notes and warmed me to the core.
This one wasn't on Rate Beer (at least not this version) but I would have given a 3 for appearance (I like a decent head on my beer), a 9 for aroma (I could have smelled it all night), a 9 for flavor (way more going on than I listed), a 4 for palate and an 18 overall for a total score of 4.3. This could change (likely go up) with subsequent tastings and I'll definitely be back to find out.
I knew that after tasting the Old 8 and Rosie that most of the other beers would end up being a bit of a downer (the one I had and two others that I sipped were anyway) and decided to finish with an Old 8 to drink with my burger (which was also very good but since this is a beer blog and not a food one I'll just say their menu is a bit high priced but the burger was a great value and very tasty).
More "research" will soon be conducted starting with next Monday for another happy hour (if not sooner) and hopefully I'll have some more to say about a few other beers (if I can resist just sticking with the Old 8 and the Rosie).
If you haven't checked this place out yet, do it. If you need someone to go with you, call me. I only work 10 minutes from the place and it's on my way home!