It's a brave new world, drunkies. No more can you order a macrobrewed beer without hearing "Psht … troglodyte" from your bartender – even if it's on special (I know!). Craft beer has become shorthand for nightlife sophistication, and if you can't tell noble hops from Pacific Northwest varieties, your cool card will be revoked. But even if you're starting from zero, you can achieve top beer nerdery by checking out these local stalwarts of craft-beer excellence.
1042 N. Mills Ave.
Beer Nerd Level: 1
Everyone's gotta start somewhere. This loud, smoky dive has been serving Hitachino Nest White Ale longer than you've been legally able to drink, but no – you've always gone for whatever's cheapest. Will's (and next-door sister bar Lil' Indies) was the only spot in the entire state to have the complete Stone Vertical series of ales on tap on 12/12/12 (that's a 10-year commitment, folks), so forgo the tallboy for one round and give those taps some lovin'.
2424 E. Robinson St.
2414 E. Robinson St.
Beer Nerd Level: 3
For affordable availability, it's hard to beat the Milk District. Multi-page menus of sub-$5 beers, nightly specials and DIY board-game entertainment at Milk Bar and Sportstown mean you can try several new beers for less than $10 and remember you're a badass at Connect Four.
Tap & Grind
59 W. Central Blvd.
Beer Nerd Level: 5
Now that you've gotten a taste for the craft, it's time to extend your reach a little. If craft beer is an art, Tap & Grind is the graffiti artist that tags it and makes it better. Their rotating selection of beers filtered through extra ingredients like vanilla beans and berries is great, but actually talking about beer styles to a knowledgeable (and not snobby) staff member is a sure-fire way to consume multiple rounds without noticing. Plus, if you get into a fight about beer, it's impossible for your opponent to lift, let alone hit you with, the Heaviest Bar Stools in All of OrlandoTM.
Oblivion Tap Room
5101 E. Colonial Drive
Beer Nerd Level: 6
What's better than a rotating selection of 40 taps of amazingly priced, hand-picked craft brews from the world over? Pairing them with food, of course! But Oblivion doesn't offer just any bar fare – no, their offerings were apparently conceived by drunk people tasked by even drunker people to create menu items that only the drunkest people would eat on a dare (I'm lookin' at you, pork rinds smothered in pulled pork and cheese).
Cask & Larder
565 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park
255 S. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood
1301 Atlanta Ave.
Beer Nerd Level: 8
While it's good to develop a taste for the national craft-brew scene, it's a downright travesty not to pay tribute to your local master brewers by pouring their craft right into your belly. Orlando Brewing is the grandpappy of the Orlando brew scene, with standouts Olde Pelican EPA and the Blackwater Dry Porter leading the way for the up-and-coming smaller breweries. Hourglass Brewing has been packing their tiny taproom thanks to a vigorous cycle of sours, stouts and other acts of brewing whimsy while Cask & Larder's Ron Raike has paired his honey- and strawberry- and (fill in your heart's desire here)-styled brews with the restaurant's rib-sticking delights. With great boozing comes great temptation: You may just get inspired to start brewing beer yourself – meaning your beer nerdery knows no limits.
2810 Corrine Drive
Stardust Video and Coffee
1842 E. Winter Park Road
Taps From Scratch
1809 E. Winter Park Road
Beer Nerd Level: 10
If you don't know what you're doing with beer, you're better off saving Audubon Park for when your liver's much more calloused. Stardust continues to have one of the most delicious and eclectic smaller collections of drafts and bottles, while the immense selection of barrel-aged and limited-run brews at Redlight can reduce a weak beer soul into repetitiously muttering "Uhh … just a PBR … I guess?" But Taps From Scratch, with its unique beer-sampling-with-a-membership business plan and labyrinthine halls dispensing multiple 10-percent-plus in-house brewed beer will kill you dead if you're not ready (and then probably turn your body into beer, just because they'll dig the challenge).
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