For a quart of ale is a meal for a King. ~ William Shakespeare
Florida ranks ninth in the nation for most craft breweries, with a total of 285 collectively producing 1,373,558 barrels per year, according to the Brewers Association. In addition to beercentric restaurants, gastropubs and taprooms, Orlando is home to approximately 30 breweries (and counting)… and we’ll drink to that!
Beer is defined as “an alcoholic beverage usually made from malted cereal grain (such as barley), flavored with hops and brewed by slow fermentation.” But there’s an art to achieving the intoxicating, well-balanced profiles of pales, reds, sours, stouts, IPAs and beyond; and Orlando brewmasters certainly are crafting frothy masterpieces.
Small, local breweries are pouring out big flavored beverages. Drink up these five pourhouses to savor an array of superior foam-topped pints.
1. Orlando Brewing
Nestled in the industrial district of SODO since 2006, Orlando Brewing was the first to bring handcrafted beers to the City Beautiful. The beer scene has spilled over into the surroundings but this beverage innovator still satisfies with “damn good beer.” For a true taste of Orlando, thanks to organic Fresh from Florida ingredients, try the Orlando Weiss, a crisp wheat lager with citrus-like aromas and subtle notes of vanilla. Be sure to tap into seasonal favorites too, like the Grateful Pumpkin, a spiced amber, and the Chocolate Mint Stout, a peppermint-infused pint. However, of its 25 different brands, Orlando Brewing’s bestseller is the I-4 IPA… because locals know it is easier to drink than drive on I-4. This brewery also maintains a robust event schedule, including free tours, live music, drum circles, doughnut and beer pairings, yoga and trivia. If entertainment runs late, grab a room at the Hampton Inn & Suites Orlando/Downtown South – Medical Center. It’s less than half a mile away with complimentary breakfast.
Also try nearby: Rockpit Brewing, also in SODO, with 20 taps and Texas-style barbeque eats; Black Cauldron Brewing and Broken Strings Brewery, two beer makers under one roof beside the Orlando City Soccer Stadium; Orange County Brewers, located in the heart of downtown with a second location opening in Lake Mary; and Sideward Brewing, a tasty addition to the Milk District.
2. Crooked Can Brewing Company
Follow the brick-lined streets of historic Winter Garden to find Crooked Can Brewing Company, the flagship of Plant Street Market, a bustling artisan food and shopping hall. With ample indoor and outdoor seating reminiscent of a traditional beer garden, relax at communal tables while listening to acoustic tunes. You’ll notice “McSwagger” everywhere, from the company logo to the 12 draught beer names. The Crooked Can crew explained that this dapper dude embodies the “laid back, free spirit attitude representing our way of thinking.” Try stretching beyond your standard happy hour experience here with a tantalizing hour-long yoga session on the brewery lawn, followed by a thirst-quenching pint. FYI, beer is actually a decent post-exercise recovery drink!
Also try nearby: Toll Road Brewing Company, in Ocoee, with tasty taps, themed trivia and occasional food trucks; and Clermont Brewing Company and Suncreek Brewery, refreshing pit stops (within two blocks of each other) in quaint downtown Clermont.
3. Bear & Peacock Brewery
Operating as a “brewstillery,” the craft concept of Bear & Peacock is distinctive. The Winter Park based facility includes a brewery and taproom, plus a distillery producing bourbon, whiskey, vodka and rum. Wine and snacks are also on the menu. On a hot Florida day, cool off with an ice cold stout float (nondairy ice cream is available too); or, on a cool afternoon, sip on Smokey the Bear, an 8% ABV smoked porter. Bears and peacocks merely grace bottle labels but expect to see pooches in this dog-friendly brewery, which boasts plush couches inside and an airy patio. For a behind the scenes look at it all, book a 40-minute tour for $11.
Also try nearby: Cask & Larder, supplying brews to all Southern-inspired Swine family locations – Ravenous Pig, Swine and Sons and the airport-based Cask & Larder; and Deadly Sins, serving up four core beers and eclectic entertainment, such as ukulele jams, dirty bingo and improv.
4. Park Pizza & Brewing Company
Craving the perfect combination of pizza and beer? Head to Lake Nona to savor wood-fired pizza (signature pies or create-your-own) and house-made brewskis. Head brewer Marco Reyna can recommend ideal pie and pint pairings. For example, the spices on the Pepperoni Picante compliment the hoppy and bitter characteristics of Park’s IPA. For your second round of drinks, wander next door to Boxi Park, Central Florida’s first shipping container park (think of it as a glamped up food truck park), to visit Hops and Vine which serves crafts from Park Pizza & Brewing Company and other local breweries.
