Barley and Hops Tavern

Starting a small Tavern in rural Northern California. Barley and Hops Tavern catalogs the trials and tribulations of the restaurant biz, and teaching wine country to love beer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Your ugly sweater.

For some reason which has, through the ages, befuddled youngsters everywhere, the elderly punish kids by sending them horrific sweaters as their sole gift for Christmas. Luckily (for at least this one reason) I grew up in the greater Los Angeles area, and sweaters weren't a part of my yearly ensemble. It was more a fashionable mix of Gotcha, Quicksilver, and the occasional hyper-color. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, it's because you aren't from 28-38 years old. In any case, closets throughout the world, at least in the chillier climes, are stuffed to bursting with knitted travesties, such that Bill Cosby himself would blush. Perhaps it was puffily painted representations of kittens, snuggled in a basket with vacant beaded stares. Maybe argyle which clashes not with what else you wear, but within the very pattern itself. Some pattern designer who crissed one too many crosses went cookoo bananas and decided that YES, neon orange DOES in fact blend nicely with both mint green AND ochre. 

And YOU, not wanting to suffer the indignity, discomfort, and shame of actually donning such a garment, relegate it to the far reaches of your closet. We all have this area in our closet; the area where no light penetrates, like the event horizon of a black hole - all enter, yet none return. It is behind the winter jacket, past the overalls which are totally going to go back in style soon, beyond the shirt from the t-shirt gun which is 17 sizes to small, but which you refuse to give away; it lies in the farthest expanses. You may not have a walk-in closet, but it's in an area you certainly can't reach, beyond the farthest frontier. Against the wall is your ugly sweater.

You've kept it all these years, because you felt bad that grandma knitted it with love (she actually bought it at Marshals on the clearance rack, check the label, it's made in a country that no longer exists, and may in fact, have never existed).

NOW, its true purpose is revealed.

This New Years Eve at Barley and Hops Tavern, is our first annual ugly sweater party. The ugliest sweater wins up to a $100.00 CASH PRIZE.

Details to follow.

You have been warned. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One up!

If you're in my chronological vicinity - that is to say - between 28 and 35, you remember 1-ups mainly in the form of Mario or Luigi punching green mushrooms. The fact is that video games no longer have a finite number of lives, and one-upping has taken on a new (or perhaps older) definition: Taking a concept, no matter how inane, and expanding upon it. This has, frankly, gotten re-snarkulous in the restaurant realm. I say realm, because I hate saying segment. Unless you're talking about centipedes, or citrus wedges, one should never use the word segment - it's annoying, and everyone hates it when you do it. So Stop. Where was I... Restaurant realm.

So everyone has seen the "Double Down" debacle, that KFC travesty, inflicted upon people stupid enough to buy such a thing. Yes, you're stupid if you buy factory made fried "chicken" stuffed with cheese-textured oil product, and what looks like bacon, but is probably the stuff that they say dogs can't tell isn't bacon. Which, by the way, is bullsnark. Dogs know. And they're hurt you'd try to deceive them, in the pretense that it's for their own good, you sanctimonious bastards.

Anyway- this is my segue to beer.

I hadn't realized the extant of barley one-upsmanship until getting into this business. There is a war on every front. One of the most hysterical, to me, are the macros arguing through millions of dollars of advertisement over whose beer has the lowest number of calories, and, of those insipid entries, which is the best tasting (which you should read as least offensive).

First off, super low calorie beer sucks. Let's talk about flavor. Beer consists of Barley and water, and is flavored with hops. The calories, by and large, come from the starches, which are converted via yeast into sugars and alcohol (and CO2). Sugar and alcohol have calories. Low alcohol beer is fine; a great deal of wonderful Czech Pils and German Lagers, as well as English Milds are between 3 and 4.5 percent. But they have flavor. If you want 60 calories of something with flavor, you are barking up the WRONG tree, Bucko. The commercial might say that Peoples Don't Know it's not Beer! But if you're even as smart as your dog, you'll know. I mean, are the 50 more calories in an Anchor steam REALLY worth cringing through crappy fake beer? Do an extra 10 situps and enjoy an actual beer, for the love of pie. Beer has been shown countless times to encourage healthy cholesterol, it has a good deal of protein, and even folate, along with antioxidants. Treat it as food. If you are that concerned about 50 calories, brew up some nice iced tea instead. It's just as good for the heat, is healthy, and has virtually zero calories.

