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Barley’s Smokehouse Turns 15

Ayana Wilson Ayana Wilson Barley’s Smokehouse Turns 15
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Do you remember the first time you stepped into a brew pub, witnessed the modern amalgamation of ale and grub? Leonard Kolada, founder and owner of Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub, does. It was back in the mid 80s, in the big city of Manhattan. There, the Manhattan Brewing Company was introducing the populace to a new dining experience – and Kolada was front and center.

Back he came to Columbus, and even though it was not his original intention, he began to plan a brew pub of his own in 1990. In 1992, the original Barley’s Brewing Company, located at 467 North High Street, was opened to a curious Columbus crowd.

“The original Barley’s location was selected because the Greater Columbus Convention Center was being planned, and I thought it would be a good way to hedge my bet for success,” remembers Kolada. “I tell people that if someone would have done this before me, I would have been a regular there instead of developing and overseeing one, then two.”

The second Barley’s restaurant, and the one which Kolada still owns and operates, was opened on August 7, 1998 at the site of the former Jack Bowman’s Steakhouse at 1130 Dublin Road. Back then, craft breweries, the kinds that are now all the rage, were practically non-existent, so Kolada’s mission, to simply serve “the perfect pint”, became the template, in many ways, for the successful batch of microbreweries Columbus enjoys today.

And he has no plans so far to stop. To commemorate their fifteenth anniversary, Barley’s Smokehouse has upgraded their space in order to elevate the customer experience. They’ve painted, they’ve spruced, and they’ve made the restaurant more group-friendly, something Kolada believes sets them apart from other brew pubs, and even other barbecue joints.

“We wanted to provide an environment that is better for the inevitable large groups that come to visit us,” adds Kolada. “We have plenty of space, but accommodating groups of 10,20, or more has been harder to achieve over the years. When we’re done, this is going to be an awesome environment.”

An alternative to the traditional single-file seating in bar areas, patrons can now expect bar-height community tables adjacent to the existing bar that will allow for conversation zones for large groups. These tables are made from 2-inch thick, locally-sourced white oak, and finished to resemble the look of bourbon barrels.

In addition, the old bar stools have been replaced by swivel ones, and new draft towers, sexy ones imported from Italy, are now the order of the day. Kolada and his team also added more booths by removing the two pool tables, a move he hopes will reduce the amount of wait time when customers need to be seated.

This face lift is a true reflection of what Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub has come to represent: a guest-driven, team focused dedication to excellence at a high level. Even though Kolada sold his interest in the downtown branch in 2012, both spots continue to be destinations, garnering tons of loyal fans because of their unwavering commitment to good ‘cue and great ale.

Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub has been celebrating their anniversary all week, and it culminates tonight with the tapping of their latest concoction: the Sexy Sadie Saison, a straw-colored offering with notes of fresh ginger, cracked coriander, peppercorns, and lemongrass.

Fifteen years in the restaurant business in no small feat, especially when one’s intention was never to be in it. Yet, Kolada and his team still stands, and hope to be doing so for some time to come.

“I don’t lack for ideas,” shares Kolada when asked about his future plans. “It’s really a matter of opportunity meeting ambition. Don’t be surprised if I just keep growing the best place for microbrew and barbecue in the region. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if I do something else too.”

For more info on Barley’s Smokehouse & Brewpub, visit www.smokehousebrewing.com.

Photo by Walker Evans.

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