Steamboat Sips: The Barley Colorado Craft & Draft |

Steamboat Sips: The Barley Colorado Craft & Draft

The Barley Colorado Craft & Draft in downtown Steamboat Springs offers 31 craft brews on tap.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With 31 beers on tap, it's hard to pick just one.

Blood of the Unicorn? Passion Fruit Guppy? Black Bottle Swing and A Miss? So many options, where do you even start?

Luckily Justin Keys, craft brew extraordinaire and new owner of the Barley Colorado Craft & Draft, was behind the bar and ready to narrow down a few options.

"Usually, I start asking questions — what someone's preferences would be and then I'll make recommendations," Keys said. "It takes some perception and reading that person to dig a little deeper to figure out what they might like."

Taking over ownership of the Barley Colorado Craft & Draft last fall, Keys brings his connections to Denver's booming craft beer scene to inform the beers featured on the the Barley’s beer menu.

"Craft beer is really at the heart of The Barley," he said. "It's those beers that are unique, rare and not on some of the taps you see around town. It's like a giant puzzle that's changing all the time based on the styles people are drinking like stouts, typically in the winter and lighter, fruiter varieties in the summer. There's no formula for what to have on tap. It's constantly changing."

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Making frequent trips to Denver, Keys picks up anywhere from three to six kegs — or as many as he can fit in his vehicle — to be added to the brew list that changes almost daily.

"We only buy one of each keg," Keys said. "We don't have a backup of anything, so once the keg is tapped, a new beer will come on."

On Friday, the Barley’s beer flight included:

Tivoli Helles: A German-style Helles Lager brewed in Denver. Light in color but still a good light crisp beer.

Seedstock Bohemian Dunkel: A dark, rich beer, but not heavy, contrary to what you might think initially, with complex-ready notes and chocolate flavors that ende with a light finish.

Colorado Cider’s Radl’Ah: A cider that resembles German Radlers or English Shandys. It had a crisp, refreshing taste.

Jagged Mountain Melon Smash Hazy IPA: A brew from Denver, this beer is a single-malt, single-hop IPA brewed with Marris Otter malt and Huell Melon hops.

Hogshead Hog Wild IPA: An old-school style cask beer that is an English IPA, created with a traditional British brewing method. It’s a moderately strong British-style cask IPA with a hoppy aroma, earthy taste and a dry finish.

Crooked Stave Petit Sour Rose: This sour beer from Denver is a wild ale aged in oak barrels with raspberry and blueberry —a  taste that's saved for last with a bold flavor.

"One of the major things manager Rob Day and I have tried to do is to get the beer list balanced in a way that makes it so even the pickiest of beer drinkers has at least three beers to choose from that they can really enjoy."

To keep the list updated, they will travel anywhere in Colorado to pick up kegs from some of the state's smaller breweries.

While the Barley primarily features Colorado brewers, Keys said there are always five "Tourist Taps" of brews from outside the state like Boulevard's Saison-Brett or one of the Pipeworks Chicago brews.

Keys’ vision for the Barley builds on what is already in place. He will continue to offer regional beer and spirits, but he also plans to add a new wine and food program.

"We’ll start to have wine on tap — just like with beer, only buy one of each keg," Keys said. "That way we can showcase different Colorado wines and always be rotating a few different styles."

For the food component, he said he hopes to collaborate with local companies and purveyors like Moon Hill Dairy, Steamboat Meat & Seafood Co., Smell that Bread Bakery, Innovative Ag and more. He also plans to have more community collaborations with local organizations like the Steamboat Springs Young Professionals Network and Young Bloods Collective.

To go along with the emphasis on new ideas and purchasing local, the Barley also boasts a craft cocktail program that incorporates local jams ranging from a strawberry Champagne jam to a raspberry jalapeno jam.

"People really care, now more than ever, what they eat and drink and where it came from, especially in terms of craft brewing," Keys said. "There's this overwhelming mentality with craft brewers that 'a rising tide lifts all ships.' We're not in competition with each other but rather helping each other, educating the market of what good craft brew is, and now, consumers demand a higher-end product. It's an exciting unique thing to be in and is testament to why this place is so magical."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.