After spending a week at Walt Disney World in March, I’m preparing to write the usual trip reports, dining reviews, and other articles on specific aspects of our latest experience. Those posts are a fun way for me to relive the trip on this site. This one takes a different approach. Instead of diving into the attractions and our park days, I’m focusing on the beers that I consumed. This was a family vacation with our two young girls (8 and 4), so there was no drinking around the world at Epcot. Even so, I still found some time to enjoy a small group of beers within and outside the park during our trip.
It’s important to recognize one key point when considering drinks at Disney World: they’re crazy expensive! These are essentially sports arena prices when it comes to alcohol, and possibly even higher. The cost of visiting this amazing resort is a premium charge on every service, including food and drinks. I live in St. Louis, where you’re generally paying 4-6 dollars for a good draft beer at most places. There are exceptions like the ballpark and concert venues, and those are better for comparison. When you’re paying over $4 for a bottled orange juice at breakfast, you have to realize that beers will also draw a higher price.
I’m not here to complain about beer prices, at least not for the most part. This is just a quick summary with my thoughts about the options available and what I enjoyed. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive resource, I’d highly recommend the book Drinking at Disney by Rhiannon and Drunky. It reviews every bar that you can find across the entire Disney World resort. The book is a broader look at the offerings but is a must-read, particularly for locals and annual passholders. I’ve still barely scratched the surface of what’s out there at Disney bars.
We spent six nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge during this trip, and our most frequent spot for breakfast and late dinners was The Mara. Calling this comfortable spot a food court doesn’t do it justice. It’s convenient and provides enough solid choices to allow for repeat visits. You can also visit The Mara to grab a bottle of wine or a few beers to take back to the room. Along with a selection of the typical domestic choices, there are a few more interesting options.
We spent our first day at The Magic Kingdom and had a great time, but dealing with Spring Break crowds is exhausting. We visited Be Our Guest for lunch, and that fine venue only serves beers to the dinner crowd. Instead of grabbing a counter-service dinner at the park, we ventured back to our resort for dinner at The Mara. I picked up that spot’s most interesting beer option, Casablanca. Brewed by Brasseries Du Maroc in Morocco, this pale lager is known as Casa Beer in North America. I’m not a big lager guy, but this one varies from the usual style. It’s also available in Morocco at Epcot and worth a try if you want to veer away from Bud Light (please do!).
Less inspiring for me was the Tusker Finest Quality Lager, which I picked up at The Mara after our brief afternoon trip to the Hollywood Studios. Unlike Casablanca, this beer was so light that it barely registered. It’s brewed by East African Breweries Limited and is okay if you’re looking for something milder. I’d only grab it again if my other options were limited. The Tusker Lager is also available at Disney’s Animal Kingdom if you want to check it out and aren’t staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Circling the Globe
When EPCOT Center opened in October 1982, its centerpiece was its collection of massive Future World pavilions like Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and Imagination. While that area has changed significantly, World Showcase is mostly similar to the way it started nearly 35 years ago. The pavilions around the lagoon offer glimpses of shopping, dining, and landmarks from various countries around the world. It’s a simplified look but also very effective. Epcot has become more of a festival (and sometimes party) zone than any view of tomorrow.
The positive side of this trend is the wide range of beers available at World Showcase, especially during the festivals. We visited during the Flower & Garden Festival, which is generally less chaotic than the Food & Wine Festival. It was only a one-day visit, so there wasn’t much time to sample the fare at the outdoor kitchens. We did swing by the Germany drink stand for a pair of Schöfferhofer Grapefruit beers and a giant pretzel. The cost of this small stop was a mere $29 (ouch!). It was a very large pretzel, however. The Schöfferhofer Grapefruit is the only beer that my wife has ever liked, and it’s quite refreshing on a hot Florida day. This mix of grapefruit juice and hefeweizen is also only 2.5% alcohol, so it won’t slow down your park day.
Pushing a stroller around World Showcase isn’t the ideal way to enjoy drinks, but I did grab one more beer at the Block & Hans stand in front of the American Adventure pavilion. It’s easy to walk right by this miniature spot without noticing it. That’s too bad since there are quite a few interesting craft beer choices there. I picked up an Warrior IPA from the Honor Brewing Company in Chantilly, Virginia. It may have been the excitement of Epcot, but I really enjoyed this beer. I’ve had a lot of IPAs in recent years, and while this isn’t a top choice, it’s stellar.
A Sense of “Adventure”
Disney generated some controversy among fans by announcing in December that it would serve alcohol at four more restaurants at The Magic Kingdom. This move didn’t bother me too much, especially since it only appears in four sit-down restaurants. We had a lunch ADR at the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen for our final park day, so this felt like a bonus. I expected Disney to offer some cool beer options for this fun venue. Instead, they picked Stella Artois and Blue Moon as the only choices. This was a lazy move, especially given the adventurous theming of the Skipper Canteen. It makes me wonder if they had a lot of extra stock of those beers ready to use and didn’t have another place for them.
For a restaurant themed to adventure, the two straight-arrow beers are a missed opportunity. I like Blue Moon and ordered a can during our lunch, but I can pick that up anywhere. Another restaurant that captures a similar feel is the Yak & Yeti at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Situated right in the middle of Asia, it’s popular in a park with limited sit-down options. Landry’s operates this restaurant, which includes decor to sell the vibe of Asia. Compared to the Skipper Canteen, the beer options seem extensive. I ordered the Floridian Hefeweizen from the Funky Buddha Brewery. Despite its title, this is actually a brewery from Oakland Park, Florida. It was quite tasty, especially on a hot afternoon. I didn’t specify a size, so I was treated to a gigantic 22 oz glass. Be specific with your server if you aren’t looking for such a large drink.
The Yak & Yeti feels more like a chain restaurant that you could find in any city, but it’s still a decent option if you don’t want to splurge at Tiffins. It was our most expensive meal on the trip, but we didn’t visit the most extravagant spots. If nothing else, it was refreshing to have extra beer like the Golden Monkey, Sapporo, and Tsingtao. While these aren’t that obscure, it’s still nice to step away from the most generic choices.
Given the movement towards craft beer, Disney will likely adjust and keep expanding their selections. There’s a desire for it from adult guests, which means it’s profitable. Disney goes where the money is, and the margins on beers are quite large. It’s also another way to market towards people without kids. I’m surprised that a microbrewery has not appeared yet at Disney Springs. It’s probably only a matter of time before that happens. They could sell those beers at various spots in the parks and create a brand that’s unique to Disney. Fans would love it, and the merchandise opportunities are exponential for this venture. Get on this, Disney. You’re welcome.
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