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Barrel Yard preview: Red returns, the opening day taps and lots of food

The Milwaukee Brewers opened J. Leinekugel’s Barrel Yard to the media Tuesday, giving us plenty to talk about when it comes to the new left-field restaurant. But the headline for me was the resurrection of a classic Wisconsin beer.

Leinenkugel’s Red is back.

This was a formative beer for me and a lot of Wisconsinites. It was an introduction to “good” beer, to craft beer, to beer that doesn’t come in 30-packs. The Brewers doled out small tasters at the event but didn’t tell us what we were drinking right away. It felt like a pop quiz, and I can confidently say I got a C+, which you’ll understand if you try one at the stadium this year.

There was something immediately familiar about it — malty and drinkable. Maybe it’s because the Red has been retired for so long that your mind doesn’t jump right to it. But it made sense as soon as Leinenkugel president Tony Bugher dropped the name, then even more sense as he revealed that this is a “remastered” version of the familiar brew.

The biggest change is a dry-hopping technique they used in the brewing process. It brings that little bit of hop flavor forward without getting too crazy and also makes the Remastered Red feel like it finishes drier than I remembered. Although that may just be the power of suggestion, given the name of the technique and all.

Besides the trip down lager memory lane, we found out the other two “uniquely brewed beers” that’ll be on tap opening day: a cherry gose and an IPA. The full tap list was posted behind the bar and can be found below for your perusal.

On the food side, the team revealed most of those details a couple weeks ago, but we did get a look at a few menu items they held back until today. Those included the Northwoods Salad, Campsite Churro Donuts (bigger than I expected), Nueske's Hanging Bacon (exactly as delicious as I expected) and Potluck Fruit Pie a la Mode.

So that’s what you’re going to eat and drink. But what about the space itself? Longtime stadium visitors will remember TGIFriday’s relatively dark interior and labyrinthine setup that, on a busy day, felt like running an American Ninja Warrior course. The Barrel Yard is the opposite. It’s spacious and set up in a way that seems to emphasize efficiency.

There’s also this general lightness. Yes, it’s bright, but I’m talking more about the feel of the whole place. The mural by local artist David Zimmerman of Big Shot Robot sets the tone with its general fun-ness. The cartoony take on the Northwoods is welcoming, and that extends to the rest of the space. The plaid-cushioned booths, the wooden topographical maps of Wisconsin lakes, the vintage signs and advertisements — together, it creates a place you might actually want to hang out in as opposed to merely tolerating it while you wait for your drink/food.

If you want to experience all of that for yourself (except for the cherry gose and IPA, which the Brewers are holding back for opening day), you can stop by the Brewers Eve Bash we posted about last week. Details on the March 29 event are available right here.

Barrel Yard tap list

  • Northwoods Amber (amber lager)
  • Juicy Peach (mild sour)
  • Honey Weiss (kristall-weizen)
  • Barrelman (English-style amber ale)
  • Dark Lager
  • Canoe Paddle (kölsch)
  • Berry Weiss (fruit beer)
  • Summer Shandy
  • Honey Lemon Light (light lager)
  • Leinenkugel’s Original (American lager)
  • Leinenkugel’s Light (American light lager)
  • Grapefruit Shandy
  • Cherry Gose
  • Remastered Red Lager (American Amber)
  • Hop Head (IPA)