REVIEW: Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria – Asheville
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria in Asheville is a renovated 1920′s two floor appliance store in downtown Asheville on Biltmore Ave. It has been open for about 18 years serving Ashevillians (not sure if that is the correct term but, if not, it should be) homemade pizza, calzones, lasagna and sandwiches plus a lot of good beer. The first floor is the main dining room with a bar with 24 taps and a stage for live music where they have Americana bands play about three to four times per week. The second floor has another bar with 19 taps and four regulation billiards tables and five regulation dart lanes.
I went up to Asheville a few weeks ago for a job interview and to attend an event at Highland Brewing Co. with Charlie Papazian, the founder/president of the American Homebrewer’s Association and author of The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. He is also the same guy who ran the poll on Examiner.com for BeerCity USA where Asheville was named BeerCity USA 2010. Everyone in the beer industry was buzzing around Asheville because it was Papazian’s first trip to Asheville.
I decided to go to Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria for lunch because I had read on Twitter (from @BruisinAles which is an awesome craft beer store in downtown Asheville) that Barley’s had held an event called Caskaggeddon featuring special casks of beer from North Carolina breweries which Charlie Papazian attended and I specifically wanted to get a pint of Fullsteam’s Red Beans and Rice beer because it just sounded crazy good & I had parked right across the street in paid public parking and didn’t feel like losing the $1.50 that I had put on my parking spot.
Here are the different beers from the Caskaggeddon they had the night before that I found on Brewgasm.com:
- Big Boss Brewing – High Roller IPA cask dry-hopped with Chinook hops
- The Duck-Rabbit Brewery – Milk Stout cask, aged with Escazu chocolate from Raleigh
- Foothills Brewing – Bourbon barrel-aged People’s Porter cask
- Fullsteam Brewery – Red Beans and Rice cask, aged with bourbon soaked hickory chips
- Mother Earth Brewing – Cardamon and black peppercorn Tripel Overhead cask
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria has one of the better beer selections that I have seen in a while just adding to the reason why Asheville deserves the BeerCity USA title as well as being big supporters of the North Carolina craft brew industry. Sadly, they only had the Fullsteam Red Beans & Rice leftover from the night before so I couldn’t try any of other delicious sounding beers from the other North Carolina breweries. RateBeer.com has ranked Barley’s as the fortieth best beer restaurant in the nation.
I had recently tried a beer called Hogwash from Fullsteam (in their Plow-to-Pint series) which I wasn’t very fond of when tasting it but am going to give it another try and hope it grows on me because the idea of hickory smoked porter that goes well alongside a plate of barbecue is something that I can really dig. I spoke with Sean, Fullsteam’s Chief Executive “Optimist”, at the event later that night about Hogwash and he said that I should definitely give it another run my money.
I walked into Barley’s and sat down at the bar. I cranked up my laptop, hooked up to Barley’s free WiFi and proceeded to get a little bit of work done while drinking some cold beer and ordered a pint of the Red Beans & Rice cask. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into but the bartender poured a 2 oz. taster. It wasn’t what I was expecting with the name of the beer but it was really good. I am still trying to get my palate up to snuff so I can taste the subtleties in various beers. Red Beans & Rice from Fullsteam would make a great session beer because it wasn’t too heavy on the stomach and the bourbon soaked hickory chips gave the beer a robust flavor without having to boost the ABV too much.
I start talking to a guy at the bar about the cask event from the night before. He said that it was pretty exciting to have that many specialty beers from great North Carolina breweries in the house plus having the godfather of home brewing (Papazian) in attendance was pretty awesome. I found out that he was the owner so I asked him what I should try. He said that I should probably go with a calzone since I was flying solo and that I should try their Beefalo which is the meat of a hybrid offspring between domestic cattle and the American bison that is healthier/gamier than regular beef.
I went with his recommendation and got the calzone with Beefalo and onion. I don’t order calzones that much. I am pretty sure that I made a mistake of getting onions because they don’t cook in the calzone like they do on top of a pizza…but that was my fault. I’ll get spinach or mushrooms or something else next time. It was still good but the funk from the onions took away from the meal but adding a little bit of marinara to each bite helped out.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved this calzone even with my classic mistake of getting onion in a calzone. I dominated the entire thing. The Beefalo was fantastic and wasn’t greasy at all. The ricotta and mozzarella cheeses were top notch and filled almost every bite. The crust of the calzone was covered with Parmesan and herbs and then baked to a golden brown. The menu said that the calzones normally take about 20-30 minutes to prepare so you might want to order quickly if you are the only one in the group getting a calzone because you don’t want to be the last one in your group eating. Barley’s calzones are definitely worth getting.
If you are in Asheville, you definitely need to stop by Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria for some food and drinks. I hope that I can get back down there to check out the nightlife there with some live music and pool. If you are a craft beer lover, you should check them out on Facebook to find out what new beers they have tapped or what beer events they have coming up.