Tag Archives: beer

All Roads Lead to Toll Road Brewing Company By Sandra Carr

Craft breweries are popping up everywhere in Central Florida nowadays, but Toll Road Brewing Company is making its mark in downtown Ocoee. The cozy brewery opened back in June and is quenching thirsts with its signature brews.

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Toll Road Brewing Company serves its signature craft beers. Photo by: Matt Geleske

Brewery founders and owners David Strickland, Duane Morin and Russ Balazs had been planning to open the brewery for the past three years.

Morin was impressed with the small breweries that he visited during a trip to San Diego along with the successful business models, which put the brewery plan into action when he returned to Ocoee.

Morin and Strickland had been brewing beer for the past 15 years. The time was right for taking the next step and fulfilling their brewery dream.

The brewery has been a labor of love. The owners did the building demolition and refurbishment themselves, but had technicians do the electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and plumbing.

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s founders and owners during the brewery’s grand-opening celebration: l-r Russ Balazs, Duane and Melissa Morin and Donna and David Strickand Photo by: Sandra Carr

The brewery’s name and location were a perfect match since it seems like you have to drive on a toll road to get anywhere in Orlando. Plus, State Roads 408 and 429 and Florida’s Turnpike all converge in Ocoee.

Toll Road Brewing Company’s tasty craft beer keeps the customers coming back for more.

“We serve sours and a lot of typical American style beers,” said Strickland. “We brew what we like to drink. Our plan is to have 8-10 beers rotating regularly and a few guest taps, a cider and glasses of wine.”

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s menu. Photo by: Sandra Carr

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s beer is brewed on the premises. Photo by: Sandra Carr

During my Toll Road Brewing Company visit, I ordered The Crowdpleaser. The refreshing and delicious Kölsch beer and the name said it all! I can see why this beer is a favorite with the brewery’s customers! Kölsch beer originated in Cologne, Germany and is fermented with ale yeast and then conditioned at cold temperatures like a lager. I’m a wheat beer fan, but this brew has become one of my top faves!

I also enjoyed sampling the brewery’s robust porter The Sheriff. My palate isn’t a fan of dark beers, but this brew didn’t leave an aftertaste in my mouth and was very rich and smooth. I finally found a porter beer that I can drink! Porter beer fans will rate this brew high on their list, that’s for sure!

My husband Dan drank the Irish Red called Shamrocks & Shenanigans. I thought this brew’s name was catchy and perfect for Irish beer aficionados. He loves malty beers and this brew passed the test! The porter is also Strickland’s favorite Toll Road Brewing Company beer. He says, “the beer is a little bit different from most porters you’ll get around town and has more substance.”

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Image courtesy of the Toll Road Brewing Company.

The comfy taproom has wood tables with high top chairs and stools for those who want to belly up and hang out at the bar. The walls are gray with decorative tile accents with neutral tones and the main seating area features faux red, white and blue painted panels. Plus, there are purse hooks and USB ports for charging your phone, which are nice touches. If you want to get some fresh air, then you can hang out on the outdoor patio. The brewery is also dog and kid-friendly and provides pooches with treats.

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Toll Road Brewing Company Photo by: Sandra Carr

You can tell a lot of thought went into planning this neighborhood brewery in west Orange County. The owners went the extra mile to ensure the taproom had a homey ambiance.

“We wanted a comfortable taproom that was a low key place to hang out and have a few beers,” said Strickland.

His wife Donna Strickland added, “craft beer camaraderie is experienced at Toll Road Brewing Company. We want our customers to hang out, enjoy a good beer and experience Ocoee. We aimed at having the brewery to be a comfortable place where people feel like they’re at home.”

Customers can take a piece of Toll Road Brewing Company with them by purchasing one of the brewery’s T-shirts. Tasty Trivia, which has “Friends,” “Star Wars” and ’80s themes, is every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and happy hour features $1 off beers on Thursday evenings from 5-7 p.m.

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Toll Road Brewing Company’s merchandise. Photo by: Sandra Carr

The Toll Road Brewing Company is included on the Central Florida Ale Trail, which features 26 breweries, and is a must-see craft beer destination in downtown Ocoee.

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Lion’s Pride and Soccer are a Perfect Match By Sandra Carr

Gather your purple-pride posse before or after an Orlando City Soccer Club match and dine in style at the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill in downtown Orlando’s Church Street district.

I experienced a filling, five-course foodie feast served by attentive staff during the restaurant’s media tasting event last week. The sports-dining destination, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary in May, serves delicious and moderately-priced dishes created by executive chef Scott Phillips.

