|These two guys. From the Orange Blossom Fb page.|
In 2006, when the annual family reunion took place in steamy summer Orlando, the estimable Tom Moench sacrificed an afternoon to save our lives, rescuing the Baylors from resort hotel ennui, and with it $6 half-pints of Guinness served in bizarre Belgian-style stemware at the hotel bar.
I barely knew Tom, a sixth-generation Floridian and former union stagehand, but what I did know was about him was impressive. He had long since stopped complaining about the Central Florida "beer wasteland," according to his pithy description at the time, first becoming an award-winning homebrewer, then founding a beer wholesaler, and finally getting his own Orange Blossom Pilsner recipe into regular production via contract brewing.
These days Tom "partner brews" OBP with a brewery in Lakeland, and as you're about to read, also has collaborated with his son. Nick's a brewer, too.
Tom and I originally met at Rich O’s Public House, circa 1995. He was a subscriber to the FOSSILS club newsletter during those heady pre-Internet days when we snail-mailed copies all across the country and thought we’d change the world.
Prior to our departure for the reunion, I'd put out the word that we were looking for something to do while in town. It may have been Tisha Gainey, who lived in Orlando for a while, connecting the dots for us. My memory is dim on this point.
Just understand that I was effusively grateful. The grand finale of the reunion would come at dinner on Saturday, leaving us ample time to explore. However, we had no car -- or, perhaps we did have a car and didn't want to drive it.
That thing about my memory ... again.
All I know is Tom agreed to pick us up, and we embarked on a wonderful "off the beaten path" tour of Orlando, one that took us absolutely nowhere close to anything Disneyesque. There was an exceptional package store called Knightly Spirits, then the unprepossessing but thoroughly savvy 903 Mills Market, which was a residential neighborhood, street-corner gathering place -- part funky grocery, part rock-solid deli, and with plenty of great beer.
As with Knightly Spirits, 903 Mills Market was a regular customer of Tom's distributorship. Draft OBP was being poured into plastic cups, and when my Rodger Dodger (corned beef and roast beef on marbled pumpernickel) arrived, I switched to a Boulder Mojo IPA from the bottle cooler. We sat outside at a picnic table, munching and trading war stories.
The next stop was a bar in the older part of town for a few more rounds of OBP, and things got hazy. The afternoon concluded at Tom's house. There might have been Black Russians with Stoli and Tia Maria, accompanied by a soundtrack of Buckethead guitar wizardry. When we left for the hotel, Tom handed me the compact disc as a souvenir.
We made it just in time for the main event, and to echo Caddyshack, I was hammered to the bejesus-belt. Mother seemed to be mildly disapproving, perhaps suffering traumatic flashbacks from my daze of youth.
When it came time for me to speak on the presumably safe topic of "recent family news," I went for the jugular and appended a healthy denunciation of George W. Bush, this coming before a crowd of my kinfolk leaning heavily to the GOP.
To which my mother, the eternal "yellow dog" Democrat, confided the following day: "You drink way too much, but it's about time someone told them the truth."
Thanks, mom, and thanks to Tom for getting the polemical juices flowing. My sole visit to Orlando proved memorable and forgettable, both for the very same reason of excess-as-coping-mechanism.
It's exciting to read about the continued growth of Orange Blossom Pilsner, and considering that in 2006, I seem to recall Tom coaching Nick in Little League, it has to be wonderful to collaborate on a special release beer with your son, the next brewer in the family.
Background first, then the article.
About Orange Blossom Brewing Company: Orange Blossom Pilsner, one of Florida’s first craft beers, was brewed in 1988 by Tom Moench in Orlando. In 2014, Orange Blossom Brewing Company partnered with Brew Hub in Lakeland to expand production. Along with the pilsner, offerings include OBP Squared, Toasted Coconut Porter, Back in the Day IPA and Weisse Weisse Baby. The beer is available in 1,800 locations across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina.
About Inoculum Ale Works: Inoculum Ale Works, makers of Drex The Lactosaurus Rex, Kuebiko, Mother Ursa, Dreamcatcher and Spectrally Macabre, was founded in 2015 by Nick Moench. Inoculum is Florida’s first full-production sour-only brewery and is located in Spring Hill. A taproom in St. Petersburg will open in mid-June.
The story at Craft Beer:
Two Generations of Beer Makers Unveil New Sour Beer, by Ashleigh Ostermann
Beer runs in the family for Tom and Nick Moench. The pair put their heads together, mixed their techniques and knowledge to brew Inoculated Orange Blossom Pilsner (IOBP) in time for Father’s Day.
The new refreshing sour beer is a take on Tom’s classic honey beer, Orange Blossom Pilsner (OPB). Nick took his dad’s recipe and added a custom blend of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S. cerevisiae), Lactobacillus plantarum (L. plantarum) and Pediococcus pentosaceus (P. pentosaceus) grown by Inoculum.