Jay Dingman looks around the cavernous 20,000-square-foot warehouse, from the stacks of hundreds of empty kegs to the two guys raking dirt in preparation for a bug treatment and cement pour.
“We should be cranking beer out of here by October 1,” he says, then laughs, shaking his head. “I’d been saying for a long time that if we weren’t at it by the first of September, I’d be nervous. Well...”
But it’s not like the new production facility represents an eyes-closed high-dive into the world of Bay area craft beer for Dingman and his wife, Colleen; just a couple of blocks away, their brewpub Barley Mow Brewing Company has been selling its popular original beers for several years. The spot was a successful watering hole even before the Dingmans received their licence to brew there, but offering their own beer was always the master plan. In fact, the name Barley Mow is a reference to an ancient, traditional Gaelic drinking song.
“I moved to Florida six years ago, met my wife, and we both got really into brewing,” says Dingman, who’s got more than two decades in the service industry under his belt. “We were brewing more than we could drink, taking it into work, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we take a run at this?’”
The bar service industry is well-known for its peripheral hard-partying lifestyle, and plenty of folks assume that craft brewers get into the business so they can quaff their products all day long on the job. But Dingman — just like every other brewer interviewed — dispels the popular notion; he’s got too much equipment and too many complicated elements on his hands, as well as too little time to kick back and slam a few while he’s on the clock.
“I can honestly say I drink less now than I did before I owned a brewery,” he says with a laugh. “But I also think we drink differently than the average beer drinker. It’s not about the quantity, at least most of the time. It’s about the quality. When I get done here today I’m just as likely to want to go home as I am to want to stop at the bar and have a couple of beers.”
Which isn’t to say his passion for tasting great beers has lessened since he started making them professionally. With a bar, a new production facility in progress and a young child at home, the Dingmans don’t have as much time to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle that originally brought him to Florida, but they do still find the time to travel in search of new brews, both around the Bay area and beyond.
“I live in Dunedin, so we spend a fair amount of time at 7venth Sun. We used to have to travel for beer that good. When we do go on vacation, we’re trying to hit as many breweries as possible. I hear the beach is still there, but I haven’t been there in a couple of years.”
Favorite local beer that’s not his: “I’m a huge fan of Green Bench's Surrealist [sour IPA]. I also really like 7venth Sun’s Red D’or [Belgian pale ale]. It’s funny, because I’m getting into more of a sour kick these days. But I’m a hop-head by tradition. Good, solid IPAs never get old for me.”
His signature Barley Mow beer: “Unkindness. It’s an American black ale — think like a black IPA, jet black but really hoppy, lighter than it looks. It looks like a stout but drinks like an IPA. It’s named after a flock of ravens. A flock of crows is a murder, a flock of ravens is an unkindness. We developed that beer before we developed the brewery. It’s kind of ironic, it was the beer that got us started and I thought it would be our flagship, but it’s not even in our top five-selling beers.”
Barley Mow Brewing Co.
518 W. Bay Drive, Largo