The chrome bumpers of Fiats have given way to stainless steel brewing tanks at the corner of Orange Avenue and Jefferson Street in downtown Orlando.
The storefront space is the new home of Orange County Brewers, which is not affiliated with any government entity. OCB is the latest entry in the burgeoning microbrewery sector.
I'm always impressed by the major hardware involved with setting up an operation like this. The OC's main tanks can be seen from an open garage door (apparently left from the previous tenant) in the back parking lot.
There are also tanks to be seen through the darkened windows behind the many taps behind the bar. Also in view there: kitchen racks and boxes, and jars of hops, all of it rather unkempt looking, but hey, it's a brewery.
It's also a pizzeria. Or I should say, a pizzeria also occupies the space. The food is done by Orlando Pizza & Wing Company, which is not owned by the same people as Orange County Brewers, apparently, as I found out on a recent visit.
After I took a seat at the bar, the young woman tending it offered some thoughts and suggestions for beers based on my tastes. She was spot on with her recommendation of the Bleached Blonde Ale. After she served me a tall, cold glass, I asked about ordering some food.
She said I would have to order from the pizza station, which was located approximately five feet behind where I was sitting.
So I got up and went over there and found it unattended.
I walked back to the bar and asked her if there was a secret to ordering. She said the man who worked there was out back talking to some people. Seemed perfectly sensible to leave the pizza counter unattended in the middle of service hours.
He eventually returned and I stepped up to his counter to place an order. But I wasn't standing directly in front of his order-taking tablet because a woman was in the way talking to some other guests. He apparently is unable to take an order unless the customer is standing directly in front of him, so he reached over, tapped the woman, and told her to move.
Order was placed and paid for (I had to sign the tablet, which is probably why the woman had to move). A box with my pizza in it was placed in front of me on the bar faster than you can say DiGiorno.
I had ordered the Joey Bada Bing Pizza. I was not especially thrilled with having to say those words out loud, but it was the only one from the list of specialty pizzas that sounded appealing.
It looked great -- a nice balance of tomato sauce and cheese with dapples of sausage and tiny meatballs. It was, however, almost completely flavorless, the only exception being from the burnt bottom of the crust. I happen to like that charred flavor, but I also like seasoning and spices in the other ingredients.
The rest of the space is finished -- or unfinished, depending on how you look at it -- in exposed brick. Tables are rustic wood and chairs are rustic metal. There are nice views of the street out the side windows, or you can sit at one of the picnic tables out back. There you might get a chance to chat with the pizza maker.
I did like my beer, which had great depth and character without being too hoppy or bitter. And by the way, Orange County Brewers boasts a female brewmaster, Amanda Roberts.
Orange County Brewers is at 131 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. The hours aren't listed on the website, so I'll tell you that it is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-914-2831.
Oh, and this is a good time to let you know that polling is now open for the Best Microbrewery Foodster Award. Head over to cast your vote -- and yes, Orange County is a nominee.