Barley Creek Brewing Company
Barley Creek Brewing Company is a Brewpub and restaurant in the heart of the Poconos located in Tannersville, Pennsylvania. This microbrewery produces over twenty different beers annually while bottling four regular styles and a seasonal Oktoberfest.
I finally solidified my plans to make it to Barley Creek Brewing Company for their brewery tour, which didn’t materialize during my shaman’s retreat in April. I cleared all plans for the afternoon, hopped on my car and avoided I-80 to take the scenic way through winding mountain roads and lakes on the northern fate of 715.
Everything about my ride up was promising – the late Spring warmth united with the smooth sway of the wind to enwrap my arms and face with the energy of the sun, the radio station played all the right songs, and my mind wondered into the welcoming glow of sapience and maturing introspection. This must have been what McGreevey was feeling on his way to rendezvous with his $1,000 per hour hooker.
My relationship with Barley Creek Brewing Company began in the Fall of 2006 when my family was growing greater than our little New Jersey cape/colonial could house, so we began looking into the Poconos as a place to expand. During one of our real estateexcursions, we stayed at a nice hotel near the Camelback Mountain Ski area.
After looking at several promising properties and retiring to the hotel, we ventured off into the dark of night with a powerful hunger for food, drink and adventure. Our arrival was greeted with the busy ambiance of a Saturday night, excellent burgers and fantastic fresh beer. We immediately recognized this place was special and were destined return.
The impending housing downturn complicated our search for a couple of years, but we continued to look as we tried to sell while returning to Barley Creek Brewing Company for lunch and discussion. Eventually we managed to sell our New Jersey house and plant roots in the Poconos to further expand our family and fully submerge into the moist emotion of country living.
As friends visited, we took them to Barley Creek Brewing Company to enjoy great food, fresh beer and the blaring insurrection and escape from the brutality of life. Over the years, I’ve taken my family, taken our friends, cooled down after shooting some guns, and have gone by myself on occasion as a way to reflect on my journey into middle age and the omnipotent and fulfilling energy that radiates from my life experience.
And again I sit here at the Barley Creek Brewing Company, this time armed with my camera, a notebook and pen for my beers, a pad for chronicling my personal human experience, and a deep lust for fresh beer and a cynical, murderous intent.
I arrive early upon opening to catch some photos of the exterior, some interior shots and purchase a case of their bottled beers for the shoot and for the following weekend. The owner made sure I understood these were freshly brewed beers that were unpasteurized and needed to be drunk soon or kept refrigerated no more than two months. I held in my laughter and politely agreed; there’s never been a single case of beer in memory that has lasted that long.
Immediately the owner introduces me to Michael Spence, a part time brewmaster that teaches locally full time, runs a beer line cleaning business on the side, and brews a mean Old ’99 Barley Wine. Upon questioning, I came clean and told him about my little website and he proudly served me a sample of Old ‘99; a warm, full bodied barley wine rich in flavor and alcoholic marauder.
Barley Creek Brewing Company hosts a daily brewery tour at 12:30pm after which they serve you a free sampler of six of their current beers, and they’ll probably throw in another one or two tastings as well and let you keep one of the glasses. Though, I’m not sure if the free glass comes with the paid sampler or if I somehow manage walk away with them in a hazy cloud of inebriation. I’ve done worse.
Mike begins the tour by showing off some quality barley grains and its crushing mechanism, and explains the basic complimentary relationship between the sweet malt characteristic of beer balanced by the bitterness of the hop. He clarifies the wort making process in the Mash Tun followed by the 360-gallon Hot Liquor Back and a beautiful brick and copper top brew kettle. The three ten-barrel Lager fermentation tanks are housed on the main floor and can be seen through a glass window from the bar, but they are impressive up close as the sunlight bounces off the shining steel.
The tour continues downstairs with the four open top Ale fermentation tanks followed by eight bright beer conditioning tanks labeled “Tax Declaration Tank” numbers 1 through 8. Mike concludes the tour by explaining that their bottling machine was jokingly named after an old employee for her ability to produce tremendous amounts of work sometimes and hardly any at all during others.
I had to ask him if anyone ever jumped into one of the fermentation and conditioning tanks, and the answer I got was not as humorous as expected. The reply was yes, and often, but with the purpose of vigorously cleaning the inside of the tanks with an iodine based disinfectant. It seems bacteria and mold also have a taste for beer.
Back upstairs I continued my chicken fingers appetizer – buffalo style with celery and blue cheese – and ordered another Antler Brown Ale, and another, and then a Rescue IPA.
My focus turned to the food and the memories of the many meals I’ve shared with friends and family. The menu reflects a fun eatery in a brewpub that houses a nice collection of good American classics like cheeseburgers and Buffalo wings. We order at least a few rounds of the Wings, which I’m always reminded to bring home if I come alone (as well as an order of Sweet Potato Fries) and spice up the second appetizer selection with either a Spinach & Artichoke Dip or some Steamers.
Of the main offerings, we’ve ordered the Steak Burger, French Dip sandwich, Fish & Chips, several Quesadilla styles and a few wraps and various kids’ meals. On special nights we went for the premium platters including the Roasted Herb Chicken and the Stuffed Lobster Ravioli. In the future I’m going to go for the Cajun Rib Eye Steak!
The premium platters range in the neighborhood of $18 to $25 and sides such as fries or onion rings are usually extra. A pre-New Year’s hosting of a group of six including four adults and two pre-teens, with orders mainly for the wings, burgers, a few pints, a case of beer and healthy tip cost me just under $200.00.Overall, the food is good; the service is friendly and pretty fast considering how busy the place gets and everyone we take there is always satisfied with full bellies and lasting memories.
Mike joins me at the bar a bit later and begins to talk a little about how he got his first membership mug as a gift from one of his brothers, #335 in a limited 400 count of glass mugs that hang on the ceiling over the bar for Barley Creek Brewing Company members. Membership is $50 a year for the first 5 years and includes a 20% discount, making it less expensive than a pint. With the help of his other brother gifting him the four subsequent annual dues, Mike now enjoys a lifetime membership along with his wife, #333.
The conversation continues with a story about how Barley Creek Brewing Company was built from a renovated 1880’s farmhouse and opened in December of 1995. The building itself is based on a post and beam timber frame made with 100 year old recycled fir timber, and the support columns were salvaged from the old Royal Typewriter Company in Hartford, Connecticut. The handsome and impressive structure was designed by the Benson Woodworking architecture firm in New Hampshire and erected by the guys from “This Old House.” As I excuse myself to use the restroom, Mike encourages me to take the camera and shoot the blueprints on the bathroom wall.
As the conversation ends and I order my takeout selections for the family and a final IPA, we laugh around a bit at the awful beers we drank in our youth before appreciating the excellence of crafted beer. As I explain my website I add my current experimentation with Mr. Beer and the general direction it’s taking in the homebrewing approach. I ask him for tips that might help my homebrewing readers. He’s quick to offer the following:
– “Clean!!! Sanitation is key;”“Get the book The Complete Joy of Homebrewing Third Edition (Harperresource Book);” “Have fun, its beer!”
Barley Creek Brewing Company is located at the intersection of Sullivan Trail and Camelback Road in Tannersville, PA 18372. They can be found off exit 299 on I-80. For more information, call 570-629-9399.