My latest work-related trip found me in Orlando, Florida, one of America’s main cities for industry gatherings thanks to its many hotels & convention facilities. Hey, I said, “at least it’s not Las Vegas”. (Vegas is #1 on this circuit, followed by San Francisco and then probably Orlando). I’ve been to Orlando a couple times for work stuff, most recently in 2002, and I’m always away from the “real Florida” part of the city (downtown) and stuck out by Disney World and all that, where virtually nothing is there for the locals, and there are chain restaurants, chain hotels, chain gift shops as far as the eye can see. At least the tropical heat is something new. Otherwise, this place, at least this part of it, is almost as unappealing as Vegas.
Naturally, as I always do, I did my beer homework before the flight. Naturally, as it so often is, it was all for naught. The places that sounded appealing to me for their Belgian & local beer selections – “Redlight Redlight”, “Underground Bluz”, “Tailgaters Smokehouse & Spirits” – were all at least 30 minutes away. Now that’s truly not that big of a deal, but there wasn’t exactly tons of time to cruise an hour round-trip just to drink a better beer – I still had to call the family back home, do some work in the hotel, get some beauty sleep etc. My priorities may be different than yours, but there it is. So here’s what happened instead.
We enjoyed a fine sushi dinner at some upscale- but chain-like restaurant called MOONFISH. Moonfish had all the usual suspects on tap, except for one interesting one: MOONFISH BARRACUDA BROWN. I did a little research on this one and it’s made by CHARLIE & JAKES BREWERY & BBQ in Melbourne, Florida, and then re-branded for this Orlando restaurant. You know what, it wasn’t half bad, at least not at foul at these folks make it out to be. On a hot day, like this 93-degree evening in Orlando, this malty brown ale, served cold, was pretty decent, all things considered. Lots of flavor, with tastes of banana and grain. 6/10. I would have had two, but we’d decided to go find TAILGATERS SMOKEHOUSE & SPIRITS, which we thought was only 5 minutes away. After a 45-minute fruitless search using the phone-based Google Maps, and lots of U-turns, driving into malls and Walgreens’ parking lots, we figured out that we were nowhere near the place. My pal Amanda suggested an “Irish pub” located right next to our hotel in the “Downtown Disney” entertainment complex, knowing full well that it was a desperation move and that we’d probably mock ourselves mercilessly for doing so.
I can’t remember what it was called, Molly McGuillicuddy’s or something like that, but this place was everything you’d expect a Disney-run Irish pub to be. Bad “Riverdance”-esque music, cheesy Irish décor, and of course, a bad beer selection. Amanda knew they had a couple of locals on tap, though, so I chose something I’d never heard of, SACKETS HARBOR WAR OF 1812 AMBER. Great name, but turns out it’s not even a local, and is brewed in New York. Wow, is this one bad. A total macrobrew in every way, barely cutting the drinkability Mendoza line with a thin, weak, lifeless amber ale that probably should have been served with ice and a straw. 3.5/10.
My date with the finest in Orlando drinking is going to have to wait for the next trade show. Hopefully I’ve given you one to avoid and one to briefly contemplate before you order something else.