Next up is on the other end of the spectrum - the race to have the strongest beer. This gets less press coverage because craft breweries spend their money on beer. As strange as it sounds not to dump every cent into advertising a flavorless, useless product. Nevertheless, a couple of breweries, one in Scotland, the other in Germany, are now pushing 43 percent, and going back and forth. The process is ice distillation. A beer is brewed, and then water is frozen out and removed, concentrating the beer further and further. This is very expensive, as it takes a ton of Barley and Hops to make a tiny amount of beer. I think that if you similarly distilled a six pack of Bud, removed all the water ice, you'd end up with something approaching a Sam Adams, but more watery. It's fun to be on top, but the fact is, these beers taste only marginally good, and are very gimicky.

Somewhere in the middle lies the hop-head beers. Every brewery on the West Coast seems to release an unapologetic one dimensional hop-bomb, listing the IBUs for comparison. These huge IPAs can be good now and then, but it does happen at the expense of good balance.

Gimmicky food and beer are like fad diets. They might seem to you like a good idea, (unless you're really smart, like me) until you realize that balance, not excess, can be exciting. It's pretty damn rare these days. Try something new - not "I want your lightest/strongest/hoppiest/sweetest". Try something without the superlative ending. Ask for something balanced. You might have forgotten how good it can be.

'Cause dogs know. And so do you.

Sunday, August 01, 2010


Weirdly, some of my more recent blogs have mysteriously disappeared. I'm not sure what all has happened - but - you, my voracious readers, may find out all that is new in our growing business at our Facebook page, which is very frequently updated with interesting morsels of information. Sometimes there are pictures. Friend us here:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to be awesome, a step-by-step guide to being a customer that doesn't get made fun of when you leave.

The restaurant business is legendary. Some 9 of 10 new restaurants fail within a year. The hours are grueling, and include weekends and holidays. The pay is usually mediocre (at least in the casual dining segment), and the risk is high. It's a career we chose out of love of great food and great beer. We love our customers, and at any given time, I know about 85% of the people at the bar.

I often get asked (and I'm paraphrasing) "Noah, you're really awesome and good looking, and also rad. Is there something that differentiates the great customers from the good customers, and the good ones from the bad, and the bad ones from the really terrible ones and..." I usually cut them off at this point, as their sentence devolves into a bizarre, self-perpetuating logical loop.

The simple answer is "yes". Here is a behind-the-scenes look at what we love, what we hate, and what we are completely indifferent to, with respect to you the customer. If you have worked in the restaurant trenches before, you probably already know this. In that case, read on with a smug smirk, and nod slowly, knowingly.

1. Tips. A lot of customers think that this is the very most important thing. It's not. Frankly, I know how rough the economy is. I'd rather have you able to afford a beer and a meal three times a week, than once in a while with a big tip. We are in it with you, and we don't assume you're a cheapskate, simply because you aren't a big tipper. That said, servers in this business are mainly compensated with tips. If you CAN afford to tip well, it is noticed and appreciated every time. Our staff works hard to offer the best possible service.

2. Payment method. Ok... I hate credit cards. There, I said it. I actually like them. They offer a fast convenient way to pay, and leave a nice paper record. At the end of the night, there's a nice printout with a total. It's all very nice. But I hate them. I hate them so much, that I have a credit-card voodoo doll named Spotfield McFlankenshnooker that I stab nightly with yellow crayons. It's the hideously high swipe rates. Using a credit card costs us between 1-5 percent of your total bill. That's thousands upon thousands of dollars every year that nobody gets any value for.

The basic regular non-rewards card falls under "Qualified". Those have the best rates. They still suck, but they suck less.

The rewards cards- the ones that give you miles, or some benefit. Those are Mid-Qualified. Those suck heinously and cost us a lot. Bank Debit cards fall under Mid-Qualified. The worst are the Non-Qual.

Non-Qualified cards have a special ring of hell waiting for them. These include corporate credit cards, gift cards, and any cards where your stupid magnetic strip won't swipe because you keep it in your pocket with your #20 grit sandpaper collection. These cost us a large chunk of money to use.

This brings me to split transactions. This is the sort of thing servers will hate you for, especially during busy service: A group of 6 people come in, and then decide they want to split the bill three ways. We are now paying TRIPLE swipe fees - thanks a lot. Moreover, the bartender is now tied up three times longer splitting the check in the computer (even worse if you split it by item rather than by amount), and running three credit cards, when other people are waiting for their delicious beverages. Then there are three tickets to close instead of one, which also takes triple the amount of time.

