It’s 2012, and I recently moved to Orlando with my now ex. We knew a few people from his job, but I didn’t have any friends to call “mine,” and I didn’t have any hobbies to keep me busy. I had little experience with beer. When I thought beer, I thought of the yellow fizzy drink (usually room temperature) I would sip on at college parties. Yet, deep down, I must have known there was more to beer than that. I am not sure where the beer bug came from, but I clearly remember wanting to try beer (and not that yellow fizzy drink from college). The problem I had was I had no idea where to start. Orlando didn’t have many breweries or craft beers back in 2012. So, where does a girl go when she wants to try new beer? The local Bj’s Brewhouse, of course!
I would often visit Bj’s with some co-workers for their happy hour specials, so I knew they offered beer flights. The man I wish with at the time had absolutely no interest in trying craft beer, so when my mom was in town for a visit, she agreed to go and try some beer with me. We were able to order a flight of every beer on their menu. I distinctly remember not liking about 75% of the flight. However, my tastebuds were awakened, and I knew I wanted to keep trying more.
Shortly after trying all the beers at Bj’s, I discovered World of Beer. I was like a kid in a candy store the first time I walked in and took a seat at a table. Unfortunately, I was still with my ex, who wasn’t into trying beer, but that didn’t stop me! I still had no idea what I liked or, for that matter, even what I was ordering. What I do remember after trying SEVERAL beers was that I found a style I really enjoyed. I found myself liking the smooth, rich, caramel-like flavors found in brown ales. I took some time, but now I knew what style was my favorite, and I was ready to keep searching and drinking.
At this time, I was active on Yelp writing reviews (mostly on places that I was checking out for their craft beer selection) It was actually through Yelp that I met my people! My now good friend Kelly at the time, started a group called The Orlando Lady Crafters. She sent me a message on Yelp complimenting me on all my reviews and inviting me out to their next meetup. Kelly had a group of about 15 beer-loving ladies who got together at least once a month to drink, discuss, and learn all about craft beer. She informed me that their next meetup was at a now-closed Mexican restaurant where the owner was allowing them to have a small bottle share. Kelly always liked to keep things interesting, so she had a theme for this bottle share. She asked all ladies to bring a beer with an animal on the label. I was a bit nervous about going to an event knowing no one, but I was also excited to meet ladies who also enjoyed craft beer. So, I picked up a six-pack of Old Dog Brown Ale by Smuttynose Brewing and headed out.
I am so thankful I went out that night and met those ladies. It was through them that I discovered the up and coming Orlando beer scene. I made some great friends, drank some great beer, and ended up meeting someone who made a significant impact on my journey. My relationship with the non-beer drinker ended, and I was enjoying going out with my friends. It was during one of those evenings when I met… let’s call him Paul. Paul was also recently single and also happened to be the owner of one of Orlando’s main craft beer bars. Even though Paul is quite a bit older than me, I really enjoyed my time with him. He took me to several different places in the Orlando area, where we got to try many different beers, and I got to meet different people involved in the craft beer community. Sometimes we would just hang out his bar where he was kind enough to let me try anything and everything. It was at that bar I learned Belgian beers are not for me. It was at that bar I discovered I enjoyed an occasional Imperial Stout at the end of a night of drinking. And it was at that bar I learned that I was interested in possibly being a bartender for some extra money.
To be continued…