Ron Raike eager to ‘start with a great team’ at Cask & Larder in Winter Park

Ron Raike stands at the beginning of another chapter in his life as he takes the helm of the Cask & Larder, the new brewpub being developed by the award-winning Winter Park gastropub The Ravenous Pig.

Ron Raike at Rodenbach in Roesalare, Belgium.

“I hate to sound like Tim Tebow’s recent move to the Jets,” he said, “but I’m really excited about the move to start with a great team.”

Though reluctant to couch his transition in those terms, to those of us on the outside, Raike’s leaving the Shipyard Brew Pub up the street came as an even bigger surprise than the trade of the Denver Broncos starting quarterback.

Raike started with Portland, Maine’s Shipyard Brewing about 20 years ago, after his homebrewing hobby morphed into a passion. He put behind him his engineering studies at the University of Central Florida and stepped into the role of head brewer at Shipyard’s newly opened brewpub in Orlando International Airport. After five years, Raike said, the airport declined to renew the brewery’s lease. He stayed on with Shipyard to work in distribution and marketing, then when the brewer decided to open the Shipyard Emporium (now called the Shipyard Brew Pub) in Winter Park, he became the head brewer there, working with its nano-sized 28-gallon system.

He said he doesn’t want to delve too deeply into his reasons for leaving Shipyard.

“It was a long-debated personal decision,” he said. “Shipyard was a great employer, and I had the opportunity to experience all aspects of the beer business. I’ll just say it was my time to move on.”

Raike will be working with a five-barrel, Premier Stainless brewing system with four fermentation tanks, four serving tanks, two staging tanks and a cold liquor tank. The pub also is building a custom nano system for pilot brewing, he said, along with some other possible custom equipment.

James and Julie Petrakis

He said he’s looking forward working with the food from the chefs, some of whom will move over from The Ravenous Pig, and creating beers to complement the cuisine, though he diplomatically did not name a favorite dish.

“Just the idea of pairing up the freshest, most interesting dimensional type stuff, where there isn’t just a plate of food and a beer in front of you,” Raike said. “There are other layers that come in as the beer warms up and as you work your way around the plate. To me, that’s the most interesting thing.”

Raike is working closely with Ravenous Pig owners/chefs James and Julie Petrakis on developing the beer styles and menu, with a lot of latitude and collaboration involved.

“As long as it works with the food, works with the chef, works with the restaurant, they’ve given me free rein on what I want to do there,” he said. “I’m looking to do anything and everything. With this equipment, I’ll be able to do lagers …  I plan on doing some aging of different stouts and sours. I plan on doing everything under the sun.”

With the menu still in flux, it’s difficult to say exactly what types of beer and food will be on the menu at any given time. Some ideas in play are having a “brewer’s table,” where patrons can reserve spots for beer-food pairing events; one-off dessert-type beers to complement the pastries conceived by Julie Petrakis; and “full-animal” dinners prepared by James Petrakis and paired with Raike’s brews.

A smoker left over from a barbecue restaurant that occupied the space will see a lot of use, Raike said, because the menu will likely focus on Southern cooking.

The brewing equipment is being built right now, Raike said, and tanks are expected to start arriving in  mid-June.

As far as the opening date, “they’re projecting August, but we’re still too far out,” he said. “I’m hoping to have things set up by the beginning  of July and hopefully brewing toward the middle and end of July.”

“If you know anything about construction,” he added, “that’s not really set in stone.”

Because of licensing issues, the Cask & Larder will not be able to sell growlers or beer for outside sales, at least not for a while. The pub plans to feature guest taps from other breweries.

“Currently my goal is to eventually be able to have 100 percent house beers on with occasional guest taps,” Raike said.

There was a little bit of reaction in the Florida craft beer community to one statement attributed to Raike in the press release announcing his hiring: “He recently toured Belgium to gain more experience in the Belgium style of brewing, which no one is doing in the Southeast.”

A few commenters took exception to that, pointing out that Bob Sylvester at Saint Somewhere Brewing in Tarpon Springs has brewed Belgian-style farmhouse ales and saisons for some time.

“I think this was taken out of context just a little,” Raike said.

He explained that two weeks before the release, he had spent two weeks in Belgium touring breweries at a rate of two breweries per day, including back of the house tours of four of the six Trappist breweries, and brewed at Cantillon Brewery in Brussels with Jean Van Roy and family.

“I was just excited about the trip, and had many production ideas spinning in my head,” he said.

“So no offense to Bob Sylvester at Saint Somewhere or anyone else that makes Belgian-style beers (saisons) in Florida, but for a straightforward Belgian-style wit or trippel or sours or lambics, nobody is continually making these styles – true to style – that comes to mind. Not that I plan on solely making these styles at Cask & Larder, but I am up for the challenge of making them once in a while.”

Folks attending the Taste of Winter Park festival tomorrow (Wednesday, April 18) will be able to score an advance taste of Raike’s new brewing endeavors as there will be Ravenous Ruby Ale being poured. Described as “Brewed with local ruby red grapefruit & Hamlin oranges with Indian coriander to make a malt forward red ale base with citrusy character,:” the beer is a collaboration with Jacksonville’s Green Room Brewing.

And if you’ve never tasted Raike’s beer and you wonder about his skills, it might be noted that his Palm Ridge Wee Heavy won Best of Show at the recent Best Florida Beer Championships.

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