By Jim Cyphert & The Flight Crew
Thank goodness Brian Fry’s Uncle Bob had a penchant for the finer things in life.
Fry, owner of Barrel 33 in Howland, remembers holiday parties at Uncle Bob’s in Oil City, Pa., that featured some special beers.
Sam Adams Boston Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale always were available. “It was a big deal back then,” Fry says. “Those breweries were forefathers of the craft beer movement.”
Fry also was an early adopter of Rogue, Anchor Steam and West Coast brands he sampled when he visited his brother at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
So he was excited when craft beer began to make its way to Ohio. He supports local brewers and local beers that make up a significant percentage of Barrel 33’s offerings.
Fry’s first job in the industry was in 1998 at the Draught House in Youngstown, where he developed a world beer tour program. “This concept is common now. But nothing like it had been done in the Mahoning Valley,” Fry says.
He’s visited the original Heineken brewery in Amsterdam and small breweries from Australia to New Zealand to Tokyo to Argentina.
An accomplished sommelier, Fry is also training for cicerone (beer expert) status. He has a special place in his heart for craft beer.
Fry goes out of his way to make every Barrel 33 patron feel like the most important person in the place. Our visit was no different. As he sat with us for more than two hours, Fry still greeted regulars as well as new customers who came to enjoy his awesome space.
Here are the beers we liked best.
Ayinger Bavarian Pils (5.3% ABV)
Dave Shively: Today’s craft beer landscape has breweries across America pushing the envelope and breaking the rules to create the latest concoction and generate buzz. That’s not the case at Ayinger Brewery, which since 1878 has stuck to its tried and true method of brewing great beer in a Bavarian village not far from Munich.
Abiding by Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian purity law dating to 1516, Ayinger Bavarian Pils is brewed using only water, barley, hops and yeast. Based on the finished product, it’s clear this brewery views this law as an asset, not a restriction.
Bavarian Pils is a perfectly clear, brilliantly gold beer, with clean crispness and impeccable balance. Discover the magic of this authentic Bavarian Pilsner. Experience how some of the best things in life are born of simplicity.
Collective Arts Ransack the Universe IPA (6.8% ABV)
Roger Gillespie: Ransack The Universe is an unfiltered West Coast-style IPA brewed by Collective Arts Brewing in Waunakee, Wis. It pours a golden orange and a little hazy, with a soft white head. Using Galaxy and Mosaic hops, this brew boasts 85 IBUs, but is rather gentle on the palate. It leaves a nice lacing on the glass from start to finish. I knew this was my review choice after the first pull.
As an additional bonus, the cans are graced with some fantastic artwork. This was my first time enjoying this beer. It won’t be my last.
Platform Sweet Sanity (5.0% ABV)
Brian Long: As much as I enjoyed this beer, it had me scratching my head with the singular flavors I was getting. The aroma alone let you know that a burst of grapefruit was about to hit you, which it did.
However, what were those other flavors? After the third pull, the faint tartness of an unripened strawberry, which also gave me a kiwi/melon sweetness, came through. The light-pink hue of this beer almost tricks you into thinking of a red berry of some sort.
Nevertheless, this Gose is yet another light and easy summer drink. Don’t lose your sanity trying to figure it out. Just give it a taste and tell me what you think. Cheers!
Modern Methods Levi Irish Ale (6.4% ABV)
Joe Sanfilippo: The Flight Crew takes great pride in writing about local beers. So much so that our very own ‘Karl’ recently wrote a review on this same beer. I enjoyed it so much that I reviewed it, too. Barrel 33 is just as passionate about local beers.
Coming to you is Levi Irish ale from Modern Methods in Warren. It’s named after Levi Sutliff, an abolitionist and conductor from Warren on the Underground Railroad. In the early 1800s, he established an anti-slavery society.
This one’s for year-round consumption. It pours red in color and has a little sweetness to the nose. Levi features a blend of four English caramel malts for a nice base with a slight taste of toffee. Stop by and have Brian or his staff pour you a pint.
Maine Beer Co. King Titus Porter (7.5% ABV)
Jason Jugenheimer: There are a few things I’ve discovered about Maine Beer Co.: It’s beautiful to visit. Its beers are simple and clean. And if you can find a Maine stout or porter on draft – order it.
King Titus is no exception. This porter pays homage to the silverback gorilla Titus in an effort to continue support of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and other environmental nonprofits. Like its namesake, this beer is robust and bold. It pours dark with a thick tan head. Rich and roasted flavors of espresso, dark chocolate and burnt caramel complement its creamy and silky mouthfeel. It finishes with a slight roasted bitterness that lingers until the next sip.
Toppling Goliath Supa’ Sumo (7.8% ABV)
Jim Cyphert: Toppling Goliath calls this one a hazy triumph. I agree. This Iowa brewery is world renowned for its IPAs and barrel-aged stouts. Beer Advocate has rated it No. 2 in the world.
All evening, Brian treated us like royalty. He was all in with my decision to review this beer, which rates a 97 on RateBeer.com. Pineapple and orange flavors are delivered thanks to an ample supply of Mosaic and Citra hops. This is one sumo I don’t mind getting pinned by.
The Flight Crew unmasks great brews. Back row from left: Dave Shively, Joe Sanfilippo; middle: Roger Gillespie, Jason Jugenheimer; front: Jim Cyphert, Brian Long. At the head of the table is Barrell 33 owner Brian Fry.