Before I moved to Orlando, I began scouting beer bars and restaurants I wanted to check out. After asking new acquaintances on Untappd, RateBeer, Twitter and Facebook where I should go next, The Gnarly Barley seemed to be a popular choice. Now that I’ve actually been there I can see why.
reminds me of many beer pubs I’ve been to around the country; it’s
cozy, homey, authentic and completely anti-corporate/anti-chain in every
facet. It’s more like something you’d see in Brooklyn, Philly or Boston
instead of this suburban area near South Orange and Sand Lake. Located
in what was once someone’s house (I’m assuming) it’s easy to miss from
the road. Thankfully, it is bigger inside than it looks from the street.
There are five or six tables and a bar that seats probably no more than
a dozen people. Only three TVs, but that’s okay because this really
isn’t a sports bar anyway. It’s one of those quaint places that’s
difficult to label as simply a dive bar or college bar or sports bar or
townie bar. It’s just a cool little spot for people that like good food
and good beer.
of which, I have to say I was quite impressed with The Gnarly Barley’s
tap selection: 16 draughts and one cask (which seems to be a rare sight
these days). Mostly Florida-brewed suds on tap, many of which I wasn’t
familiar with. That’s okay because if there’s one thing I love about a
beer bar it’s just that: beer I haven’t had a million times.
Gainesville-based Swamp Head seemed to have a strong showing, and I was
impressed to see a Prairie brew on tap as well. Weihenstephaner
Hefeweizen is always a safe bet; and I suppose they keep Guinness at the
top of the list just to have a macro on tap for outsiders (or maybe
because it was just St. Patrick’s Day).
bars like this often let you choose your pour size of 4, 10 or 16oz;
unfortunately, The Gnarly Barley doesn’t really do that. Some beers come
in 10 or 16oz pours depending on the strength, but flights of 4oz
aren’t on the menu. That’s okay, because the waitress was more than
happy to give us a free taster of anything we asked about. That’s great
service because it’s literally “try before you buy.”
My girlfriend Maggie decided to go with a pint of Bavik – a 5% ABV
Belgian pilsner. Neither of us had ever had it before and it really
impressed me as it was very flavorful and absolutely “to spec” as far as
traditional guidelines go. I went with Prairie’s “Ape Snake” – an
eccentric brew to say the least as it’s billed as a dark dry hopped
saison with Brett. So it was part Black IPA, part Saison, and part Wild
Ale. It really dazzled me.
got the Buffalo Chicken sub [below] and it was great. Large meaty
pieces drenched in plenty of blue cheese with fresh jalapenos to give it
some bite. Maggie got the “BBLT” [above] which contains bacon, blue
cheese, tomato and arugula (“delicious” was her one word review). No
fries for sides here, but rather classic potato chips. I wound up
getting a pint of Swap Head’s Big Nose IPA; a hefty 7.3% hop bomb whose
bitterness helped contrast the spiciness of my sub (and complement it,
I didn’t see it on the menu, we wound up splitting a large piece of
chocolate cupcake for dessert. It was essentially a deluxe edition of a
Hostess snack; decadent to be sure and totally worth all those empty
the two of us, the bill came to just over $40. That’s actually a really
great deal considering we had two entrees, three pints, and a dessert.
We were impressed to say the least and the fact The Gnarly Barley has a
customer loyalty program card (buy 10 beers and the 11th is on them), I’m sure we’ll be checking off those other boxes sooner rather than later.