Barley Creek Brewing Company (Tannersville, PA): Navigator, Angler, and Antler

About the Brewery (from barleycreek.com/about.php):
When the cornerstone for Barley Creek Brewing Company was laid in 1792, it marked the start of what would become one of the most historic buildings in America.  The building would eventually grow to include 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, a tennis court, swimming pool, movie theater and bowling alley.  Oh, wait… that’s the White House.

Sorry.  Barley Creek Brewing Company, the Pocono Mountains’ original brewpub, was established in 1995 with a traditional Pennsylvania timber-frame barn raising.  And though our building is a little bit smaller than the White House, we have a lot of stuff the White House doesn’t have, like 600 personalized beer mugs hanging in our “living room,” a full canoe on top of our mug rack, a mailbox made out of a beer keg (the “alebox”), and an official whiffle ball stadium.  Plus, we have a BREWERY (!) where we MAKE OUR OWN BEER!  Hey, we’re sure the White House is a nice place and all, but we’re just saying… we’d rather be at Barley Creek.

Barley Creek Brewing Company
Barley Creek Brewing Company

I recently got a chance to visit Barley Creek Brewing Company while visiting my family in Pennsylvania.  My Dad and I wanted to check out some (somewhat) local microbreweries, so we chose Barley Creek, in the Poconos, and Endless Brewing, near the New York state line (review coming soon for that one!).  Barley Creek is a brewpub and restaurant, and offers daily tours of their operation, so Dad and I went down and got an appetizer, ordered a couple of beers (I tried their Got Tommy 2X IPA which was one of my favorites for the entire day, Dad had a Weyerbacher Merry Monks which was also quite good), and waited for the tour.  When 12:30 rolled around, we were called up… as the only people to be on the tour!  It was a great experience, because we got lots of one-on-one (well, two-on-two, since it was Dad and I and two of the brewers) time to check out their operation, their lagering vessels, their nitrous system, and all around just a lot of cool stuff.  I was greatly impressed with the water system they have built at their location; the water leaving Barley Creek is cleaner than the water going in!  We also got a chance to sample a really wide variety of their beers, all extremely fresh: the aforementioned 2X, Intrepid Red Ale, Too Bitter ESB (an ESB with nitrogen which was very nice), Rescue IPA, Strawberry Kölsch (one of the best Kölsch’s I’ve had, not a style I usually like), Imperial Stout, and the beers below.  I really wish I could have taken home a bottle of the 2X, the Stout, the Kölsch, and the Too Bitter as well and review them all!

 

Navigator Golden Ale

About the Beer (from barleycreek.com):
One of our most popular brews. Navigator Golden Ale has a crisp, clean, nicely balanced flavor. We serve our Navigator a little colder than normal and give it a moderate carbonation for just the right finish. Navigator is the perfect brew to tame the fire in some of your favorite spicy foods. Try it with our Firehouse Chili or our award-winning hot wings.

Style: Golden Ale
ABV: 5.4%
IBU: 14

 

NAVIGATOR comes out of the bottle a mix of gold and copper that is truly beautiful to look at – one of the prettier beers I’ve seen in a while – and just LOOKS refreshing.  A vigorous pours yields a pretty light head of bright white, rather large bubbles that fade away quickly, and leave a small ring on the outside of the surface of the beer, and lightly laps the side of the glass with delicate lacing.  Taking it to my nose, I get a slight Hefeweizen like scent to NAVIGATOR; it’s got some banana notes and an overall mild bouquet.

Navigator: Golden Ale
Navigator: Golden Ale

On the palate, NAVIGATOR starts somewhat sweet, but not overly so, and ends slightly bitter.  It has a mild spice to it, and a Belgian undertone to the essence it brings. NAVIGATOR is not a tripel, but it is in the neighborhood… it’s almost like a tripel-light!  It’s very light, and refreshing, and would make a good summer-outside-on-a-hot-day kind of beer.  To add to this nice hot day note is the mouthfeel of the beer: NAVIGATOR is rich and slightly velvety without moving into being thick or heavy.  The carbonation on the beer is extremely light, and after the initial pour it becomes almost non-existent, and this lack of over-the-top bubbly helps to serve the mild, nuanced flavors well.

I enjoyed NAVIGATOR, especially for a style that is not one of my favorites.  Golden Ales are hit or miss for me; too many end up as an overpriced version of Budweiser, but NAVIGATOR is much more like a Belgian beer’s little brother. NAVIGATOR is great way to get a bit of the Belgian style without getting into the high ABV that a standard tripel normally packs, and on a hot day I take it hands down over the average American Adjunct Lager any day of the week.  Of course, I’d also take water over AAL any day of the week, but you get my point…

 

Overall 6.5 / 10

Beer Page: http://barleycreek.com/beerNavigator.php?id=1

Brewery site: http://barleycreek.com

 

Angler Black Lager

About the Beer (from barleycreek.com):
This Bavarian style lager coats the tongue with a complex, full-bodied flavor that hints of smooth chocolate. Try it with robust German food, smoked pork, or any kind of grilled meat.

