Last Sunday I went on an adventure. An adventure of beer at a place where you’d probably least expect that to happen — Disneyland. If you’ve been to California’s busiest theme park duo you might have noticed that one of the parks serves alcohol and the other does not.
Usually, in Disney’s California Adventure you’re limited to a few select vendors with only a handful of beers (mostly Karl Strauss and nothing against them), but during the “Food and Wine Festival” you get a whole lot more. The name is a bit deceiving. Sure, there is an abundance of tasty dishes sold from carts all around, as this year each cart focused on a specific ingredient which the dishes were based around. However, the name “Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival” ought to include beer as well. After all, they had over 20 beers on draft from all over California and other parts of the West Coast. In fact, there was a beer garden set-up just for the Anaheim beers. Strolling around, through the constantly busy walkway that hosted the festival, you’re sure to find yourself surprised by how such an event such as this festival can almost completely distract you from the main attraction, the park itself!
MICKEY MOUSE BEER TASTING?
Like I said, Disneyland and even California Adventure, is not the place I’d typically go to or expect to have any sort of beer tasting. Sure, it’s quite fun to walk around the park, beer in hand and then jump on the ride of your choice (California Screamin’ for me). However, right in the middle of the line of food carts, you can find the beer — And a line for that too. Needless to say, the California Adventure Food and Wine Festival is quite popular with the adults, and for good reason. Of course you’re going to have to wait for the tasters! Besides a few additional beers on draft, here is the selection on the tasters, grouped by location. Northern California or SoCal:
As you can see, the beer offerings range from some larger breweries like Sierra Nevada and Stone, to some of the smaller offerings like Black Market Brewing Company and 21st Amendment Brewing. Having tried several of the beers from the Northern California list, and being especially excited to try the Tangerine Express IPA by Stone, I selected the So Cal flight. It’s presented in a pretty great box with a layout very simple and easy to understand. I’ve had several flights even at breweries where nothing is clearly labeled I had no idea what beers or styles I was trying. This was not the case with the first “to-go flight” I’d ever seen. The cardboard box was clearly stamped in the center with the corresponding numbers and I was given a little business card with a list of the brews contained. Way to go Disney!
So how were they?
Being a logical person I drank them in order. I mean, that’s what Walt Disney would want me to do right?
1.) First up was the Mother Earth Hefeweizen called “Honcho”. Personally, I find it hard for most breweries stateside to completely reproduce a good German hefeweizen simply because they lack the same ingredients Bavarian brewers have been using — since the beginning of time. That said, Mother Earth did a very good job with this one. This Hefeweizen brought out the traditional banana-clove flavors, but was something a bit different from most of the traditional brews — this one felt a bit lighter, not so “wheaty”. I actually enjoyed this as beers are usually meant to be brewed in the same environment they are drank. Therefore, a refreshing Southern Californian hefeweizen wasn’t a bad thing at all. The flavor of cloves and spice was a little stronger in this one which worked to its benefit as well.
2.) Next up was Black Market Brewing Company’s “Deception”, a coconut / lime flavored blonde ale. My first thought was that “this would go great with tacos!”, but after that settled off, there were lingering notes of coconut that made it more desert-like? The lime certainly has the first bite, but the sweet refreshing taste of the coconut has the last laugh (A coconut laughing is certainly hard to imagine. I mean, where is the mouth?). Brewed in Temecula, this drink is definitely meant to cool you down as that town gets ridiculously hot. If it were me however, I’d bring this brew to the beach.
3.) Left Coast’s “Una Mas” is an amber lager and the flavors of this one were certainly dominated by the malt. Being an amber, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that this was the case, however I though that the malt was even more expanded in this beer to the point that it lacked distinction. I finished it off thinking that the brew was very average and not memorable (good thing I took notes).
4.) Lastly — the moment we’ve all been waiting for (or maybe that was just me): Stone’s Tangerine Express. This is one of those beers that I’d seen around in the grocery store and wanted to try, but never been pushed hard enough to actually do it — and I was very glad that I never did. I actually wasn’t a big fan of this beer as I felt like the Kool-aid man had just burst through my wall, his jug filled to the brim with “Tangerine-ness”. The citrus, tangerine flavors here were overbearing and overstayed their welcome. I usually really like Stone’s beers, but this was just too much and not worthy of all of the hype around it in my opinion.
Did I have a favorite?
If I was to sit down in a taproom that for some freaky and paradoxical reason had exactly the same taps as my Disney taster flight, I would have to go with the Mother Earth Brewing Co’s Honcho. I feel that it represented the style in a unique, and Californian way.
SO WHAT ELSE? TELL ME MORE!
Well, the above “tell me more” words are written by me (duh…) mostly because I want you to tell you my favorite part of California Adventure’s Food and Wine (AND BEER) Festival. What I found especially cool about the whole thing was the locally based (and I mean local) beer garden down at the end of the boardwalk. This booth (pictured below) had a group of taps just from the local Anaheim brews just down the street. Sure, most of these breweries are very small and not really noted outside Southern California, but it gave a bit of perspective to the whole festival. Furthermore, my favorite beer of the festival was tasted here:
I’ve had a couple beers from Noble Ale Works, but being told it was the most “IPA” of a beer on the menu (still not sure what they meant by that) I decided to give “Big Whig” a go. I’ve also had the Bottle Logic “Recursion” and was looking to try something new. Sure, I’m partial to IPA’s, but Big Whig was a very good IPA. It’s a typical West Coast IPA and has that same bitter bite. It also had a similar balance and taste of an DIPA (Double IPA) , but wasn’t I guess? Overall, it was nice to see Anaheim represent properly at the Food and Wine Festival.
LAST THOUGHTS FROM THE SKY
Beer is certainly alive and well in Disney’s California Adventure Food and Wine Festival, but in the years to come, it would be nice to see that actually represented in the name. Long gone are days where California’s sole drink of choice was made with grapes. A new beverage has pushed its thrown up right next to that of wine and is offering bubbly and hoppy refreshment. As for the offerings? The tasting tray was well thought-out and the beer selection was a pretty good representation of California brewing. It’s too bad that a larger variety of beers can’t be poured in the park full time, but I guess that’s what makes every spring special down at Disneyland’s other park.