Review: BaseLine Tap House at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Larger: Here.

BaseLine Tap House opened in what is now called the “Grand Avenue” section of Hollywood Studios to the left of Sci-Fi Dine-In and on the walk towards Muppet Vision and PizzeRizzo.

BaseLine opens about two years before it’s really “needed” as Grand Avenue should prove to be the main thoroughfare/flop house on the long journey into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

I’ve seen some number of complaints that the last thing that Disney’s Hollywood Studios needs is another bar. Ideally, BaseLine’s opening will close at least a couple of the eight popup bars currently littered around the Studios.

Personally, I walk right past these things without a second thought as my idea of a cocktail does not include a glow cube or an ounce of Jose Cuervo that’s been sitting in the Florida sun for eight hours, but I can follow the logic that seeing so many of them cheapens the “Disney experience.” The “bar” pictured above is right across from the exit to Toy Story Mania. But if Disney is successful in sending those interested in a beer or cocktail to BaseLine, then it seems like we may see a reduction in the number of popup bars in the area. Probably not. But maybe. They obviously wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a demand.

BaseLine offers seating to about 50 guests inside with far more being able to find accommodations outside. Drinks are available in glassware “for here” or in plastic cups, “to go.”

These days, Disney Imagineering reminds me a lot of Seth Rogen’s character in Knocked Up, when he keeps using the dice-throwing dance move on Katherine Heigl because it’s the only one he’s got. Tap House is supposed to be a re-purposed space with a lot of brickwork, exposed ducts, and stuff on shelves, just like D-Luxe Burger, The Polite Pig, AbracadaBar, Trolley Car Cafe, and just about every other quick service or lounge that’s opened in the last year or so. Baseline pays homage to a fictitious printing company.

But we’ll get back to all of the “details” another time when the place isn’t crawling with vloggers and mid-level managers. A couple of return visits will also give us a better idea about what the overall vibe of the lounge will be, at least until Star Wars opens. The space is far less cushy than Nomad Lounge, where you’ll find a lot of couches and soft chairs. BaseLine is much more industrial with wooden chairs and hard surfaces. It also replaces Nomad’s African- and Asian-inspired music with what I would describe as a soundtrack consisting of Sheryl Crow singing Guns ‘n Roses with a smooth jazz band behind her.

It also remains to be seen what the ordering process looks like. From our many years of travel to Disney Parks, we know that tourists love lines. And on opening day here, a line to order would occasionally develop that took eager patrons further and further away from the bar, only for someone to march right up to the counter and try to get a bartender’s attention. Cast members would occasionally advise that there was no line. My estimation is that after today, traffic will be light enough that anyone can mosey up to the bar and put in for what they want without much trouble. The problem with Writer’s Stop was always traffic and that won’t increase until Star Wars time. Heaven help us.

Grand Avenue is supposed to be themed to Downtown Los Angeles, and each of the beers, wines, and lone cider hail from California. At least for now. This website has long campaigned for variety, but the bottom line is that your average theme park visitor is not interested in trying a $24 Westmalle Trappist Dubbel. And I’m not sure anybody actually enjoys drinking them. The only reason I drink them is because I think it makes me look more smug and when I go upstairs to grab a beer, Mother only lets me have two. And a couple of Bud Light Limes are only going to power Aladdin’s Magical Carpet so far.

As is tradition, the website sampled one of everything. There are nine beers on draft, so you’ll “need” to pick one up in a larger size to try one of each without ordering a third flight. Not the worst problem to have.

I’ll quickly go over each selection; first is the name of the beer, followed by the Alcohol By Volume as a percentage and the IBU, or International Bittering Units. A higher IBU indicates more bitterness.

Golden Road 329 Lager (4.8%, 25) – This is your Bud-Light-style option: easy-drinking, crisp, and clean with an inoffensive flavor and soft carbonation. It’s refreshing, if not unremarkable. 20-ounce Bud Light drafts run $7.25 at nearby PizzeRizzo, so you’re paying about $2 more for your California craft beer experience.

North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner (4.7%, 22) – This German Pilsner is light and crisp with just a little lemon, biscuit, and grass to keep things interesting with a notably dry, clean finish. Very easy drinking again with more flavor than the Golden Road.

Anchor Meyer Lemon Lager (4.5%, 22) – This is surprisingly well-balanced, considering most beers that add lemon to their name come off as artificially sweet and sour. Very refreshing and your best choice if you’re looking for a juicy beer without the bite.

