Welcome, Dear Reader. Your Humble Author Derek Burgan here, and I have an important message. As we all know, in a year in which every single week seemed to be crazier than the one before it, this past week was bound to be absolutely bananas. To escape the craziness, I spent the entire week in Key West with Bacini, the official dog of DisTwitter. We eschewed the touristy spots and instead visited all the places that only the locals know, like Hard Rock Cafe, Benihana, and Margaritaville. Oh sure, we saw some of “Old Florida history” in places like the Hemingway House, but how can you be expected to enjoy an attraction when the pressed penny machine is out of order? So as I am now spending approximately the next 48-72 hours lodging numerous complaints on Yelp and TripAdvisor, I needed to make sure the trusted SATURDAY SIX brand was in capable hands.
Unfortunately, only Resident Millennial Joe Matt was available.
The good news is that this week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at exclusive beers available at the Universal Orlando Resort, and if there was ever a spiritual successor to Norm from Cheers, it would be Joe Matt. The bad news is that Millennial Joe doesn’t know who Norm is because Cheers is “an old person’s show.” That said, we have even more good news and it’s that Joe is one of the shining stars of the TouringPlans team. He is smart, he is funny, he knows his themed entertainment, and he is one of the best people I have met in the entire theme park community. Take it away Joe…
[Editorial Note: I remember Norm best from being in airport bars as an AA]
Not too long ago theme parks like Disney and Universal were satisfied with burgers, fries, and a Coke. Outside the parks, after two decades of consolidation and franchising, America was FED UP and entered a craft renaissance. One of the largest markets to blossom was the craft beer market. In 2005 there were nearly 1400 craft breweries around the USA, and by 2016 more than 5200 craft breweries were in operation. Whole new businesses like bottle shops and modern beer halls popped up to support the demand. Even apps such as Untappd sprung up for beer aficionados to log their tasting notes.
Theme parks slowly adopted this trend, starting with Walt Disney World and Big River Brewing in 1996. Now major lands and attractions get their own exclusive beers for adults just as they used to receive shirts and pins. Universal remains heads, shoulders, and kegs above others with their exclusive fermented offerings.
This week SATURDAY SIX is joined by resident Millennial Joe and Dan to show craft beer fans SIX locations around Universal Orlando to try exclusive beers! Open Untappd, grab a pretzel, and here we GO!
6 – The RESORTS!
Universal’s resorts are the undiscovered gems that combine high-quality accommodations, unbeatable amenities, and a great price point. How many resorts have a bowling alley, lazy river, and Starbucks?
We start at Loews Royal Pacific Resort, which brings the ambiance of the South Pacific to Orlando. Located on the ground floor is Jake’s American Bar which serves up American fare cooked up by an ex-pat. In addition to nachos, burgers, and pizzas is an extensive beer selection including the exclusive Jake’s American Red Lager. Lager is a cold bottom-fermenting beer, and Jake’s adds a new spin by focusing on malts over hops – think Sam Adams instead of Budweiser. This red lager is a refreshing beer that pairs perfectly with the restaurant’s signature fried pretzel appetizer.
Our next stop is Universal’s newest hotel: Endless Summer! Located on the old Wet ‘n Wild waterpark plot of land, this new hotel is Universal’s first value hotel. But unlike other resorts *cough* this hotel offers some great amenities like an on-site fitness center and arcade! To find our next exclusive beer we head towards the pool and The Sand Bar where mixed drinks are under $10. Here is the exclusive Surfside IPA brewed by Goose Island. This IPA is endlessly drinkable (pun intended) and is exactly what you think a Goose Island IPA should be: bright, floral, and with a slight hint of orange.
5 – Universal Studios Florida
Alright, unpacked and ready to go? Grab your mask, get your AP – let us head into the parks!
As part of a major 2013 refresh project at Universal Studios Florida, The Simpsons Ride annexed the International Food Fair section of the park and rebuilt it into Springfield USA with Fast Food Boulevard and Duff Brewery. In addition to new food options like the Fried Chicken and Waffle sandwich and The Clogger burger was the official release of a Simpson’s classic: Duff Beer.
Duff, Duff Lite, and Duff Dry, all by Florida Beer Company, are avaiable at Fast Food Boulevard but WHY GET IT THERE? Instead, stumble into Moe’s Tavern to pick up the iconic mass-produced beer. While inside make sure to watch the TV loop of classic Simpsons moments, test your hand with the Love Tester, and pose with Barney! Oh and grab a Duff.
Outside at Duff Brewery offers the same menu with less indoors-ness! This location is a Halloween Horror Nights staple, especially during Oktoberfest.
Here fans of The Simpsons can pick up the seasonal beer Dufftoberfest. A typical Oktoberfest Marzen, the beer is has a light body with a crisp malt finish. There’s nothing quite like grabbing a beer at Duff Brewery before tackling some of the haunted houses in the back of the park.
But a good Duff is not just for HHN fans; the beer is perfect to pick up before a showing of Animal Actors or a round of Men in Black: Alien Attack.
4 – Islands of Adventure
When preparing this article I started spacing out the list and noticed Islands of Adventure did not have an exclusive beer (shhh… Potter comes later). So I racked my brain thinking of what beer I should put for this park. Then my friend Dan gave me inspiration: why not a hard-to-get beer for most guests that is FANTASTIC? So head on over to Jurassic Park and pop open a can of Pseudo Sue from Toppling Goliath Brewing Company out of Iowa.
