Monday, January 6, 2014

Beer School

Happy New Year everyone! Last month (or last year, if you will), before my wife got me on this 21 day diet without sugar (or sweeteners), I got the chance to attend a Beer School event at Barley's Brewhaus OP to celebrate (and coincide with) the Founders Brewing release in Kansas. I love Barley's anyway, but this event was really top notch!

If you have never been to Barley's: There are 99 different beers on tap (including those from sister restaurant 75th St. Brewery), and a few more in bottles. But that is not where the fun stops, Chef Ryan does a great job of comprising a menu that brings together all of your bar favorites with items for the more gastronomically inclined. You can get: a pretty dang good buffalo chicken wrap that has just enough kick to it, pub chips with a bacon and bleu cheese sauce, "haus-made" (get it?) Heritage Farms pork meatballs, and "haus-made" Serrano and Kielbasa sausages. Not a huge bleu cheese fan? First of all, why not? Second of all, you are in luck, because the pub chip sauce was crafted as a bleu cheese dip for non-blue cheese eaters. Also, your opinion of bleu cheese is in stark contrast to mine and Chef Ryan's (and Chef Ryan's 3 year old son's). Chef told me a story of how he walked into his living room one Saturday morning to the sight of his 3 year old eating his bleu cheese wheel (that he brought back from Wisconsin) with a spoon while he was watching cartoons. That kid has amazing taste!

But I digress, this is a post about Knile and Gabe (from Founders) coming to Kansas to teach us about Founders brewery and their beers (they also come around to your tables to talk beer with you in case you have questions and are too shy to ask in front of the whole class).

Beer School is a really awesome event that Barley's puts on periodically. My buddy and I had wanted to go to the Free State Brewery Beer School earlier in the year, but it didn't really work for our schedules. A couple more Beer Schools came and went before the stars aligned and we were able to attend one. But Man, it was worth the wait!

I can't speak to all Beer School events (because I have only been to one), but... This is not really a school  that you go to and learn how to brew beer, but rather learn the story behind that brewery's beer (and try an array of their beers). This particular Beer School was set up to essentially be a brewery tour, where instead of you going to the brewery, they bring the brewery to you. But, if you are a home-brewer (or looking to become one) and searching for inspiration: Fear not, there is inspiration coming for you!

Knile is Founders' local rep. An Irishman that actually knows the cabbie that drove Bourdain through Belfast on his Northern Ireland episode. Gabe is Founders' All-Star brewery tour guide. He took us all the way back to the beginning of Founders. Founders started when a couple buddies quit their soul-sucking corporate jobs and started a brewery. They hired a highly revered local homebrewer as their head brewer (see, I told you homebrewers that I had something good for you, almost every one of you go to sleep at night praying for this to happen to you) and all was well with the world.

Initially brewing unexciting beers that Founders' founders thought would appeal to a wider variety of people, business did not go so well. In fact, business went so "not well" that they were in danger of having the brewery foreclosed on. With this looming foreclosure, they started brewing crazy beers (to fill their own beer cellars with). They did not care if anyone else liked these beers, they were only brewing them for themselves. The funny thing is that these crazy beers really caught on, sales went through the roof, and the business was saved. One of their most popular beers, "Dirty Bastard", is even a tribute to the bankers (dirty bastards) that were going to take their brewery from them.

I bet that if you cut Gabe open, he would bleed Red's Rye (discussed below). His family is Founders through and through, his wife works in the tasting room and legend has it that she can make even the most macho men feel inept about the level of spiciness that they can stomach. The legend, as Gabe tells it:

Founders occasionally brews spicy chili beers (Most recently: Mango Magnifico) and Gabe's wife just so happens to love them.
Man at Table of Guests: I would like the chili beer
Gabe's Wife: That beer is really spicy, let me bring you a sample of that before I pour you a full pint.
MATOG: Why, do you not think I can handle that beer?
GW: No, it's not that, I just want you to try it before I pour you a full pint.
MATOG: I am man enough to handle it
GW: Sir, I believe you, but please let me bring you a sample first.
MATOG: No, just bring me a pint of it.

Gabe's wife obliged and when coming back around to check on the table some time later she noticed that the beer had barely been touched. She asked if everything was alright. The man wanted to send the beer back, she refused by saying that she begged him to take a sample first and that he wouldn't take it. When he realized that she wouldn't take it back he claimed that he bought her a beer. After going and clocking out (because you cannot drink on the job), she came back and chugged the beer right in his face!

Fast forward a couple years to the birth of their first child. Gabe and his wife check in to the hospital, get to their room, and then a woman that had been sitting at the chili beer table walks into the room. That woman was their labor and delivery nurse and remembered Mrs. Gabe from the aforementioned encounter. I can only assume that the L&D nurse did not try to push the drugs (if they were not requested) after seeing Mrs. Gabe's pain tolerance. Talk about your all-time epic stories!

But back to the beer. We were set to sample 5 of their beers:

Centennial IPA - Pretty self explanatory: IPA brewed with only Centennial hops. Floral, not bitter, strong IPA.
Porter - Again, pretty self explanatory: A porter (of the sweet and hoppy variety).
Breakfast Stout - Double chocolate, double coffee, double oatmeal stout. So good!
Dirty Bastard - Malt forward beer with hops and slight smoke (not enough to taste like the "hot dog" beer that my buddies and I once brewed though, which is a very good thing!)
Red's Rye - A red rye IPA. A spicy, hoppy, red beer.

But that was not all. They also brought the ever-so-hard-to-obtain KBS for us to sample! People wait in line for days for a chance to buy KBS, it's release is like a beer Black Friday. So you can imagine the smiles on our faces when they busted that out, it was like Beer Christmas! For those that don't know: KBS is a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel aged Breakfast Stout. It is consistently rated in the top 5 beers on both and Simple the best barrel aged beer that I have ever experienced.

That was such a cool surprise, for them to bring the KBS. And that really sumarizes my Beer School experience: Not exactly what I expected to get (although I didn't really know what to expect either), but a pleasant surprise. It has also increased the amount of Founders beer that I buy, by quite a bit.


Barley's Brewhaus on Urbanspoon Barley's Brewhaus on Urbanspoon


  1. This is really a great place to drink beer, from your description. It sounds interesting, and I think I would want to taste some of their popular beer. Anyway, their story is amazing. Even if they faced a lot of problems like their foreclosure experience, they remained strong and never gave up.


    1. Charlena, Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. I agree that the beer and beer choices may be good but the food is absolutely horrible. The dishes and preparation/care was much better before they renovated. Still, I think how much the food sucks or does not suck may depend more on whether you drink beers before, during and after the meal--alcohol tends to have a buffering effect on taste flaws (from hook ups to food)

    For my part, I found the food quality to be very low and they can no longer make a decent rissoto and my pizzas all came out with soggy crusts and were cold. But again, if one has been drinking a bit, that may have gone unnoticed.

    1. queenbee, thank you for reading and for commenting! I am sorry that your experiences have been different than mine at Barley's. I hope that my words do not get misconstrued and make this place out to be El Bulli or anything like that, but I think that Chef Ryan does a good job of putting together a menu of flavourful bar food that is not just reheated crap from Sysco.

      I hope that you gave Barley's feedback that can help them make themselves better going forward.

      Thanks again for reading.