In sum: Use cash whenever possible. This saves the restaurant a lot of money. If you must use a card, try and use a no-frills credit card. If you are going to share the cost, think about it before you come in, and have one person pay, rather than tying up a lot of staff during busy service, and doubling (or tripling, or quadrupling...) our (already insane) swipe fees. We keep a 100% homemade menu below 15 dollars on razor thin margins. We don't want to raise our prices, please help us keep them low.

3. Kid's menus. Kids are people, just smaller and funnier looking. They are capable of eating real food that isn't heavily processed. We don't have frozen chicken fingers off the Sysco food service truck. We LOVE kids. They're small and fuzzy like cats. Bring your kids in for some real food. If you want to feed your kids processed junk food off a kids menu, seek out TGI-McFunsters (credit to Anthony Bourdain), and get an order of smothered flingo poppers, with extra texas jack daniels smokin' Bar-B-Qatchup. They'll have a kids menu with all the frozen mass-produced favorites keeping kids large. We don't have it. We won't make it. Our kids menu is the same as our adult's menu.

4. The Kitchen. The Kitchen is not for customers to walk into and ask a chef for an order of something. Seriously, this happens. The kitchen is full of sharp pointy things, hot splashy things, and angry people with poofy hats. Ask a server.

5. If something isn't right, let me know right away, so we can make it right! We try our best to consistently send out the world's greatest food, but once in a while, something isn't right. Don't wait for the next time you come in, or the end of the meal. We really want you to enjoy everything, and will gladly fix or substitute if something isn't right.

6. We're a casual pub, not fine dining. Though we have top quality fare that costs half what it would at Francois' Snooty Grille, we don't have free bread and butter before meals. We could, but then we'd sell less appetizers, and we'd have to raise our prices. We're a pub. Pubs don't have a bread course, or linen tablecloths, or 6 pieces of silverware designed for an obscure fish from the coast of an unpronounceable island.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Make sure to add us to your facebook account! Click the facebook icon to the left.

Monday, April 05, 2010

New Faces (from this week's newsletter)

Fool's Day Parade was a smashing success. Thanks to everyone who showed up to see Porkchop Fancypants, Kosuke spinning, and the Easy Leaves! What a blast!

You may notice that I'm not behind the bar 100% of the time anymore, just 90% of the time. Many of you may not realize, but our pub is actually run by an intricate system of robots, hamsters, gears, cogs, and sprockets-- all meticulously interconnected in the basement-- which all require close monitoring, occasional servicing, and frequent feeding. To that end, I've given myself ample time to tend to the business of business. Fortunately, for the Tues-Thurs that I'm not behind the bar, you will find one of two new people.

One of which is Eric. Eric is an extremely talented chef who previously worked over at Starlight, my favorite restaurant in Sonoma county, besides my own. He's the big dude with the tattoos on his arms and the same brand of abrasive charm which I've been accused of wearing. He's pretty rad, and has a bar shift or two, and cooks a lot of your delicious food.

The other is Noah G. Not to be confused with Noah B., which is me. I don't hire people on the basis of name alone, but, let's face it, most Noah's are awesome. He is a Sharks fan and a craft beer geek like me. He wears glasses, making it easier to tell us apart. Some people think the G in is name stands in for "glasses". It doesn't. It stands for awesome.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Draft Wine

So we're in the middle of Wine Country, I'm told. As beer aficionados, we are wont to forget that Sonoma County is the pinnacle of wine grape producing land. Though beverages composed of barley, hops, yeast, and water are more awesomely delicious than those not, wine is still good.

This abundance of great wine-producing land has lead to a bevy of boutique wineries dotting the county like dots on a dotted dot-to-dot. A sort of upscale ambulance chasing; each of these wineries visit newly opened restaurants (or those recently the target of excellent press). A typical conversation:

Me: "Barley and Hops Tavern, this is Noah" "Hello, this is Egbert Schnoodlbakker with Schnoodlbakker wines; may I speak to the individual in charge of purchasing wines"

Me: "That would be me, I'm Noah, the owner, but we're a bit busy, because it's ..."

Them: "When would be a good time to bring you a sample of our excellent Schnoodlbakker wines, I'm SURE you've heard of us..."

Me: "Well, we're a Tavern; squarely focused on beer, you know we have over 50 ..."

Them: "Our wine is the best selling ..."

Me: "I'm sure it's lovely, like a fresh slice of honeydew melon on a hot Autumn's eve, however, I don't have a lot of wine business, as I said, we're a tavern who .."