Golden Road Hefeweizen (5.0%, 15) – Like virtually all beers of this style, the requisite clove and banana flavors are present, only they linger a little less than other entries, which some may find more desirable. Again, very easy drinking.

Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker Wheat Ale (5.5%, 5) – This is a surprisingly nuanced beer with a fruity, sour character that’s somehow backed up by a slightly sweet, wheat-y finish. Those looking specifically for a fruity beer may want to stick with the Anchor, but this is less bitter.

Napa Smith Lost Dog Red Ale (7.2%, 43) – This is the first of our more-bitter, higher-ABV beers. This is a pretty straightforward American Amber with an herbal quality and a flavor that’s a lot more bitter if your flight starts with the lagers. There was a little bit more sugar and caramel than I like, but the higher ABV may make it worthwhile.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.0%, 30) – Ordinarily, this is one of the best pale ales available at a remarkably reasonable price, but what we sampled at BaseLine was flat and tasteless. Hopefully this will be rectified.

Lagunitas IPA (6.2%, 52) – Another very popular, very good beer at a reasonable price when purchased at the store. It’s citrus-forward, nicely balanced, and pleasantly bitter with a nice pine-y character. If you’re going by rarity, skip this and the Sierra Nevada, but it’s one of the best beers on the menu.

Stone Delicious IPA (7.7%, 75) – This is an earthy India Pale Ale that is sweeter at the front than the bitterness index implies. With pine, predominantly lemon citrus, and caramel, the finish is quite bitter and it lingers for a while. This is one that I would consider in the 22-ounce pour at night in December, but it’s probably not the best choice if it’s 92 degrees out. At least you do get the highest ABV. Tell Mother you only had two, even if it’s really equivalent to three.

Overall, your selection depends on what you’re looking for. For the best, easiest drinking beer that may not be available at a grocery store outside of California, the Anchor is a good choice, as is the Scrimshaw Pilsner. The Sierra Nevada and Lagunitas are very good, but easy to find. The Stone and Napa Smith are the best for those looking for a bitter aftertaste. The Green Flash and Golden Road are just fine, but may not be worth a 22-ounce pour.

All in all, Disney did a pretty nice job marrying quality, price, and availability with these selections. Get here before they switch to Sam Adams Seasonal and Blue Moon.

Otherwise, at $8.25 for 16 ounces, the price per ounce is 51.5 cents. At $9.50 for 22 ounces, the price per ounce is 43.2 cents. And with the flight coming in at $10.50 for 20 ounces, the price per ounce is 52.5 cents. So it makes some sense to commit if you think you can given the current political climate.

Two wines and two cocktails are advertised in the paper menu and on the large menu board over the taps, but this is the only spot that you’ll find the list of spirits available. I originally thought the bottles were just for show. So if you’d prefer a double Crown on the Rocks to a pre-mixed cocktail or 22-ounce beer, do your worst. I’ll take one too.

We’ve seen wine-on-tap around property for years now, perhaps first showing up at The Wave.

The St. Francis Chardonnay is also on tap at the Wine & Dine Studio at this year’s Food and Wine Festival, where it’s $6 for 2-3 ounces versus the $13 bottle price. At $9 for a larger pour here, you’re not doing great, but it’s better than those little Copa di Vino plastic cups that they’ll try to sell you at most quick services.

We also saw the Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon back at the 2015 Food and Wine Festival, back when it was $3.50 and you got a solid three to four ounces. This is otherwise $9/glass at BaseLine versus the $10 bottle price. On the other hand, most of the beers available are $2 for a 12-ounce bottle at the store versus $8.25 for a 16-ounce pour at BaseLine, so it’s not like the St. Francis is terrible compared to that.

That’s a 22-ounce Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker Wheat Ale on the left and the $11.25 “California Sunset – Absolut Berri Açaí Vodka, Southern Comfort, Orange Juice, Sweet-and-Sour with a float of Pomegranate Juice.” I may not have been paying enough attention, but I’m not sure if I saw anyone float any pomegranate juice on top of this particular drink or if someone just holds up a bottle of Pom to the vat underneath the bar at the beginning of the day and calls it good. But this was a large, refreshing cocktail that nicely balanced a strong alcohol presence with juice. Usually I feel like these drinks are too thick and syrupy, but what we were served wasn’t bad at all.

