This summer hordes of families will head to Florida for vacation, and a great majority of them will wind up in Orlando visiting the theme parks. As much as I dislike the whole theme park vibe, I understand that for families with children, visiting the mouse is inevitable. However, for all of those who do end up in Florida with non-mouse themed time to kill, I encourage you to head east to Titusville and the Cape Canaveral area.
Aside from seeing the headquarters of NASA and the possibility of seeing a Space X rocket launch (June 17* and August 3*), heading out of the Orlando metro area means finding some of the best craft beer that Florida has to offer. As fans of craft beer, many of our brewery relationships are with Tampa Bay breweries; however, after tasting Playalinda Brewing at Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day, we knew that a visit to the east coast was in our summer plans.
For anyone heading out of Orlando, usually on the Beachline (toll road SR-528), the drive to Titusville is only about 50 miles, but be prepared; it takes you through completely unincorporated, uneventful, uninhabited forest, with virtually NO place for gas or potties. However, GPS it, and in less that an hour, you will find civilization again and not one, but TWO locations for Playalinda Brewing.
As usual, I researched and reached out to both Playalinda locations (the Brix Project and the Hardware Store) before our trek east, and quickly decided that the Brix Project location would be our first stop. Opened in November 2014, Playalinda’s Hardware Store location quickly ran out of space to brew enough beer for their fans, and by September 2016, the brewery expanded its production by 10 times, increasing to approximately 30 barrels or 1000 gallons PER brew. For non-brewing folks, that’s A LOT of beer!
The Brix Project
The Playalinda Brix Project on south Washington Ave (aka US 1) may look rather industrial, and for good reason, it was an old lumber yard. Keeping the rustic and industrial look, Playalinda’s Brix Project is brewery and a 75-seat pub. However, we’re firm believers that the best experience at any brewery or brewpub is had at the bar, so we left the tabled seats for everyone else and hopped on bar stools and ordered a flight.
The Largest Flight…EVER
We’ve toured many breweries over the years, but this one has to be the biggest flight I’ve ever seen! We each ordered a 5 beer flight, making our total 10, but we never expected the bar staff to combine the orders and serve it in a 10 beer flight rack! HOLY MOLY…that was impressive! With 14 of their own beers on tap, one house-made root beer, and six guest taps, selecting only five each was a challenge, but by varying our order, we sampled just about everything Playalinda had to offer. (For newbies to craft beer or breweries, always order flights. It’s the safest and best way to try everything that a brewery or taproom has to offer, without getting wasted by ordering full pours.)
In our flight of 10, we sampled…
Robonaut Red, a 5.2%abv a hoppy red ale, (we both ordered this one!)
White Stout, a 5%abv blonde stout with distinct chocolate and coffee flavors,
Key Lime Slice, a 5% abv key lime pie flavored blonde ale served in a whipped cream rimmed glass (desert in a glass),
Dinner Bell Brown Ale, a 5.9% abv English brown ale,
Mud Pie, a 5.9% abv chocolate brown ale,
Pleasure Chest, a 6.6% abv hoppy tropical ale,
Playa Pale Ale, a 5.4% abv hoppy pale ale,
Geographically Challenged, a 9.5% abv Belgian double IPA,
Go Big, an 11% abv imperial stout,
and then, we each ordered a pint–Marrakesh Express (a 4% abv Moroccan-inspired dark mild ale) for me and another Pleasure Chest for Jeremy.
In addition to serving up an impressive beer menu, the Brix Project’s food menu is nothing to ignore. Being a foodie (and food competitor), I’m always looking for inspiration and ideas, and the Brix menu delivers on both. Jeremy ordered his “if it’s on the menu, I’m going to get it” Scotch Egg and a bowl of French fries, which I thought was an odd combination for lunch, but hey…what can you do!? I, on the other hand, found a little breath of happiness with the Duck Sliders and a side of Parmesan-Truffle French fries. Seriously, they have fried duck breast sliders on the menu!! Who does that!?!!? I don’t really care to know if anyone else does it, because there’s no way that theirs could compare to these. With almond crusted duck fried crisp and layered with a blue raspberry sauce, horseradish-chive havarti cheese, arugula, and thinly sliced fennel and a side of Parmesan-Truffle fries, aaahhhh….I was in lunchtime heaven.
The Hardware Store
After lunch, we headed to downtown Titusville to find the original Playalinda Brewing Company–the Hardware Store. Just as the name suggests, it was an old hardware store complete with the original built-in cabinetry, signage, relics, and areas of exposed brick.
Even though the Hardware Store location is smaller, they have just as impressive beer list, including a few that aren’t (and minus a few that are) available at Brix and 10 guest taps. With the help of the bar staff, we ordered a pint of the Cask Dinner Bell, a cask aged version of the Dinner Bell I had at Brix and a snifter of Dubbel Entendre, an 8.6% abv Belgian Dubbel. I got the impression that the beers featured at the Hardware Store are intentionally selected with an old, classic theme in mind. On tap only at the Hardware Store is an aged lambic blend, a cask conditioned brown ale, a classic saison, a Belgian Dubbel with “history,” and a Scotch ale…all of which are older, traditional, classic brews.
After the phenomenal lunch at Brix, we were in no need of more food, but the bar bites menu at the Hardware Store is not your average wings and chips & salsa selection. When we return in July, we’re going to have to stop in for snacks just to have the smoked fish dip, some beer cheese soup, and one of my all-time-favorites, a Ploughman’s Platter of meats, cheeses, and bread.
Overall, the best way to describe Playalinda Brewing is a well guarded secret on the East Coast of Florida that won’t be a secret much longer. So, if you find yourself in Florida and the Orlando area, take the drive out to Titusville and visit both Playalinda locations. You won’t be disappointed…we certainly weren’t!!
*June 17 and August 3 are the next scheduled Space X rocket launches. Be advised traffic and hotel availability may be challenging during those times.
**As a side note, we’ve already booked a weekend in July to take the kids. We get Playalinda Brewing and they get the Kennedy Space Center; it’s certain to be a WIN-WIN weekend!