Edit: This review originally appeared last September, but I have updated it given the new margarita, five new beers, and addition of the steak. Since I have visited about 175 times over the last nine months, I’ve also updated my thoughts on the vibe of the place, which is pleasant and relaxing outdoors, while being pretty lame inside.
BaseLine Tap House opened back in September 2017 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. The above picture was taken on opening day.
We’re still about 18 months away from BaseLine really being “needed” as Grand Avenue will be the main thoroughfare/flop house on the long journey into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Still, I’ve been surprised by how popular it is most days with a lot of people sitting around enjoying their drinks and snacks. There’s certainly a lot of people-watching potential as all of these poor guests search aimlessly for the exit out of Hollywood Studios.
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.
Yes, if you look closely at the wall to the right of the bar, the letters spell out “Writer’s Stop,” which was the name of previous tenant. Very exciting stuff.
Inside, 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. Even with the availability of the air-conditioning inside, I usually find myself sitting outside. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself staring at a variety of brick walls. I can do that at home.
While BaseLine has proven to be popular, it’s usually possible to walk right up to the bar to order a drink from one of several friendly bartenders.
Grand Avenue is supposed to be themed to Downtown Los Angeles, and each of the beers, wines, and lone cider hail from California. Above is what’s currently offered. Somewhat surprisingly, Disney has already switched out five of the original beers for other selections, which is probably nice to see. While it hasn’t quite been open a year, I thought we’d already be inundated with Bud Light, but BaseLine has actually gotten a little weirder with the Sierra Nevada Tropical IPA arriving in place of the very good Pale Ale and the North Coast Cherry Berliner Weisse replacing the Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker Wheat Ale. Prices are up a quarter across the board since the bar opened, with the exception of the Beer Flight, where the price has risen to $11 from the original $10.50.
As is tradition, the website sampled one of everything on the original menu. 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.
Lagunitas Pils (6%, 35) – This Czech-style Pilsner is a little more malty than your typical German-style Pilsner, which is also why we benefit from the relatively-high 6% ABV compared to the 4.7% we saw in the Scrimshaw. Because of that, it’s a lot more hoppy and a lot less crisp than you might expect along with a bitterer finish. It’s not a personal favorite, but it’s certainly worth trying as part of a flight.
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.
North Coast Cherry Berliner Weisse (4.1%, 0) – This fruity, sour liquid looks a lot more like a rosé wine than your typical beer. Personally, I don’t like it at all – most cherry beers come off tasting medicinal with an unpleasant syrupy quality and this one isn’t far off of that, though it’s so tart that the flavor is a lot different than your typical Tussin, no matter how much mom might water it down. Those that enjoy tart, fruity beers should enjoy this one okay, but five ounces as part of the flight was more than enough for me.
Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo IPA (6.7%, 55) – Sierra Nevada’s “regular” Torpedo IPA is actually one of my favorite beers to buy at the store – a 12-pack of 7.2% ABV hoppy, refreshing, citrus-y goodness will run you around $14. The flavor here is toned down considerably with the “help” of grapefruit and sugar that smells a lot more tropical than it tastes. It’s worth trying as part of the flight, but those that enjoy Torpedo IPA may be a little disappointed here. I was.
Angel City IPA (6.1%, 65) – This replaces the Lagunitas IPA, which I liked a lot more. But the Angel City is a lot less ubiquitous, which might be a step in the right direction and it’s still an easy-drinking, well-balanced IPA with your typical hoppy citrus taste that’s more alcohol-forward than you’d expect given the relatively low ABV for this style.
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.
Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter (6%, 46) – That’s it on the far right, as you might be able to surmise from the chocolaty brown color and the fact that it says “BALLAST POINT” overhead. They’re somehow opening a brewery in Downtown Disney at Disneyland later this year and Ballast brings their Black Marlin Porter to BaseLine. Almost everything they do is excellent and the Marlin is incredibly dark and rich with your typical roasted malts, coffee, and caramel throughout each sip. Very good if you’re a fan of the style.
Overall, your selection depends a lot on your personal preferences. For the best, easiest drinking beer that may not be available at a grocery store outside of California, the Scrimshaw Pilsner is a good choice. The Lagunitas brings more of a kick and the Stone Delicious IPA is your best choice if your husband is counting the number of beers you’re drinking. It has almost twice the alcohol of the Cherry Berliner Weisse.
