Bohn Appetit: Business and Brews at One of Orlando’s Best Beer Bars
Let’s face it — the term “craft” has been more overused than bluesy garage rock in truck commercials, now acting as a pavlovian bell for 20-to-30-something, bearded, thick-rim-glasses-wearing hipsters that probably still buy vinyl records.
Because of this often eye-rolling connotation, the “craft” aspect of craft beer sometimes gets a bad wrap as a way to upsell pretentious millennials on what’s essentially the same fermented yeast and hops concoction that’s peddled by mainstream, macro breweries across the country. You may remember the Super Bowl ad that Budweiser ran, playing up the assumed pretentiousness and froufrou nature that craft beer often has to fight against.
However, the craft and microbrew movement isn’t just marketing speak; it’s also far from an overnight success. For decades, homebrewers, beer enthusiasts and experimental breweries have been tweaking, testing and trying everything from brand new to ancient techniques, truly earning the use of “craft” by creating a brew for nearly any palate.
Whether attempting to replicate a tried and true style from the old country or breaking new ground with unique flavors and ingredients, there’s no shortage of variety when it comes to craft beer. Enter: the craft beer bar. No more a simple domestic or import decision, these bars hang their hat on variety, beer IQ and vibe — all categories that Audubon Park Garden District’s Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour embody.
This establishment has been named one of America’s best beer bars by DRAFT Magazine and is frequently referred to as Central Florida’s go-to bar for beer aficionados, but it didn’t start that way. Redlight’s name was actually coined as a reference to its original location on the second floor of one of Winter Park’s oldest buildings — once a hotel of “ill-repute,” as they so eloquently state. The sheer success of craft beer in Florida, and the world, would not be contained, and Redlight has seen its business grow with the foamy wave of the beer renaissance. They now call an old and expansive Carrier Heating and Air-Conditioning building home, along with a beer list as long as a hard day at work seems.
A favorite Findsome & Winmore team haunt, Bohn picked Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour as our choice to raise a glass to on this version of Bohn Appetit.
Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour, Orlando |
- The place used to be an air conditioning warehouse, so it’s got a pretty unique vibe to it. There’s a storage spot above the bar where they brew their house beers. When you first walk in, have a look up; if you’re nice enough, I’m sure you could convince them to give you a peek.
- Redlight’s vibe is extremely relaxed. Whether in a suit or sweatpants, you can come in as you are and enjoy some great brews. The crowd I’ve encountered here is pretty diverse and friendly, showing that this is not just some beer bar for hipsters (let’s be real, most hipsters just drink PBR anyway).
- Lighting is ambient but a little dim in some areas. If you’re hosting an event here you’ll likely want to bring your own lighting for safe measure.
- Seating is ample and the furniture is actually pretty comfortable. Also to be commended is the open and spacious floor plan, which works well for wheelchair accessibility.
- Redlight’s beer selection is vast. They often carry a lot of local beers that you’ll be hard pressed to find on the shelf anywhere else. If you’re interested in seeing everything they have, ask for their full beer menu.
- Check their specials first! Ask the bartender or look on the chalkboard draught list by the bar. Happy hour is Monday-Friday from 5-7pm, during which they offer great deals on their house beers.
- Redlight also serves wine (on tap, even!). If your company is not big on the brews, let your colleagues know that they can sip on some nice vino instead. Liquor is not available, though.
- The bar frequently works with food trucks to offer some great food choices to their customers. Many food trucks will deliver your food directly to your barstool and Redlight’s happy to let you chow down at the bar. Tuesdays are probably the only day you won’t find a truck outside because of the local Tasty Tuesdays food truck meet up. I would follow Redlight on Instagram as they will usually post the featured food truck of the night. If food trucks aren’t your thing, Sushi Lola’s is your next closest option, located literally next door.
- The staff here is extremely helpful. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your bartender. They’re also very knowledgeable and are more than willing to help you find a beer that works for your palate. But also understand that they get extremely busy on weekend evenings, so opening the RateBeer or Untappd app might be a useful resource to help you choose your next brew. If all else fails, free samples of their draft selection are available upon request.
- They fill and sell growlers here, those large beer vessels that look a little like hillbilly jugs. Check their Instagram or Facebook for a full growler refill list. You can bring your own or buy theirs (which are really cool) but make sure you clean yours well or you might get denied.
- Lots of people don’t know this but ample parking is available in the back of the building. To get back there, turn onto Winter Park Rd. and pull in behind the plaza or turn into the driveway on the other side right after the State Farm building.
- The tables in the front are great for dates or private conversations. Later in the night, the back tends to get a bit noisy, so snagging a seat up front is a good choice if you want some privacy. There are also tables outside if you’re up for some fresh air.
- Redlight takes reservations for groups. They’ve hosted events in the community and will also set up tables for your group if needed. Note that there is also a projector available if you need to do a presentation. They’re also able to turn off the speakers up front so you don’t have to talk over their soundtrack for the night. I’m a board member for Ad 2 Orlando and we’ve hosted multiple events here which have been largely successful. New attendees love the environment, which I think helps in getting people to socialize. I’m sure the beer helps, too.
- It will help to have a general idea of what kind of beer you like, otherwise, you might find yourself staring at their list of beers for a long time. If you get intimidated, don’t be afraid to simply ask the bartender for recommendations.
- They will let you try a draught beer if you ask. Do this if you’re unsure about a certain style of beer or before experimenting and expanding your beer palate. Do not waste the precious beer!
- Noting the above tip: if you say you’ll “try” something, they will bring you a sample. I have a bad habit of saying “try” when making orders so this has often resulted in them bringing me a sample. Whoops.
- The Citizen Program is for anyone who wants to try different beers and educate themselves. You pay $10 and will receive your first passport and beer. In total, this program spans 100 beers, divided into three passports. Basically, you’ll go through the list, writing notes and rating each beer you try. You’ll then report to your bartender, who will take your passport and stamp it for approval. This program has you compare your reviews to ratebeer.com, which is a good way to try new beers while also measuring your tastes with the rest of the world. Ask a bartender and they’ll get you started.
There is no question in our minds: Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour is easily one of the best beer bars in Central Florida, if not the country. With quieter outside seating options, large tables and a draught and bottle list that can break even the most beer-averse of us, Redlight stands as a viable and refreshing alternative to the stuffy, upscale cocktail bars that have ruled happy hour for aeons. Surrounded by Audubon Park District’s beloved restaurants and shops, it’s easy to turn a post-work pit stop into a night out; and that’s far from a bad thing in our book.
Things continue to look up for both Redlight and Florida’s craft beer scene as a whole, with many diverse, quality breweries opening doors (and kegs) all across the state. We welcome them with open arms and empty pint glasses, especially if it means that beer variety and quality will continue to grow for years to come.
Whether entertaining clients, brainstorming a big project or just relaxing with work friends after a long day, we give Redlight the green light.
But what do you think? Are we just a couple of snobby beer hipsters? Is a beer parlor not quite your tempo for after-work drinks or a dressed down client meeting? Let us know your pick for Orlando’s best business lunches or happy hour spots by hashtagging #BohnAppetit on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Until then, Bohn Appetit, Orlando!