Grove To Glass Beer Project
Orchid Island Brewery perfects the craft of old world brewing while honoring Indian River citrus
"Nuthin’ Fancy Brown Ale Braised Beef Short Rib" from Orchid Island Brewery. Purchase our September issue for the full recipe!
Alden and Valerie Bing, owners of Orchid Island Brewery, are on a mission: to introduce non-beer drinkers to the elegance of craft beer and the traditions of Old World brewing while paying homage to the area’s citrus industry.
Over the past 40 years, an ever-growing number of brewers have been participating in a quiet revolution of sorts, changing the way Americans drink and think about beer. Like the popular farm-to-table movement, a similar trend in beer has emerged — the production of small-batch brews infused with locally grown adjuncts and flavorings. Today, with more than 5,000 craft beer breweries spread across the United States, what originally began as a grassroots culture of homebrewing hobbyists has now turned into a full-fledged craft beer industry.
While Florida has been relatively slow to jump on the bandwagon, the Bings' decision to open the first brewery in Vero Beach was predicated on supporting local agriculture. “After prohibition, the style of beer that most people became accustomed to was a light flavored lager,” Alden explains. “But if you look back to the genesis of beer, the adjuncts used were taken from the agriculture on the land. They called those Belgian farmhouse breweries. What’s current right now is this renaissance of Americans becoming acclimated with what beer has historically been.”
Alden maintains the key to good craft beer is quality, consistency and a differentiator. For him, the latter is local citrus. “What makes what we’re doing very exciting is that we literally have the world’s best citrus growing in Indian River County,” he notes. “The same oil compounds that are in the most sought-after hops in the world exist in citrus. In a sense we’re a Florida equivalent of a Belgium farmhouse brewery, incorporating the world’s best citrus in the beer. Conceptually and generally, that is our niche of craft beer.”
And this is the crux of the industry in a nutshell. Fashioned from four traditional ingredients — grain, hops, yeast and water — the hallmark of craft beer is innovation. While mimicking historic styles, brewers are adding nontraditional adjuncts that connect the consumer to local agriculture. This is what gives the beer a sense of place and makes for an exciting adventure in regional flavors and aromas.