'Ale Trail' aims to put Orlando area on national craft beer map

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018, 5:17 PM EST

When you think of Orlando, you might not think of craft beer — but local brewers are banding together to put Central Florida on the map.

  • Craft brewery scene in Central Florida beginning to take off
  • Orlando-area craft brewers have formed a Brewer's Guild
  • 'Ale Trail' plots Orlando-area breweries on a map

“We’re hoping to drive the local economy to grow the breweries, to allow small businesses that started on the dream of doing what they love and creating craft beer to be able to grow," said Paul Roy, the manager of the Central Florida Ale Trail, a regional brewery map put out by a coalition of brewers.

Roy has helped distribute 22,000 copies of it in the past few months.

“I like drinking beer, but I like seeing people succeed a lot more," Roy said. "Brewers are busy brewing. I had a vision of how we could turn the thought of the Ale Trail into a reality.”

But, getting to the point of growth happening faster than ink and distribution took years of hard work, while beer lovers wondered whether a craft brew scene would ever really happen.

Turning passion into product

Years of home brewing left Michael Wallace wanting more. He dreamed of opening his own brewery and, tired of working for other distributors and breweries, one day broached the topic at home.

"I always wanted to be in the brewery, kept inching my way closer and closer," he recalled. “I talked it over with the wife. 'I’m going to quit my job and jump and try to do this.' She's a trouper. She's put up with me a long time."

Two and a half years ago, Wallace opened up Ten10 Brewing off Mills Avenue in Orlando. At the time, there were only a handful of other breweries in town, such as Redlight Redlight and Orlando Brewing.

Suddenly, breweries began coming online, and brewers thought of doing something bigger.

“We would go to Tampa and St. Pete and South Florida and North Carolina and see all the breweries, and we wanted to do that here," he said. "We started with basically a zero budget. Everybody chipped in."

But, after almost a year of meetings, things didn't progress quickly. Each brewer kept really busy, like Ten10's co-owner, Wallace, rising early to put in work that rolled through the weekend.

“When you get 15 or so brewers together and try to figure something out, it’s not always fast," he said.

Map, guild come to fruition

In April 2017, Roy helped the brewers to print their first Ale Trail map.

As new breweries pop up, from DeLand to Winter Garden, they reprint the map. Now, 19 breweries in all, the map has been reworked three times since last spring.

“We seem to run out of maps, and the next time we reprint, we have to alter the map to fit new breweries," Roy said.

More recently, brewers formed the nonprofit Brewer's Guild and just last weekend hosted their first brewers-run festival at the Harley-Davidson dealer in Sanford.

“Years ago, you came to Orlando and just drank what you drank at home. Now, you can come to Orlando and drink what you drink, here," Roy said.

Now, as Roy begins courting tourism boards and advertising partners, things are beginning to germinate.

“We have a unique situation here in Orlando with as many people that are visiting the area a year to really drive people," Roy said. “We’d love to be able to distribute hundreds of thousands of maps a year."

“We didn’t have that and now, we have that. It’s fun to hear people say I’m here from wherever and I’m visiting breweries," Wallace said. “That community was something that I was hoping for here, and it’s happened.”