The local food movement continues to fuel an adoration of all things artisan, and with the recent fever pitch popularity of craft beer, boutique brew and spirits are no exception. While certainly not a pioneer, Orlando still gets kudos for jumping on the bandwagon thanks to three area crafters each making their own respectful contributions to the trend.
In Winter Park (the bricked road residential neighborhood north of downtown), Winter Park Distilling Company’s small batch rum, vodka and whiskies are slowly popping up on area cocktail menus. This includes the menu at Prato, a rustic Italian eatery on Park Avenue, where a dining room and bar open onto the street, making for great people-watching while sipping a White Manhattan made with Winter Park Distillery’s white corn whiskey. And while you’re at it, sample some of the eatery’s cuisine, such as the Prato meatballs with roasted tomato and cipollini agrodolce (sweet and sour onions).
A few miles away at Cask & Larder, local beer icon and brewmaster Ron Raike oversees his on-site operation, mixing atypical ingredients such as peaches and oysters for beers that pair well with this brewpub and A-list restaurant’s Southern fare. Start with main meat dishes (heritage fried chicken with a Yukon potato salad or grilled pork chop with Vidalia onion chutney, among others) before satisfying your sweet tooth with cornbread madeleines topped with a pecan purée. While sipping pints of the Vanilla Porter or Cyclops IPA, or sampling a five brewer’s choice flight, be sure to take a peek through the glass at the brew room at the bar’s far end; inside the stainless steel fermenters is where all Raike’s magic happens.
Don’t let Orlando Brewing’s humble operations south of downtown fool you; Florida’s only USDA certified organic microbrewery deserves all the accolades it gets, especially for its relentless dedication to brewing with just four ingredients: water, hops, yeast and grain. Definitely check out the brewery’s uber casual taproom, where free tours and music by live local bands are commonplace, but you can also find Orlando Brewing’s dozen or so beers (including blonde, red and pale ales; Eagle Stout; IPAs and more) in more than 100 local watering holes, including The Pub, a Pointe Orlando gastropub that pays homage to England’s classic corner pubs. An added draw are The Pub’s two “Pour Your Own Beer” walls, which give guests the opportunity to pull their own pint and pay by the ounce. Not to mention the food offerings such as a goat cheese dip to share, fish and chips with housemade tartar sauce and the chicken pot pie (with chicken tenderloin), chive whipped potatoes and vegetables.
Photos Courtesy of Orlando Brewing, Taproom