Them: "If you sold OUR wine, why, your customer base would quad-tupple!"

Me: "Really? Because most of the people ask for 'house red' or 'house white', or want something local, which I already have. I bring in Boheme, which..."

Them: "Yes, yes, but Schnoodlbakker Summer Reisling-Guwertzraminer-Merlot blend pairs perfectly with... what sort of food do you serve"

Me: "Pub grub, fish and ch..."

Them: "It pairs better with fish than any other wine!"

Me: "What's it cost?"

Them: "Well, we can discuss case prices after we come over and sample you on Schnoodlbakker's ENTIRE line of wines... when did you say we can meet"

... inevitably, we meet, the wine is good, but I don't have a spot for it, because, you know, I'm a tavern. I wonder if Breweries hound wine bars that they could dramatically increase their beer business if only they carried Russian Imperial IPA from Blazing Porcupine brewery out of Pennsyltucky, New Hampster, which has the best hop-growing soil dontcha know, wouldn't that be great!? I'll bring by a sample of our entire line, and bring my friend who has a tire business and really, I mean, if you want the best treadwear ratings, you NEED these tires, you could increase your tire business like 100%!!

But on one such occasion, I was swayed. Because it's on draft. You know, draft.

So Mas Vino calls me. At first I'm skeptical, because a company who calls their winery "More Wine" sounds fairly cheesy, by which, I mean it sounds like something you'd find on the table at an Olive Garden, if you were to walk into one, which you would never, ever do.

On the other hand, I drink beer with names like "Moose Drool" "Hop Stoopid" so I really shouldn't judge on name alone. Otherwise, I'd never have made such close friends with Applesauce McWeaselchowder. interesting thing is that, instead of bottling, they keg their wine up in roughly pony-sized kegs. Restaurants then put these pump kegs atop their bar, and let it pour out. The advantage is that the wine is pushed by Nitrogen, filling the headspace as wine empties, and virtually eliminating oxidation. The stuff is good for months. To illustrate the point, the rep brought me a keg that had been first opened like 90 days prior, and it still was delicious. The advantages of Mas Vino (I still can't say that with a straight face) are the lack of oxidized wine, which eliminates pouring out 1/4 bottles of wine all the time. You see, we're a tavern, and don't sell tons of wine...

The disadvantage is that the keg is fairly large, and fairly ... let's say, unattractive ... atop the bar. I stated as much, because I always say what I think (except when I don't). So she tells me that the keg can ALSO be tapped using a conventional draft system, and pushed through draft faucets. NOW you're talking. We maintain the pub look-and-feel, save the environment by not generating as many empty bottles, keep wine fresh for much longer, and improve our house wine to, frankly, a really tasty blended red, and a chard.

The chard keg sits in the basement keg walk-in, along with the nitrogen tank. The red is just below the bar at ambient temperature. Both feed to a brand new two-handle draft tower to the far left of your usual 10 drafts, increasing our draft list to 12 (9 beer, 1 cider, 2 wine). Time will tell if we've made the right move, but so far, the comments have been thoroughly positive. We are among the first to have a draft wine system anywhere in the area, and really anywhere at all. So come check it out, we won't make fun of you for ordering wine at the pub ...

Well, maybe a little.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Beer List

Check out, in the left panel, the new beer list, in pdf format. Up-to-date with all of our bottles and prices. Drafts? Working on an easier way to keep everyone up-to-date with our ever changing draft list. Know a talented web professional who is good with SPRY, and will work in partial trade?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

For the first time in over a year and a half, I'm writing from the inside of my own restaurant. Usually, slinging pints and chatting up the locals prevents me from setting up my laptop; yet here I am, on my "day off", bellied up to the bar. Usually, I'd be home sitting on lazy couch.

Have you ever been to IKEA? IKEA is full of Rivigs, Blabbarsnoofl, Glimma, and of course, Beddinge. Like most, I can't read Swedish. I know perilously little about Sweden, other than the fact that their rivers and bordering oceans are filled with gummy red fish, which taste like fake raspberries. One other thing that they do well is make, or at least design, flat-pack furniture at an absurdly low price. Such was the case when we were looking for a sofa. Looking for a sofa usually entails endlessly sitting on various models and designs, in search of sublime posterior comfort, however, this was our... SECOND couch. Yes, at the time, we lived in such a large abode, that two couches were necessary. Truth told, it was a futon which would double as a bed for the guest room which was the object of our search. We decided to sacrafice comfort for combination of cost and versatility, and edded up with Beddinge. forward to the present. Currently we live in a very, very tiny rental which would not fit our previous, luxurious couch. We have made Beddinge our MAIN sofa. Beddinge is not comfortable. Beddinge is Swedish for "Ow, my ass."

