This past week, my gilfriend and I took a trip out to eastern Connecticut for a short 2 night vacation. We stayed near Foxwoods, and decided to really "play it by ear" for the entire trip. Tuesday morning, after eating breakfast at an amazing spot called Kitchen Little in Mystic, CT we decided to explore some towns near where we were staying in the North Stonington, CT area. We turned right instead of left off the I 95 exit for Foxwoods, and drove until we came to the village of Westerly, Rhode Island. This quaint little coastal town is just a 15-20 minute ride from the hotels and casino areas.
After a short 15 minute ride, we ended up in the village of Westerly. I was really looking for a bar that served good craft beers, and had a really "chill" atmosphere. While driving, my girlfriend shouted out, "Hey, that looks like it might be a beer bar." I looked over to my left, and like a beacon in the night I saw a sign that read, "The Malted Barley". I was sure that this had to be a craft beer bar, and once my girlfriend and I got back to the hotel room, and I did a little research I saw that I was exactly right. Not only was this a craft beer bar, but it was a craft beer bar that had 36 beers on tap! I was completely consumed by my enthusiasm, and my girlfriend quickly grew tired of me talking about all of the beers I was looking forward to trying later that night.
We arrive at The Malted Barley at around 6:30 pm. Upon entering, the frst thing that struck me was the very casual, warm feeling you got as soon as you walked in. There was already a decent crowd there, and the locals and staff all welcomed us with smiles as we entered. The front area of the establishment was lined with tall round tables, that had 4 bar stools around each table. The fairly long bar was also lined with bar stools, as well as locals that were chatting away and sipping their malt beverages. The decor was very warm and simple, with different types of brewery signs, and beer nostalgia hanging sporadically around the walls. It was as though the bar was saying to me "hey man, we're all friends here, so take a seat and order a beer." I am not one to argue when a bar talks to me, so I quickly heeded its advice.
As we approached the bar, we were greeted by an incredibly outgoing and warm bartender with excellent tattoos. Being tattooed myself, I love going to a drinking establishment that proudly hires men and women that are clearly inked. Yeah, I am slightly biased here, but it does make me feel more welcome. What was also great was how much the bartender knew about beers. I listened attentively as he made suggestions to a couple sitting next to us at the bar. "Well, if you like hoppy, bitter beers, you should try this. It's a Sixpoint Resin Ale, and it's one of the best IPA's I have ever had." What a great suggestion, and the guy knew his beers. He shot the shit with me on many occassions about New Paltz, NY (the town I went to college in), and different beers we've tried. He was incredibly personable. And yes, I know it's his job to be personable, but he was personable in a way that made you feel like the guy really wanted to talk to you about beer. You could tell he enjoyed working there, and you could tell he took pride in his beer knowledge.
When the bartender handed us the beer/cocktail/food menu, I was quickly flabbergasted by what I saw. First, my girlfriend was completely satisfied with the selection of house cocktails, and the selection even made ME want one (I'm not a liqour drinker). Secondly, the beer list was a colossal representation of everything delicious in beer. There are 36 beers on tap, and even more selections in bottles and cans. I had never, ever seen Lagunitas Sucks on tap until I came into this bar. The menu was laid out by style of beer. This struck me as an excellent idea, and it makes it really easy for people looking to try specific styles. What also struck me was how well rounded the beer menu was, which offered a generous selection of every style you could imagine. I sampled two beers from the local brewery (and by local I mean a half mile from the bar). The brewery is known by the name Grey Sail Brewing. I had a pint of their smoked porter, as well as their Anniversary Imperial Pilsner. The smoked porter was excellent, with a rich dark roasted character and a significant amount of smoked notes. The brew also had a sweet maly backbone, with hint of chocolate and coffee. Overall, and excellent smoked porter. The imperial pilsner was also a fantastic offering. There was definitely a strong malt presence, which was balanced well with the aroma hops. A nice biscuit finish, with a slight bite from the hops made this a damn near perfect brew. I also had the Rogue Chocolate Stout, as well as the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. The Rogue Chocolate stout didn't offer any surprises for me. It was full bodied, and had strong notes of dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and caramel. The Cali-Belgique IPA by Stone really threw me for a loop. It had a nice amount of lemon zest up front, followed by a sweet malt backbone, and a beautiful clove and pepper finish. The beer reminded me of the offspring of a belgian witte and a west coast IPA. After having the beers I enjoyed, I wished I had the time and tolerance to try everything they offered here. Any style of beer you like, The Malted Barley has got you covered with multiple options!
The last, but certainly one of the most important aspects of this bar I would like to address is the food. I can some up the food these guys offer with just one word...pretzels. YES PRETZELS! The Malted Barley's food menus consists soley of pretzel options. Don't get me wrong, these aren't your run of the mill frozen, salted, dried out desperate imitations of a bavarian treat. Quite the contrary indeed. These pretzels are made with fresh, homemade dough, and stuffed or covered with fresh ingredients. Some of the pretzel options are; Asiago and Parmesan, Mozarella and Tomato stuffed with a side of pesto, and the Cheddar and Jalapeno stuffed pretzel. Not to mention, they also offer an array of "pretzel sandwiches" which are served on pretzel buns! Seeing this food menu made everything else in the bar seem that much MORE perfect. I mean, come on...an menu comprised of nothing but pretzel options in a beer bar? Well, hell, that is damn near perfection as far as I am concerned. I had the Jalapeno and Cheddar stuffed pretzel with a side of apricot butter paired with the Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. If this wasn't complete perfection, it was at least the closest I had every come to it as far as taste is concerned.
So, I am going to end this review here. Please, go check out the menus at The Malted Barley, and also check out Grey Sail Brewing's website as well. Rhode Island has a lot of creative, and inspirational things going on. You can tell they pride themselves on community, and really try to help each other out. So, I am going to show how much their warm hospitalty effected me by doing the same! Cheers!