Orlando Brewing: The Organic Microbrewery Where Age-Old Tradition and Contemporary Craft Beer Meet

Orlando Brewing: The Organic Microbrewery

Back in 1516, the Bavarians decided an official rule was needed to guarantee the quality and safety of German beers. Under threat of confiscation, brewers were only permitted to use three ingredients in their beers: water, barley, and hops. Those of you familiar with fermentation will have to excuse their Middle Ages ignorance, as it would be three and a half centuries before Louis Pasteur revealed the presence and purpose of yeast—an essential fourth ingredient—in alcoholic beverages.

The mandate is known as the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, or the Reinheitsgebot in its native tongue. Some breweries in Germany still voluntarily follow the old law, but an updated version called the Provisional German Beer Law has been in place since 1993. It makes additional allowances for yeast, wheat malt, and cane sugar, and it prohibits unmalted barley.

Zip 8,000 miles over the Atlantic to Orlando, Florida, where Orlando Brewing makes some of the city’s most beloved local beers in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot. In further deference to the purity of its products, the microbrewery uses only organic ingredients in all its beers.

As owner and president John Cheek proudly points out, “We’re one of a handful of U.S.D.A. organic microbreweries in the nation. We’re also the only certified organic microbrewery south of Vermont and east of Colorado.”

The 7,000 square-foot brewery opened in its current incarnation in 2006. It features a core lineup of 11 continuously produced craft beers that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot. Many are single-hop brews, showcasing the flavors and aromas imparted by specific flowers and providing prime opportunities for palate education.

Seven of these are available in the on-site taproom and via distribution year-round. These include the light, refreshing Blonde Ale, with the company’s lowest ABV at 4.7%; the medium-bodied, moderately sweet Irish-style Right on Red! Red Ale; the citrusy American-style Pale Ale; the rich, nutty English-style O-Town Brown Ale; Olde Pelican English Pale Ale, a full-bodied brew with pronounced caramel and mild chocolate flavors; the medium-bodied Blackwater Dry Porter, with hints of chocolate and coffee; and the full-bodied, citrusy I-4 IPA (named for the interstate running through Central Florida and, despite its designation, into no other states).

Another four beers are available all year only in the taproom. These include the light-bodied, sweet and fruity Eminent Domain Scottish Ale; Miami Weiss, a citrusy lagered wheat beer; the German-style Magic Pils; and Hopgasmic West Coast 90 Min. IPA, a medium-bodied beer with marked citrus notes.

It isn’t just high-quality organic ingredients and simple recipes that make Orlando Brewing’s beers so clean and flavorful, however.

“One thing that makes our beer so great is our water. We get it from the deep water wells of the Floridan Aquifer. It’s naturally hardened by limestone, which makes it great for brewing. Hard water is necessary for the proper infusion of hop oils,” explains Cheek.

And Orlando Brewing isn’t all strict adherence to tradition. The microbrewery listens to its customers, notes Cheek, and after repeated requests for an organic spiced beer fit for fall, brewmaster Graeme Lay introduced the Grateful Pumpkin Ale. This was the first in his “Violator Series,” so named because its offerings contravene the Reinheitsgebot.

The popularity of the autumnal offering and subsequent beers in the Violator Series, along with a rapidly growing and evolving local craft beer scene, have encouraged Orlando Brewing to experiment more and expand its nontraditional brew lines.

The brewery’s female employees have their own all-organic experimental line, “Babes’ Brews,” dedicated to all the ladies in the craft beer industry. It kicked off with the Chocolate Mint Girl Stout, a hearty 6.5% ABV stout flavored with cocoa nibs and peppermint. The line has also included a vanilla almond Kolsch; Eve’s Tonic, an apple-infused, oak-aged American strong ale in tribute to the first “babe” and her forbidden fruit; and Red Riveter, a distinctly floral American-style red ale infused with lavender and rose hips inspired by Rosie the Riveter.

“We’ve recently begun an experimental line of single-keg, specialty conditioned brews,” says Cheek, discussing another outlet for experimentation. “For our weekly ‘Try This Tuesday’ series, we take a beer we have available in-house and infuse, barrel age, cask condition, or dry hop it.”

This series began in January 2015 with a lavender-infused version of the Blonde Ale, followed by the brewery’s Hard Caliber Stout augmented with coffee and vanilla. These beers have been well received, and the new line helps keeps fresh offerings on tap for regulars, as do a variety of other brews made in limited runs at the facility.

Some of the most popular experimental brews have achieved permanence as recurring seasonal offerings. Grateful Pumpkin Ale comes back every autumn, followed by Chocolate Mint Girl Stout each winter; Uncle Matt’s Organic Grapefruit Pale Ale is brewed for spring and Steamee Summer is brewed for Florida’s notoriously hot and steamy season. The latter is a steam beer, an especially bubbly variety made with lager yeast and fermented at higher temperatures.

Orlando Brewing’s beers aren’t difficult to find in local bars, and they’re distributed to more than 500 locations across Florida. If you’re an area resident or one of the 50 million tourists visiting the city each year, take the free all-ages tour that runs Monday through Saturday at 6:00 pm (but not on the 30th of any month) to learn more about the brewery’s products and processes. Head to the taproom to sample the craft beers and enjoy live local music, trivia, or other events often going on.


Orlando Brewing

1301 Atlanta Ave.
Orlando, FL 32806

Phone: (407)-872-1117

Taproom hours:
Mon – Thurs: 3:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Fri – Sat: 1:00 pm – midnight
Sun: 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Eric Mohrman is a freelance travel and food writer. Coincidentally, he enjoys traveling, eating, drinking, and writing. He lives in downtown Orlando and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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