My wife and I got got married 15 years ago and honeymooned at Disneyworld for nearly 2 weeks.  At that time I was already a homebrewer and beer geek, but there was no good beer to come by around the Disney properties.  We did get to try some of our first wines though.  For our 15th anniversary we decided to go back, and I figured I’d do a blog series focusing on the boozy options available now.  Organization of this series may be a little scattered since we moved around quite a bit from park to park, and more.  By no means consider this a complete list, I could only eat and drink so much in one trip.  I’ll do my best!

I started this series with Epcot since it had so many options around the World Showcase–you can check that out HERE.  This issue will focus on the other three Disney theme parks.  I didn’t get to every place that serves beers on these properties but did do a pretty good recon to make sure I wasn’t missing anything cool at most of them.  I’d also love to hear from folks if they know of any hidden gems for good beers/drinks that I’ve missed, so feel free to comment on this post!

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

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This is the quintessential Disney experience, based off it’s predecessor Disneyland in California.  We spent lots more time in this park than I expected to this trip.  They’ve added quite a few rides and attractions since our last visit as well as a fun card based magic game that encourages you to find hidden portals in the various lands and battle it out with Disney villains.  We also did the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party one night and got to trick or treat for candy, meet characters (or try to anyway), and get to stay later than the other park guests.   That was a very fun time!

Up until recently there was no alcohol allowed on propertfullsizerender-8y at all.  With the addition of Belle and Beast’s Castle however, this has changed.  The premier dining experience in the Magic Kingdom is Be Our Guest–a large restaurant beneath the beautiful castle that requires reservations months in advance.  My wife Sj had to wake up at 5:30 about 5 months ago to set up our dinner and the only spot she could get was “old people dinner” at 5 PM.  During dinner hours Be Our Guest actually has a limited wine and beer list.  We were seated along the wall in the largest of three dining areas–the Grand Ballroom.  A cacophony of sounds surrounded us making this a not exactly romantic dinner.  Our red napkins were shaped into roses as nice touch though.  The food was decent and upscale (steaks, lamb chops, etc.) and expensive but not outrageously so by Disney standards.  I ordered a Chimay Blue but discovered that my flute pilsner glass (specifically outlawed by the Chimay label!) had some crusties in the bottom.  I gave our waitress Danielle (from Illinois) a meaningful glance and within a minute she had used her witchy powers to steal my thoughts and bring me a new clean glass.  We tried the Gray Stuff–it wasn’t really delicious.  One of the perks of dining here is getting to take a few pictures with Beast after dinner!

 

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Previously MGM Studios, this park is in the process of a lot of construction.  As a result several of the attractions are closed down and I wouldn’t recommend getting a single day pass here–if you have a park hopper it is totally worth spending part of a day there.  They are currently working on adding more Star Wars stuff, but most of that won’t be done for years.  They have added a few live Star Wars shows to the area and it was pretty cool to see the First Order Stormtroopers marching around and hassling pedestrians!  There are a few restaurants and snack/drink kiosks in the Studios, but not a lot of great drink options.  A few of the kiosks did have at least one craft beer option like New Belgium’s Fat Tire or Magic Hat #9, but most had Bud products.  Still better than it used to be!

 

The weather on Tatooine? Hot, really hot...

The weather on Tatooine (Jakku)? Hot, really hot…

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We did step into the Tune In Lounge–a full service bar that basically serves as a waiting area for the 50’s Prime Time Cafe–mostly as an excuse to get into air conditioned splendor after wandering around in 90 degree heat.  I ended up with the best craft beer option: Cigar City Jai Alai.  This is a pretty good beer, but it was served in a frosted glass so I had to wait a bit for it to warm up.  I hate frosted glasses.  Also available were the ubiquitous Bud Light, Sam Adams (Octoberfest though…), Yeungling, Fat Tire, Blue Moon, and Stella.  They had a couple of funny cocktails under the heading “From Dad’s Liquor Cabinet”.  I liked the 50’s theme in here along with old tube TV’s playing black & white classic shows.  Not a bad stop but not a great destination.

Our final stop once we visited the few rides still working, and getting nauseous on the hurl express that is Star Tours, was the outdoor (still really hot) lounge at the Brown Derby.   There, our server Angela was one of the best we had on our trip and brought out a special champagne toast for our anniversary as a starter.  Sj ended up getting a champagne cocktail and I got the cool mini martini flight.  Beer options not great, but oh well!

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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We got really close to this photogenic guy!

 

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Sj over the crocodiles!

Moving on to the most recent Disney theme park, we hit Animal Kingdom on a fine 85+ degree and crazy humid day.  Animals and pedestrians alike were sprawled out panting in the heat.  Animal Kingdom is an unusual mix of theme park and sprawling zoo and is actually one of my favorite of the Disney properties.  They have a fun bird show, an aviary you can wander through, truck safari’s through the “African” savannah, a few rides like the Everest roller coaster, and more.

We actually did the Wild Africa Trek special tour as part of our day out here which was fantastic.  We had two wonderful and energetic guides (Abbe and Danielle) who took us on back trails, on suspension bridges poised over crocodile infested waters, and with a special lunch at a private Boma overlooking the wildebeasts.

On the beer front I did manage to find a restaurant in the Harambe Market section of the park that served Tampa Brewing’s Reef Donkey APA that was quite good and pleasantly hoppy.  They also had a terrible Safari Lager that was contract brewed by AB/Inbev.  Otherwise we didn’t see much good craft beer around the park.

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Reef Donkey! In “Africa”!

On our way out of the park we stopped at the new upscale dining spot Tiffin’s Nomad Lounge for a drink and some air conditioning.  The restaurant looks great and we’ll have to check it out next time.  The lounge is very comfortable, and well decorated with African and Asian inspired furniture and hangings.  We had great service and they had plenty of unusual cocktails to choose from.  A few beers were available including some African and Asian lagers, Xingu black beer from Brazil (I’ve had it before), and Kungaloosh–a spiced beer named after the now defunct Adventurer’s Club from Concrete Beach Brewery.  They actually had a small beer sampler including those two beers and the Safari lager for $10.  We both ended up with cocktails because it seemed like a better bet. I had the tasty but sweet Tempting Tigress made with bourbon, Allspice Dram, tamarind, and lime.  This place is a gem and worth a stop.

 

Upscale cocktails? Beats any zoo I've been to!

Upscale cocktails? Beats any zoo I’ve been to!

 

Overall

I feel that over the past 5 years Disney has improved on their alcoholic libations at the parks, but still have a ways to go to make it a refreshment destination.  A lot of the restaurants and kiosks have a couple of mostly mass-market lagers with the odd large distribution craft beer here and there. Mostly I’d say stick with cocktails if available.  With the huge masses of people going through these parks every day, I think Disney would do well with adding more craft beer options for the growing market.  I also want to see some more local Florida beers around the parks!

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