Costa Mesa To Join the Craft Brewing Scene With Barley Forge Brewery

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Dave Lieberman
Orange County's going through its sophomore run of brewery openings lately, but most of the breweries opening are in the city of Anaheim. Of course, it's hard to compete when the mayor of Anaheim is actively recruiting breweries, to the point of personally driving brewers around and pointing out properties that can be built out cheaply and with no residential neighbors to cause conditional-use permit issues.

Well, Costa Mesa, your time is coming. Barley Forge Brewing will be opening next month on Randolph Avenue in Costa Mesa, down the street from Rooster PM and the Tin Lizzie.

Owner Greg Nylen, an attorney in his previous life, his wife Mary Ann Frericks, and co-founder and design director Dave Stolte (yes, of Home Bar Basics fame) are details people, and it shows. The taps are mounted on the bar so that bartenders don't have to turn around and break off conversation while filling beer; the mash tuns are exactly at waist height thanks to a platform; the setup was deliberately planned to maximize the cool sea breeze, because breweries can become uncomfortably hot; there are even electrical outlets with USB connections at table height along each wall in the tasting room.

Barley Forge will also have a kitchen, so there will be food available for purchase rather than just a pile of delivery menus or the occasional luxe lonchera parked out front. Nylen says the food will start off simply, with charcuterie and cheese plates and things like that, with a wider menu to be available once the brewery is fully up and running. Also, serving food means that their liquor license will also allow them to serve wine, making it a more inclusive place. (Shockingly, not everyone loves beer.)

David Huls had been tapped to be the brewmaster, and supervised the build-out of an incredibly well-designed and expandable brewery; he was lured away with an offer he couldn't refuse from TAPS in Brea. Nylen has several leads on replacement brewmasters and the separation is on good terms.

Buildout is nearly complete; final inspections are soon and, if all goes well, Barley Forge will be up and running as soon as they have beer to sell, which will be mid- to late September. The initial beer run will all be ale; lagers, which take longer to brew, will join them as soon as they're ready.

I've had several of Barley Forge's initial beers, brewed on Nylen's pilot batch system in the Santa Monica Mountains, and they're good; he's deliberately thinking about beer that can be paired with food. He's not oblivious, either; he's right down the street from eleventy billion Asian restaurants, and is brewing a Dortmunder-style lager that's light and fizzy enough to be paired with Chinese and Korean food.

Barley Forge will be located at 2957 Randolph Ave., Costa Mesa, behind the auto body shop van rental place. Stay tuned for an opening announcement.

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