Today we put aside the mouse and the wand to bring you a story about something just as important in Orlando. Beer. Yes you heard me correctly, beer! Orlando has a great selection of local microbreweries to choose from that have high quality, great flavor, and supports local companies! Jason went out to one such brewery to take the tour and sit down with the owner, John Cheek about Orlando Brewing, it’s history, and to see where the magic happens!
First off, lets get the general info out there! Orlando Brewing is located at 1301 Atlanta Ave. Orlando, FL 32806 and the phone number is (407)-872-1117. The brewery hours of operation are 3pm-10pm Monday-Thursday, 1PM- Midnight Friday and Saturday, and 1PM-9Pm on Sunday. The brewery does offer a free tours Monday-Saturday at 6PM sharp! There are no reservations for the tour, so they are first come first serve. The brewery does not offer the tour on special occasions such as Beer:30 (the 30th of each month) and other special event nights!
Jason got to spend some time with John Cheek at the brewery. Below are some questions and answers from John in a interview recently:
John, what should our readers know about Orlando Brewing?
Orlando Brewing is the only certified organic brewery in Florida and also the only organic brewery in the southeast (south of Vermont and east of Colorado). Orlando Brewing was also the first brewery to have its products labelled ‘Fresh From Florida’.
We brew beers under the German Purity Law of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot) which states beer may contain only water, hops & malted barley. Beers made with additional organic ingredients are made under the Orlando Brewing Violator Series (i.e. violation of the Reinheitsgebot, German Purity Law).
Orlando Brewing ran out of money in September 2004 and I took over in October 2004. I enlisted Ed Canty, founder of the Florida Brewers Guild, as our professional brewer, as well as Gene Lohri and Stan Richards to set up and plan the move into our current space which took 15 months.
We now have a Taproom with 21 of our beers, with live bands playing every Friday and Saturday night.
How did you get into brewing beer?
I started home brewing in 1987. In May 1989 I founded the Central Florida Homebrewer Club and in 1994 when I stepped down as President, we had over 500 members.
In the late 1990s, I purchased the old Winter Park Brewery equipment from the Mill Bakery, Eatery & Brewery. The equipment was in storage for a number of years when one of the members of the Homebrew Club, using my equipment, started Orlando Brewing Partners. In 2004, my partner ran out of money and in order to regain possession of my equipment, I was required to pay the back utilities and rent. Once the bills were paid, I realised I had a functioning brewery and no debt.
On April 7, 2006, Orlando Brewing reopened at our current location. So to answer the questions of how I got into brewing, I would say ‘by accident’.
How many varieties of beer do you make? What is the process like?
We brew seven organic beers (Blonde Ale, Pale Ale, Red Ale, O-Town Brown Ale, Olde Pelican English Pale Ale, Blackwater Dry Porter and I-4 India Pale Ale) year round for our distributors and we brew four organic beers (Steamee Summer, Oktoberfest, Grateful Pumpkin & Grapefruit Pale Ale) seasonally for distribution. We’ve also brewed two organic ‘Babes Brews’ (Chocolate Mint Girl Stout & Nilla Nut Kolsch) which are only made by the women of the brewery.
We also make organic beers that are just on sale at the brewery, which include Poppin Pilz, Pompous Ass India Pale Ale, Dobel Imperial India Pale Ale, Eminent Domain Scottish Ale and BVC India Pale Ale.
As for the process, it’s fairly simple; we make a batch and if it sells extremely well then we continue to make it. Sometimes, we just stumble upon a beer like the organic Lagerhead India Pale Lager. The Brewery Operations Manager, my daughter Megan, was at the beach drinking a commercial India Pale Lager and liked the taste but knew we could make it better.
Orlando loves craft beers and it seems to be growing bigger! What do you think is leading to the growth?
When Orlando Brewing opened in 2006, it became the sixth brewery in Florida. There were about 30 brewpubs which sold their beer only on the premises. Needless to say, Florida as a whole was a beer wasteland. Today, there are over 30 breweries and 40 brewpubs.
Since breweries can sell off-premises for consumption or distribution, beer began to filter out into the public houses and as more beer became available, people began to see and buy craft beer. Remember people come to Orlando from all over the world. When travelling, the number one phrase has become “What local beer do you have on draft?” Restaurants and hotels are realising that local sells, and sells very well.
The approach Orlando Brewing takes is “Educating the public one pint at a time”. As people become more educated about choices, the craft beer scene will continue to thrive in Orlando.
What Orlando Brewing beer is your favorite and why?
First off, I must say “My name is John and I am a hophead”. My go-to beers are the Organic Olde Pelican English Pale Ale and the Organic Pompous Ass India Pale Ale. American hops can also be a little harsh whereas English hops can be rather smooth. I like the smoothness of English hops so a nice pale ale or Indian pale ale is perfect.
For lagers, my favourite is our Organic Steamee Summer. This beer is a lager but fermented at ale temperatures, so the beer is still somewhat smooth as a lager should be but with more of the fruity esters of an ale. The Steamee Summer is usually available from June 21st until we run out.
What does the future hold for Orlando Brewing?
When we look at the future of Orlando Brewing, slow and steady wins the race. We have expanded and will continue to expand our distribution network in Florida. Because we are a certified organic brewery, we have a very special product and as people begin to taste the difference in the ingredients, they will ask for Orlando Brewing beers.
As for Orlando, I know of four projects in Central Florida involving new breweries so the beer scene should improve significantly. There are currently two breweries in Central Florida, so adding four more in the next six months will put Orlando down as a beer destination.
Orlando is the most competitive beer market in the world. Every brewery in the world knows 60 million people visit ‘The City Beautiful’ every year. No one can lose market share and not get management scrutiny. Being a small brewery in Orlando is like being the little kid in a crowded room of adults; easy to miss. One redeeming feature is “Everyone comes to Orlando eventually” and we look forward to them visiting.
We loved our time at Orlando Brewing and can’t wait to go back and do a sampling of all of their beer! Check back soon with more from Orlando Fun and Food!