When you first say “Orlando” to someone, they automatically think of theme parks, massive crowds, and the distinct smell of turkey legs and butterbeer. But Orlando is SO much more than that. Orlando is home to some of the most unique people who could not be prouder to call this beautiful city home. From the swan-filled Lake Eola to bottle shops you can lose track of time in, Orlando is truly more than what people think of at first glance. This is especially true when it comes to the Orlando craft beer scene.
We start our trek around Orlando at a brewery that most people who live within the city limits would think of if someone were to ask them, “What brewery should I check out first?” Crooked Can is an establishment you would expect to see in San Diego or one of the more progressive craft beer states and is located in the beautiful town of Winter Garden. Upon arrival, you are greeted by their landmark silo with their logo painted front and center. Not only are they a brewery of impressive size, but they also have an inside market attached that stretches out over 20,000 feet, containing everything from gourmet skillet mac and cheese, gifts and souvenirs to handmade wood-fired pizza. This place has it all! It’s a little bit of a drive from downtown but only 20 minutes from the theme parks and it is extremely easy to spend an entire afternoon there walking around with, of course, a beer in hand.
A short drive from downtown, centered in the heart of one of the most captivating areas Orlando has to offer, Baldwin Park, lies Tactical Brewing. Tactical Brewing Co. is a veteran-owned microbrewery that has changed the Orlando beer game forever. Owners Doug Meyer and Kreis Holland are passionate, innovative MAD SCIENTISTS who already have several Beer Fest titles under their belts, and they have only been opened for a few months! Coming up with brews such as “What Plants Crave” — a Berliner aged on electrolytes — “11 Alive” — a phenomenal coconut white stout on nitro, and for Sunday Funday, beermosas and “Breakfast of Champions” — a nitro stout with cold brew. These guys are not only brewing staple beers but also creating new styles of their own that tickle every single sense and spark every bit of curiosity you could ever imagine having over a single pint of beer. If you start feeling hungry, you can also hop over to one of the many fine dining restaurants that are within a stone’s throw of the brewery. The Osprey Tavern, Provisions and Buzz, Seito Sushi, Calibri, and Manny’s Chop House, just to name a few, are top-of-the-line restaurants that you can get takeout from and bring it into the brewery to eat! If fine dining isn’t your style, there are still plenty of options to choose from, along with over 50 other restaurants on Uber Eats. This place is a must-see, no matter your background, beliefs or flavor pallet, you will pick a stool and feel right at home. Not to mention, Baldwin Park has a nationally ranked dog park, Halloween trick-or-treating, and they hold their very own First Friday block party every month. This is THE place to be!
On the east side of Orlando lies a new up-and-comer. Castle Church Brewing is, yes, in fact, a functioning Lutheran church that brews some of the best beers in the area. The guys who opened this unique establishment are some of the kindest gentlemen you could ever hope to meet. They keep very true to tradition while bringing styles into light such as their “All Saints” Einbecker and “Mighty Fortress” — their Doppelbock that you don’t typically see at every brewery. You do not have to consider yourself religious to visit this brewery, nor do you feel pressured to be while you are there. Their focus is on good beer and good company, and that’s all you really need to have to have a great experience. They are also located just 15 minutes from the next craft beer destination.
It may seem a bit open-ended to talk about an entire “district,” but when you get there, you will understand. The Mills District (not to be confused with the MILK district: home to A La Carte and several other great spots) is a stretch of Orlando that has everything from a speakeasy-style craft cocktail bar (The Matador) to a bottle shop that depicts a religious setting showing kindness through the sharing of beer in a growler (GB Bottle Shop) to murals that just flat out take your breath away around every corner. With almost 10 craft beer destinations in walking distance and a handful of shops and restaurants mixed in, this part of town is perfect for the whole family. Some must-sees include Ivanhoe Park Brewing and Ten10. If you’re a hidden gem kind of person, then head into The Thirsty Topher. Although their exterior is similar to many other craft beer spots, their interior looks like it is straight out of a fairytale. With greenery covering the walls and tables and exquisite table and bar tops crafted entirely out of wood, you won’t believe your eyes when you enter. Nor will you believe your eyes when you see their never-ending draft and bottle list. You don’t want to miss the dynamic duo that consists of owner Ron and bartender Rick who steal the show every time you’re in there. Come for the beer, stay for the laughs, come back because you got too tipsy and forgot your wallet.
