If you are not inherently familiar with the downtown Orlando, describing the location of Orlando Brewing basically involves taking rudimentary knowledge of downtown as a whole and heading west a little bit.
If you grew up there, like I did, all you need to do is say three words: Merita bread factory.
To some it was an eyesore, to those of us who didn’t have to live near it, driving by and smelling it when it was in full operation was a little slice of heaven (no pun intended). But it’s in that general area that you will find Orlando Brewing.
Orlando Brewing has been a stalwart of Central Florida since opening in the year 2000 and moving to current owner John Cheek in 2003. You actually can’t find that building anymore, since Central Florida took it through eminent domain, tore it down, and made the space an exit ramp off of I-4.
They managed to find another location, close to the Amtrak station that’s in the area, opened that location in 2006, and has been going strong ever since.
One claim to fame that Orlando Brewing has is that they are fully organic. You’ll see their organic certification badges on pretty much everything that they produce (except for the bottles that you can find in store such as Total Wine. Those beers are actually contract brewed by Florida Beer Company, so they are not able to carry the same stickers even though they have the same ingredients).
No, that’s not out of any sort of requirement. It was more a decision John and Co. made through a focus on delivering a quality product. The other decision that was made was to adhere to the Reinheinsgebot, or the German Purity Law of 1516 that says beer can only be made of malted barley, water, hops and yeast.
Of course, that doesn’t happen all the time. Every so often they will gleefully violate the law, not that there’s any sort of punishment of doing so. You’ll see a little of that with the beers I sampled on my visit. Also, I took this visit closer to the new year, so try to take the described beers as sort of examples of what could be during the holidays, and not necessarily what is available now.
They have a huge Tap Room, with all sorts of local festoonery on the walls. It’s worth it to just go and take all of that in before grabbing a beer. My one gripe is that the brewing system is not on display from the tap room. You can’t see it, the only way to know where it is happens if you manage to catch one of the brewers ducking out of a side door whose only indicator is a sign that says Authorized Personnel Only.
If you’ve been reading the blog for a little while, you’ve seen me review a lot of their beers from time to time. I didn’t have time to try everything that they had on tap that day, or else I would have been there for a couple of days. What I was able to do was to try one of their pre-selected flights, which for this trip was actually a holiday flight. Like I said, take the timing of this review with a slight grain of salt, please. From left to right:
Steamee Summer (California Common, 6.1% ABV, 31 IBU) – oh, so there is an earthy sharp bite to an otherwise light, almost weedy sort of beer.
Homer’s Flying Circus Schwarzbier (Schwarzbier, 5.2% ABV, 40 IBU) – Very dark, very heady, with a slight hint of chocolate but a much more pronounced coffee character.
Jelly Roll Imperial Blonde (Blonde Ale, 6.9% ABV, 69 IBU) – To be fair, I don’t see that many Imperial blonde ales. ‘Imperial’ is a moniker usually saved for IPAs or Stouts. This beer bucks that, and with it you definitely get a nice hit of bright, floral hops on a easy drinking blonde backbone.
Imperial Spice (Yam Beer, 8.6% ABV, 34 IBU) – Now here’s where the holiday fans are going to love life. Imperial Spice is actually the imperial version of their classic Grateful Pumpkin holiday beer. It was then enhanced and further infused with organic local cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Yes, it is exactly how you think it would taste, and it is fantastic. Definitely not for the weak, and those who enjoy the standard, boring pumpkin ales will feel this one hit hard.
It was nice to finally get to Orlando Brewing, especially since I’ve known the name for years, and have been drinking their beers and reviewing them for some time. It’s nice to finally set foot inside the location, and I can definitely say that I will be back.
Too bad I can’t get any bread in the area anymore.
Drink Florida Craft,