By Dr. Ink
The whimsical theme of a hunter’s lodge flowing throughout Barn Brewery parallels that of the former Tractor Room in Hillcrest, which a decade ago set a local trend of drinking in the company of prairie animals stuffed and mounted by taxidermists.
Yet unlike the Tractor Room, the Barn complements its food menu with beer only. About eight of them are signature varieties brewed onsite. Also, the exterior and interior rely on ubiquitous reclaimed wood to achieve a rural feel, although a bright-red banquette in the back of the room and an eye-catching moss wall toward the front lend individuality to the design.
A moose head angled downward from the ceiling hovers over bar patrons as flat screens broadcast sports games. Recently, one of them relayed footage of a rodeo, which gaggles of young, bearded hipsters (and me) found easy to ignore.
Of the two home brews I’ve tried, each discounted to $5 a pint, the Red Owl was my favorite because of its malt-forward flavor and crisp, fruity finish. At 6.6 percent alcohol, it was also the strongest. The leader in Barn’s portfolio, however, is Daniel Boone Imperial Oatmeal Stout, ringing in at 9 percent alcohol. Lauded for its sweet licorice finish, I’ll eagerly give it a whirl in the company of a designated driver.
On another day I chose the safest in the lineup, the Lil Saison listed at 4.1 percent alcohol, which is actually a few notches below most mass-produced domestics, but a whole lot tastier. This straw-colored quencher featured a creamy head, subtle hops, and a soft, peppery tang. Though compared to other farmhouse saisons I’ve had elsewhere, it wasn’t as yeasty and complex.
Sharing the tap system are nearly a dozen guest beers available at regular price. They included titillating options such as Poor House Sterling, Ninkasi Hop Cooler, Delirium Tremens and Epic Tart N’ Juicy Sour IPA. In all, it’s easy to find a beer of your liking here.
From the food menu, the beer cheese fries ($6) caught my eye, but not so much my palate. They were too salty and I couldn’t really detect beer in the cheese sauce, which appears also on a fried pretzel priced at a dollar less. The modestly sized “barn burger” I ordered on a previous visit was much better. Topped with melted cheddar and grilled onions, it’s priced at $9 and struck a natural pairing to the kicky red ale in my glass.
Surprisingly, Barn Brewery offers a limited selection of wines by the glass, which includes a happy hour chardonnay by La Playa for $5. But even as an avid wine drinker, I’ve yet to think about grapes when surrounded by fine, local suds.