Bar Review: The Malted Barley (Providence, RI)

Bar Review of The Malted Barley in Providence, RI.

In days gone by there have always been fancy wine bars and martini bars for the connoisseurs of those spirits, but beer lovers usually got their beer at regular bars, or maybe a brewery tasting room if they were lucky. Now, with the craft beer boom in full effect and small craft breweries cropping up all over the country we are finally starting to see more “craft beer bars” that specialize in just craft beer. The demand is definitely there, and we beer snobs deserve such a place! A bar with a great draught selection is always nice, but a bar that’s completely focused on craft beer and the people who drink it is much better. So when I heard such a bar had opened in Providence, RI a visit was inevitable.

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Which brings us to The Malted Barley (craft beer & gourmet pretzels). They are already off to a good start with the name, which further reinforces the craft beer theme. Also, if you are going to call yourself a “craft beer bar”, you need to deliver on that promise unlike some of the generic family restaurant-style “alehouses” that have been popping up. You get excited because it says “alehouse” on the sign, but when you get inside they have 15-20 drafts and they are all Budweiser, Miller and Coors owned products with a few Sam Adams, Guinness or Corona sprinkled in. An utter disappointment. So how did Malted Barley stack up?

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Pretty damn well. Let’s start with the 37 draught beers including 2 ciders and one root beer, with the most macro product being a single Sam Adams offering. Everything else was straight-up craft from a variety of brewers both local and nationwide (but nothing international). Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the selections and made good suggestions once she knew our tastes. Sample sizes were available for every beer, even without ordering a full flight which was a nice touch. Also, this bar is fairly roomy (not huge), but still felt cozy because they did a great job with the decor. It invited you to settle in for a while, and that should be the goal.

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One of the other great benefits of The Malted Barley is something I try not to touch on in this blog which is the food menu. I’m not a food critic, and I’m not going to review their food either, but there was something worth mentioning. If you do find a great craft beer bar/gastropub/brewpub and want to eat, you can quickly rack up quite a tab because the food at nicer craft beer bars doesn’t usually come cheap. However at The Malted Barley their other specialty is gourmet pretzels, and that’s all they do. So when you get hungry you can get a single pretzel that is flavored or stuffed for $4-6, or better yet they make a variety of gourmet pretzel sandwiches that are a worthy meal for only $8-9, which leaves more dinero in the beer budget. There’s even dessert pretzels to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The only suggestion I could give them would be in regard to the snacks on the table. Some places give you a bowl of pretzels, popcorn or bread. I think they should think bigger and use this opportunity to make it their own. Considering that Whoppers malted milk balls are America’s favorite candy, why not make a malted barley ball variant for the table snack? It’s clever and creates brand recognition. They can thank me later.

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