And the $11.25 “Negroni – Hendrick’s Gin, Campari and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth” is easily the strongest drink we sampled. It’s all booze. And again, it was somehow well-balanced and there was a decent amount of it, slightly sweetened up by the ripe orange slice and the vermouth. It was as good of a negroni as I’ve enjoyed on property.

Disney may be trying to trick us by offering something that isn’t garbage on the first day. But don’t worry. I will be back.

Some of you may remember the setup at Writer’s Stop before it shuttered, when the indoor space was basically used as a waiting area for Sci-Fi.

This was the menu then:

We see a similar pretzel, charcuterie, and nut setup now.

At the time, the Charcuterie Board offerings were a little “varied,” though they were certainly a hearty use of a snack credit on the Dining Plan regardless of whether you ended up with two raspberries or four pickles.

This is the current offering: The $10 “California Cheese and Charcuterie – Toma Farmstead Cheese, Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese, Laura Chenel’s Sonoma Goat Cheese, Chorizo and Calabrese Salami, Cornichons, Grapes and Toasted Baguettes.”

Two of these cheeses, the Toma and Point Reyes, are actually from the same Trio offered at the 2017 Food and Wine Festival that I linked to above. The blue cheese is creamy with a nice salty tang, while the semi-firm Toma has a buttery quality with a mild flavor. We’ve seen the Laura Chenel Goat Cheese as well, though that was on a flatbread at California Grill’s Celebration at the Top, which is a Sunday evening event that includes fireworks viewing. Here, the goat cheese arrives rolled in pumpkin seasoning and cranberry, giving it a much sweeter flavor than it would have otherwise.

The Chorizo and Calabrese Salami tasted just fine – meaty and salty with a modest fat content. The cornichons were sweet at the start of the bite followed by a distinct tartness and a nice crunch. The grapes were juicy and fresh and the toasted baguette slices were a nice way to scoop up a couple pieces of cheese.

Overall, anyone planning on spending some time at BaseLine should consider picking up a board. It’s fun to nibble on a little bit of this and that while enjoying the beers, wines, and cocktails.

The $9 “Bavarian Pretzel with Beer Cheese Fondue and Spicy Mustard.”

This is reminiscent or exactly the same as what Germany has offered at Epcot for years and years. I’ve always said that quality over there depends on freshness and how much salt sticks to the bread. And even then, they’re still incredibly dry. Luckily, BaseLine’s were arriving hot out of the kitchen and were quite tasty dressed up with the accompaniments. The beer cheese fondue in particular was creamy and flavorful, but also thin enough that it didn’t seem overpowering or grossly decadent. The spicy mustard that comes with the charcuterie board spreads better than what’s served with the pretzel, so keep that in mind and give it a try if you opt for both.

For three dollars more than a Mickey Pretzel, this is denser, larger, and more flavorful, plus the beer cheese fondue destroys the packaged “cheese sauce” that arrives alongside Mickey. I’m not sure that it’s a “must-have,” but it’s a fun, filling snack.

The $6 “Spiced Almonds – House-made Sweet and Spicy Toasted Almonds.”

These were actually pretty interesting in that the nuts marry a cinnamon-sugar glaze with just a little bit of pepper. They’re mostly sweet, but occasionally you might be surprised to get a little punch of cayenne.

Overall, these are three elevated food offerings that won’t make or break your vacation, but certainly taste good alongside the drinks. I’d suggest the nuts if you’re on the go or the charcuterie board if you’re in it for the long haul. At nine bucks, the pretzel presents a little less value, but it’s fun alongside the beer.

BaSeLiNE TAP HOUSE looks to be a positive addition. Time will tell what kind of atmosphere the space develops. But the beer selections are above average for Walt Disney World at prices similar to what you’d pay for lesser offerings. The cocktails surprised in quality, though the selection certainly doesn’t impress. But if you’d like a double shot of Fireball, that’s available too. The food that’s offered is also quite good with the charcuterie board standing out as offering high quality selections for less than you’d pay at a restaurant.

I’ll update as things change.

Comments

  1. Linda B says

    Excellent, excellent review. Now I can make an informed decision whether to go to BaseLine Tap House or not. Thank you!

  2. Chris says

    Great review, looking forward to trying this out later in the year… at least something to do at DHS! Are any of the food options available as snack credits?

  3. Jennifer says

    Thanks Josh. Very helpful info.
    Do they have mixers, or would it be more like “cup of Hendrick’s please?” Probably academic since I’m most likely still getting my DHS take out cocktails from Tune-In. But in case of cocktail emergency or if I don’t want to walk back over there.

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