Hoosier Beer Geek worked with Metromix to create their 2010 Local Brewing Guide. It was published in the November 18th issue and we are republishing the interviews we conducted. Enjoy!
Barley Island Brewing Company, est. 1999
Brewpub: 639 Conner St., Noblesville, Ph: 317-770-5280
Restaurant and Taproom: 701 Broad Ripple Ave., Indianapolis, Ph: 317-257-5600
You won’t find the inspiration behind the name “Barley Island” on any map. All you need to do is step up to a bar. “The name ‘Barley Island’ was a [Prohibition era] nickname for a bar,” says Mike Hess, brewmaster at Barley Island Brewing Company. The Prohibition era inspiration can be found on many of Barley Island’s house beers. Their Dirty Helen Brown Ale is named for a famous Milwaukee tavern owner that was known for her colorful language.
Barley Island brews their beers at their original brewpub in downtown Noblesville. They distribute their beers in bottles and kegs across Indiana as well as Illinois and Kentucky. And to bring their fresh brewed beer to more drinkers, they opened a Broad Ripple restaurant in 2009.
Hess has been with Barley Island for eight years, assisting former head brewer Jon Lang for five years before taking over the brewhouse last year. The house beer styles have remained consistent though the recipes have been altered over the years. “The Sheet Metal Blonde has become a year-round beer,” says Hess. “It used to be 4% ABV; it’s about 5.4% [now]. The Blind Tiger Pale Ale has a little more grains to it and a different hopping schedule. Barfly IPA is definitely more citrusy hopped now.”
Some of Barley Island’s most popular beers are those aged in bourbon barrels. Breweries often will put beers in used bourbon, wine, brandy, and other distilled liquor barrels. Barrel-aging of beers allows some of the beer’s flavors to develop. Aging in bourbon barrels allows the beer to pull some of the bourbon and oak flavors out of the barrels. “I love anything out a barrel,” Hess said. “There is typically a lineup that goes through them. It is (in order) stout, porter, and usually IPA. The IPA doesn’t get as much bourbon flavor, it gets more oak flavored.”
The bourbon barrel’s life can stretch out to a fourth beer. Barley Island has used the barrels to create a sour beer. Also, they will be brewing a smoked porter soon and the malts will be smoked over the oak wood from the bourbon barrels.
Regular Beers (styles in parenthesis): Flat Top (American Wheat), Sheet Metal Blonde (Belgian wit), Blind Tiger (pale ale), Dirty Helen (brown ale), Barfly (IPA)
Seasonals: Brass Knuckles Oatmeal Stout, Black Mystic Java Stout, Beastie Barrel Porter, Beastie Barrel Stout, Oak Aged Barfly IPA, Count Hopula IPA
Events: Tapping events; monthly guest breweries