The doors of Largo’s O’Houston’s Irish Pub have closed. The once black lettered logo across the front of the building has been dismounted, leaving a faint silhouette on the structure’s yellow paint.
Below it sits a new sign with a new name: Barley Mow Brewing Company.
Inside Jay Dingman and his girlfriend, Colleen Huffman, the new owners, are busy at work scrubbing, caulking, cleaning and moving kegs of beer in preparation of their brewery’s grand opening at the end of the month.
In August, the City of Largo received a notice from the owners of O’Houston’s detailing their intention to sell the business and transfer their lease obligation to Dingman, who will take over the lease until 2018. He plans to open Barley Mow Brewing Co. LLC in time for Halloween weekend on Friday, Oct. 28th.
“We’re looking forward to settling in and seeing how it goes,” says Dingman, 36.
Upon the opening, the brewery will feature wines, ales, stouts and a variety of all-American hand-crafted beers similar to what the owners will make on location with their three 80-gallon fermenters and two BBL, or barreled, system, which allows them to produce about four kegs at one time.
They’ll begin brewing on location once they’ve obtained the necessary brewing licenses needed to do so, a process which takes about three months to complete.
The tavern’s porch will also feature live music of all different styles, including reggae, jazz, blues, folk and others.
“We like to think we’re going to have an inviting and comfortable atmosphere for people to come and hang out,” said Dingman, who is originally from up-state New York. He’s been living in Florida for about four years.
Though this is the first business Dingman or Huffman have owned and fully operated by themselves, they’re far from being neophytes in the field of beer brewing. The couple has produced more than 500 gallons of beer in the kitchen of the two-bedroom apartment that they share in Dunedin.
That was just in their first 18 months of brewing.
“We like to entertain at home; we figured it’d be a segway to that,” said Dingman of opening BMBC, adding that the couple usually keeps six beers on tap at one time at their apartment.
They've also won accolades for their hand-crafted beers along with their fellow brewer Mike Melton, who will also serve as a brewer at Barley Mow, including more than 20 metals won from state competitions throughout Florida.
Since micro brewery began in the United Kingdom during the late 70s and spread to the United States in the 80s, the business has been booming and is currently prolific in other areas of the U.S., such as northern and north-western states. But Dingman says, “Florida is late in the game,” which is why there aren’t too many around yet.
Dunedin Brewery is Florida’s oldest microbrewery, having been in operation for only about 15 years.
Dingman’s spot is different than a microbrewery due to its size, and it's called something different – a nano-brewery; both types are fully licensed breweries, though nano-breweries are smaller in scale and can serve as effective ways for brewers to get involved in the industry at a professional level without having to pay the high expenses involved in starting up microbreweries.
They say their location, at 518 West Bay Dr. in Largo, is ideal because it has good exposure, as it sits on a street where about 65,000 vehicles drive by on a daily basis. They also like how Largo is small-business friendly.
“It’s like instantly stepping into a really great infrastructure of small businesses,” said Dingman. “It’s been a very easy transition for us.”
One aspect Huffman, 25, says she’s looking forward to in opening the business is being able to work for herself.
“I just really like brewing beer,” said Huffman, adding that getting paid to do so will also be a plus point. She’s originally from Cleveland, OH and has been living in Florida for about three years.
Though they’re still a couple of weeks from their grand opening, the future of Dingman and Hoffman’s beer brewing is also brewing, and they already have plans in store for their next business.
Dingman says he’d like to open a second location in the Largo area within the next couple of years at a warehouse facility, where their beers would be packaged, sold and distributed. He’d also like to add a restaurant.
In addition to this, Huffman says she just wants to enhance the area’s knowledge on beer.
“I want Florida to enjoy good beer and know why they like it.”