It’s rare that I talk about theme parks on the blog, especially since the traditional theme park beer offerings tend to be incredibly overpriced selections of SAB-Miller-Coors and AB-InBev ‘beers.’ Yes, I put beer in quotation marks for that last sentence.
But the world of theme park beer is getting better. This blog sort of exploded when I put my review of Florida Beer Company’s Duff Beer, sold only at Universal Studios Florida. The other major place I can think of right now to get theme park craft beer in Florida is during Epcot’s annual International Food and Wine Festival.
If you haven’t gone, let me explain what it is. Basically, for the price of regular park admission (which is up to a staggering $95), there are a series of ever rotating kiosks set with cuisine from a number of different countries or styles. For example, the kiosk from Ireland sells seafood Shepard’s Pie and Guinness on draft. The Hawaii kiosk has pork sliders and Kona Big Wave. Morocco has spicy shrimp, baklava, and Casa Beer, one of my favorite imports. And so on. Food and drink samplings generally range from $4-$7 each.
Since I can, I’m starting with the Farm Fresh kiosk, which focuses on Florida food and drinks. Even though it was placed in Norway this year.
The Pepper Bacon Hash smelled great and tasted great, too. But that wasn’t why I was there. Of the four Florida beers featured at the event, three were located here. Oddly enough, the fourth beer wasn’t a Florida beer, but Ba Ba Black Lager (Black Lager, 4% ABV, 32 IBU). It was light, and very robust and delicious, but it’s also from Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing. In Utah. Not Florida.
But the others are from Florida. And I love them. The three beers at the Farm Fresh kiosk start are I-4 IPA by Orlando Brewing (India Pale Ale, 5.8% ABV), Cigar City‘s excellent Belgian Wit Florida Cracker (Witbier, 5.5% ABV, 5 IBU), and one of my favorite Florida beers, Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale from Jacksonville’s Bold City Brewing (Brown Ale, 6% ABV). You’ll find the links to my previous reviews above.
It’s actually really nice to see just how excited Bold City was that Duke’s had been chosen for Food and Wine. They have been pushing it like crazy and positively glowing, which is great for them. It’s quite the honor that they were chosen for this event, and they have every right to be proud.
I would also like to see Disney do a little more with Orlando Brewing. They’re the biggest close brewery to the resort, and I’m sure a brewery can be built somewhere on property…
There are three other major places for beer at the International Food and Wine Festival. First is the Craft Beer pavilion, housed in what was the long-closed Odyssey Restaurant.
While there were a few dishes in the pavilion, the main focus was beers from around the country. My main interest here was Sunshine State Pils (Pilsner, 5% ABV, 43 IBU) from Florida Beer Co., the fourth and final Florida beer at the event. It has a big hoppy flavor, but still a mild maltiness that is almost juicy without being fruity.
Other notables in the pavilion for included Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat Ale (Pale Wheat Ale, 4.2% ABV, 18 IBU), a light wheat ale that is very simple to drink, but doesn’t have the fruitiness from wheat ales that I love so much. My other favorite has to be my Texas standby, Shiner Bock from Spoetzl Brewery (Bock, 4.4% ABV, 13 IBU), a big, bold but simple to drink bock that’s just close enough to a brown ale that I really like it.
The other nice touch with the Craft Beer pavilion is the spicy/sweet/salty snack mix you get with each beer flight. They said it was free, but these beer flights are also $1 more than any other beer flight at the event. It’s not as free as they would have you think, methinks.
For having the name Brewer’s Collection, this next area hides it’s true intention: the giant Octoberfest tent. It’s all German beers, it’s in the Germany area, and they should just name it for what it is. Better yet, they can use that real estate for an actual brewery…
This is always one of the busiest areas of the event, regardless of when you go. It’s for good reason: German beer is yummy.
There were a few big breakout stars here, including the BraufactuM Darkon (Schwarzbier, 5.4% ABV), a light but dark beer that lets the roasted malts shine through with almost no interference from hops.
My other favorite was the Altenmunster Oktoberfest (Marzen, 5.5% ABV), a lighter, but still round and full Oktoberfest style that was rather refreshing.
The major star, however, was the Schöfferhofer Grapefruit (Radler, 2.5% ABV), which is easily the strongest-flavored and best tasting shandy I’ve ever had. And I don’t like grapefruit at all, but for some reason the beer really cuts the overly sharp flavors from the grapefruit juice, making the drink very sweet and tasty.
The last major beer stop is the pretty obviously-named Hops and Barley market, located directly outside American Adventure. Once again, this focuses on American beers, half of which are Samuel Adams.
Not a complaint, I would just like to see more Florida beers. But they had Sam Adams’ Cherry Wheat (Hefeweizen/Fruit Beer, 5.3% ABV), a light wheat beer with an insanely big cherry taste. I mean really big. Not as big as the grapefruit radler had, but the cherry is unmistakeable and fantastic for fall. Sam Adams’ Octoberfest (Marzen, 5.3% ABV, 16 IBU) was also there, and it’s as light as the Altenmunster Marzen was. Beautifully mellow with just a hint of the malty sweetness, but not as strong and rounded as a traditional Munich Octoberfest beer.
I’m also going to give a little bit of a shoutout to New Belgium’s Snapshot (Pale Wheat Ale, 5% ABV, 13 IBU), a beer that recently arrived to FLorida. It’s good, but the hops tend to overblend the wheat lightness. Not as refreshing as the Goose Island I tried earlier.
If you go, be advised you won’t be able to try everything. There is a lot of beer, to be sure, but the event is prohibitively expensive. Not only are you dropping $100 to get in, but once inside, everything is at least $4. Take, for example, this picture of Kpona Brewing Company’s Big Wave Golden Ale (Golden Ale, 4.4% ABV, 5 IBU):
This was $5. For that price, it’s a little on the small side. Getting a sampling of many different beers from around the world is possible, but can get extremely expensive. As long as you keep that in mind, you’ll have a good time.
And support Florida Craft Beers while you’re there!
Drink Florida Craft,