Breaking the Chain

“I’m not a ‘chain’ guy,” Lenny Kolada said, as he explained the thought that went into Barley’s. “I think people who go to chains are not introspective enough to know what life is about.”

So, what is life about? Intersections.

“Your life is like a string and it’s going in a certain direction,” he said, “and mine is going in another direction, but right now, in this moment, that’s an intersection.”

Of course meeting people at a chain restaurant is an intersection as well, but in Kolada’s estimation, the opportunity to have a great time improves when you walk into a unique place.

That’s what it’s all about.

It wasn’t exactly a secret, but the fact that Kolada sold his stake in the Barley’s brewpub downtown a little over a year ago wasn’t widely publicized. Restaurants shuffling ownership isn’t big news, but when you’re talking about a landmark brewpub in a city that is now teeming with them, it’s kind of a big deal.

The good news is that the beer will remain unaffected. Brewmaster Angelo Signorino will split time between both locations to oversee the meticulous crafting of the native suds. To say that the beer is in good hands is an understatement.

This gives Kolada more time to focus on what was Barley’s Smokehouse. Long known as a destination for serious BBQ, what will now be dubbed simply as Smokehouse Brewing Company has shaken up the menu. Oh, the ’cue is still righteous, and the prices leave enough headspace in the checking account to allow for a growler fill or two, but Kolada challenged his team to tighten up the supporting items, embrace seasonal trends, and be more aggressive about sourcing locally.

It’s a challenge, which is why the new tagline, “part art, part science, part magic” fits the concept.

Kolada will tell you that the “magic” is when the customer is satisfied, but as he explains the challenge of maintaining customer-friendly price points, despite some top-shelf nuances like sourcing his bread from Dan the Baker, you wonder if there’s a little more magic than the tagline would indicate.

The name shift is all about avoiding confusion. Kolada’s on good terms with the downtown location. That was his baby, after all, and as long as it continues to thrive it will remain a testament to his vision. Before you dismiss that as flattering hyperbole, imagine our craft beer community without Barley’s.

The Smokehouse, however, is a monument to a husband and wife who wouldn’t give up. The Smokehouse was born in 1997, but Kolada’s business partner backed out. Lenny and wife Joan knuckled down, took some big personal risks, and fired up the smokers for the long haul in 1998.

Explaining the difference between the two locations has never been easy. Recently, a local publication published a picture of the wrong location. Regulars get it, but lots of people still get it twisted. Is it a chain? Which one is the brewery?  Worse still, a lot of people questioned the legitimacy of the Smokehouse. Can somebody who started off handling pub grub deliver the sweet, smoky goods? Well, yeah, but all the better if you don’t have to answer that question in the first place. And now Lenny doesn’t have to. •

Meat & GREET
Three items at Barley’s that jump off the menu

Smoked Banh Mi 
Yeah, these have been popping up in lots of places, but the combination of smoked pork and pickled veggies is perfection.

Pork Wings
Lenny has been enamored with smoked pork shanks for years, but couldn’t quite figure out how to make it work. Well, he finally figured it out and it was worth the wait.

Smokehouse Wings
People who really know wings have been onto these for years. They haven’t changed. Smoked to mahogany perfection, grilled to order. Hard to pass up.