Residents of Columbus and surrounding areas have plenty to see and do, no matter which part of the city they call home.
But when it comes to beer, Columbus is a treasure trove of excellence and dedication. With more than ten independent brewers in the city (and more to come), there’s no excuse for settling for a sub-par beverage.
And so starts our new series, Columbus Brews. We’ll be featuring different independent brewers in the upcoming months, here on our Preferred Blog. We’ll be sitting down with the city’s most prominent brewmasters and brewery owners to get the lowdown on what makes them tick, how they got started, and which of their carefully crafted brews they recommend.
Our first stop: Barley’s Brewing Company on North High Street. Right between Spruce and Vine Streets sits a tradition of craft-brewing creativity. At the head of that tradition is Barley’s head brewmaster, Angelo Signorino. Since 1992, Angelo has been involved in developing the unique flavors and distinct British styles that make Barley’s brews stand apart from the rest.
How did it all start?
When we first opened in ‘92, it was before the American craft brewery scene really had any attraction. And if we wanted flavorful beer, we would buy European imports. So that’s what we really set our sights on, British-style ales. It was a good enough reason to get started brewing beer, so we started out with a well-received pale ale. On a side note, I lost my wedding ring in the brewery on the day we brewed the first batch of beer. I had only been married a couple of months. On our first anniversary, I got a new ring sized a half-size smaller, and I like to say that losing that ring was good luck for the brewery and good luck for the marriage, because both have survived.
What makes Barley’s unique?
We use British malt to get the rich flavor that British ales have, and we use a British ale yeast that came directly from a brewery in London. I started it in my kitchen 20 years ago, and got it to grow here. Every week we take the yeast from the beer we brewed last week and put it in the beer we brew this week, and we’ve been able to do that for 20-plus years. We also condition our own casks.
What’s your favorite brew?
I’m on record as saying that my favorite is this dark strong ale called Old Curiosity. It’s a wonderful beer for cask-conditioning. We put the beer as it’s fermenting in casks, which gives the beer a really unique flavor. We’ve entered it in a national cask-ale competition twice, and it has won awards both times. The second time, it went on to win Best American Ale in 2001.
Since then, we’ve branched out into Belgian-style ales, which have a complex flavor from the yeast. Our Infinity is a Belgian like this. It’s a little stronger than Old Curiosity, and it might be getting up there as my other favorite.
Where is Barley’s beer available?
Mostly here at the brewery. Other than that, you can only get our beer within what I’ll describe as bicycling distance.
Is there anything else we should know?
Making beer is a lot of work, a lot of cleaning, and a lot of waiting around, and enough paperwork to be annoying (laughs). But there’s something about seeing an idea, whether it’s my idea or somebody else’s, go from ‘let’s do this’ to making it happen, to watching people enjoy it. And there aren’t too many things more gratifying than that.