Sitting in downtown Tempe’s Blasted Barley Brew House and Pub is truly a comfortable feeling, and chatting with head brewer Ian Campbell O’Neal only lends more credence to that sentiment. What a nice guy!
He has been with Blasted Barley now for a little more than a month but cut his teeth as an assistant brewer at Uncle Bear’s Brewery in Phoenix.
The motto he lives by is “Beer: A story that need to be told,” and judging by his first new brew, a reimagined version of Blasted Barley’s Strawberry Bottle Rocket Ale, he is intent on telling his story with a total sense on passion. This brew will be the first in his Cream Ale Series for which he has quite a few surprises in store. His stylistic goals center around classic beer varieties with an added twist so expect those favorites you all know and love but with an extra touch of his own flair and creativity.
His favorite in-house brew is its IPA called BOOMSTICK, anyone recall the “Evil Dead”/“Army of Darkness” movies? Hail to the king baby! O’Neal’s new version of this brew will add the everpopular Citra hop to the recipe for an extra level of zing while adding a touch of Warrior hops to really pick up that level of bitterness all of us crazy hop heads require.
Now, down in his neck of the woods, the clientele tends to be younger and not quite as experienced in the wise ways of craft beer. Having said so, his first couple of brews will be tilted toward the lighter side of things, including the aforementioned Strawberry Bottle Rocket plus Red White & Boom Amber and an easy-drinking Kolsch style called Das Blitz. “Education is key,” he says. He firmly believes that everyone including his staff and customers must have a comfortable place to begin their journey. As an avid beer drinker myself I remember which craft beer started it all for me, I bet you do, too!
As in indicator of where the brewery may be headed, his favorite all-time brew is the Decadent Imperial IPA from Ska Brewing in Colorado. For him, this is the beer that started it all; the reason he began home brewing years back and the motivation for his current position. Not a bad place to begin right?
When asked what makes him tick and where his drive comes from O’Neal simply replied, “I am a brewer who never wants to lose integrity and passion for the craft.” Essentially he is keeping it real and keeping it creative for himself, his employees and his crowd. What more can you ask of a man who makes your beer?