Pseudo Sue is a pale ale that focuses on the Citra hops known for its citrus fragrance and tropical fruit taste. Just pop open a can and you will think it is a can of orange juice. The beer is a New England style, meaning it’s unfiltered and hazy, so do not go too crazy at the Watering Hole.
3 – Volcano Bay
Okay, time to don that swimsuit and swim shirt and head on over to Volcano Bay. Being Orlando’s newest water park, ‘da Bay features virtual lines for slides, no need to haul innertubes, and payment wristbands named Tapu Tapu. The whole park is inspired by a factual water tribe from the South Pacific named the Waturi. I’m not making this up.
Unlike the usual pizza, fries, and burgers at other water parks Volcano Bay leans into its water and Pacific theme by offering unique offerings like flatbreads, pulled pork, and more. One of those options, the Volcano Blossom beer by Orange Blossom Beer Company, is a Blue Moon-like pilsner that gives off a freshening malt and orange taste.
After a refreshing beer and meal, we’d always suggest taking a ride on the famous Krakatau Aqua Coaster. This “water coaster” combines the typical dips and drops of a water slide with magnetically propelled segments that launch special tubes (and guests) up hills. It’s a breathtaking ride and one that cannot be missed while at Volcano Bay.
2 – CityWalk
Let’s go back to the hotel, towel off, take a shower, and maybe watch some Resort TV before we head off to CityWalk! Our first stop is Universal’s home for beer: NBC Sports Grill & Brew. This sports bar features 40 taps, dozens of bottles, and a number of TVs that would make Samsung go “okay, that’s maybe a little too much”.
The headliner beer on tap is 862 IPA brewed by Florida Beer Company. Named after the project code for the restaurant (Project 862), 862 is a full-bodied west coast IPA; think notes of pine and malt instead like a Sierra Nevada IPA. In addition to the IPA there is a Seasonal 862 beer on rotation (ask your server for the latest offering) and a beer on the beer engine.
Any good sports bar needs some good appetizers. Sure you can get your fill of wings, cheese curds, flatbreads, and more but there really is only ONE appetizer you need: the GIANT pretzel. Yes, it’s huge.
Served on a giant stand this bavarian pretzel is served with house-made beer cheese and Cleveland’s own Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard for dipping.
Want some more options? Pick up a flight of beers – select four beers from the tap list to sample.
Next, we head over to CityWalk’s newest restaurant, BigFire American Fare. The restaurant focuses on grilled entrees made over their own custom blend of woods that impart a unique flavor to all their dishes.
The drink selection is dominated by an impressive selection of whiskies, bourbons, and scotches. Our personal favorite is the Smoked Old Fashioned where they smoke a piece of wood inside your glass to impart a distinctly smoky flavor.
Continuing the smoked theme is Bigfire’s exclusive beer: the Smoked Amber from Florida Beer Company. The amber beer features a malt body with slight notes of smoked wood. We suggest pairing it with the mussels or a steak off of the fire.
Unquestionably the most popular restaurant at CityWalk is Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen. Universal’s take on a Cheesecake Factory, Toothsome features a menu the size of a small city’s phonebook. (Kids, ask your parents what those are.) [Derek’s Note: Stop pretending YOU know what a phonebook is, Joe!] Between the chocolate-inspired dishes, all-day breakfast, and enough milkshakes to bring every boy to Universal is a surprisingly extensive drink menu. On top of that menu is the Too Chocolate Stout by Florida Beer Company. Unlike normal stouts, a beer defined by their heavy malts, this beer includes hints of chocolate and milk sugar to provide a velvet milky texture.
1 – POTTER!
Okay, let’s be real–how many readers went to Universal for the first time because of Harry Potter.
I’m not angry, I’m just happy. Potter opened up a new world of theme park experiences to long-time Disney fans with intricate theming, amazing attractions, and attention to detail unrivaled to this day. Universal really outdid themselves with the food and beverage options with brand-new drinks, fresh British food, and even the much-coveted Butterbeer. Much digital ink (and blood) is spilled on those offerings, but much isn’t discussed about the beers and adult drinks offered. Sure it seems that as a kids series why would they include alcohol, but remember if a 13-year-old was reading The Sorcerer’s Stone (nee Philosopher’s Stone) in 1999 they’d be now in their 30s.
In Hogsmeade is Hogs Head Tavern, located to the right of the Three Broomsticks Tavern. This counter-service bar offers mixed drinks and a great selection of English drafts for the pour. The signature drink here is the Hogs Head Brew, a light-bodied ale with low hops and malts with an amber color.
So when Univeral expanded Potter into the studios park they had to one-up themselves, and take it to another level. They added TWO NEW BEERS.
First up is the Wizards Brew by Flordia Beer Company, a milk stout known for its smooth mouthfeel and malty taste.
Last, but not least, is the Dragon Scale by Florida Beer Company, a Vienna lager. This beer is crisp, light, with light notes of malt with a slight amber hue. This is my preferred beer in Diagon Alley… besides a Strongbow with a shot of Fire Whiskey in it.
So there you have it: Six Places to Find EXCLUSIVE BEERS in Universal Orlando! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.