LARGO — A chocolate wheat beer soaking in a clear tube with chunks of bacon is one of 50 varieties on tap at Barley Mow Brewing Company’s daylong two-year anniversary party today.
Quackalope IPA, Nitro Maven Milk Stout, 3 Little Pigs Rauchbier, Wendigo Belgian Style Dark Ale — just coming up with the names, many based on folk stories and mythology, was a big job at the small Largo brewery for new hires like Tom Barris, who left a larger Florida brewery to help lead a major expansion here during the next year.
The neighborhood brewpub on West Bay Drive quickly has become a hub for locals and craft beer buffs, some of whom brave miles of traffic to reach this spot smack in the middle of Pinellas County.
Owners Jay and Colleen Dingman hardly can keep the kegs full, cancelling orders at other pubs to ensure the home base has enough for the regulars.
So this year their brewery known for small batches is growing 15-fold — from two barrels to a 30-barrel production facility housed in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse.
In the future they would like to see drinkers in Atlanta searching for Largo on their smartphones.
“It’s going to be a little bit overwhelming for us, I think, when we first start brewing on the new system, just in the sheer volume of beer we’re producing; but I think very quickly we’ll be happy to have the capacity we do,” said Jay Dingman.
With a new baby, the couple is ready to spend at least a few hours a day at their real home instead of the brewpub, where four to five days a week are devoted just to brewing.
The new brewhouse being built by St. Petersburg company BrewFab will allow them to make more beer in one week than they now make in two months.
Fans of Barley Mow’s ever-changing taps need not worry – they’re hiring extra help so they can continue making the kinds of nano-brews that sustain an element of surprise at their popular pub.
“We’re really focused on our craft and we enjoy brewing; we enjoy tweaking beers and making them better,” Dingman said.
The Dingman’s bought the Piper Fire warehouse off of Missouri Avenue in February and hope to start shipping beer by the end of this summer.
They’re also investing in marketing as they look to distinguish their product from more than 100 craft breweries in Florida and thousands nationwide, with long-term plans to become a regional brand in the Southeast.
“Our beers are aggressive, they’re unique in character and that’s what we’re trying to represent,” said Barris, who is heading up the brewery’s marketing.
The brewery’s name is based on an old Irish drinking song about farmers mowing the barley fields, and many of their beers play on literature and folk lore — like the Wendigo Belgian, named after a half-man, half-beast in Native American legend.
The company will start by distributing a lineup of flagship beers intended to peak peoples’ interest enough for a visit to the pub, where they can experience the full variety, Barris said.
For the local community, Barley Mow has proven a success story in a commercial corridor that has struggled with a lot of turnover.
The Dingmans, both veterans of the hospitality industry, have forged good relationships with a loyal, regular crowd, inspiring neighborhood residents such as Scott Hanus to turn from patron to investor.
“They’re great people, so I come and help out whenever I can,” said Hanus, who invested in the new distribution center and volunteered to help pour beer from a big truck at today’s anniversary party.
Craft beer enthusiast Charles Melcher has been impressed by how fast the brewery has grown in its range. “It’s really evolved in the amount of styles they’re doing,” Melcher said.
“The beers are just out of this world. We love them.”