When you think of Orlando, chances are good you think of theme parks. That’s natural. The city’s home to Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World and a ton of other options. The most common reason to go to Orlando is to hit a theme park or two – it’s become one of America’s most popular family vacation destinations for just that reason. However, that’s not all there is to experience in town. There’s good news for foot-sore dads and those who either need a break from theme parks, or have no interest in these tourist-swamped locales to begin with – craft beer. Yes, the city of Orlando is home to a growing craft beer scene, and there are several craft breweries and craft brew bars located in town (20-25 and climbing). Here’s a closer look at a few that you should know.
Cask and Larder
If you’re in the mood for food and drink, then head down to the Cask and Larder located on West Fairbanks Avenue in Winter Park (just outside of Orlando proper). You’ll find quite a bit to love here. It’s a brewpub for one thing – the owner brews nine different types of ales on site. What’s more, the brewing area is walled with glass, so you can enjoy a meal, a brew and watch how the operation works. If you’re interested in pairing food with beer, this is also a great option, particularly if you’re a fan of Southern meals (think fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fried okra, collard greens and the like). There’s also an oyster bar on site, so enjoy some fresh-shucked marine fare.
If you’re looking for a local brewery in town, then Orlando Brewing might just be the right option for you, particularly if you’re one who demands organic options. Orlando Brewing is located on Atlanta Avenue right in the heart of Orlando, and is the only USDA-certified organic brewery in the state. It’s more than just a brewery, though. The venue has a bar of course, a taproom, as well as a host of special events and the like. Local bands and performers frequent the brewery, and it makes for a great afternoon or evening venture out for some non-mouse themed fun. There’s also something for everyone here – the company offers red and white wine, cider and soft drinks as well (so you can bring the family without worrying about it).
Mount Dora Brewing
If you don’t mind driving a little bit, Mount Dora Brewing is a great option for an evening out and away from the theme parks. Located north of Orlando (not too far from Tavares and Leesburg), Mount Dora is “the only mountain brewed beer in the state”. While you might quibble at Florida’s definition of a mountain, there’s no arguing with the fun to be had here, particularly if you’re in the mood for some fresh craft beer. Interestingly, Mount Dora is open for both breakfast and lunch, as well as offering a full dinner menu. Mount Dora is also an entertainment venue, so those who enjoy local music with their local brews will find a lot to love here.
The Hourglass Brewery
Located on Ronald Reagan Boulevard, The Hourglass Brewery offers more than 60 different beers and lots of entertainment. The venue is also home to events like their hit Halloween costume contest. However, don’t expect much in the way of food here. While the taproom serves brews seven days per week, the venue only offers food on Wednesdays and Fridays, in conjunction with a gourmet food truck (Food Truck Friday was the original option, and it’s grown in popularity so much that they’ve introduced another day). However, the venue doesn’t have a menu of its own, so go thirsty, but be prepared to get your grub from somewhere else (unless you hit it on the aforementioned Wednesday or Friday). You’ll find brews like their summer Ball Washer ale, 31 Rubies, Zombie Killer and a whole lot more on offer.
The Milk Bar
Looking for somewhere cozy? Give the Milk Bar a shot. Named after the milk bottling plant across the street, the Milk Bar covers only 750 square feet. However, the owner manages to pack a lot into that small space, including 40 different craft and import beers (plus a selection of four rotating draft beers). There’s also a gaming system, a couple of big screen TVs and a lot of local ambience. In fact, this is one of the favorite watering holes for Orlando’s locals.
The Oblivion Taproom might sound like a place dedicated to black-out drinking, but that’s not the case. It’s actually a fun local joint that offers 40 different taps for your enjoyment. You’ll find a constantly rotating collection of brews, including a lot of Florida craft brews, as well as craft beer from other states. The location also offers 75 different types of cider, as well as chef-prepared meals (it’s definitely more than just a local dive). For those traveling with families (almost a given considering the Orlando location), Oblivion Taproom offers a family-friendly atmosphere as well.
Heading to Orlando? Check Out Something Away from the Mouse
If you’ll be heading to Orlando, you owe it to yourself to check out something beyond what’s offered at Disney or Universal. Break out of the mold, and you’ll be surprised at just how much craft beer you can find throughout the city. The options listed above are really just the tip of the iceberg here. With 20+ locales and more being added regularly, Orlando is becoming the craft beer mecca of Florida (although Tampa might have something to say about that particular claim – and don’t forget that Tampa isn’t that far away, and well worth an exploratory drive to check out that city’s thriving beer culture).
Orlando doesn’t have to be only about theme park fun. Get out and explore the world of Florida craft beer and see just how many different options you have for enjoyment.