What’s amazing about traveling through Orlando in search of the best brew is that you will stumble into areas you never thought you would normally venture or would never expect to have great beer. For instance, when you travel to Orlando, you typically would either fly into Orlando International or into Orlando/Sanford. Little do people know, Sanford (even though it seems like a bit of a hike) is still a part of Orlando. Those who live here, even though it’s right on the outskirts, know it’s home to some of the best breweries and bottle shops in the state. The best part? They are all within walking distance from each other! Ever create your own brewery crawl? Well here is your chance! If you’re taking notes, don’t you dare forget some core breweries such as Deviant Wolfe (order their Sourmanjaro), Wops Hops (take a pic with the house dinosaur), Sanford Brewing (catch their live entertainment), and once you’ve had your fill, stumble into Tuffy’s Bottle Shop for your tipsy Instagram photos and a six pack to go. You won’t believe your eyes when you see their beer garden. You won’t want to miss the permanent poké truck (thanks to the talented people at DuKine Poke): a massive pontoon boat turned into a space with extra seating and a full-scale bocce ball court for your amusement. Everything you could ever need is in Sanford. Making the hike from the parks is well worth it!
Hungry yet? You can’t talk about craft beer without mentioning the fine restaurants that, even though they don’t brew their own beer, have a passion for serving great beer and pairing it with the tastiest bites possible. Orlando is home to a melting pot of cuisines. We have seafood from the coasts, southern cooking from our roots, and a little spice to match our ever-burning fire for innovation. As true as it is that you will hit construction on I4, you will find some kickass food while you’re in Orlando — and the best part is that they serve LOCAL beers from all the surrounding breweries. Two more well-known places to grab some grub and a few beers is World Of Beer and The Brass Tap! World Of Beer is positioned right on Lake Eola, so close that you can sit outside, sip a beer, and eat your loaded tots while watching dozens of swans swim around the lake. If you are lucky, someone might even let you pet their dog. The Brass Tap has a rotating draft and bottle list that is spectacularly never-ending. You can visit there two days in a row and still find something new that most likely wasn’t there before. World Of Beer is the ideal place to taste what the area has to offer if you’re crunched for time and just can’t make it around to the breweries themselves. However, if chain restaurants just aren’t on your vacation to-do list, we totally understand. That’s why there are places like Se7en Bites, Orlando Meats, and Eastend Market here to satisfy any and every craving you may have that serve up some killer craft beer at the same time. All three get their ingredients locally and make every meal to order. Orlando Meats has a menu that is the definition of fusion. A fried pork chop, on top of a waffle, drizzled in some sauces that you find on top of sushi, coming together to make a pork tempura-tasting dish that truly belongs in a Michelin Star restaurant is just one of the many dishes that they have circulating their weekly rotating menu. No matter what you are into, they have the meats.
If you need just a little direction and structure in your life, have no fear — there is a bus for that. The Hop On Tour Bus was created by an awesome group of people who wanted to make your life just a little bit easier. You can check them out here or visit their social media accounts for more info. But to sum it up, they offer a service that not only takes you to these breweries and gives you their recommendations but also drives your craft beer-loving butt back afterward. Does it get any better? No. No, it does not. This tour, along with the Central Florida Hop Yards, is also a fantastic spot if you hit it at the right time of year (harvesting occurs twice a year and you can even take your own little plant home with you!). This is one of the most interesting and one-of-a-kind experiences you could ever do as a beer lover. From picking right from the vines to learning what makes each type different from the next to being able to have a beer all while doing it — it’s a memory you will never forget. To add a cherry on top, this business is in its fourth generation, run by the same wonderful family which offers a warm welcome the moment you arrive. You are truly a part of the big, hoppy family.
- Don’t forget to snag a Central Florida Ale Trail map from any of the breweries listed above.
With over 72 million visitors a year, Orlando has its fair share of tourist destinations — such as IDrive, out of necessity, of course, but is that all there is to do here? Is that all people want to do when they visit Florida? Stand in long lines at theme parks? Yes, the parks are fun and, of course, create solid memories for yourself and your family, but you don’t have to submit yourself to that every single day of your vacation. It is YOUR vacation too, isn’t it!? Take a day, or even an hour, and unwind with an ice-cold beer at one of the many aesthetically pleasing spots that this city has to offer. Remember, with life and beer…chill for best results.
Hey everyone! My name is Brie, also known as “The Pint-Sized Traveler”. I am a 25-year-old Orlandoian who grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I studied Criminal Justice in college and have been infatuated with craft beer for almost 2 years now and have never looked back since. It all began when I met a Marine. A Marine that made me fall in love with him and the craft beer scene. I learned that this world was far different from the one I lived in which was that of tradeshows, marketing, and promotions. In this world, I didn’t have to cover my tattoos or pretend to be more proper and less vulgar than I really am. In this world, I could be me. That’s why I have made it my mission to get as many people into the wizarding world of craft beer as I can. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity to tell all the amazing readers of Craft Beer News about Orlando’s up and coming craft beer scene and all of the one of a kind places that make this The City Brewtiful! CHEERS!