The planets aligned this Sunday – my wife and I had a day off at the same time, so we were finally able to venture out to Barker Brewing.
We had been hearing about the amazing food, friendly service, and thirst quenching beers at Barker Brewing in Barker, NY for some time, so we were excited to go. From our house it was a bit less than a half hour trip on a beautiful day up into wine country (soon to be called delicious meat and beer country).
Barker Brewing is a bit off the beaten path, on an old frozen food packing campus. The Goodlanders have repurposed once was a company cafeteria into the present restaurant and brewery, and they have plans to start work on another two buildings in the coming years. It’s clear this place is going to become a weekend destination for lovers of beer, BBQ, boutique hotel guests, and country shopping enthusiasts over the next few years. For now the food and drink is more than enough reason to go.
We came in for lunch and there were already six couples there enjoying an early meal. Normally my wife and I try to order different meals, so we can sample bit of each other’s dinner, but this time we both went for the brisket sandwiches. The smoker was going and we had heard such good things we couldn’t go for anything else.
In all honestly it was the best brisket I have had – HUGE smoke flavor and so tender. I like my BBQ sweet so I stuck with the sweeter of the two house sauces and it was great. For sides we had the potatoes, the mac and cheese, and the BBQ beans. They were all good, but the beans were a real stand out. My nine month old son enjoyed all the sides but chose the potatoes as his number one.
As is customary at a new brewery, we got a sample flight and tried each of the tap beers. Greg Goodlander doubles as brewer and pit master; we hoped his beer would be as good as the food and we weren’t disappointed. Barker’s beer is malt-focused and lightly hopped. I could drink gallons of the stuff on a hot day with the smell of the smokehouse behind me. Three Sisters Stout was a nice easy drinking stout with a healthy sweetness, and clearly present roasted coffee and chocolate notes. The real stand out for the trip was the “Summer” Set Ale. The clarity in the beer I had was amazing, you would think it was champagne rather than beer! I was impressed to find out that they do not have a filter system or use any kind of finings in their beer, and accomplish incredible clarity. It was amazingly refreshing and paired so well with our meal that it would be impossible not to call this the ‘beer of the trip’.
Greg came out, I asked him about the beer and he was gracious enough to show me his brewing set up. He told me about his past as a cabinet maker (evident in the quality woodworking throughout the building) and his plans for the rest of the campus. He built the brewing setup himself, even directly commissioning the stainless steel equipment from around the world, acting as his own engineer, shipping broker and brewer. He runs a 3-barrel HERMs (Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash) direct fire system. His equipment fits beautifully into the tiled room and he is cranking out amazing beer. He said demand has been very high and he currently can only keep the restaurant stocked. The future plans include moving the brewery into another building soon so production can be increased, allowing for Barker beers to be on tap at a few off-site locations.
If you haven’t been out to Barker Brewing yet, you should go. The Goodlanders also keep a few wines from the nearby Niagara wine trail in-house, so should you have a significant other who prefers grapes to barley there’s fun for everyone.
Bill Campbell is the Director of Operations at 12 Gates Brewing Co., resident witbier aficionado, and the occasional writer of things. He also has advanced coursework in the arts of formal etiquette.