WINTER PARK, FLORIDA
Just northeast of Orlando in suburban Winter Park on bustling Fairbanks Avenue, well-respected CASK & LARDER SOUTHERN PUBLIC HOUSE opened during summertime, 2012. The brainchild of Ravenous Pig gastropub chef-owners James and Julie Petrakis, the freestanding brick-fronted venue (with plush green plants and floral-bound broad-iron cafe tables lining the garden entrance) serves sessionable flagship beers and sundry hybridized novelties alongside delicious locally sourced food.
Joining the Petrakis clan after becoming a Cicerone-certified Shipyard brewmaster with a Masters in computer engineering from University of Central Florida, Ron Raike specializes in English and Belgian styled ales as well as sour ales. A trip to Belgium with a few local beer enthusiasts and Red Light Red Light companions inspired Raike to emulate the witbier style, changing up spices and citric zest but keeping the same base for various different versions.
Upon visiting Cask & Larder December ’13 on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, my wife and I grab seats at the 15-stooled bar across from the right side community tables, wood booths, open kitchen and brick hearth. Bright aquamarine-hued walls and exposed beige ducts bring a warm Floridian feel to the elegantly pristine setting. Two glass-encased brewtanks and stainless steel fermenters behind the tap engines serve ten diverse offerings.
Tom Petty’s classic rocker, “American Girl,” plays loudly as I order ten 5-ounce samplers and enjoy a dozen oysters. The upscale southern cuisine includes many items made from scratch. And several fine wines line the menu.
For starters, I imbibe three easygoing year-round ales. Lone Palm Golden Ale balanced dry grassy-hopped herbal peppering with soft lemon-spiced florality and corn-husked grain malts. 90 Shilling Scotch Ale stayed sweet as its honeyed tea influence draped dewy earthiness and dried orange.
Those choices sufficed, but the most amazing flagship offering had to be Olde Southern Wit, a mellow herb-spiced moderation bringing lively lemony orange zest to coriander-daubed lemongrass-basil-roasemary seasoning above a soft wheat bed.
From there, Simcoe 5 Point IPA brought dry wood acridity to perfumed pineapple, grapefruit and orange peel alacrity. Old Southern Starfruit Wit evenly spread coriander-spiced star fruit, navel orange and tangerine tones across generous grapefruit bittering. And mild pablano-jalapeno peppering added heat to Smoked Pepper All Jacked Up, an autumnal hybrid with hop-oiled foliage and citric-quince nuances.
Then came the colorful dessert beers, led by dark-spiced Winter Lager, a tame crystal-malted moderation with soft hop bittering and rye-dried prune sugaring. Chocolate-Covered Strawbeery Porter captured the true essence of sweet ‘n sour strawberry as desiccated fig and cherry found tertiary space beside the understated chocolate backdrop.
Aged in whiskey barrels, St. Katy On Whiskey Milk Stout delicately blanketed dry Johnnie Walker Blue serenity with soft-toned black chocolate, blackberry and black cherry nuances.
Since it’s almost Christmastime, I saved Holiday Cookie for an encore. Its sweet cinnamon-spiced sugar cookie theme got usurped by raw ginger and lacquered wood tones.
Any brewhound taking a trip to central Florida must frequent this encouraging public house. Cheers!