While many Columbus breweries are just getting things started, Barley’s Brewing Company is hitting a huge milestone. On Thursday, the Downtown brewery will celebrate 20 years in the beer-making business.
When opening in 1992, Barley’s was a bit of a pioneer in the area, predating the development of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Nationwide Arena and the relocation of the North Market into the building it currently resides.
“The area was a ghetto when we arrived,” explained Lenny Kolada, founder of Barley’s. “As more entertainment options arrived in the form of restaurants, clubs and bars, we never lost a beat. The area has matured into an entertainment destination and we feel like we’re in the catbird seat.”
Kolada’s passion for brewing was born when he first discovered brewpubs in New York City and Boston in the 80′s and quickly fell in love with ales.
“If someone would have opened a brewpub like those in Columbus, I would have never done it myself,” said Kolada. “I would have been their best customer.”
He began formally planning the business in 1990, started homebrewing, and soon discovered the old Reynolds Hardware Store on High Street, which would become the site of the brewery. He teamed up with Scott Francis who would become Barley’s brewmaster for the next 18 years, retiring in 2010.
Upon opening on November 10, 1992, the brewpub only had one beer on tap; Barley’s Pilsner. Two days later they added Barley’s Pale Ale followed by six more beers in 1993 including Barley’s Ivan Porter, Barley’s Irish Rogue, Barley’s Wheat Ale, MacLenny’s Scottish Ale, Ol’ Ron’s Surly Oatmeal Stout and Barley’s Christmas Ale. Adding that type of diversity to the lineup didn’t come without challenges.
“Two decades ago, about all one could get was a pilsner style or the ubiquitous light beer,” said Kolada. “Education was as much a part of serving beer as the beer itself. Patrons had to be told that what they were experiencing — flavor! It sounds trite, but beer drinkers who were used to their light beer had to be talked down from the explosion to their senses that was craft beer.”
As of 2012, Barley’s has brewed 56 different beers and served approximately 4 million pints from this location. Brewmaster Angelo Signorino, Jr now oversees the brewing operations and works to keep things interesting after two decades in business.
Keeping up with beer trends and staying relevant is key in a market like Columbus, which is seeing increased competition in the microbrew space from newcomers like BRU, Seventh Son, Zauber, Actual and several others. Though Kolada wholeheartedly welcomes new beer makers to the scene.
“Columbus is poised to become another mecca in the growing craft beer scene nationally, ready to give Portland, Seattle, San Diego and other beer destinations a run for its money,” he states. “There are currently a dozen or so craft breweries in the Central Ohio region, with more scheduled to open this year. Craft beer is well on its way as a mainstay in Columbus and nationally.”
The Barley’s Brewing Company 20th Anniversary Celebration takes place on Thursday, November 1st at 467 North High Street. Festivities begin at 6:30pm with the tapping of Barley’s Christmas Ale by guest tapper Frankie Hejduk of the Columbus Crew.
More information can be found online at www.barleysbrewing.com.