Life has been getting easier for craft beer snobs lately. While small breweries still only make up around 6% of the beer market in the U.S., that’s considerably better than it was a decade ago. People are starting to appreciate a larger variety of beers.. Small craft beer breweries have been quietly making their mark all across the country. Luckily, Orlando has benefited from this movement too, with Orlando Brewing.
Their original location was seized by the state under Eminent Domain laws in January 2005. About a year later it reopened at it’s current location just off the I-4 Anderson St. exit. When they moved they made one other major change – company president John Cheek made the decision to make Orlando Brewing organic. All of the ingredients and processes at Orlando Brewing are USDA certified organic. For breweries this is quite the distinction, as Orlando Brewing is the only organic brewery in the state of Florida. Using only the most pure ingredients is an expensive prospect for them, but the quality carries through to the beers themselves.
Tours of the breweries are offered, but the real hangout spot here is the Orlando Brewing Taproom. Laid back, inviting, and dog friendly, the tap room is an open floor plan bar attached to the brewery. Offering upwards of twenty beers on tap, the main stars are the eight beers brewed and bottled on site. For your first trip, make sure you start with a sampler. Two different sampler options are offered: the previously mentioned eight beers bottled here, and a mix and match sampler of four beers of your choosing. Both are affordably priced. I recommend going with the eight beer sampler. That’s why we come to new breweries, right? To try their specialties. Trust me, in those eight is such a wide variety you won’t be disappointed no matter what your tastes.
I won’t go into every beer we tried (I’d be lying if I said we stopped at the eight flight sampler), but I will hit what I consider the three highlights. The eight beers offered in the sampler are the Blonde Ale, Red Ale, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Old Pelican, Blackwater Dry Porter, European Pilz, and I-4 IPA.
I-4 IPA (ABV: 6.5% / IBU: 41.0)
By far their most popular offering, the I-4 IPA is a smooth, full-bodied IPA. A dark amber pour, and a bitterness you expect from an IPA with a nice faint caramel mixed with citrus flavor. Not my favorite offering, but a solid IPA.
Red Ale (ABV: 6.25% / IBU: 16.4)
A medium bodied, Irish style ale, I was a big fan of this beer. But my tastes usually trend towards red ales. Also sporting a slight caramel flavor, the aftertaste has a buttery sweetness to it.
Eminent Domain (ABV: 6.2% / IBU: 10.0)
This wasn’t in the flight of eight, but I had to try it based on the name (remember their original location was seized by the state 8 years ago). I was so glad I did. This was my favorite beer of the day. So much so that we bought a 5 gallon keg of it to bring home for “Keggy” our keggerator. (Have I mentioned we have a keggerator? Because yeah…we have a keggerator.) This light bodied Scottish Ale beer has a brownish, coppery color, and a surprisingly smooth malty taste with a little chocolate and toffee flavor. The bartender said this was a dangerous beer, because it’s so smooth you keep drinking it without thinking about it. Highly recommended (obviously, since we took it home).
Whether you take brewery tours in any new city you go to, or just enjoy the taste of a good beer, you owe it to yourself to stop in at Orlando Brewing. Plus, you would be doing a favor to the craft beer community, the organic community, and the community of Orlando. So you’d get to feel good about drinking beer. And I ask you, what could be better than that?