I was recently in Largo, celebrating the one-year anniversary of the city's newest brewery, Arkane Aleworks. It only made sense to also enjoy some brews from the city's oldest, Barley Mow Brewing, which has its five-year anniversary later this month.
But I didn't drive the few blocks down the road to Barley Mow's tasting room — instead, I crossed the street and went to the Raven, Barley Mow's newly relaunched restaurant and bar. The Raven opened in 2016 but went for a second take in June with the addition of new chef Michael Webb and a revamped menu to match.
Where Barley Mow's brewery and tasting room retained the Irish pub feel of the bar that preceded it, with a patio featuring weekly live music and typical brewery accoutrements like a cornhole set, the Raven is a wide-open, family-friendly kind of spot, with a spacious dining area bordered by a full bar and an exposed kitchen. In the daytime, it has a sunny, modern diner kind of feel.
The concept is gastropub-style food at affordable prices, which is accomplished reasonably well, the most expensive options topping out at $16 for a large pizza. Many of the dishes incorporate Barley Mow brews into the finished product — in marinades, vinaigrettes and sauces, and as a steaming base.
The beer menu at the Raven closely mirrors that of its parent brewery, with the addition of a few guest taps from other local operations, such as Tampa's Cigar City Brewing and Palm Harbor's de Bine Brewing Co. There are 18 taps rotating with seasonal options and new releases, like Barley Mow's latest canned beer release, I Am Ocean. That one was a pale ale brewed last summer in partnership with the Ocean Media Institute and infused with mango, passionfruit and pineapple.
Barley Mow's tasting room features a full liquor bar, but the focus at the Raven is shifted even more in that direction, with a house cocktail list as well as an extensive and well-selected spirit menu.
The spirit list focuses on bourbon, American whiskey and scotch, including some uncommon finds, like the Glenfiddich Experimental Series No. 01, which is finished in casks previously used to store IPA; Compass Box's Hedonism, a rare (and fantastic) example of blended grain whisky; and Hudson Maple Cask Rye, an American rye aged in casks used by Woods Syrup.
You may want to peruse the cocktail list, too. Of the dozen-odd selections, most are time-tested classics like the old fashioned, margarita and mai tai. Some feature local spirits, such as the St. Pete Hemingway Daiquiri, which uses the vanilla-rich Righteous Rum from Old St. Pete Distillery.
There's also a rotating list of seasonal cocktails featuring fresh ingredients, such as the refreshing Cucumber Smash, which features fresh cucumbers, lime and strawberries across a cucumber vodka backdrop, or the Infused Gin Tom Collins, which is a traditional version of the classic — vodka, fresh lemon, sugar, club soda — save for a rotating infusion that dramatically changes the drink. What could very well be the ultimate summer cocktail is made more seasonally appropriate by the current infusion: hibiscus.
It's nice to see Barley Mow grow, especially since it has followed a somewhat unique trajectory relative to other local craft breweries (remind me to mention its Largo Brewing Co. offshoot next time). With its new chef locked in and a drink program that has a little something for everyone, the Raven is coming into its own. Cheers on five years, Barley Mow, and here's to many more for the Raven.
Contact Justin Grant at [email protected] Follow @WordsWithJG.