Summer’s over. Carbs are in. Celebrate the end of bikini season with a five-weekend, fall-inspired pour tour on the Central Florida Ale Trail.
by Amy Drew Thompson
My sudsy sojourn began, like so many adventures before, with a map. I was Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mikey in The Goonies, only instead of eye-melting relics or lost pirate gold, my treasure was beer, bragging rights and a big ol’ glass jug.
The Central Florida Ale Trail, in case you didn’t know, is a thing. And judging by the number of patrons who queried each time I whipped out my map for a taproom stamp, you may not.
A bit of history: Our local Ale Trail was borne not of a tourism bureau, but a cabal of beer nerds (many of whose stories begin something along the lines of, “Well, my girlfriend bought me a brewing kit for my birthday and….”), locals who rose in rank from garage-bound hobbyists to bona fide brewers with boast-worthy taprooms.
But no matter how many beers a beer nerd brews, his or her desire to taste, dissect and discuss the beers of others never wanes. And nerds — in true Lord of the Rings fashion — love a good guild. So one of the first orders of business for the newly minted Central Florida Brewers Guild was a grassroots ale trail, a path their customers and fellow quaffers could set upon for sampling.
“We saw what other cities were doing and we knew that we could do something cool, so we started meeting regularly to throw around ideas and get the details worked out,” says Michael Wallace, co-owner and head brewer of Ten10 Brewing, a Mills50 favorite since it opened in 2015. “We talked about it for a long time.”
Then one member — Wallace believes it was Dan St. Pierre, co-founder of DeBary’s Central 28 Brewing — put an end to the extended planning stage.
“He said, ‘Well, it’s been 10 months, so we’ve had a kid,’” Wallace laughs in recollection. “‘Let’s make this thing work.’”
Now the Ale Trail’s map — complimentary at any participating brewery, just ask! — is in its fifth incarnation.
When I began my growler quest, there were 22 breweries to visit. At this writing, there are 25. More will come. So with fall upon us, I propose to Central Floridian beer lovers (and their trusty designated drivers) a Geek’s Quest for autumn:
Twenty-five breweries. Five weekends. And at the end, the Holy Growler.
Week 1: Far-flung
The strategy? Work the perimeter, getting some of the farthest options out of the way up front. For many Orlandoans, places like DeLand, DeBary and Eustis are considered a hike, but all are worth visiting for reasons that have nothing to do with beer. DeLand is home to the ridiculously cool DeLand Indie Market at Artisan Alley, where you’ll also find Persimmon Hollow Brewing’s operation. DeBary is a push-off point for the Gemini Springs Blueway — a premier paddling trail. Lake Eustis is a hotbed for fishing with a quaint downtown. From here, it’s south to Toll Road Brewing — at press time they’d just opened — with a wind-up at Plant Street Market’s Crooked Can, where myriad mop-up food options await.