I was welcomed with a glass of bubbly and presented with the first course, featuring peppered tuna with sweet Thai chili sauce drizzled on top, avocado relish and cilantro lime slaw paired with a mini Blue Moon draft and fresh orange wedge. The sweetness complemented the fresh and healthy sides and beer sample, which is my favorite, go-to wheat beer.

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Peppered tuna with sweet Thai chili sauce, avocado relish and cilantro lime slaw.

The starter course continued and included two petite brisket soft tacos with shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, queso blanco and chipotle aioli paired with a Samuel Adams Winter Lager. The small but mighty duo was delicious and coupled with the brew. The brisket was tender and blended well with the fresh ingredients. The mixture didn’t fall out of the soft taco shells, which was a plus.

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Two petite brisket soft tacos with shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, queso blanco and chipotle aioli.

Round two featured a caprese salad with good-sized red and yellow vine-ripe tomato slices and round chunks of buffalo mozzarella garnished with basil oil and balsamic glaze and paired with a glass of Terra d’Oro 2015 blended Chenin Blanc. The elegant salad’s veggies were deliciously compatible with the rich, buffalo mozzarella and basil oil and balsamic glaze. The glass of wine complemented the flavors even more with each sip.

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Caprese salad paired with a glass of Terra d’Oro 2015 blended Chenin Blanc.

Next was a shrimp and lobster risotto with creamy Parmesan cheese and parsley sprinkles paired with a Lion’s Pride signature, hand-muddled lime margarita. This was the creamiest risotto I have ever eaten, and was my favorite dish during the tasting. The medium-sized shrimp and lobster pieces were mixed smoothly with the Parmesan cheese and gave comfort food a whole new meaning with its refreshing margarita counterpart. More, please!

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Shrimp and lobster risotto with creamy Parmesan cheese.

The fourth dish, a blue cheese filet with garlic boursin mash potatoes and red wine demi-glaze with two generous-sized asparagus and a carrot paired with a glass of Emmolo 2015 Merlot from the Napa Valley was a hearty meal. The medium-cooked, juicy and tender filet with melted blue cheese was oh so good! The fresh-out-of-the-garden vegetables and the dollop of garlic boursin mashed potatoes made the meal even more satisfying with the glass of Merlot.

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Blue cheese filet with garlic boursin mash potatoes, red wine demi-glaze, asparagus and carrot.

Two desserts provided a sweet ending to the tasting. The thick, chocolate mousse with whipped cream paired with a Lion’s Pride whiskey-based red sangria adorned with a fruit skewer balanced the rich and sweetness nicely. The Romeo and Juliet, a guava-filled Phyllo dough pastry with white cheese queso blanco, was complemented with a glass of passion fruit pureed champagne and took an edge off of the sweet journey. The Romeo and Juliet is ideal for folks who like a light baked good as a snack or after dinner.

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Chocolate mousse with whipped cream paired with a Lion’s Pride whiskey-based red sangria and the Romeo and Juliet complemented with a glass of passion fruit pureed champagne.

Phillips was a Tribeca neighborhood chef in New York City for many years. His goal was to create a menu with an array of selections for everyone’s taste.

“The menu features a variety of different kinds of cuisine,” he said. “I didn’t want to stick to a typical sports-bar food menu. I wanted it to be a bit upscale.”

Besides the menu, I was impressed with the building’s transformation. The restaurant was formerly Bliss Ultra Lounge and Phineas Phogg’s, which was renowned for its nickel beer every Wednesday night back in the day. The décor features a casual-style design with warm, natural tones and a comfy ambiance that makes you feel right at home while watching a soccer match on the pub’s flat-screen TVs. I’m happy to report that some of the original brick panels were saved during the renovation.

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Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill

On the second level, soccer fans can score a VIP experience with Church Street views, a gold-tone leather sectional sofa with a glass soccer ball-shaped coffee table, purple leather stadium seats, tables with purple chairs, a mural of the Orlando City Soccer Club’s mascot Kingston, a long bar with a marble top and a private party room.

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An upstairs wall features a mural of Orlando City Soccer Club’s mascot Kingston.

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I’m posing on the gold-tone leather sectional sofa on the second level of the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill.

Soccer fans can hang out with a brew or cocktail while seated at tables that can accommodate large groups, be mesmerized by a vintage World Cup soccer ball collection and purchase Orlando City Soccer Club and Pride merchandise on the first floor.

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View a vintage World Cup soccer ball collection on the first floor of the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill.

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Purchase Orlando City Soccer Club and Pride merchandise on the first level of the Lion’s Pride Soccer Pub & Grill.

Watch the Orlando City Soccer Club and Pride’s home or away soccer matches, World Cup soccer matches from June 14 through July 15, 2018 and any sporting event while chowing down at this lion’s lair.

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