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Dispatches from the road: Disney World

Nick Trougakos Published: July 9, 2014

Word to the wise: If ever you find yourself at a Walt Disney World park or resort and think you’ll try the “amber ale” they have on tap — don’t.

In my many years visiting Disney World — and studying the Disney beer scene — I’ve come to an almost certain conclusion: Disney has Anheuser-Busch make a generic amber/red ale that Disney then packages as a beer specific to the certain park or resort it’s being served at.

At Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge, it’s Safari Amber. At the Coral Reef restaurant in EPCOT, it’s Reef Amber. I swear they are the same beers. On my vacation last week, I discovered what I’m pretty sure is another version.

We were staying at Old Key West resort, which, beer selection aside, served as a great home for us. I’ve not been to actual Key West, but Old Key West seems to be Disney’s attempt to create a Key West boardwalk community. From my point of view, they hit the mark. Not only did we feel like we were in Florida, but we really felt like we were at a Key West community — it was a great little slice of escapism within a larger bubble of escapism.

Where Old Key West doesn’t hit the mark is on the beer front. When Sam Adams seasonal is the most exotic thing you have to choose from, you’re not doing it right. When I saw a beer called Key West Ale on tap at the resort bar, I figured I would give it a go. When the bartender said it was a “nice red ale,” I knew what was coming.

That beer looked, smelled and tasted exactly like Safari Amber and Reef Amber. And to be clear, it’s not all that good. Just your average to below-average amber ale. Heck, I’m not even sure it’s an ale — it could very well be an average American lager.

Either way, Disney World has a lot better to offer. On my most recent prior Disney trip I was able to score a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA that I thought was outstanding. That was at Saratoga Springs resort. Most of the higher-end resorts and restaurants there actually have pretty decent beer selection (cue my annual shout-out to Raglan Road Irish Pub at Downtown Disney — it has perhaps the best beer selection of any place at WDW).

Because we spent a good deal of time either at the parks or at the hotel and didn’t dine out as much, this trip was fueled mostly by homebrew I trucked down in the car. Which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. Especially for my bank account, considering the cup of Key West Ale ran me like $9.

The lone new beer I was able to try at Disney this year was a Blackwater Dry Porter by Orlando Brewing. I had that at the Garden Grill restaurant at EPCOT. I didn’t mind the beer — although it leaned more toward an English style than I would personally prefer.

In my next dispatch, I’ll cover the road trip home, which offered significantly more excitement as far as beer is concerned.

Pints and Pins

-I discovered an interesting new beer label approved by the feds in Oklahoma today: It was an imperial IPA by Moody Brews called Half Seas Over. “Who is Moody Brews?” I asked. Upon further investigation, I learned from Choc President Zach Prichard that Moody Brews is an Arkansas outfit that is contracting with Choc to brew beer for the Arkansas market only. Looks like Choc is putting its new brewhouse to good use. Prichard said it’s part of a larger plan to expand the brewery’s contract clientele (Choc currently brews a large portion of Prairie Artisan Ales’ portfolio).

-The Brew Shop has been named official homebrew supply shop for October’s Texas Beer Camp in Princeton, Texas. You can learn more about that by clicking here.