Grab a growler to go with the brewpub's delicious wings, burgers, kielbasa and sauerkraut balls
Wings were flying out the door of Barley’s Brewing Company. Several of those delectable flappers would land in my mouth later, as well as the mouths of other savvy customers awaiting curbside delivery in cars parked near the brewpub’s rear entrance.
It was a Wednesday, and in-the-know patrons were taking advantage of a hump day special Barley’s started when dine-in service was halted due to the coronavirus outbreak: Buying a growler (most are $14 to $16) of house-brewed ale allows the purchase of up to 10 wings for $.75 apiece (10 wings regularly go for $15.99).
The deal is especially alluring because 1) Barley’s offers 12 styles of superb house beer; 2) Barley’s Unconventional Wings are top tier — being grilled, they arrive crisp, smoke-scented and not a bit oily. Several wing flavors are available, but because I like a vinegary sting, I invariably opt for the aptly named “Gates of Hell'' sauce.
All food and drink orders are currently placed over the phone using the online “updated menu,” which has been streamlined for curbside service. After a quoted wait time — expect 20 minutes — customers ring again when they reach the rear of the brewpub, at which point a friendly, gloved server brings everything out, along with a timely lagniappe: a roll of toilet paper.Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Barley’s has conscientiously determined that curbside-delivery orders are to be paid over the phone by credit card and charged a 20 percent gratuity that goes directly to its laid-off workers. I was informed that many customers raise the gratuity to 50 percent, and I’d encourage others to follow that benevolent path.
Fans of over-the-top burgers should include The Clevelander in their order ($12.49 with a side, such as crisp, flour-dusted fries). All of Barley’s chargrilled burgers offer an appealing backyard-cookout flavor, but The Clevelander — named after the city that gave us the Polish Boy, aka a kielbasa sandwich garnished with fries, slaw and barbecue sauce — has its smoky ground beef crowned with grilled kielbasa, pale-ale mustard and a pierogi filled with mashed potatoes.
Seared kielbasa and fragrant bratwurst supply the appreciated hefty garnishes to the well-made Midwestern Mac-n-Cheese (15.49). Served with satisfying Texas toast garlic bread, the rib-sticking entree offsets its creamy beer-cheese sauce with scallions, plus red and green peppers.
Loads of ground beef show up in the hearty, spicy and tomatoey Pale Ale Chili ($6.99 for a large bowl). The terrific, beer-spiked stew comes with DIY add-ons of grated cheese and saltines.
Longtime regulars of the august brewpub will locate another mainstay on its curbside menu: Mildred’s Sauerkraut Balls ($4.99 for four, served with Parmesan-peppercorn ranch dressing). Sausage, herbs and cheese help make these orbs with thin-yet-craggy, golden-brown exteriors irresistible beer buddies.
Seeking something lighter? Try the Bistro Salad ($5.99) enlivened by crisply toasted pecans, blue cheese crumbles, red onion slivers, plenty of dried cranberries and a bold balsamic emulsion with a roasted-garlic backbone.
I’d place the Buffalo Cauliflower ($8.99) — spicy-sauce-coated, thickly breaded nuggets — and the Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich (12.49 with a side), assembled with deli ham and a grilled breast piece, in the “standard pub grub” category rather than among the menu highlights I’ve already mentioned. In other words, a few slurps of Barley’s brilliant beer will brighten their appeal.
Which beer? The versatile English-style pale ale produced by this venerated craft brewery since 1992 is a Columbus classic. For something darker, try the limited-edition AC/BC made with English black treacle and molasses.
A bourbon-barrel-aged, blackcurrant-accented version of Barley’s Auld Curiosity ale, the AC/BC is dense with refreshingly bittersweet, fruity flavors but it doesn’t have a heavy body. Sipping the beguiling, potent brew makes staying at home suddenly seem like a fine idea.