After taking Friday off to catch up on writing and research during the day and visit Epcot at Disney World with our friends at night, we met up with the generous people of Orlando Brewing on Saturday, 2/1/14. The first thing we did was jump onto their free 45-minute public tour with James Elmer as our guide and learned all about their brewing process. Tod Caviness of the Orlando Sentinel joined us on that tour as well, and afterwards interviewed us; you can find that article here.
Orlando Brewing technically started in 2000, but was saved from bankruptcy in 2004 by one of the current owners, John Cheek. Less than a year later, the state of Florida informed them that their location had to be given to the state under an eminent domain provision, so their doors were unfortunately closed for a little over a year while they moved over to the existing location. The partners of the brewery, John, Ed Canty, and Gene Lohri, used that downtime to adjust the direction of the brewery, transforming it into what it is today. While there we spoke with partners Cindy Cain, who is the office manager and event coordinator, along with her husband, George, head of social media. Both Cindy & George are very passionate about Orlando Brewing, and their enthusiasm definitely made speaking to them while tasting a plethora of samples an enjoyable experience. They are very proud to have Graeme Lay as their brewer.
We were informed that the brewery is 1 of 10 in the United States that uses all organic ingredients in their brews, and they add on to that by sticking to the German Purity Law, Reinheitsgebot, which requires beer to only contain four ingredients: water, hops, malted barley, and yeast. To be considered USDA certified organic, the ingredients in their beers cannot contain GMOs, pesticides or insecticides, or animal bi-products. Furthermore, the organic hops and barley cost up to 3X as much as non-organic, but rather than jacking up the prices, the brewery just takes the hit on the lost gross profit so that you can still enjoy their high quality products without having to pay more to do so. They are also fortunate enough to get water through Orlando Utilities which comes up through a lime-rock chimney from the aquifer beneath the State of Florida, which is high in minerals and calcium. This makes the water hard, similar to the water found at Burton-on-the-Trent in the UK where English Ales have been brewed for centuries. The hard water provides a crisp finish to all their ales and lagers.
Ales and Lagers are both offered, and we were fortunate enough to taste quite a few of them in flights brought out on sampler trays made from recycled pallet wood. One of those beers was a sessionable Scottish Ale known as Eminent Domain, clearly named after the unfortunate set of events they had to go through almost 10 years ago. We also had the opportunity to try a red IPA called Diablo Rojo that is part of their “Violator Series.” The beers in that series only come out one at a time and are the only ones at the brewery that ‘violate’ Reinheitsgebot; however, they are still organic. Another couple of brews in that series are known as Uncle Matt’s Grapefruit Pale Ale, which uses certified organic grapefruit and will be released again on 2/22/14, and the Babe’s Brew, which was a chocolate mint stout brewed by all of their female employees using organic peppermint and organic cacao nibs. Using a 15-barrel brewhouse, the brewery was able to produce around 1,800 bbl last year, and you can find a list of their beers here.
There is live music at the brewery every Friday and Saturday with local bands playing original music. Dogs are allowed up there on Sunday, and on the second Sunday of every month there is an old time music jam where you can go enjoy the sounds of fiddles, mandolins, banjos, and guitars improvising Appalachian tunes. They also work with charities about once a month, including the upcoming pet-centric event on 2/16/14 called ‘Spay-ghetti & No Balls.’ A full list of events can be found on their website here, but their taproom is open every day of the week so make sure to check it out if you’re in town. Thanks again, George, Cindy, and James!
Author: Michael Roberts