Friday, September 13, 2013

Barrel and Barley Craft Beer Market {ATLOnTap}

View the full size image gallery here.

Open for just a few months (since July 3rd of this year), Barrel and Barley Craft Beer Market has already gained attention from the local community for it's quality craft beer selection. The owner, Zach Yurchuck, a recent graduate of The University of Georgia, says he had a "unique opportunity" and "couldn’t think of anything I would enjoy more than doing my part to help turn NW Metro Atlanta from a beer wasteland into a beer geek’s dream."

With a revolving selection of twenty draft beers on tap, an extensive selection of cellared beers, and an impressive cooler with both local and international favorites (including a real English Ginger Beer which is traditionally non-alcoholic) there's plenty for both new and seasoned craft beer geeks alike. And at just a few dollars a piece, individual bottle sales offer an easy entry point for those still tentative about opening their palate to the world of craft brew.

Located off a quiet two-lane road between historic downtown Woodstock and highway 92, Barrel and Barley Craft Beer Market is run out of an old home that’s been standing since the early 1900s, and until recently, was the storefront of Brenda's Flowers which was housed here for almost 30 years before moving to the newly renovated shopping area nearby Woodstock condos.

During my visit, locals curious about the new business wandered in inquisitively, asking “what ya’ll sell in here?” Resident homebrewers came in to see if there’s grain and other brewing supplies on hand. And regulars, who’ve already learned how to lean on the thick, glossy, wooden counter and ask for samples of beer before buying a growler-full to take home, lined up to get a taste of what Barrel and Barley Craft Beer Market has to offer.

With my three-year-old in tow (fortunately Zach didn't seem to mind letting my kid keep himself busy by practicing his emerging letter-making skills on the chalkboard out front; can you spell Rubeas, kid?) I was able to take a few quick pictures and speak with Zach about the origins and unique qualities of his new small business.

How did the idea for a growler shop in Woodstock come about? Did you have to save a lot of investment capital, or was it something you researched and found pretty easy to get going?

I grew up in Woodstock and watched Main Street go from a back road between Sixes and Hwy 92, to a bustling area full of awesome entertainment opportunities. I love craft beer and the movement, and had a unique opportunity to start a business right out of college. I couldn’t think of anything I would enjoy more than doing my part to help turn NW Metro Atlanta from a beer wasteland into a beer geek’s dream.

Can you tell us a bit about what makes your growler shop different from others in our area?

We try to put as much care in storage and delivery of the beer we sell as possible. One of those steps include counter pressure filling growlers. Counter pressure filling mimics the process used by commercial bottling lines and eliminates draft beer’s exposure to oxygen, minimizing loss of carbonation during a fill, which means better, fresher taster beer for the consumer. You will also never find an IPA or anything else that should be consumed fresh in warm storage at Barrel and Barley.

Warm storage? I personally understand what this means, but can you give a brief explanation of why keeping an IPA in these conditions is bad for the beer and for the drinking experience?

Hop forward beers, and most brews with lower alcohol contents should be consumed as fresh as possible. Over time, the delicate flavors of the hop profiles will fade. Keeping the beers refrigerated helps to slow this aging process. Thus ensuring the beer is as close to fresh from the brewery as possible. Everything that should be, is kept refrigerated.

Light also breaks down alpha acids in beers and leads to the "skunked" taste you may get drinking mass produced beers in green/clear bottles. The amber colored bottles used by the vast majority of craft brewers does a great job of keeping light out -- but we take it a step further. Any light that touches bottle beer is on a motion sensor, meaning light is only touching beer when a customer is in a room and shopping. A night and during slow times, no light touches our bottles.

How do you decide on a beer selection (bottles, draft beer)? Do you take requests?

Each of our draft lines are dedicated to certain styles, other than that I pretty much just choose what beers I and the employees like to drink. I feel that it’s crucial for the employees to truly believe in every beer we have on tap.

We do take requests to a point. We take an extremely hard line on only allowing independent (No more than 25% of a company can be owned by a non-craft brewer to be considered independent) breweries on our shelves, and that’s not any slight at the quality of brands like Goose Island, Shock Top, etc. It’s just our philosophy. Brands with the backing of Bud-Miller-Coors don’t need our help selling the product. The little guys do. I love the Bourbon County line, but you will not find it at Barrel and Barley.

You seem very connected to social media. Was being involved closely with Twitter and Facebook a strategic decision, or was it just part of your regular life that trickled in? Do you think it’s important for small, new business owners to interact with their customers online?

Absolutely a strategic decision. I paid for all my beer in college by helping small businesses with their digital marketing presence, so it was a fairly natural transition. Our philosophy when it comes to social is to make the brand impossible to ignore.

I love your beer cellar and cooler selection. Was it always important to you to have such a wide selection of bottles on hand? I have to admit, I feel a bit like a kid in a candy store in there.

Though the hot ticket in beer retail right now is definitely growlers, I still think it’s imperative to have a strong bottle selection. I think it’s important to nurture customer’s curiosity about new beers and allow them to try new things. There’s no better way to do that than in an off-premise retail environment than an extensive single bottle selection.

What’s the been the response from the community, from your customers? Positive/negative?

The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Nary a negative word yet. In fact we almost ran out of beer our opening weekend. It was a great problem to have!

Plans for the future?

Right now we’re pretty focused on making our current operations run as smooth as possible. We hope to expand into homebrewing equipment in the near future. Down the road, we’d love to find like minded people to help grow new locations across the country, but that’s just in our dreams for now.


Want to connect with Barrel and Barley Craft Beer Market? You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, and at 9010 Main St. Woodstock, GA.

{ATLOnTap} is a series of that highlights the people and places that make Hey, Brewtiful possible, probable, and purposeful. It's about personal connection, community, and real-world contacts that keep our glass full. Do you know us? Would you like to? Email heybrewtiful{at} for more information.

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