Beddinge opens up into a bed.

We've only recently remembered this fact, and began leaving Beddinge in said open position, hence, "Lazy Couch"

On a day like this, I'd be sitting on lazy couch, drinking a beer, while Mir feeds me grapes and fans me with palm fronds, as strains from classical Wagner permeate the house.

Today, I'm shadowing. Shadowing sounds like ninja activity, but, in fact, involves me micromanaging our newest staff member, Eric. Eric will be helping out in the bar, and moreso in the kitchen in the coming months. But enough about Eric, let's focus on me. Though it may seem merely an incredibly verbose way of stating the obvious, this fascinating rambling does have a point.

I'm on the other side of my bar. I'm on my laptop. I'm blogging about blogging at my bar. And that's pretty cool.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Eve at the Tavern!

Come ring in 2010 with your Tavern! The Easy Leaves will be playing day and night, and we'll have a special. Duck. You know, Duck, they're delicious. mmm. Ducks. 

This year has been manic. In the blink of an eye, the year has already gone past.
2010 included:
Some amazing beer. Our roster has included some pretty far out brews from lands far, far away (like Delaware, which I'm still not entirely convinced actually exists).
Double shifts. Mir has been in the kitchen for doubles nearly every Saturday and Sunday in the past several months. She cooks like a pro, which is fairly incredible for an illustrator / graphic designer / kitten herder.
A top notch chef. Mike has really bring our specials to the next level. His dishes are comfortable and exciting at the same time. Talking food with Mike is one of my great daily pleasures.
Great help. Tish really stepped up while I was injured and the bar was as it was when I left it. Our serving staff has also been great, and are the subject of frequent compliments, postcards, and I believe a reality show is in the works.
A difficult economy. Everyone is saving, and spending what little money they have on necessities. Luckily, beer is a necessity for some, and we have managed. We appreciate the continued patronage of our regulars, semi-regulars, irregulars, and down-right nutcases which grace our stools and seats. Costs go up but we've managed to keep our menu 100% below 15 dollars, and will do our best to continue so.
Amazing music. We've had great bands this year, from weekly fave Jen Tucker, K-BOB, and monthly regular (and New Years band!) The Easy Leaves. Earstu, CM3, Hannah Jern-Miller, and many others have really made weekends great at the Tavern. In addition, Kosuke and John have managed to keep the tables rockin, and we love them for it.
Grease Trap. The grease trap incident of 2009 will forever hang in our heads as an example of stubborn folly to save money. A 1000+ gallon grease trap outside of the building needs to periodically be serviced (read emptied). Former restaurants have not been diligent in doing so, which was not apparent until we looked inside, and decided we'd give it a go ourselves. Dressed like nuclear technicians about to rotate uranium rods, we tried a homemade rig of shovels and buckets.



Not so much.

Our grease trap has been professionally emptied. That's all I shall recount at this time.
Taxes. It seems that every time you do anything as a business owner, there is some way that some governmental body wants a very large piece of it. I have a JD and a BA in business, and have never heard of half of the types of tax we continually pay so that, I assume, the governator can afford a matching set of rolex back scratchers.
Hockey. There are, amazingly, Sharks fans in Sonoma county. Many of them converge on my business weekly and enjoy the game with us. Go Sharks!
And very importantly, our parents. We would not be where we are without their love and support. We do miss going home for holidays.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Open Christmas Eve

We'll be open our regular hours today, closed Christmas Day, and re-open at 4:00 on Saturday.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dining out for Life

This Thursday we will donating a large portion of our day's profits to the Dining out for Life program which is a wonderful annual fundraiser for AIDS research. So come in with all of your friends and eat 'till ya pop! It's a great cause! As a small business in tough economic times, it's difficult to give, but this is IMPORTANT, so come, eat, drink, and do some good. Yeah, that means YOU!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yes, we can...

I realize, of course, that canning beer is anathema among many alcoholic malt beverage aficionados. As with a great many crafts, it's the ritual of the thing that matters. Would-be ebook converts don't because there is "something about holding a book". Would-be modern car enthusiasts don't because there is "something about tuning a carburetor". And, would be canned beer imbibers don't, because there is "something about a glass bottle". I enjoy the ritual of a thing. I'd rather use my trusty knife to scallop potatoes than spend a zillionth of the time with the food processor. I consider capping a bottle an artform, and have speed cappers all over the restaurant in case I need one at a moment's notice. Hundreds of them.