Style: German Style Dunkel
ABV: 5.0%
IBU: 16

 

Usually when I see the word “lager” I’m immediately on the defensive.  I just don’t like them.  Lager yeast usually eats up a lot more of the complexities of flavor that ale yeast leaves behind; a lager is often a lot more “crisp” and “dry” than an ale, but the ale will have a depth of flavor that is hard to achieve with a lager.  I’m not going to go into a brewing lesson here, but in general, ale = more flavor.  But not always.  ANGLER is a great example of a lager that actually maintains some pretty deep and interestingly complex flavor profiles, even though it is a lager… and that impressed me immensely! ANGLER pours a deep near-black brown with a creamy light tan head that dissipates pretty quickly and leaves nearly no lacing, but this is to be expected with a lager.  The scent rising out of the nonic is all coffee and roasted malt, big smoky scents without smelling like a smoked beer, a lot more depth to it than I was anticipating from this lager.

Angler: German Dunkel (Black Lager)
Angler: German Dunkel (Black Lager)

Taking that first taste, my mind goes a bit haywire, because my defensive walls are crumbling.  This is a lager I could actually… like.  It has some of the flavors you’d expect from what I’m smelling – coffee, roasty, deep flavors akin somewhat with a stout – yet it also has that dry crispness I expect from a lager, and a very mild hoppiness on the exit, just enough to remind you that there are some hops in the beer.  Where NAVIGATOR was like a tripel-lite, and ANGLER almost seems like a stout-lite; it has that big flavor profile, but a lot of the smaller nuances I’d expect from a stout are absent. The lagering process has made the flavor profile a lot more one-dimensional than it would be if it were an ale, which is not necessarily a bad thing; not everyone is into big flavors and not everyone will appreciate the complexities of a Russian Imperial Stout.  ANGLER would be a great stepping-stone for someone working their way out of AAL and into better beers, darker beers.

ANGLER looks thick, until you hold it up to the light and see how thin it really is.  The beer is meager and zesty in its body; while from across the room it looks like a stout, drinking ANGLER makes its lager heritage extremely obvious.  That lager body makes ANGLER a very easily drinkable beer, even though it is very dark and a bit heavier on the flavor profile, and like NAVIGATOR before it, this would be a good beer to help woo friends away from AAL beers and into a world of much better brews!

 

Overall 7.5 / 10

Beer Page: http://barleycreek.com/beerNavigator.php?id=2

Brewery site: http://barleycreek.com

 

Antler Brown Ale

About the Beer (from barleycreek.com):
This traditional English style brown ale is smooth as silk, boasting a sweet caramalt finish. A rich chestnut color, our Antler Brown Ale is mildly hopped. Check out the Antler tap handle…locally grown! This has been our most popular beer over the years, a winner of a gold medal at the Atlantic City Beer Festival and a bronze medal at the World Beer Championships. Try Antler Brown with hearty foods like sausage, burgers and steak. It’s also great with a wedge of sharp cheddar.

Style: English Brown Ale
ABV: 4.8%
IBU: 12

 

In general, I’m not a fan of brown ales.  I think they are… well… kind of boring.  After the turn that ANGLER spun on lagers for me, I was hoping that ANTLER would have a similar effect on my opinion of brown ales, but unfortunately no.  ANTLER pours a rich mahogany brown that lets off some red tones when held up to the light, and is a bit more visually appealing than many brown ales I’ve had.  It’s capped with a fluffy off-white head that dissipates pretty rapidly and leaves just a bit of lacing behind.

Antler: English Brown Ale
Antler: English Brown Ale

Taking a whiff, there is just not too much there.  There is some nice maltiness, and a bit of nice medium body to the aroma.  It is not heavy, not roasty, and overall it’s just not a whole lot of anything.  There is something in the scent I can’t quite put my finger on… it’s not unpleasant, but it’s not something I can really figure out either.  The taste is a pretty average brown ale flavor to me; the malt has a medium balance to it, neither too dark and astringent nor too light and golden.  There are some hops on the back end, not much bitterness, and almost no hop aroma to speak of.  The flavor has just a hit of nut – like walnut or hazelnut – and a very mild caramel undertone, which I wished were more pronounced.

ANTLER is pretty thin and smooth, with very light carbonation, and not nearly as substantial as it looks.  The body of the beer was not too much heavier than water, which for many would be a good thing; this makes ANTLER a very easy to drink beer, if this is your style.  For me, brown ales are just not something I really enjoy, and ANTLER didn’t do too much to change my mind.

 

Overall 5 / 10

Beer Page: http://barleycreek.com/beerNavigator.php?id=3

Brewery site: http://barleycreek.com

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