Know Your Brewer: Jared Barnes at Collusion Tap Works

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Jared Barnes, head brewer at Collusion Tap Works, has experienced it all when it comes to brewing.

Barnes has put in time at big production-style breweries as well as smaller upstarts. All of it to serve his dream of opening his own brewing venture.

collusion tap works jared barnes

“I always had the goal in mind of starting my own brewery,” said Barnes. “That’s why I worked at everything from large-scale production facilities to small seven-barrel brewpubs. I knew I didn’t want to be making beer for someone else for the rest of my life.”

Barnes finally got that opportunity when he opened Collusion Tap Works in September 2016. He used his wealth of experience to craft the brewery that he wanted.

REVIEW: Collusion Tap Works

Early brewing & education

Barnes got his start in beer like many brewers — a homebrew extract kit. He quickly graduated to all-grain when he got serious.

“There was a time when I was brewing almost three times a week,” said Barnes. “When I wasn’t in school, or working at Bully’s Restaurant and Pub, I was in the basement of the restaurant brewing.”

Barnes soon realized he hated school but didn’t know what to do until his father chimed in.

“My dad was the one that suggested I go to school for brewing,” said Barnes. “He handed me a few pamphlets, and I applied to go to the Seibel Institute.”

After a round of prerequisites, Barnes was accepted into the Seibel Institutes Master Brewer program. For the next year, Barnes learned theory at Seibel and got his practical training from the Doemens Academy in Germany.

“When I started Seibel, I quickly realized I knew nothing about making beer,” said Barnes. “The things that I thought were relevant are not, and the irrelevant happen to be the most important points of brewing. The theory behind beer is all well and good, but the advanced understanding is mind-blowing.”

As he was finishing up school in Germany, Barnes sent out resumes to breweries around the U.S. He got an interview at Southern Tier Brewing Company shortly after coming home was hired just a few weeks later.

Professional Brewing

Although he had just finished an extremely intensive brewing class, Barnes said he still felt he knew nothing about beer. He said the reality of brewing massive amounts of beer was intimidating.

“To realize that I brewed more beer in one day than some smaller breweries do in a year was a bit mind-blowing,” said Barnes. “Southern Tier also taught me the importance of brew schedules, fermentation schedules, and the retail side of the business.”

collusion tap works jared barnes

Barnes said he wouldn’t give up his experience at Southern Tier for anything but decided he had to move on. He took a job in Sarasota, Florida to help start what is now Darwin Brewing Company.

He was the only brewer at the small seven-barrel brewpub. Barnes built the brew system and created all of the recipes for their 10 taps.

“While I was with Darwin, we entered 16 of our beers into the Florida Beer Championships and actually won 13 medals,” said Barnes. “We won Best Beer in Flordia for our Summadayze IPA.”

Barnes left Darwin after some creative differences with the owner, who wanted to make the brewery more into a dance club than a brewpub. Barnes knew what he wanted out of a brewery and also wanted to start making his way back home.

When Barnes left Darwin’s he had offers from Florida Brewing giants like Cigar City Brewing Co. and Funky Buddha but decided that a small upstart in Delaware was more his speed.

“I started with Mispillion River Brewing in 2013 as their first brewer,” said Barnes. “I wrote a lot of their initial recipes and helped get them off the ground.”

Still wanting to move home and start his own brewery, Barnes left Mispillion River for a short stint at Wyndridge Farm Brewery before finally realizing he needed to be on his own.

Starting a brewery

With a solid resume, Barnes now felt he had the range of experiences to pull from to build his own brewery.

Barnes said Southern Tier showed him how to brew with consistency on a large scale, while places like Darwin’s and Mispillion River let him experiment.

“From having fun and getting to whatever I want, Mispillion was the best,” said Barnes. “We made some weird shit down there and had a lot of fun doing it.”

collusion tap works jared barnes

Take one look at Collusion’s tap list, and you can see the effect his time at Mispillion has on his brewing philosophy for the brewpub.

“I like to try new things when it comes to beer styles,” said Barnes. “That’s why we built this brewery the way we did. There’s not a style of beer we can’t brew.”

Barnes originally thought he would go back to Florida to open his brewery, but the Pennsylvania lifestyle of hunting, hiking, and fishing was too tempting to leave.

“I love the outdoors, and you can’t really do all of this in Florida because there’s a beach and then swamp lands,” said Barnes. “I loved Florida, but this was my home and this was where my family was.”

Barnes needed that family to get the brewery off the ground. His dad, Chuck, and his uncle were initial investors, while the bank covered the rest.

He now has the freedom to brew whatever he wants. From peat-smoked scotch ales to funky sours, Barnes has put it all on tap.

“We have 24 beers on tap that are a wide variety of styles,” said Barnes. “I don’t think I’ve had someone come in here and say there’s not a single style they wouldn’t drink. Actually, it’s quite the opposite sometimes.”

Stop by Collusion Tap Works and see what new experiment Barnes has on tap. It can change from day to day or from sip to sip.

Collusion Tap Works is open 4-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday, noon-midnight Friday & Saturday, and 12-8 p.m. Sunday.

James Werner
Author: James Werner

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