by Evelyne Vivies
Hot Summer Visalia Nights and Cold Craft Beer, the Perfect Duo!
Barrelhouse Brewery is a rogue, dynamic, small business created by young entrepreneurs who started making craft beer in their garage five years ago.
This alchemy of the American Dream, the best craft beer you’ll ever taste, and warm hospitality is as golden as the Founders’ Beer, a Pale Ale crafted and brewed by the guys that started it all.
I sat down with Matt Nation, Taproom Manager of their third brewery, located in Downtown Visalia. “Drinking is a massive part of this culture”, explains, Matt. “We like to challenge the norm and experiment a lot with our beers. We’re kind of a rugged group, I would say. Some people might raise their eyebrows at some of the beers we brew, like our Sours, Belgian Golden Strong, and South Asian Tequila barrels that are coming out now.”
Co-owners Jason Carvalho, Kevin Nickell and Chris Vaughn are approachable and fun-loving. “They are probably some of the most giving, thoughtful individuals I’ve ever met,” says Matt. Originally from the Central Valley, they started brewing their own unique craft beer in Jason’s garage in Lemoore and now have three large taprooms in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and Visalia.
Barrelhouse is the embodiment of a particular kind of raw fun which has greatly contributed to its rapid success. It has a friendly, low-key atmosphere, and people often talk about the good ambiance. I asked Matt about this reputation and how they nurture it. “The vibe is infectious, it’s pretty simple, as you can see it’s well put together inside and on the back patio. There’s no drama. We have our own self-serve water stations with filtered water and pretzels that you can just get by yourself. When you come in here, you can go up to the bar and sit down. You just do your own thing, meet up with people and conversations just kind of happen.”
There purposely is no kitchen. “Our goal is to make really, really great beer. Making food, it’s just not the game that we’re in.” However, on Fridays and Saturdays, and sometimes Tuesdays, taco trucks and Asian-fusion trucks line their back patio. “You can get your food from whatever local purveyor there is. The food vendor is their own entity. We’re in the hospitality industry with our taprooms and beers. We make sure to have good beer and good “Beertenders” behind the bar. Our friendly, hard-working staff focus on our crafted, small-batch beers.” To find out what beers they have a tap each month just visit their website.
Fridays and Saturdays are always their most popular nights. It’s the end of the week and working-people love to meet up with colleagues and friends for good food, good fun, and a certain numbness after a week of hard work. They find plenty of room to unwind in this 12,000-square foot space, which includes two stages for band performances and a massive outdoor patio. Inside, on a large screen, sports games are shown: hockey, basketball, football, and soccer.
Matt announces special world-cup events will happen this summer. “We have food trucks, cold beer on tap, and live music. We book local bands, as well as bringing bands from the coast. If they are good bands, we put them on stage.”
The delicate art of brewing beer is somewhat of a lost art these days. Barrelhouse Brewery takes pride in the unique flavors of their craft beer brewed at their Paso Robles location under the direction of Head Master Brewer, George Numair. George was on hand in the Visalia location during its recent one-year anniversary event, and took the opportunity to do a brewer’s challenge with his newest creations. The flavors were HOP-ricot Milkshake, Bohemian Rhapsody, Imperial Hazy Daze, Jam Session, Boss Lager, Czech Please, and PCP (Pina Colada Pale). “If you haven’t had too much craft beer, come down and try us. We are still fairly new to Visalia. Don’t be afraid to come up and ask questions, we’re here for that.”
The all-around best seller is the Mango IPA. The Pale Ale with its fragrant Mango taste is amazing! I was there for the interview, but I would have happily spent a pleasurable evening subsisting on Mango IPA and tacos, swaying to the beat of the live band playing and looking at the smiles on the faces around me.
At their anniversary party in Visalia, co-owner Jason Carvalho and his wife Rebecca were clearly happy with the turnout. Enjoying the band, sipping beers, and mingling with customers, they were thrilled to see their company slogan, “Good People, Good Times, Great Beer”, successfully achieved at this new location.
Although it is a 21-and-over bar, moms and dads who don’t have a sitter often bring their kids with them. There are even kid board games. It’s that friendly. It feels like you’re going to a friend’s backyard BBQ.
There purposely are no reservations. “Feel free to send a friend on ahead to commandeer some tables for your party.” Matt says, “It’s first come, first serve hospitality, you’ll never be turned away because of private events.”
There’s no turning away from the good people, good times, and great beer on hot summer nights in Visalia’s Barrelhouse Brewery.