An American Slice of Paradise

At craft beer bar Tap & Grind, local is the focus.

Imagine you’re inside an ocean cavern, with painted walls of cascading waves and vintage skateboard decks surrounding you, and you have an ice-cold beer in hand. A giant TV plays videos of a young Kelly Slater surfing, and Bob Marley is embodied through an illustration on a wall near the back. Where are you? Hawaii? Jamaica? Maybe the coast of California?

Actually, you’re in downtown Orlando.

Across from the fire station on West Central Boulevard is Tap & Grind, a two-year-old craft beer bar making a splash in the “support local” scene that Orlando is becoming known for.

A custom-painted bathroom hallway puts patrons in a surreal barrel wave

Danielle Taufer

“We try to carry as much local stuff as we can,” says owner Jason Chan. “If not local, it’s regional. If it’s not regional, at the end of the day, it’s American.”

Chan, who did his fair share of island living before becoming an Orlando resident, felt disillusioned with downtown Orlando’s bar scene and hectic traffic, and decided to bring a place of peace and sustainability to the raucous nightlife area—and any patron of Tap & Grind will tell you he’s done just that.

The cozy space explodes with personality in part because of the ocean-influenced art done exclusively by local artists. And the glossy wood bar, built with Florida cypress, makes a fit place to rest your elbows as you peruse the daily-changing draft list. Chan’s “Sweet 16” taps offer a variety of brews, from stouts to IPAs to Belgian ales; in the fridge, Tap & Grind stocks up to 40 bombers (specialty bottles) at a time. All from blue-collar American brewers, all the time.

Says Chan: “My whole thing was trying to reduce our carbon footprint, so I wanted to put a place together that raised awareness of what our buying power is as a community and a place that would give back to that community.”

A colorful chalkboard beyond the bar often offers a full graphic on exactly how buying local, regional or even plain ol’ American reduces transportation costs and can lessen the amount of carbon-based fuels being released into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Besides knowing a thing or two about saving the environment, the staff knows a lot about beer and cultivating an exemplary craft beer culture. Flavor profiles are explained at the drop of a hat if you’re questioning a selection, and brewery backgrounds become easy talk with any of the bartenders, who know many of their customers by name and taste preference.

True to form, this seemingly subterranean “surf lair” holds other surprises. Don’t miss a trip to the bathroom where, when you turn off the lights, you’ll be amazed at the creative art concept surrounding you. (Hint: there has never been a better use of black lights.)

So when you’re looking to escape the chaos of downtown nightlife, but you’re not quite ready to go home, duck into Tap & Grind for a local brew or two. You won’t regret it.

Tap & Grind
Tuesday – Saturday
5 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Sunday & Monday
59 W. Central Blvd, Orlando, FL 32801

Sour Beer Primer

Danielle Taufer

Normally, the word “sour” doesn’t inspire thoughts of delicious delicacies, but in the case of sour beer, it should. Made in Belgium for centuries, sour beers gained popularity in the U.S. only recently and vary from mouth-puckeringly tart to gently tangy.

So here’s a little Sour Beer 101: These special craft brews, known for dry and acidic qualities, get their sour characteristics from very specific wild bacteria strains or a wild yeast strain. Bacterias Lactobacillus and Pediococcus give tart, acidic and vinegary flavors, while a yeast strain called Brettanomyces creates an earthy taste, or “a barnyard funk flavor,” says Maria Redondo, World of Beer Cicerone-certified opening coordinator and beer school teacher. “You can make any style beer a sour by purposely adding that wild bacteria or yeast to it.”

Brewers also add fruit to create a tasteful balance between sour and sweet. “So to enjoy a sour, you have to let go of what you think ‘beer’ tastes like,” says Redondo. “Fruits play a huge role. The most common are kriek [cherry], pomme [green apple], framboise [raspberry], and pêche [peach].

Redondo notes that the demand for sours has increased greatly at WOB and likely will continue to do so at most bars thanks to the rise of sour beer festivals and a resulting availability in liquor stores. Speaking of, interested in trying this at home? Look for The Bruery Sour in the Rye (mouthwateringly sour); Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale (midly tart); or a Goose Island Lolita Wild Ale (fruity and tangy) at Total Wine to get an idea of what your palette prefers.

Other places housing sours are Tap & Grind, Public House by UCF, The Woods on Orange Avenue, Redlight Redlight in Audubon Park and Barley and Vine Biergarten in the Milk District. Expect a selection at Orlando’s newest WOB location, which opens this month in downtown Orlando. —A.S.

Categories: Nightlife & Bars