So yeah, canned beer. I know about Oskar Blues but never really bothered with it, until my distributor dropped off the entire line for me to sample. I'm not so arrogant as to not drink it, and I already have exceptions (the excellent Maui Brewing Coconut Porter, Murphy's, Young's Double Chocolate)... but IPA in a can? Scottish Strong in a can?

It turns out that the cans used by craft brewers are coated; aluminum should not ever touch beer. A can is, I grudgingly admit, superior for 1) keeping oxygen out, and 2) keeping light out. I do wish they'd find a way to get a bottle cap on the damn thing, because opening a beer shouldn't "feel" like opening a pop. A pop bottle is different from a beer bottle, and a beer can should be different than a pop can. In fact, a craft beer can should be different from a macro-brew can, which should be avoided at all costs, except to use to rinse glassware.

So the beer. Oskar Blues' entire line was impressive, from a well-crafted pils, to a hop-forward pale, to the Scottish Strong (fave), the double red, and the BIG stout. The flavor profiles translate perfectly, I was able to get a good pour, and the product was, as far as I can see, wholly unaffected by the canning process. Good enough that I'm considering bringing some on.

And if you think about it, it really makes a lot of sense. The shipping costs have to be many orders of magnitude cheaper. Imagine how much less the product weighs in light aluminum than in heavy glass. This also lessens the environmental impact of shipping. It makes stocking much more space efficient - cans can go high, bottles can't. They take up way less room in my bottle fridge. Which I suppose I could call a beer fridge, in that it holds cans now too. And wine. And juice. Liquid beverage fridge. The LBF. I keep it in the ol' LBF.

Oskar Blues was the first commercially successful craft brewery to can (there was a failed attempt prior), and now there are 52, and growing. The large craft brewers are even getting in on the action, partly because certain places (lake beaches, etc) don't let you bring bottles, but do let you bring cans. They're also less heavy to hike with. So you can still enjoy craft beer in the woods. If you've ever been camping (real camping, not "camping"), you know the pack-in pack-out rule. Well crushed aluminum is much easier to pack out.

Next time you're scanning the aisles of your favorite bottle (and can!) shop, grab something new, don't fear the cans; I no longer do.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Don't miss two days of Halloween fun! Crystal Awareness will be spinning some haunting ambient music for your listening pleasure Friday night, with DJs and live music on Saturday as well! Bring the kids, we'll have candy to hand out! At 9:00 catch Prize Pig in their BH Tavern Debut! Should be an amazing show - I know the bass player, and he's good. Really good. 9:00PM, and it will get CRAZY. NO COVER as always.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You don't understand... it's ENDLESS

Say you have the most number of something, ever. THEN, you realize "wait, I have more!". Such is the abstract concept of endlessness.

I really hate chain restaurants. I hate the pre-packaged badness, made without love, by people who don't care about food. People who cook at chain restaurants have no vested interest in the recipe. They simply cook exactly the same as everyone else at every location, like a robot. But not the cool Lost In Space robot that's all "Danger Will Robinson! Danger!" although, it should be, because this sort of cooking is danger. DANGER.

So anyway, every year various chain restaurants have a limited time all-you-can-eat special. One of these atrocities is very close to my heart. And you know, it really is painful to admit, as I'm a restaurant owner who has really, really rad food made right by people who really love what they do.

About 14 (holy pancakes that's long), years ago, I met my then-future wife, Jellyfish, whose real name is Mirjam, which you all know and love if you read my blog, which you do, dutifully. So we were in college in New Hampshire which is where you end up if you go northeast until you can't go northeast anymore, except for Maine, which is populated entirely by lobsters. The food in New Hampshire is mediocre, by which I mean awful, except for a few things which are done well (pancakes, fish-n-chips). Everything also closes REALLY early. So at one point we end up at a Red Lobster. Red Lobster is a weird name for a restaurant. Lobsters turn red when you cook them. It's a bit like naming a restaurant "Brown Burger" or "Yellow Omelet" or "Pink Hippo". Anyway, in typical chain-restaurant fashion, they have a large menu which is really about 3 things prepared slightly differently.

That night, however, they had ENDLESS SHRIMP.

And we were hungry.

