Ogden is an up-and-comer of sorts when it comes to palate sophistication—I’m sorry, Ogden, but it’s true. But it’s getting better every year, and in 2013, Shane McConnell’s Barrelhouse and Warrens Craft Burger opened their doors to a generation with exceptional standards, who crave craft beers and artisan cuisine—and both can be found on either level of Century Club.
Originally a commercial real estate agent operating in the Laguna area of southern Cal., McConnell purchased the property in 2007, just before the economy tanked. For nearly three years, the property went without renters. In 2010, the Copper Club claimed the building, trying its hand at fostering Ogden’s nightlife, but the venture failed.
In 2013, McConnell and a handful of original investors launched Century Club, a name given to the new business just before the building’s centennial anniversary, and only eight months later, Barrelhouse—Ogden’s first craft beer bar—was established.
In the previous business’s unfinished, concrete lower-level, McConnell warmed up the atmosphere and softened the acoustics by paneling the space in wood—but not just with two-by-fours from a hardware store. Barrelhouse derives its name from the wood that lines the walls, ceiling, and bar itself, which once belonged to colossal, 22ft.-tall beer vats used from ’51 to ‘74 in Quebec—pictures of which now adorn the columns supporting the upper level.
McConnell said that the ambiance was designed to be that of an upscale lounge, an atmosphere hitherto lacking in the Ogden area. The weekends, McConnell added, will feature live music within the next few weeks, jazz on Friday nights and folk on Saturday evenings. Even now, Weber State University’s own Professor of English Scott Rogers can be seen performing folk tunes on Thursday nights.
Barrelhouse’s bartenders and servers are all required to take a course and pass an intensive exam to ensure their ability to differentiate between styles of beers, ales and lagers, as well as pair them with optimal glassware so that patrons have an ideal experience when sampling any of the 117 local, craft brews from across the Wasatch Front.
The barkeep fashioned me a drink made with Squatter’s Chocolate Rye Stout—a dark, heavy but velvety brew, and Porter’s Fire—a cinnamon whiskey with a hint of vanilla, distilled right here in Ogden. The cocktail strikes the palate brightly but finishes richly, like a desert. The beverage is rapidly growing in popularity, but it has yet to be named. Order one anyway.
There’s yet another element to draw patrons down the steps to Barrelhouse. On the walls near the bar hang 3 Phoenix dartboards, on which visitors can play a game of feathers with competitors from around the world in real time. McConnell informed me that a regular there keeps a rivalry with a player in Brussels. Along with the digital dartboards are a shuffleboard table, four pool tables and a championship league Tornado foosball table, the only way to play the game, according to serious players.
On the upper level of Century Club, Kirk Dean, owner of Ogden’s own Warrens, Dylan’s and Zucca Trattoria—and now profit-sharing business associate of McConnell—created Warrens Craft Burger, assembling artisanal, gourmet cheeseburgers and pub-style sides to complement the fashionable tavern atmosphere of Barrelhouse below.
Ogden may be late to the foodie culture scene, but that’s not a bad thing for the city’s residents; local business owners who are catching up to their Salt Lake City competitors are that much more hungry to make a name for themselves, and along with Rooster’s on Historic 25th St. and Slackwater near the river beneath the city’s notorious welcome sign, Barrelhouse is sure to slake the thirst of even Generation Y’s standards.