Bar Beat: Barley’s Taproom (upstairs)

Downstairs, Barley’s Taproom has a bustling, restaurant-style feel, albeit with a considerable and well-stocked bar. On a given night, it’s usually packed.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

Upstairs, however, is a different story. Here, it feels much less like a restaurant and much more like an old-school pub, complete with dart boards and, of course, pool tables.

It also has a generous selection of beers. Barley’s is, after all, a taproom.

In particular, there are several brews that go very well with the oncoming cold of the winter months. The Duck Rabbit Baltic Porter, a rich high-gravity seasonal beer, is particularly suitable. Perfect for sipping, the deep flavor lingers in the back of the throat just right. There’s a hint of black-strap molasses in it, a particularly good choice (black-strap rum is also wonderful for the cold months, but that’s another story).

Of course, not all winter beers have to be on the heavy side. Catawba Valley’s Pumpkin Ale is surprisingly smooth without losing the necessary flavor. It would be all too easy to see these disappearing very quickly, and it’s a good option for those who love a good beer when it’s gusty and freezing outside but don’t want something quite as thick as the Baltic Porter.

The feeling inside the pub is cozy too: It’s social without being too rowdy, with most people clustered off in groups of two or three around a few bar stools, discussing their favorite artists or the trouble of making a living off creative talents: typical Asheville beer talk, but it never gets quite old, and there are few things better than good company, a warm pub and a tall glass of beer in the dead of winter.

Barley’s Taproom is located at 42 Biltmore Ave. in Asheville. For more information, call 255-0504. Smoking is allowed in the upstairs pub.

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