Some of the best beer in the world is brewed in the most unassuming of locations. Barley John’s in New Brighton certainly fits that bill. Tucked near the corner of County Road D and Old Highway 8, Barley John’s may not be as prolific in offerings as other legendary brewpubs like Minneapolis Town Hall. But they make up for it in quality.
When I was there over the weekend, I was informed that the brewhouse was under construction, meaning most of their beers weren’t available. A little disappointing, but manageable given the knowledge that they’re planning to double their capacity by adding two new fermentors. Of the handful of beers that were on draught, the two that I tried were more than excellent.
A bit of reddish wild rice residue in the small head ringing the glass. Definite wild rice in the aroma, which one might think would be odd, but it seemed very appropriate with a nice bouquet of earthy almond and vanilla coupled.
Taste was a mix of nuttiness and sweet malt, with some of the rice also coming through. Relatively strong for a brown ale, about 7.5%.
Oh, the Dark Knight. I’ve been waiting to try this one for quite a while, as it only makes an appearance very occasionally. For some reason I was under the impression it was their imperial stout, but turns out it’s actually a double fermented, barrel aged baltic porter that comes in at a whopping 13.5%. According to the brewery, they age the beer more than eight months in 15 and 20 year bourbon casks from Old Fitzgerald Distillery. And let me tell you…this beer is no joke.
Not much of the roasted, smokey quality like I expected, given it’s a baltic porter. But it literally smelled like a straight shot of bourbon, incredibly potent up front. One of the most aggressive beers I’ve ever smelled. Taste was complex as could be…lots of dark fruits, almost port-like in its intensity. More of the bourbon in the flavor as well. Big alcohol burn in the finish, but it didn’t turn me off. I had about half of my small snifter, maybe 3 or 4 ounces, and felt completely satisfied with it. Any more and I might have needed a ride home. This could be one of the best ass-kicker style of beers I’ve ever had, top five for sure.
In addition to enjoying a couple incredibly nice beers, I also really enjoyed hanging out on Barley John’s patio flanked by rows of thriving hop plants. A very nice touch.