Tom Moench, (pronounced Mench) the creator and owner of Orange Blossom Pilsner says he recently joined the UCF Business Incubation Program because his beer expertise far exceeds his business acumen.
“I know beer, and the craft beer movement,” the Orlando native says emphatically. “Now I have a team of MBAs to assist me in establishing my own brewery; which previously seemed like quite a daunting task.”
Site Manager Melissa Wasserman said Moench fits right in with other business owners at the incubator, bringing a laid-back kind of atmosphere to the program.
“Orange Blossom Pilsner is a great addition to the Incubation Program because Tom is passionate about the company and moving it forward here in Central Florida. His optimism and work ethic are contagious,” said Wasserman.
Moench fell in love with his first beer when he was only 12, and started brewing his own in his kitchen at the age of 18. “I wasn’t old enough to buy beer, but I was old enough to buy the ingredients to make beer,” Moench says, recalling his most memorable ‘aha’ moment ever.
After years of studying every book he could find on beer and brewing, visiting as many breweries as he could, and tasting lots and lots of beer, Moench began to experiment with making “different” beers using everything from ginseng, spices and shitake mushrooms to oak, coconut and fresh fruit. But, it was the 2.3 teaspoons of fermented orange blossom honey per bottle that seemed to give his home brew exactly what he had been searching for: a clean, crisp, yet complex, flavor that appealed to almost everyone.
Moench – a likable, quirky character with nearly 20 years of behind-the-scenes experience in the theater, film and television – started his first brewing company in 1994 with two intentions: to make better beer and run a beer distributorship that brought great craft beers like OBP to Florida.
Since then, he has received a few patents on brewing devices and has sold the distributorship to focus on his own beers.
The flavor combination has been a huge hit, making Moench realize that he knows quite a bit about business; at least the beer business. Orange Blossom Pilsner – a Central Florida-based craft-brewed beer company – currently is on tap at 50+ locations in Central Florida and is available in bottles at more than 600 locations throughout the state, including many Publix supermarkets and ABC Liquors. It’s also been the number one selling beer at the Mellow Mushroom in Winter Park since they opened.
And, the growing company – which already has distribution in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama – recently expanded it’s coverage to include South Florida after receiving requests for it from bar and restaurant managers who sampled it at beer festivals.
“My beer is sold on its merits,” he says. “It’s crisp and clean and there’s no harsh bitter finish to it. People love it”
Word about OBP – as the nectar is known to those familiar with its smooth-not-sweet fermented orange blossom honey taste – has begun to spread as plans recently started taking shape to have Orange Blossom Pilsner start its own brewery right here in Central Florida.
“People get really excited about a local craft-brewed beer and they love the taste, but when they hear that it’s actually brewed in Greenville, S.C. they are a little disappointed,” Moench says. “So, we’re doing the preliminary work to finally have our own brewery in Orlando, and I’m delighted to have help from UCF’s Business Incubation Program.”
Moench – King Bee or the Tom the Beer Guy as his “beesiness” cards identify him – says his idea always has been to have OBP brewed here, but he first wanted to build the brand up to justify the expense of a brewery. So, for the past three years, the brewer at the Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville has done a great job brewing up about three batches of Orange Blossom Pilsner for Moench every month.
“Basically, its contract brewing,” he says. “I taught them how to brew my beer and I just pay them to make it for me.”
But clearly, many people know that OBP has its roots right here in Central Florida. That’s evidenced by the sight of Moench cruising around in his brightly colored, Scion XB that sports a custom yellow design, complete with bees, a honey dipper and the OBP logo.
Various websites about craft-brewed beers – which often feature exotic flavor combinations – talk about Orange Blossom Pilsner with comments like: not too sweet, refreshing, worth trying, and mention how nicely the malt melds with the honey.
Comments like those make Moench happy that he achieved his beer brewing goal; at least for now. He and his beer also have become Internet sensations, turning up numerous hits that either mention them in word or feature Moench talking about it on video sites such as YouTube.
In addition to bringing home numerous awards for OBP [2009 and 2008 People’s Choice awards at the Tallahassee Beer Festival, 2009 Gold Medal for Best Beer at Festival Award at Hotoberfest in Atlanta, and 2004 Bronze Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver] Moench also has become so recognized that he judges at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival.
“I’m the only person from Florida to ever judge at the Great American Beer Festival,” he says proudly of his seven times as a GABF judge.
He’s also proud of two other Orange Blossom Pilsner products: OBP2, which uses the same recipe as OBP, but with half the water. OBP Squared clocks in at 11% abv (alcohol by volume) and Toasted Coconut Porter or TCP, which Moench calls a smooth, light-bodied, dark beer with a subtle toasted and coconut flavor, is 5.25% abv.
Beer is his baby. It’s his life. Moench not only creates beer, he truly loves beer. And, his passion increases when he talks to people about it.
“People love my beer,” Moench says. “I know it! They tell me they do.”
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