In classic avoidance-behavior fashion, Orlando has ignored the recession and wrapped its arms around a ton of new trends in the last couple of years. All of the comfort consumables are now firmly embedded in the scene – frozen yogurt, cupcakes, food trucks – so we can stress-eat and drink ourselves into oblivion. But there’s one trend in particular that’s well-suited to helping us handle our short-sale blues: the tap room.
We’re not talking about craft-beer bars like Redlight Redlight, or watering holes that just happen to have a killer beer selection, like Will’s Pub. We’re talking about bars with 40 taps on the wall and colorful menus as thick as Harry Potter books – places with beer selections designed to provoke a brain fart in even the most well-drunk beer snob. (In the spirit of keeping things trendy, we’re also leaving out tap-room legend Jax 5th Ave. Deli & Ale House, because they’ve been serving more beers than you can count for more years than you’ve been drinking; Jax is an institution.)
World of Beer (3402 Technological Ave. and 7800 Dr. Phillips Blvd. in Orlando, 1125 Town Park Ave., Lake Mary, wobusa.com) WOB is a chain that has planted its flag in Dr. Phillips, the UCF area and Lake Mary, and it’s about to make a new conquest in Altamonte Springs (estimated opening date Feb. 29, according to its Facebook page). The locations are freakishly identical, right down to the precise placement of the Coney Island Lager sign. These bars are practically wallpapered with big-screen TVs showing various sporting events and are well-lit. Some identity reveals itself in the fairly adventurous beer selection, which includes some nitrogen-charged surprises. And the way they sort their bottled-beer selection is pretty amusing if you take the time to figure it out – and no, we won’t do it for you. Go to the bar and decipher it yourself.
Who’s it for? Those who want good beer selection and prefer the cool, familiar, mechanized feel of a solid chain establishment to the homey neighborhood tavern.
Draft Global Beer Lounge & Grill (301-333 W. Church St., draftorlando.com) I understand the temptation to plop a bar with a shit-ton of beers right next to the Amway Arena. Eventually (mostly on game nights) you’re going to get some takers. But as a beer bar, Draft is sort of confusing. It’s dressed like a downtown nightclub, all high ceilings, elegant long curves, wide-open dance spaces and pulsing mood lighting, but then there’s the beer drinker’s shrine: 40 glittering taps dispensing beer, marvelous beer. You won’t find anything super-adventurous here – draft selections are comprised mostly of stuff you’ve probably heard of before, and there aren’t any nitros at all.
Who’s it for? That rare bird who enjoys drinking heavy craft beer and dancing to club beats all night long.
Oblivion Taproom (5101 E. Colonial Drive, obliviontaproom.com) From the vibrantly colored walls to the rambunctious rock blaring through the space, Oblivion conveys the youthful sense of adventure and cool aesthetic of the craft-beer scene right from the entryway. The oft-rotating selection of taps contains old standards and small-batch limited runs, and often at surprisingly low prices. (Seriously, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout on nitro for $4? Get your fool mouth on that.) Throw in some creative bar food, pool tables and beer flights designed to play with your palate, and you’re going to be inspired to drink as many different beers as you can before you die.
Who’s it for? Readers of Beer Advocate, as well as anyone curious about what Jai Alai IPA tastes like when paired with buffalo-sauced pork cracklins.
Frank & Steins Eatery & Pub (150 S. Magnolia Ave., frankandsteins.com) Frank & Steins works because it’s a fun hangout. It’s stocked with board games, billiards, shuffleboard, even skee-ball – and you get rewarded with free hot sake just for showing up, as long as there are four people in your group. Oh, right, and there’s lots of beer (more than 300 to choose from), and it’s fairly priced for downtown – lots of drafts for just $5.
Who’s it for? Average people who like regular bars but want above-average beer.