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Switching back to some vacation brews, my wife and I met some locals while bar-hopping and exploring antique shops in Deland one afternoon and they strongly recommended we spend the end of our “date night” dining at Mount Dora Brewing.  I had been aware of this place for a few years now, but for a variety of reasons we never made it in; perhaps most notably on account of a lack of interest in beer on my wife’s part and some less than stellar reviews I’d come across on Beer Advocate.  These people seemed to know what they were talking about, though, so we decided to check it out.

Well, let me start by saying that we made quite the mistake not visiting this place during the last few years as my wife and I had a fantastic time!  From the moment one walks in the door they can just tell there’s a lot of character here. You enter into a modestly sized dining area with a bar to the left and a small stage for live music in the back where there was a cover band playing classic rock.  The decor was eclectic to the extreme, with lots of repurposed materials employed throughout and old brass instruments hanging from the ceiling amidst the lights. Upon seeing the place it was no surprise at all that folks working at an antique place packed with old furnishings would love it here.  We chose to avoid the crowd in the main room, however, and instead opted for the outdoor seating in the back which for all intents and purposes felt like eating a leisurely meal in their backyard. To get there we passed both the stage and another, much smaller, indoor seating area complete with a bookshelf full of books to swap, borrow, or take.

Before getting into the beer, I also want to be thorough and give a few quick thoughts on the food.  My wife and I split an order of the pretzel and beer cheese appetizer and it most definitely did not disappoint.  As for our entrees, both her shrimp pesto dish and my chicken breast with brie cheese and bacon were quite impressive as well.  So far, delicious! As an additional FYI, if anyone in the party is not interested in beer they also serve wine and cocktails, which seemed to be pretty well received by those around us as well.

Now that I’ve set the rest of the scene, let’s talk beer.  The selection here was a bit different than most taprooms I’ve been to in that they offered one limited release, three malt-forward core beers, and another three offerings that were blends of the core offerings.  Notably absent was the presence of any sort of IPA (the one they brew was kicked for the day) or other hop-centric brew which is pretty rare these days.

As is my tendency when visiting new places, I ordered the six beer flight with an additional pour of the seventh, and final beer, on tap added on for good measure.  The late addition was their Blueberry Beer, a light fruited sour brewed with blueberries sourced from a farm in nearby Eustis.  Tart and refreshing, it also featured plenty of sweet blueberries and really showcased what the style is about.  It was a great beer for drinking outside with food. As for the core offerings, I sampled the Beauclair Blonde Ale, Rockin’ Rabbit Red Ale, and Pistolville Porter.   Going in that order, the 7.0% blonde ale had a thick, creamy pale malt opening and finished with a brown sugar sweetness.  It certainly wasn’t the light, bubbly blonde ale I’d come to expect at this point in the trip, but it was pretty tasty regardless.  Up next was 8.0% red ale offered a lightly toasted malt base beneath a nice smooth sweetness from the orange blossom honey it was brewed with that also gave it pleasingly smooth, thick mouthfeel.  Rounding out this part of the flight, the porter was decidedly my favorite of the group. Checking in at a robust 9.9%, it offered plenty of rich malts backed up by notes of caramel and chocolate.

After getting acquainted with these three brews, I moved on to the blended ales.  The Dora Drawdy Drool was a blend of the red and blonde ales that offered up a pleasing, malty sweetness blending the pale malts of the Beauclair Blonde and rich honey presence of the Rockin’ Red.  The Dirty Blonde mixed the porter and the blonde ale, lightening up the former a bit with the pale maltiness of the latter.  Finally, the somewhat unfortunately named Rabbit Pellet Porter combined the red ale and, well, the porter.  This was my favorite of the blends as the honey from the red ale joined quite nicely with the bold flavors of the porter, giving a bit of extra flavor and body.  While enjoyable on the whole, I do think that I preferred the stand-alone offerings and found that they didn’t sit quite as heavily on the palate (a definite factor to consider while drinking with food in warm weather).

That said, I would advise anyone in the area looking for a good spot for food and drinks to give this place a visit.  The atmosphere was a great mix of fun or relaxing depending upon what you were looking for, the food was excellent and, despite the lack of flashy hop-forward options, the beer was good as well.  I feel like we missed out skipping this place the past few years, so for sure we’re coming back again next time we come down!

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