The first Marriott property to launch a nano-brewery, Grande Lakes has brought in a local Cicerone-certified brewmaster to lead The Brewery at Whisper Creek Farm. The Brewery produces 28 gallons of beer weekly including five styles of beer created each season—Dark, Wheat/Light, Amber, IPA and a Special Brew (a seasonal made from the freshest farm ingredients). Grande Lakes Orlando has collaborated with Big Storm Brewery to create its flagship beer: Surplus, a signature Floridian honey citrus ale that is distributed throughout the resort’s outlets and available year around (naturally infused with Grande Lakes honey sourced from the resort’s on-property apiaries).
Aaron Libera – Brewmaster
When you grow up in a family who had a large communal garden and made their own wine and tomato sauce, it stands to reason these Old World traditions would become an inevitable part of your DNA.
For Aaron Libera, buying a can of tomato sauce or a bottle of beer and not knowing where the ingredients came from, was going against the grain. Therefore, it came as no surprise when after graduating college with a degree in linguistics and moving to Florida, he began exploring home brewing, because he felt the Florida craft beer scene was woefully behind the rest of the country.
Immersing himself in the home brewing culture, Aaron became frustrated with the inability to source quality ingredients, and ended up opening his own home brewing supply store, Sanford Homebrew Shop. When the team at Whisper Creek Farm here at Grande Lakes Orlando approached Aaron to consult with them on starting a brewing operation, he jumped at the chance to get involved.
“What we do here at Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen, is truly an extension of our ‘farm-inspired comfort food’ philosophy — what we call ‘Farm to Glass.’ Every week there is a bounty of fresh ingredients including fruits and herbs from the farm, and I have the honor of incorporating these amazing flavors into our beers.”
Florida has its own unique agriculture and Aaron notes the craft beer brewed at Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen gives guests an opportunity to taste what is locally grown and seasonal. He brews new batches weekly — it takes a full month before the beer is complete — and they represent what was available at that time, whether it be bananas, passion fruit, mangoes, papaya, etc.
No two batches are ever quite the same and while Aaron has some core recipe profiles, they differ a bit depending upon the harvest and his own inspiration. One day, inspired by the restaurant staff who talked about a traditional Peruvian drink called Chica Morado, he incorporated Peruvian purple corn, fresh pineapple, quince, cinnamon, and clove into one of his batches and came out with a brew they call “The Purple Stuff.” It was so good it will soon be a regular offering on the menu.
“My desire to make things and understand ingredients and how they affect flavor has served me well as a brewmaster,” Aaron adds. “I am so incredibly passionate about brewing – having the control to pick out every ingredient and then relying on the yeast to do its job and ferment the batch properly. It’s truly an incredible process.”
And when it all works, guests at Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen, get to experience a craft beer unique to Florida because of the soil, fruits and herbs, season, AND inspiration of brewmaster Aaron.