We shift course slightly to stop by the Germany Pavilion at Epcot to enjoy dinner at Biergarten, the festive Oktoberfest celebration of beer and sausage.
If you missed it, you can pull up more than 75 nighttime pictures around Epcot for the holidays as part of this post.
For years and years, the standard advice was to visit Biergarten for lunch, when the meal was considerably less expensive with just a couple of missing food items that you could probably do without. That changed this past October, when the restaurant moved to one menu served all day at the $44/adult and $24/child price point.
Here’s the menu board from when I reviewed the restaurant around the same time five years ago. Dinner is up about as much as you would expect – $7 or 18.9%. Lunch, on the other hand, is up $18 or 69.2%. And all you’ve added at lunchtime is Sauerbraten, or German Pot Roast.
You might still plan on visiting Biergarten for lunch, but without the sizable discount compared to dinner, it makes less economical sense. On my most recent December visit, we had reservations for 6:30pm.
Is it still worth the money? We’ll venture through these unassuming doors and find out.
Biergarten is an incredibly charming restaurant, somehow both quaint and surprisingly large as the tables on three independent tiers form a semi-circle around the village stage.
Here’s an unnaturally wide look at the town square with a working water wheel to the right and the glow of the moon overhead. Indeed, much like the perpetual twilight over San Angel Inn, it’s eternally Oktoberfest here at Biergarten.
Despite the fact that “October” is “literally” in the restaurant’s tagline, “Celebrate Oktoberfest Everyday,” Biergarten has always “felt” like a winter holiday destination.
The restaurant is decked out in Christmas wreaths, trees, and lights for the season.
In addition to the beer and food, which we’ll arrive at momentarily, the Oktoberfest Musikanten perform throughout the day, enchanting audiences and entertaining bloggers.
The show times change, but there’s typically at least one show scheduled per hour. Typically, the restaurant opens its doors at 12pm with the first show scheduled at 1:15pm with shows following at 2:15pm, 3:15pm, 4:45pm, 5:55pm, 7pm, and 8:05pm. For that reason, you might shy away from a reservation right at noon as you’ll have to stick around for 75 minutes before the show starts. Instead, you might schedule your reservation for 20 minutes before a show begins so you can enjoy the music while you’re prepping your first plate and then enjoy an encore over dessert. Above is a list of the showtimes during our December visit, when Epcot was open until 9:30pm for the Candlelight Processional and Holiday IllumiNations, instead of the usual 9pm close.
With our 6:30pm reservation, we were able to enjoy the 6:40pm show shortly after we sat down and then the 7:35pm show before departing.
As all of Epcot is now inundated with intellectual property, the middle of the show is now a Ricola commercial. (Not really.)
The kids are invited down to the stage to sing and dance around to the music, which is played on a variety of fun instruments like the Alphorn, Zither, and mighty Cow Bell.
Biergarten probably translates to Beer Garden, so it makes sense that we’d find some offered.
Arguably, the options have regressed here over the years. Beck’s is a gas station mainstay, while your local grocery store probably stocks Warsteiner. The Konig Ludwig Weissbier is more interesting, while the Schofferhofer Pink Grapefruit is a popular choice for those that want a 2.5% drink that’s half beer and half grapefruit juice. It wasn’t that long ago that your flight would include Spaten Optimator, Altenmunster Oktoberfest, Hövels Original, and Radeberger Pilsner. But your average tourist is looking for something that they’ve heard of and Beck’s, which is actually brewed in St. Louis, Missouri as part of the InBev conglomerate, is exactly that. On the other hand, Kirin Ichiban hasn’t been brewed within 5,000 miles of Japan in over 20 years – you’ll find Epcot’s supply shipped from Williamsburg, Virginia. So there’s that, too. Don’t get me started on Kona.
While we can turn our collective noses up at the current lineup, each probably tastes just fine.
