Beer, a magical concoction of grains, yeast, hops, and flavorings, is still, when you get past all that, mostly water. Beer geeks and those who love them spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the merits of the above ingredients — which hop works best with which malt, how to cultivate local yeast — but few consider its main ingredient.
Brewer Michael Sandor is one of those few. He considered it long and hard before setting up shop. That’s why he set up his brewery near Glenmere Lake in Florida, Orange County. And it’s why he called it Glenmere Brewing.
“He’s very picky about water,” says his wife, Shanna, who manages the business. Asked why, she yells into the distance: “Hey Mike, what’s special about our water?” She’s soon back to the telephone receiver with an answer: Glenmere Lake is actually a reservoir, which means it collects mainly surface runoff water, as opposed to groundwater in lakes that bubbles up from the rocks and dirt below. “It’s low in minerals,” Shanna Sandor reports back from her husband. “It’s a good base for all types of beer.”
The couple live in Florida with their two children. Sandor is an FDNY firefighter who had home-brewed for more than a decade. A certified beer judge, his brews won several homebrewing competitions. “He decided he wanted to take it to the next level,” Shanna says. “I thought, let’s do it.”
They found a warehouse in Florida that was connected to the village water system from Glenmere Lake; after a year of renovations, they opened in the summer of 2016. Over the past three years Michael has made more than 20 different styles of beer, usually the classics like IPAs, lagers, farmhouse ales, stouts, and porters. “He is trying to perfect his take on those styles,” Shanna says. And he has succeeded, winning several awards from, among other competitions, TAP NY, where his Bock It Up Bubba (a single bock), Howlin’ Rusty (a Maibock named after their patron pooch) and Dragon Fly (a New England IPA) have taken gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively, over the past two years.
With a small taproom that seats about 15 people and outdoor space for approximately 75 more, Glenmere is a decidedly unpretentious place. “What you see is what you get,” Shanna says. There’s live music on Saturday and Sunday, and a food truck supplies patrons with appropriate beer pairings: fish tacos, burgers and dogs, empanadas. “We also have a lady who makes hand-rolled German pretzels,” she adds, and local ciders and sodas are there for those who prefer them, but only when the tasting room is open.
Though they have recently signed up with distributor Craft Beer Guild to take them farther afield, they are still mostly a local hangout and a destination for hikers, tubers, and skiers who come up from the city. “We are comfortable where we are right now,” Shanna says. “It’s worked out well. There are ups and downs, of course, but it’s more fun to work through these types of ups and downs — with beer included.”