Hopping Through Disneyland

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Close your eyes, calm your breathing, and think back to the first time you ever heard Walt Disney’s voice ring out, “To all who come to this happy place, welcome!” Take in that moment when all the hopes, excitement, and joy of prior weeks could now burst forth like a flower in spring and take in all that Disneyland has to offer. You can see it, you can feel it, and, in large measure because they pump that tantalizing aroma all over Main Street USA, you can smell it. The Churros, the Ice Cream, the Coffee, and…the HOPS? Yes, hops! While malted grain and Citra hops were not original to Disneyland, theme parks of all kind are responding to the craft beer scene by offering patrons a range of craft beer options, including some of their own making: Thanks, Knotts Barry Farm!

For patrons of Disneyland itself, fans of adult beverages will find themselves having to deal with everyone’s screaming children without, as Jimmy Buffet might say, “that frozen concoction that helps him hang on.” It’s a dry park, that is unless you somehow got a table at Club 33, a secluded club nestled above New Orleans Square that is almost impossible to get into, unless you are Scott and you randomly meet a guy at a bar who gets you in. But, back when Disney decided to build a California centric theme park within a stone’s throw from Disneyland, a theme that is rapidly giving way to PIXAR and Marvel, most were excited about the expansion of the resort, but fans of adult beverages also had something to eagerly anticipate. From its inception, California Adventure has offered adults the opportunity to enjoy alcoholic beverages in all their variety: from the San Diego based Karl Strauss Brewery, to a glass of wine at the Mendocino Terrace, or a vintage cocktail at Carthay Circle. Despite how you may feel about the move away from an emphasis on California history and heritage (making the name of the park seem somewhat a misnomer), enjoying a cold beer while waiting for the next ride was such a great addition to enjoying the park. I mean, if California Screaming gives you a buzz, try it with an actual buzz.

But Disney is not alone. For those who frequent Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, or 6 Flags Magic Mountain, you are no stranger to having alcohol available to you. In fact, Knott’s Berry Farm has a Boysenberry flavoured beer that is available year-round, and although it tastes more like fruit juice than beer, we say bring it on: it makes us Berry happy!  But regardless of which park you attend, this little addition of a $10 draft beer is almost as fun as getting that delicious churro that we all know is over-priced yet tastes so good.

A pioneer in many ways, Disney is in the process of doing something no other theme park has done, at least that we are aware of, and it is taking an enormous step in offering more adult beverages to their guests, especially craft beer. If you have ever frequented Downtown Disney then you know that there are bars and plenty of restaurants, but this past January Disney announced that they would be partnering with Ballast Point Brewing for a new Brew Pub in the Downtown Disney area. According to Ken Wolter, Ballast Point “will make its Disneyland debut with an impressive space (9,350 sq. ft.) encompassing a three-barrel R&D brewery, an outdoor beer garden, and a restaurant.  This partnership was first implemented with the addition of Unfiltered Sculpin IPA on tap at ‘The Brewhouse’ in the Hollywood Land section of the park, along with other smaller breweries such as Smog City, Ace Cider, and the now bankrupt Green Flash Brewing. This is an exciting development, but it also raises concerns for some, and despite the fact that we have a soft spot for Ballast Point, we, Scott and Aaron, differ on how we feel about this.

The concern rests with the fact that in 2015 Ballast Point Brewing sold their ownership to Constellation Brands Inc., owner of such beer labels such as Corona, Modelo and Pacifico for the amount of $1 billion dollars; we understand that amount of money is hard to resist. Although, after you consider Ballast Point’s corporate debt, it’s far more than that. Despite Constellation having a fairly ‘hands-off’ approach to Ballast Point’s R&D Department, there are those who feel that they no longer represent craft beer since they are no longer considered an Independent Brewery. (See our article where we discuss the Independent Brewery Sticker). While on the surface, the addition of a new Ballast Point in Downtown Disney sounds like a great idea, Scott is less enthusiastic. With the new partnership with Disney, Scott wonders if Ballast Point’s prominence and financial backing of Constellation will ultimately push out the competitive market for craft beer currently at California Adventure, including Karl Strauss and Smog City. As for Aaron, he sees this as a great way for patrons of Downtown Disney to be drinking much better beer than your typical “ball park” beer, both “craft” and domestic. Both views hold merit.

So, the question left to be answered is one that has been raised before: do craft beer enthusiasts still consider Ballast Point Brewing a craft brewery despite their ownership, or are we, the beer geeks, the only ones who care? Do we, the beer enthusiasts, take a stand and demand that Disney support independent brewers, regardless of their size? Perhaps, but Perhaps not. Despite one’s convictions on the matter, one truth must be stated, both Disney and Ballast Point exist to make money, why else would you pump the aroma of cinnamon and coffee into the air? Hell, maybe they will pump the smell of Citra and Nelson hops into the atmosphere: that would get our attention. We suppose Disney could live up to its name and host an Independent Brewery festival, thereby making it the happiest place on Earth, but that is not likely to happen soon. With no clear answer, perhaps the best way to figure this out is to grab a pint in California Adventure, head on over to the Magic Kingdom, have a Great Moment with President Lincoln, and recall what FDR said as he repealed prohibition: “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”


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