Beck’s Pilsner is pale and light, sweet and golden with a thin mouthfeel that makes it easy to drink. I’d say that it’s the Bud Light of Germany, but it’s actually the Bud Light of what used to be Anheuser-Busch.
Warsteiner Dunkel is my favorite of the bunch, brewed in Germany by the country’s largest privately-held brewery that dates back to the middle of the 18th century. Second from the left above, the Dunkel is appropriately complex and well-balanced with toasted malts, cocoa, and pumpernickel leading the way. It’s surprisingly easy to drink and at just 4.8% ABV, won’t knock you out.
The König Ludwig Weissbier is a solid choice for the hefeweizen crowd, tasting strongly of banana backed up with lemon zest, yeast, and earth. It’s the thickest of the beers, which may not make it the best choice in the liter size, but it’s nice to try as part of the $15 flight.
The Schöfferhofer Grapefruit is half juice, half beer, and tastes like a fizzy grapefruit drink. There’s virtually no alcohol here to speak of, which may or may not be a good thing, but grapefruit juice might be expensive too.
A token handful of wines are offered. The Dr. Loosen is a classic choice, but it’s an $11 bottle that Disney is serving up for $49. I’d look at the August Kesseler.
We’ll move on to the food, which starts with Tomato Salad, White Bean Salad, and Mixed Greens along the top with Chicken Salad, Potato Salad, and Macaroni Salad running along the bottom.
We also have Mustard and Creamy Herb Salad Dressings.
The various cold salads probably won’t be a big part of your meal, but the Macaroni Salad was cool, creamy, and refreshing and the Cold Potato Salad was a nice contrast to all of the hot potato and meat dishes that we’ll see momentarily. The White Bean Salad was on the bland side, but the beans were prepared nicely and the Marinated Tomatoes were a little mushy for my tastes, but I appreciated the vinegar and red onion with so many richer dishes coming up. You’re on your own with that Chicken Salad.
Wurst Salad, Marinated Mushroom Salad, Cucumber Salad, and Beet Salad.
The Wurst Salad is a highlight with thinly shaved sausage slices marinated in more vinegar along with an assortment of vegetables if that’s the direction you want to go in.
Cheese, Margarine, Sausage Selection, and Liverwurst.
While most people are probably keying in on the hot food, the lean sausage and flavorful, almost buttery liverwurst is worth trying ahead of the heavier dishes.
Some number of years ago now, I ran into the most delicious Beer Cheese Soup here for the holidays and have hoped upon hope that I would see a smiling batch on a return visit, only to be disappointed time and time again. This year, we have “Vegan Split Pea Soup.”
I’m guessing that the deliciously salty, chewy
Pretzel Rolls don’t dip quite as well into vegan split pea. But I admit that I didn’t try it out of protest.
It seemed like there was always a fresh, full tray of German Sausage and Sauerkraut sitting there waiting for us.
This picture was taken 28 minutes after the first – still overflowing with delicious, plump, spicy sausage separated by distinctively sour…sauerkraut that I’m told is full of natural probiotics. Better eat more sausage to balance that out.
Seasoned potatoes are served alongside the sausage – perfectly crispy and nicely-seasoned.
Green Beans and Roasted Chicken are two more highlights. The Green Beans are prepared to a nice al dente and slathered in butter, salt, and pepper, while the juicy chicken carries delicious lemon and rosemary notes.
Salmon with Mustard Dill Sauce, Pork Schnitzel, and Hunter Sauce.
The song remains the same with the thick, meaty, flaky salmon covered in a tangy, herb-y sauce alongside crunchy schnitzel with a hint of thyme. It’s served with Hunter, or Chasseur, Sauce, which is a mushroom-heavy brown gravy with onion and garlic. The schnitzel is perhaps a little dry without it, so you’ll want to spoon some over the pork.
Don’t let the lousy picture of the Frankfurter and Potato Dumplings deter you from giving both a try.
