In a 2015 City Weekly interview, 2 Row Brewing founder Brian Coleman said that while researching possible names for his startup Midvale brewery, he discovered that "almost every name we came up with had a domain that was being used." Seeing bags of two-row malt scattered around his garage gave him the idea for the name. "Every home-brewer in America has named their home brewery and has purchased the dot-com just in case they decide to go pro," Coleman said. "I was very surprised the name 2 Row was available."
It refers to a type of barley used to make beer; the other type is six-row. The barley kernels are ground in either two- or six-row roller mills, hence the names. Most other countries use six-row for feeding livestock; in America, it's used to brew beer. Most brewers say that two-row barley produces richer, maltier notes than six-row, whose flavor tends to be grainier and huskier. Six-row barley is only grown in North America, and is often used with adjuncts like corn and rice—think cheap, mass-produced American lagers. Two-row barley malt is favored by most home-brewers, as well as craft-brewers like 2 Row.
Coleman's business partner is his wife, DeDe, who handles finances and paperwork. The family's small brewery uses a three-barrel system that runs practically nonstop. All of their beers—which are sold out of a fridge in the tiny Midvale bottle shop Monday-Saturday—are full-strength, and come in in 12-ounce glass bottles for $2.25-$2.95 each. Mixing and matching is encouraged. On my last visit, I left with an assortment of 10, which totaled about $25.
Coleman is a hophead. He loves India pale ales in particular, and makes a variety of them. Each is slightly distinctive in taste and hops-to-malt ratio. Accelerator IPA offers up fruity, tropical aromas and restrained caramel flavors. It's hoppy, but in a subtle way. By contrast, Random Double IPA contains a whopping 6 pounds of seven different hop varieties per barrel, yet this bitter brew is eminently quaffable even at 8.5 percent ABV. Random Red Rye Double IPA is a dark, ruby-red beer that incorporates rye malt in the brewing process and has pine and anise notes along with roasted malt sweetness.
One of my favorite 2 Row brews is Dangereux, a saison-style farmhouse ale. It's made with American ingredients and fermented with saison yeast, weighing in at 9 percent ABV—hence the name. There are some bubblegum and banana ester flavors in this big, complex beer.
Other temptations include The Shorter Porter, Nemesis Pale Ale and 24K Golden Ale. In addition, Coleman brews small limited release batches, allowing him to experiment with a range of brew styles that occasionally make their way into the permanent lineup. I've especially enjoyed Mikey's Citra IPL (Limited Release No. 1) and Biere de Garde (Limited Release No. 2). For beer lovers, there's magic being made here in Midvale.