Also try nearby: Ellipsis Brewing, located next to Orlando International Airport, for a beer flight before/after your flight; and Castle Church Brewing Community, a brewhouse, taproom, indoor beer garden and church ─ yes, church ─ inviting people to tap into the deeper things of life (perhaps with a beer in hand).
5. Half Barrel Beer Project
This intimate under-the-radar nanobrewery (defined as smaller than a microbrewery) is hidden amid the tourist district off International Drive. As the namesake eludes, Half Barrel Beer Project operates a half barrel system producing small craft batches. This allows for playful experimentation of inventive recipes and a continually-changing line-up. Owner Scott Kast proclaimed “At this point, we never brew the same thing twice!” Aside from a handful of housemade brews, the taproom is stocked with a dozen crafts from other brewers, local wine from Quantum Leap Winery and self-serve fridges casing a rotation of 150 beer varieties. Try the Independence Gush, a 6.8% ABV sour bursting with fruity notes of blackberry, cherry, raspberry and strawberry, along with star anise and cinnamon spices. The masterminds behind Half Barrel Beer Project also collaborate with homebrewers on a quarterly basis.
Half Barrel Beer Project is just over a mile from Hilton Orlando, making this brewery a convenient staycation stopover. One of their limited-edition beers is the perfect way to top off a day spent zipping down the waterslide and drifting the lazy river at Hilton Orlando.
Also try nearby: Dead Lizard Brewing Company, where a third-generation brewer imports hops from his family’s Ohio-based farm.
Other Notable Breweries:
- Big River Grille & Brewing Works (Walt Disney World’s Boardwalk)
- Bowigens Beer Company (Casselberry)
- Hourglass Brewing (Longwood & Hourglass District)
- Ocean Sun (Curry Ford West District)
- Oviedo Brewing Company (Oviedo)
- Red Cypress Brewery (Winter Springs)
- Redlight Redlight (Audubon Park District)
- Tactical Brewing Co. (Baldwin Park)
Tap into Tours
Orlando has several tour options to visit multiple breweries in one day via walking, bus or bike. These adventures allow you to drink up local flavors while brewing up fun!
Mosquito County Tours
Newly peppered with bars and breweries, Virginia Drive has been dubbed “Barley Row.” Leisurely strolling through this shaded, half-mile stretch in the Ivanhoe District, Mosquito County Tours guides beer lovers to six locations, each serving 5-ounce samples in commemorative glasses with a bonus dose of Florida history. That’s because owner Mandy Longo loves a “beer with a story,” be that the explanation of a unique beer name or ingredients tidbits (i.e. where grown or brewed in the sunshine state). To maintain an allure, the tour’s itinerary is somewhat secret but (hint, hint) Ivanhoe Park Brewing Co. and Ten10 Brewing Co. are within the area. The final spot is at a makerspace where a guest brewer (Orlando brewer from outside of Ivanhoe District) offers the last pour. This ticket is $60 for three hours. [FYI, Mosquito County is the historic title of present-day Greater Orlando and its surroundings.]
Hop On Tour
Hop On invites drinkers to buckle up for a palate pleasing ride like none other. After telling listeners about Florida breweries on their resident podcast, a trio of beer guzzling pals—Kevin Jones, Ivan Rios and Brian Quain—decided to actually take people to the best beer destinations. Hop On offers five guided tours, each at $37, in addition to customizable experiences. Tours include transportation to three breweries, plus onboard entertainment like games and sing-a-longs and discounted pricing at the breweries.
Sanford Limo Cycle
Limo Cycle offers a 15-passenger, pedal-powered party bus (with a designated tour driver at the helm) for an epicurean expedition through downtown Sanford. Standard two-hour tours ($30) stop at three places, such as Celery City Craft, a restaurant with over 50 beer taps. Here you can also grab a mix/match 6-pack to sip as you pedal to the next stop. The limo cycle is equipped with cup holders, ice chests, misting fans, a stereo system and pedal assistance (for when you get too tipsy – um, I mean tired). And now that Sanford has four breweries and one cidery, you could customize a tour to Deviant Wolfe Brewing, Sanford Brewing Company, Wops Hops Brewing, Inner Compass Brewing Company and Tuffy’s Bottle Shop & Lounge.
Central Florida Ale Trail
The Central Florida Ale Trail is the ultimate DIY-approach to experiencing Orlando craft beer scene. Designed by a local beer enthusiast in conjunction with area brewers, the Ale Trail currently features 28 breweries. Head to one of these designated locations to pick up an official map; then collect a stamp at each participating brewery. Once you’ve gulped your way through the challenge—there’s no time limit—you’ll receive a Central Florida Ale Trail keepsake growler and be entitled to $1 off fills. Tip: If you plan to embark on the previously noted tours, bring your map to rack up stamps.