We all know vacations are great. Combine vacation with beer, and you get the beercation, which is even better.
So of course I would try and turn the recently completed Beagle Family Annual Disney World Trip into a summer beercation.
The plan: Try as many new beers as possible at all the Disney parks and restaurants.
The beercation actually started on the road trip down to Florida. Can’t remember if it was Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia, but I spotted a six-pack of Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale at a gas station, so I picked that up to have in the hotel. (I actually brought a variety of homebrew as well, and used my refillable Mickey Mouse resort mug to sip beer by the hotel pool most days.)
The first night on property — the term for staying within the boundaries of the Disney World complex of parks and hotels — I hit up my favorite craft beer spot at Disney: Raglan Road Pub at Downtown Disney.
The cozy-yet-sprawling Irish pub features an upscale Irish pub food menu and a good selection of craft beer. I went with a Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (one of my favorite all-time IPAs) to start and grabbed a Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA (which seems less hoppy every year) in a to-go cup for the road. (The benefit of drinking on Disney property is that it’s all private-property, so to-go alcoholic beverages are in play.)
Next day, I enjoyed the Sweetwater 420 on the hotel balcony and then grabbed a Terrapin Rye Pale Ale with dinner at the hotel restaurant. I didn’t feel like Terrapin went as strong with the rye as they could of.
The day after we were off to Epcot. Stopped at a food court for lunch and grabbed a couple drinks from local brewer Orlando Brewing Company. The Organic Blond Ale and Organic Pale Ale were passable, but I felt they were likely marketed to a mass audience, because they needed more oomph in the flavor profile. Later that night, we went to a Japanese hibachi restaurant where the food was amazing, but the beer selection was quite limited. I grabbed a Kirin — it was the best option there, and reminded me why I prefer to steer clear of mass-marketed lagers.
From dinner, it was on to the World Showcase at Epcot. As it was also Canada Day, I decided to grab at Moosehead Light (it was all they had left on tap — I actually wanted a Molson Canadian or Labatt Blue) from a beer stand in the Canada pavilion to pay tribute to the true north strong and free.
The next night, my wife and I met some friends at the hotel bar. I ordered a Napa Smith Brewery Organic IPA. This beer, out of the Napa Valley region in California, was tasty but lacked any serious complexity. I followed that up with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout to close off the night with a familiar taste.
On the following day, we headed off to the Animal Kingdom theme park. In honor of that visit, I picked up a Safari Amber with lunch. Word of warning for anyone who visits Disney and thinks they should grab a Safari Amber: It’s really just an average amber ale produced by Anheuser Busch. I knew this going in, but it beats Bud Light on tap at the park.
On the Fourth of July, it was back to Epcot. We were touring the countries in World Showcase, so I grabbed a Bass in England, a Kronenberg in France and a Dos Equis in Mexico. I probably wouldn’t normally drink any of those beers on their own, but when in Rome…
The last day of the trip we hit up Magic Kingdom and had reservations at the new Be Our Guest restaurant, which is heavily themed after the movie “Beauty and the Beast.” This is a significant stop at Magic Kingdom because it’s the first place inside that park to sell alcohol. They had a smallish selection and French and Belgian beers, several of which I had had before. I opted for a Blond Biere de Garde from Brasserie Castelain. This was refreshing with a slight spicy kick.
The next day we were on the road and back to Oklahoma. Overall, I left feeling that Disney can still do more to pump up its craft beer selection. There were some things I hadn’t tried before, but I pretty quickly was able to motor through those offerings. I would especially like to see Raglan Road, which has the best craft selection of probably any one place on property, grow and switch up its drink menu.
In the end, Disney scored just average marks for craft beer this year. The road trip home more than made up for it, however. But that’s for Vol. 2 of this report.