I'm actually surprised that a marine conservancy foundation didn't contact us with a lawsuit for endangering the... well, most likely, farm raised Chinese shrimp. We ate a few billion shrimp, and have done so every year since. Halloween, for us, brings thoughts of endless piles of mediocre shrimp, served by a teenager, along with huge glasses of mediocre beer. I think, at least, they carry SNPA these days.

We were talking about endless shrimp at the bar last night, and our patrons were equal parts sickened and intrigued. Therefore, we've decided, that next year's Endless Shrimp will be a group effort, complete with video and perhaps team jerseys.

More on Endless Shrimp tomorrow, for we go tonight.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Fest!

Oktoberfest was a huge success this year! Thank you all for coming out. I'm still waiting for some of the images from various peoples' cameras, but here are a few of you enjoying Oktoberfest!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

OKTOBERFEST 2009 Oct 2-4!


Friday, September 25, 2009

OKTOBERFEST 2009 Oct 2-4!

It's that time again! Oktoberfest is traditionally a 16 day festival, held in Munich through late September, and ENDING in October. Last year, we held a three-day long fest in late September, but this year, we've moved the festivities to early October (so as not to conflict with various other area events). This year's three day long Oktoberfest will feature live music, and a 100% Bavarian menu for all three days! This is not in addition to our regular menu. That's right - we are going German for a full three day weekend! The menu will be posted shortly, but will feature all of your favorites from last year, plus a couple new ones.

Oktoberfest, of course, would not be complete without full authentic 1 Liter steins of proper German beer, including the very traditional Marzen style. Last year we sold out QUICKLY and will be ordering extra, but get yours EARLY. Details will be posted Saturday!

Cheers! Prost!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Starlight Wine Bar and Restaurant

When we're not eating at the pub, we LOVE the Starlight in Sebastopol. We are very sad to report that Thad, our good friend is undergoing cancer treatment. Starlight is holding a benefit for Thad, click here for donations or details. If you've never been to the Starlight, you have to go; it's this fantastic converted train car in Grav. Station (headed toward Santa Rosa on 12), and some of the best food (and company) in town. If it's been a while, head down there and tell 'em that Barley and Hops sent ya! All our best to Thad, and to a very speedy recovery.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday Night Football Specials!!

Barley and Hops Tavern is the place to be for Monday Night Football! The best wings in the area, totally organic, and with 4 homemade, mouth-watering flavors, for .75 / wing (bar only)! That's $4.50 for a half-dozen authentic wings! As many as you like at .75/ea - 6 min per style. We'll also have rotating draft specials during the game (bar only), and the game on the big plasma! Come early - the bar can fill up fast!

In other news, the Hockey season is starting up - get ready for a big Sharks season this year, with a few slapshot specials. Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Follow this blog!

Want to stay up-to-date with my latest rants, music calendar, and such!? Follow my blog by clicking here:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Real Tacos

So it really was inevitable, as usual when you get your expectations high for something. Let me tell you something that will take you far as both an eater and a cooker.

Now listen up, because I'm only going to say this once, and there WILL be a test at the end, and it WILL be graded and go on your permanent record, which is, you, know, PERMANENT. Here it is. Right.... now:

Authentic food is best defined by what's not in it.
Not all good food is authentic.
Not all authentic food is good.
Food which claims to be authentic, but isn't, is never good.

See? That wasn't so hard. Now I understand that you find this cynical. It IS cynical because authentic food is HARD TO FIND even in places where it should be. It's cynical that most food is so inauthentic, that it's easier to define it by whatever does NOT have a bunch of crap in it that doesn't belong, but it's a fact, more and more.

Suburban sprawl, which is the only geographic setting that makes me want to assplode into a million pieces like the death star, is the main reason for this dumbing down. You know the area, the one where an entire shopping center is designed to look like a city center, but feels more like a b-movie set; vaguely reminiscent of the thing it mockingly imitates, but ultimately fails. It's filled with restaurants which serve food which is vaguely reminiscent of the thing it mockingly imitates, but ultimately fails. It is prepared, factory style, by cooks who aren't even vaguely reminiscent of chefs, and described on menus which are filled with indescribably insulting ethnic-ish phrases which ultimately mean nothing, or, at best, mean crappy bland food. Like "Loco Fajitas!" or "Super-Volcano Flingoes (R) with Chipotlaise (R)!"

Such travesties are typically followed by head-punchingly stupid descriptions which PRIDE themselves in their bastardizations of once recognizable food.

