Happy Memorial Day Weekend ya’ll! As restrictions are beginning to ease, I figured I would do something a little different than the average beer review. Central Florida has become home to about two dozen craft breweries and it may seem overwhelming to those getting into it or just visiting. While most of them are pretty good, there are a few great ones and a few I wouldn’t spend my time going to again.
There are three main categories that I use to rate a brewery. This doesn’t cover everything, but gives you a pretty good idea where you want to spend your time (and money). Obviously how good is the beer is your first question. Secondly, service is key because you wouldn’t want to go somewhere that has great beer but it takes forever to get served or the beer-tenders don’t want to take the time to educate you about their offerings. Finally, and probably most subjective, is the atmosphere of the place. Some people like kid-friendly establishments, some like a more adult bar-like scene, and there are a million variations between both ends.
Without further ado, here are my top 3 favorite Central Florida breweries!
Number 3: Crooked Can Brewing, Winter Garden
Crooked Can is a well-known crowd favorite for the craft beer fans around here. Crooked Can is in a farmers market area with a craft butcher shop, a sushi restaurant, gourmet pizza, coffee shops, and the list goes on. They always have live music and it’s a great time for the whole family (they have areas where you can let the kiddos run and play). The inside air conditioned areas get crowded, but there is plenty of outdoor seating, too. Their beers are always well done, but they seem to play it safe. There has never been a beer I’ve had from there that makes me go “WOW” or “Yikes they missed on this.” They also don’t seem to rotate beers very often, so if you visit frequently you’ll most likely get the same beers every time. The service is usually quick and even when they are busy, the servers are always happy to let you sample beer and explain different types.
Beer: 7/10 Service: 7/10 Atmosphere: 10/10
Number 2: Tactical Brewing, Baldwin Park (Orlando)
Tactical Brewing is located in the middle of Downtown Baldwin Park. There are plenty of places to eat just steps away that range from high-end to family friendly. The lakefront is two blocks away. Inside they have retro video games (N64 and SNES), will have a live band, and plenty of air conditioned seating. They have, in my opinion, the best beers in all of Central Florida. One of my favorites is Tricarahops, a carrot-cake-style IPA. At the risk of sounding cliche, it shouldn’t work but you HAVE to try it. Many of their beers are higher in ABV, so be careful, but I have not had one that has let me down yet. You’re probably thinking, “If it’s got a bunch to do and the best beer, why isn’t it #1?” My one area they could improve on is service. To get served at your seats outside of the bar area, there is a single file line which can get backed up quickly. If they were able to have folks go and take your order or open a second line it would vastly improve the experience.
Beer: 10/10 Service: 6/10 Atmosphere: 9/10
Number 1: Rockpit Brewing, SoDo (Orlando)
Rockpit Brewing is definitely my favorite place to go for craft beer in Central Florida. Located just south of Downtown Orlando, it is minutes from just about everything. Since their soft opening Chris, Jeremy and the entire Rockpit crew have been nothing but accommodating, helpful, and downright good people. They’ll answer any questions you have and do a great job at making everyone feel welcome. When the bar is slammed, they have servers that will come around and take your order and bring it right to you, which is awesome because you’re not trying to fight for a spot to order. They also have a homebrew shop inside that is fully stocked with everything you need to brew your own batches. The atmosphere is very laid back; they have sports on some TVs and there will often be live bands, food trucks, and even ax throwing! Not to mention they are next door to Cecil’s BBQ and you can get that barbecue deliciousness walked right over to you. While I did say Tactical Brewing had the best beer, Rockpit is a very close second. They have a wide variety ranging from your standard light beer, to sours, stouts, saisons, awesome hard seltzers, NEIPAs and of course the regular IPAs. They advertise something for everyone and mean it as they truly have the best variety of house brewed beers in Central Florida. Rockpit is also not afraid to experiment and try new, different things that other places really don’t think of. Usually their new releases go VERY quickly because they’re so popular. Overall, this place is the perfect combination of great beer, great service, and great atmosphere. You don’t get any better than that.
Beer: 9/10 Service: 10/10 Atmosphere: 10/10
Well if ya’ll like this top brewery review, let me know, and I’ll be sure to write more of these up. Until next time, tight lines and cheers!