New craft brewery makes Costa Mesa a beer destination!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a little over two years since I last wrote about Greg Nylen and his brewery, Barley Forge Brewing Co. (December 17, 2012 when I posted the article) Nylen, a career litigation lawyer and home brewer of 25 years, was still brewing out of his custom home brewery in Topanga Mountains. A lot has changed since that day, and his plans to open in Santa Monica and Culver City quickly shifted due to city complications. Nylen turned his gaze south to Orange County, a current hot bed of craft brewery activity, and in late October 2014, Costa Mesa received its first craft brewery.
Barley Forge is a manufacturing/production brewery utilizing a three-vessel 15BBL brewhouse purchased from a now defunct BigBuck Brewery location in Michigan. In addition to having the capacity to not only make great beer and bottle it, this Costa Mesa hot spot also has a café. Currently serving charcuterie cheese plates (highly recommended), grilled sausages, chili, sliders, salads, grilled cheese, and other veggies options. Barley Forge aims at expanding its small kitchen into a full scale cooking operation. The current food options won’t disappoint, and there is sure to be something for every beer drinker. Moreover, Nylen has included hand crafted sodas and locally produced California wine in the menu. Something for everyone.
The tasting room, designed by Vice President Mary Ann Frericks, also Nyeln’s wife, is modern industrial with reconditioned bowling lane bars, weathered metal light fixtures, air plants, and a retro popcorn machine. The playing card like beer bottles labels were created by co-founder/designer Dave Stolte and they comprise the overall branding vision along with an iconic retro 50s flare. It’s eye catching and an appropriate throwback. In addition, Nylen has employed family sign painters, Cindy and Jeff Young, of Articulate Signs in Rochester, Michigan, who hand paint the brewery’s wall murals and building signs. Lastly, you’ll notice a pretty big truck out in the parking lot — a recondition military diesel vehicle, which will more than likely appear at festivals in the future and may even act as a mobile tap room.
This brewery’s focus is family, friends, and community to the core. Community is an often overused word which is in danger of becoming a meaningless trope in the craft community, but Nylen makes sure that this isn’t the case. Not only does Barley Forge welcome all home brewers, but a new home brew club, OC Mashups, was spawned after the brewery’s opening day. Nylen himself has been a member of the Maltose Falcons and Pacific Gravity home brew clubs and so understand how important the local home brewers are to the commercial craft beer market. Plans to enter pro-ams and brew pilot batches on his classic More Beer brew stand are already in the works.
What about the Beer?
Barley Forge knocks it out of the park with both classic and creative styles. After just three months of being open, this young brewery sports on average of 10 styles on tap, but infused and randalled variations are also commonly available. The current crowd pleaser is a roasty coconut bomb called The Patsy, labeled as a Coconut Rye Stout. This beer is so wonderfully complex and flavorfully layered. It’s reminiscent of Maui Coconut Porter, but showcases a heavier impact (after all, it is a stout).
In addition to coconuts and rye, cinnamon is a featured ingredient in another of Nylen’s signature brews, Don Perfecto Horchata Wit. Light, refreshing, spicy, and again, complex, Don Pefect is a great example of spice balance. Nothing is too overpowering or off-putting; the cinnamon comes through, does its job, and then leaves the drinker wanting more. If creative ingredients and spices aren’t your forté, the Barley Forge crew has a slew of classic styles ranging from a Dortmunder Export-Style Lager called Grandpa Tracker, an agave amber ale called El Paisano, and an IPA appropriately named The Orange Curtain. Finally, there is The Black Dahlia, a Belgian Style Dark Ale. This one is extremely dangerous as its 11% ABV is completely masked in velvety layers of caramel, fig, plum, and brown bread.
It should be no surprised that the beer line-up is exceptional. Nylen’s impressive 25-year stint as a home brewer lends expertise, great recipe formulation, and creativity. Joined by head of brewing operations Kevin Buckely (formerly founder/brewer Latitude 33) and production manager Jeremy Czuleger (formerly head brewer at Trumer), Barley Forge is primed to take not only the OC, but LA by storm.
At the time of writing this, Barley Forge is preparing to produce 12 oz bottled versions of their core line-up beers, which are slated for packing in the coming weeks. Expect to see bottles of Orange Curtain, One Louder, Grandpa Tractor, and Don Perfecto in the OC and LA soon. And for god sakes man, get your butt down to Costa Mesa and visit Barley Forge. It’s worth the drive!Barley Forge Brewing Co 2957 Randolph Avenue Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (714) 641-2084 www.barleyforge.com