"First, we take our Ranchorita guacomolita and SMOTHER it on our godzilla tacos, THEN we deep fry it in..." you get the picture.

More accurately would be:

"First, we find a food that is inexpensive, technically edible, cheap, and lasts 10000 years on a shelf (liquid cheese product!), then add frozen, pre-portioned, identical meat of any variety, then pay people to reconstitute this travesty and pass it as food... with attitude!"

Bah. People would still eat it.

Now wait a second. You're thinking: "what about tex-mex, and other natural fusion?" This stuff is good, AND authentic. Corned beef and cabbage wouldn't exist without Irish immigrants and Jews living together in New York. New York pizza wouldn't exist, nor would a lot of things. This is good, it's authentic, it was built out of love for food, necessity, and using tradition combined with what was available locally. This is my favorite sort of food. This is not what I'm talking about.

So anyway, dad and I drove from Vista (Southern CA) to Nashville, and ate a lot of chicken tacos along the way. I was hoping to find Authentic tacos but would settle for good ones. First, let me demonstrate my prior statement, about authenticity being defined as what is NOT present. An authentic taco does not have any of the following:

1. Yellow Cheese
2. Crunchy shells (this actually exists in parts of Mexico, but is still sort of chewy, not the rock hard factory shells you get at taco-hut)
3. Ground beef.
4. Sour cream
5. Anything canned

So, with many regional variations, we're talking a double corn tortilla, usually some raw onion, grilled or stewed meat, lime, cilantro, occasionally cumin, pepper. Extra authenticity points for queso fresco, sliced radishes and lime wedges, and may or may not have salsa or pico as a garnish.

Not one. You can get 'em in LA, San Jose, and taco trucks in Oakland, and lots of areas, but in Vista, which is nothing but suburban sprawl, I didn't get one.

They did have good ones at one place. Not authentic (not by a mile) but made with love.

Another good regional variation, and the best on the trip, was in New Mexico. This is real fusion - using traditional methods with local ingredients. The tortillas were hand made, the salsa was exceptionally well made, the chicken flavorful and seasoned tex-mex, but not over the top, and not out of those F(*@#$ing @#$@##$@ damned, Son of a @#$ Pelican@#$@#$ popsicle@#$@#$@#%* ing stup3@#$ @#$ shakers of pre-made rub. (I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really hate these dimes worth of nearly flat spice mixtures. Don't do it, it's inauthentic, and not good. If you buy anything labeled "taco seasoning" you're an idiot. Yes YOU. An idiot. I can't believe you are even capable of reading this. A smarter person must be translating it for you. It's about as authentic as cooking noodles, and dumping on powdered "spaghetti seasoning". BAD.

So look for the real thing, and if you can't find the real thing, look for something made LIKE the real thing, but with local ingredients. My nana (mexican step grandmother) uses longhorn cheese because she likes it, and prepares it like they've done for hundreds of years. What? Everything. She loves the stuff. It's a good enough cheese, even though I probably prefer fresco or blanco, but it isn't out of a can, and it's made with love. Stay away from the chains in the suburban sprawl. They don't care about their food, they care about your money.

And that's a fact.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Chow down, baby

We've just been reviewed on as part of an article called "A West Sonoma Road Trip", by Lessley Anderson.

This is a fairly comprehensive guide to great places in the area, including our own (see about 3/4 down the page). They even compare us to our biggest competitor, in Sebastopol, and say we are the best place to get a beer, compared to their "Chili's"-like atmosphere.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Hannah Jern-Miller all August!

Our usual Friday Night music with the lovely Jen Tucker is on hold, while Jen enjoys a much-deserved vacation. Luckily, Hannah, one of our favorite local up-and-coming musicians will be taking her spot, Every Friday! Don't Miss!

Check her out at

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Obama chooses fake beer.

In the widely publicized meeting between Henry Louis Gates, and Sgt. Crowley due to some unpleasantness at Cambridge, Obama offered up some brews to settle everyone down and have a conversation. Unbelievably, as the leader of the greatest brewing country in the world, the Obamanator chooses.... bud light?

Are you @#$ing me?

I'm less concerned that it's not technically American, as I am that it's not even technically beer, what with rice adjuncting, crappy 4 row malt, and hardly a trace of (high alpha, low flavor) hops. What a let down! I mean, Sam Adams is brewed just a few hours away, and is named after... Samuel Freaking Adams!

I might have to vote independent next election.

Or start a beer party.

Speaking of beer parties, stay tuned for our Second Annual Oktoberfest!!