The Frankfurter is softer and more subtle than the spicier sausages that precede it. The dumplings, which are a little denser than you might be expecting, enjoy a thick, pillow-y quality.
Photography remains rough under the heat lamps with the Macaroni and Cheese in the center and a large pot of Spaetzle on the right. I admit that I am not the biggest fan of the small dumplings, but a little spoonful of the spongy dough is fine alongside all the meat, particularly accompanied by the Red Wine Sauce that’s sitting basically out of frame. The Macaroni and Cheese, on the other hand, is rich, creamy, and decadent with thick noodles and plenty of cheese baked throughout.
You’ll have another shot at some rolls as you make your way down the buffet line.
While just about everything that we’ve seen previously appears on two redundant sides of the buffet, the Red Cabbage and Warm Potato Salad may be unique to the right side of the Carving Station. The Potato Salad in particular is a treat.
Yeah…I definitely think you would hope for a better picture of the main event, here with Carved Beef, Pork Roast, and Bavarian-style Pot Roast.
With Ketchup, Sweet Mustard, Apricot Chutney, and Apple Sauce.
Along with what looks like Brown Sugar and Mustard.
The meats are all prepared nicely and freshly carved to your specification. The Pork Roast with the Sweet Mustard Sauce is my favorite, but one of the joys of the buffet is the opportunity to mix and match as much as you’d like. The Bavarian-style Pot Roast, or Sauerbraten, is another favorite, incredibly rich and tender with a sweet, crisp tang and a pickling spice. Try all three.
Overall, it’s quite the spread with pork served eight ways in addition to the salmon, pot roast, carved beef, and roasted chicken along with four kinds of potato, three pastas, and a host of vegetables. It is a little surprising that there isn’t a station aimed at kids – basic macaroni and cheese, steamed broccoli, corn dog nuggets, spaghetti, and baked chicken legs might help convince some parents of young children to give the buffet a shot. As it stands, there should be enough to get most kids going, particularly if you can convince them that frankfurters are hot dogs and carved beef is steak. Plus, you’ve got those pretzel rolls, beer cheese soup or not.
Of course, a dessert station follows. We have Red Berry Compote, Pineapple, Blueberry Crumble Cake, Bavarian Cheesecake, Brownie, and Black Forest Cake with the Vanilla Sauce for the Apple Strudel, which was getting gobbled up as quickly as it was being plated, on the left. Go ahead and grab whatever looks good.
It ends up being a tasty spread of comfort food favorites with the occasional Bavarian twist. Just about everything is on the heavy side, but it’s possible to start with a little bit of this and a little bit of that before narrowing down some favorites for a repeat visit to the buffet.
The 20-minute show is a lot of fun – you can take the opportunity to dance and sing along or largely ignore it if you’d prefer to keep your eyes on the sausage.
No matter what review of Biergarten you read, they’ll point out that tables seat eight and smaller parties will be seated with at least one other group. You never know who you’ll be matched up with, but those that dine here are typically looking to have a good time. While I hate talking to people I know, I do enjoy chatting up strangers and finding out what they’ve got going on. Everyone has Walt Disney World in common and it’s typically easy to talk about where you’re staying and what you’ve done in between bites.
During this particular meal, Brer Taylor and I were sat with a family of five and didn’t say a single word to them the entire meal. They were already about two-thirds of the way through their meal upon our arrival and then left when we were about half done with ours. That meant we had the table to ourselves for the duration of dinner, which was just fine with us. Tables at Walt Disney World restaurants are typically so close together that you’re basically sitting with whoever is next to you anyway. At Biergarten, you can eavesdrop with a little more abandon.
Overall, the price increase at lunch is a bummer, but the restaurant remains a decent value with the non-alcoholic beverages included, along with all of the cold appetizers, hot meats and potatoes, and dessert. More importantly, the experience can’t really be replicated anywhere else in the world and that goes a long way.
Biergarten remains recommended. The only thing I would add is a photo op with Mr. Pricklepants.