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Forging their craft as Costa Mesa’s first commercial microbrewery

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Owner Greg Nylen, left, and manager Ryan Tillotson stand behind a flight of their top five craft beers brewed onsite at the Barley Forge Brewing Co. in Costa Mesa.
(Don Leach, Daily Pilot)

After employees of the Barley Forge Brewing Co. had moved into their new digs in Costa Mesa, they noticed a small something on the roof and couldn’t help but think it was a good sign.

They had discovered a forging hammer atop their Randolph Avenue facility. It had been up there for untold years.

What’s more, it was a hammer not unlike the blacksmith hammer that’s part of Barley Forge’s logo, now emblazoned all about the brewery’s walls, serving glasses and merchandise.

“It was just lying there on the roof when we put up all this stuff,” said Barley Forge founder Greg Nylen.

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Barley Forge has the distinction of being Costa Mesa’s first commercial microbrewery. Its prime location in the city’s Sobeca District is a block away from the popular Camp and Lab shopping centers along Bristol Street.

“This area really needed a craft brewery,” Nylen said.

Barley Forge is having a grand opening Saturday, after having soft openings since late October. The 10,000-square-foot brewery can produce up to 30 barrels a day and has enough room to increase that output.

The business serves seven types of beers, and pub fare is made behind the bar. The beers are available to go in kegs and growlers.

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Barley Forge started to come to fruition a year ago, when the Planning Commission unanimously approved the microbrewery’s permit.

The Sobeca District is a “perfect location” for Costa Mesa’s first commercial microbrewery, Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy said at the time.

“It’s a square peg in a square hole,” he said.

Nylen, an Irvine native, credits his wife, Mary Ann Frericks, for the distinctive design touches throughout the business, including the employee areas.

Parts of the bar are old gym floors. Vintage Belgian beer signs line the walls.

As for the beer itself, Barley Forge is brewing Belgian, West Coast and German-style beers, which the owners call “a blend of traditional, recognized styles and creative twists that draw from the melting pot of cuisines and cultures in Southern California.”

Barley Forge is aiming to be family friendly. Board games are available, as are a host of house-made sodas, including sarsaparilla.

General manager Ryan Tillotson noted that Nylen and others have so much passion for their business, they’re surviving long commutes to make it to work. Nylen lives in Topanga and sometimes finds himself crashing in his old bedroom in Irvine, where his parents still live.

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“We’re bringing together all kinds of people from all over the place,” Tillotson said.

Barley Forge was an idea brewing in Nylen’s head for 14 years. He’s an attorney — he’s still practicing part-time — who competitively home-brewed for more than 20 years.

And what of the name, Barley Forge?

“Forging beer out of barley,” Nylen said. “We liked the sound of it.”

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IF YOU GO

What: Barley Forge Brewing Co.'s grand opening, featuring new beers, brewery tours, live music, house-made sodas and food

When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday

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Where: 2957 Randolph Ave., Unit B

For more information: barleyforge.com or call (714) 641-2084


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