Barrier Brewing Co. (The Best Beer on the Beach)

Barrier Brewing Co. might be ironically named, considering it’s in Oceanside, not Long Beach, but after one sip of their incredible micro brew, you won’t care.

I found out about this operation last summer at Swingbellys, who serve them on tap. When I asked the bartender where this came from, he said “Oceanside.” I said, “there aren’t any breweries in Oceanside.” He respectfully disagreed, and I didn’t particularly care at that point. Shockingly, after a few pints, I completely forgot about the whole experience, until later I asked some friends about it.

I was mocked, and told “you mean Oceanside, CA.”

Well, I did some googleing and talked to the neighbors, and sure enough. The brewery is here – and it is amazing.

Located in the warehouse strip right over the hill in Oceanside on Lawson Blvd (photo here so you don’t blow past) is Barrier Brewing Co.  Coming from Long Beach, when you make the right turn onto Lawson, you’ll want to take the immediate first right entrance possible, and turn hard right and drive (slowly) down the alley.  They will be the last warehouse on the left.

Founded by Evan Klein in 2009 and later joined by Craig Frymark, these guys have prided themselves on just how little beer they make – claiming to be “one of the smallest breweries in the world.”  It’s a title they wear proudly.  As their motto states, they are brewing for quality, not quantity – a motto they deliver on.

Just this June they celebrated the one year anniversary of their first public batch of locally brewed greatness.  And in one year they’ve been awfully busy.  They’ve worked out more than 20 varieties of beer – 26 as their Facebook update stated on Wednesday – from dark to light, ale to stout, American to German.  They were recently featured in Beer Advocate, have been at a number of major brew fests, and even took the title of Best Craft Brewery in New York State at Hunter Mountain’s TAP NY festival.

How it works: about two weeks out, the guys figure out what they want to brew, and begin the laborious, but rewarding process.  Fast-fowarding two weeks later, you find yourself in an industrial park wondering where you are as you walk into Barrier’s headquarters.  You’re barraged by a mix of oversized kitchen hardware and a what looks like a chemistry experiment gone wrong.  Now begins the fun part.

They run a growler fill session once a week, usually Saturdays, from 12PM-4PM.  Here you either bring your own growler (a standard 64oz sealable glass bottle) or buy one for $5 (which is then reusable and yours for life).  Generally, there are around 8 freshly made brews tapped from their wider – and ever growing – range of beers.  You’ll be able to sample everything, learn about the different beers, and then fill up your growler.

When I went last week and noticed something new on the big board, Klein had to explain the Frau Blücher Smoked Helles in language I could understand.  Saying basically, it’s bacon beer.  And sure enough, after pouring a taste, it was a light and crisp beer, that had the unmistakable smell of bacon – an affect he claims comes from smoked beech wood, among other things.  Give it to them for continuing to try new things – while also bringing back certain craft brew styles that may have gone by the wayside.

They say they’ve also already reached the capacity of their small brewery – selling the maximum amount of beer they can make per cycle.  Just to emphasize how you’ll never get an old beer, two kegs, that were just tapped at the beginning of the session kicked while I was there (Greenroom Pale Ale and Oil City Black IPA).

I think a complaint many may have against some craft and micro brews is brewers’ inclination to make the hoppiest, strongest, darkest, and most alcoholic beer possible – not necessarily the most drinkable or enjoyable.  And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a strong hoppy beer.  Frymark highlights the difference that I’ve tasted here as compared to other microbrews well: “our simple philosophy with all our beers is make [beers]  that are tasty and people will like them.”  And to me, they succeed without question.

They are doing all sorts of great stuff with the beer, from wild flavors, to high alcohol contents, and  classics done right.  But at the end of the day, you can actually sit down and drink them – and even convince your girlfriend to have a sip and not cringe – no matter how much of a Mike’s Hard Lemonade girl she is.  The Belgian1 is an example of this.  With an ABV of 7.1% 7.5% you’d except that you’re going to be tasting more burning than beer, but instead it is smooth, citrusy, and spicy.  I don’t recommend drinking an entire growler of that in a sitting though.

My personal favorite, barnone has to be the Greenroom Pale Ale.  I find it to be the perfect beer to match any situation – whether having a beer with dinner, or perhaps a few (or more) while enjoying the Mets blow it, it goes down cleanly, but with full flavor.  It’s a beer I could see at any bar, or bottled and sold at any supermarket.

Oil City Black IPA is obviouslly a dark beer – that I’ve been assured does not use the water from the Oil City canal in the brew process – but doesn’t have any of the burnt taste or heaviness you may be used to with similiar offerings. Lights Out Stout and Bulkhead Red are also musts if they are on tap.

The first growler purchase will run you $5 (or you can always bring your own from another brewery) and fill-ups are around $10-12 per growler.  Beer-drinkers, mark your calander on Saturdays, because this place is a must.  Even as hard as it is to give up your prized Saturday parking spot, it is well worth the short trip away from the beach.

For the most up-to-date info on what the guys are up to and what beers will be available when, tune into their  Facebook page which is frequently updated.  If you want to know even more about these guys and their operation without just heading down, check out this great show on them: