Barley John's (New Brighton, MN)

  • Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
  • Star Tribune North
  • December 1, 2004

When a guy wants to make and sell lots of beer, he might be able to find a better place for it than an old fast food joint, but John Moore didn’t think so. At the busy intersection of County D and Old Highway 8 in New Brighton, you’ll find Barley John’s, a small brewpub with lively acoustics, good food, and serious beer. The beer is brewed on-site, and every beer drinker will find something he or she likes.

Look for these brews on tap all the time. The Little Barley Bitter is a low-alcohol English-style brew with lots of hops. The Stockyard Pale Ale is less bitter than pale ales often are, but has plenty of hops. The Old 8 Porter is rich, complex, and not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, Old 8 is refermented and aged in bourbon casks. If Dark Knight is available, try that. It’s best for sipping, and savoring.

The undecided can get a sampler of four small glasses. It’s the best introduction to this brewer’s range.

As good as the beer is, you’ll want to order food. The jalapeno hummus has enough bite to keep you interested in your beer, not so much that you won’t finish the entire plate. You won’t find it on the lunch menu, but ask anyway. It’s often ready by that time of day.

Lunch is good sandwiches and standard fare, but we like the dinner menu. Along with pizza, you’ll find straightforward options like beef tenderloin, or beer-battered fish, or pasta. Vegetarians are cheerfully accommodated. Everything we’ve had is great, and now we just dive right for the specials. Our only complaint is that the portions are just too darned big! We got four more meals out of the leftovers from two dinners.

On our last visit, we had the coq au biere. A variation on the classic French dish of chicken cooked in wine, this was crispy chicken pieces topped with a thin, tangy, beer-based sauce. It was outstanding. Alongside were served the perfect autumn accompaniment, oven roasted carrots and potatoes. You’ll go through all the sauce on the plate before you run out of potatoes. You’ll be full and happy and you won’t mind. Take the rest home.

Another marvelous special was the ostrich. That’s red meat, and more like beef steak than you might expect, ordering it the first time. It’s wonderful. This was covered with lots of sautéed exotic mushrooms, so luxurious. The broccolini and rice sides made this a homey yet sophisticated plate.

But what we like best are the little touches. They grow French thyme in their garden because you can’t get it otherwise, and their own tomatoes and cucumbers because they taste better. The patios are shaded by hops vines: the ones they use in the beer. The staff is happy and hard-working. It’s a place where John Moore’s love of what he does shines through

Take home a growler—that’s beer to go—and enjoy it with your leftovers.

781 Old Highway 8 SW
New Brighton, MN 55112
(651) 636-4670

11 am—1 am Mon—Sat

Atmosphere: Lively
Service: Fabulous
Sound level: Noisy
Recommended dishes: Try the specials
Prices: $7–$8 for smaller dishes, $14–$18 for entrees
Smoking: Nonsmoking
Wheelchair accessibility: Yes
Children: No special menu, but they’re kid-friendly

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.