Check out the package on a shiny new six pack of Orange Blossom Pilsner -- which hit stores in South Florida last month -- and you'll find the company's prominently displayed tagline: "Florida's Honey Beer." It's so called, because the smooth, easy-to-drink lager is made with Florida orange blossom honey.
The beer was first imagined, born, and marketed in Florida by its owner, Orlando's Tom Moench. But it's not brewed in the state. It's brewed in Greenville, South Carolina, by Thomas Creek.
Moench, who's been homebrewing beer in his garage since before he could legally drink, went the contract brew route because he didn't have the means to operate his own brewing facility.
"I've tried a couple of Florida breweries, but i wasn't happy with the
quality," says Moench. "That's why I ended up brewing in South
But that all changes next year. Thanks to help from the University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program, which leverages the talents of business graduates to foster local business, Moench will be launching a new brewery in the heart of Orlando by the end of 2011.
For Moench, the new arm of his business will complete a sort of perfect circle he started when he was 18. "I began brewing as a way to subvert the system," he says. "I wasn't old enough to buy beer, but I could buy the ingredients to make it. But it grew into a passion. I wanted to make the best beer in the world."
To make the Orlando brewery a reality, Moench needed help. He fancies himself more of an "artist" than a beer scientist or business man. So to get his dream running, two MBAs from UCF worked on a concrete business plan along with him. He's also tapped a degreed German brewmaster from Munich to lead the facility.
OBP will start out with two beers in addition to the three it already contract brews -- the original Orange Blossom Pilsner, OBP2 (an "imperial" version of OBP), and Coconut Porter. Moench says its first new beer will be a "very hoppy one, but not an IPA." He plans on crafting six new beers in the first three years, with his facility pumping out nearly 5,000 barrels per year. (Microbrew operations in the U.S. produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer per year.)
"I want to be the Sweetwater of Florida," says Moench.
Moench's only worry? The City of Orlando, which he's had issues with in the past. "A few years back I tried to open a bar here, and they literally gave me hell for 9 months," he says.
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Sadly, the scenario is not uncommon. Florida beer fans have been closely watching the plight of Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa over the past few weeks. The much-beloved brewer may be forced to shut down its tasting room due to a city council vote held in early November. If a new permit isn't approved after a December 2 vote, Cigar City will be out of luck.
Lets hope nothing like that happens in Orlando. Moench's brewery sounds like a boon for O-town, and for Florida as a whole.
For now, you can find OBP in supermarkets and liquor stores all across South Florida.
Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.