All in all, Disney did a pretty nice job marrying quality, price, and availability with these selections. Here’s to hoping we don’t see them switch to Sam Adams Seasonal and Blue Moon.
Otherwise, at $8.50 for 16 ounces, the price per ounce is 53.1 cents. At $9.75 for 22 ounces, the price per ounce is 44.3 cents. And with the flight coming in at $11 for 20 ounces, the price per ounce is 55 cents. So it makes some sense to commit to a 22-ounce pour if you think you can settle on one selection. I’d probably rock the flight over the 16-ounce pour given the similar price per ounce. It’s fun to try a variety of styles.
This is the sole cider on tap in the “Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider,” which will set you back $9.75 for 16 ounces, which is the same amount of money that you’d pay for 22 ounces of beer. But it’s actually a pretty good value as a 22-ounce bottle costs $7.50 at Total Wine. Above is the 22-ounce version for which I paid $11.50 if memory serves. The Ace Space is light on the sugar, which makes for a tarter experience with a strong orange juice flavor backed up by a lot of apple and just a little bit of carbonation along with some tang. I’m not much of a cider drinker and 22 ounces of this one ended up being a lot, but at 6.9% ABV, it’s probably worth it. You might ask nicely if they’ll let you try it as part of the Beer Flight.
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 over at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The St. Francis Chardonnay made its debut on tap at the Wine & Dine Studio at last year’s Food and Wine Festival, where it was $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 probably a better value than those little bottles of Woodbridge wine that they’ll try to sell you at most quick services. Woodbridge should only come in 1.5 liter bottles as far as I’m concerned.
We also saw the Line 39 Cabernet Sauvignon back at the 2015 Food and Wine Festival, 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 $8.50 for a 16-ounce pour at BaseLine, so it’s not like the St. Francis is terrible compared to that.
On the right is the $11.75 “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.
Above is what was the $11.25 “Negroni – Hendrick’s Gin, Campari and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth,” which was easily the strongest drink we sampled on opening day.
And perhaps because of that, it’s no longer available with the $11.75 “Exotic Margarita – Patron Silver Tequila, Midori, Yuzu and fresh Lime Juice” arriving in its place. Ours was pretty pitiful – way too much melon flavor from the Midori and a really syrupy mouthfeel, perhaps from the Yuzu. There was no tequila presence whatsoever, which is probably not what someone ordering a margarita is looking to taste. Both cocktails are pre-mixed and this one is a hard pass in my estimation.
BaseLine opened with three small plate choices. They added the “Beef Puff” earlier this year:
Virtually across the board, the food is surprisingly good.
The $11 “Coffee-rubbed Rib-eye Beef Puff with Olive Salad” is artfully presented on a wooden slab.
The steak was tender and flavorful with just a little bit of an espresso coffee bean vibe from the rub – there was also a ton of it packed into the chewy, flaky puff that’s lined with sweet, slightly crunchy caramelized onions. The horseradish sauce is creamy and mild, but there’s a little bit of a kick there considering how much there is on top. You can always ask for it on the side if you’re adverse.
The small side of olives was fresh with a nice spicy kick in its own right – a nice mixture of kalamata olives, green olives, peppers, and spices.
Overall, it reminded me of a very large Epcot Food and Wine Festival dish that seems a little random showing up here. It’s table service quality – probably better than anything you’d order from Sci-Fi. But it’s a little awkward to eat alongside a beer with plastic cutlery. I could see this working if you’re hungry and want to eat something that isn’t a million carbs or cheese, but I’ve never personally found myself in that state of mind.
This is a really nice setup with 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 carry 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 or four elevated food offerings that all taste great by themselves and largely pair well with 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. The Steak Puff is a good option if you’re looking for a dish that’s probably more hefty than most restaurant appetizers. At nine bucks, the pretzel presents a little less value, but it’s fun alongside the beer.
BaSeLiNE TAP HOUSE has proven to be a positive addition, offering a relaxing space in the middle of the hubbub that is a Walt Disney World theme park. The beer selections are above average at prices similar to what you’d pay for lesser offerings elsewhere and the food is better than it has any right to be. The wine and cocktail list is unlikely to impress, but the California Sunset is refreshing and you can always order a double shot of Fireball.