Hops and Barley returns to the United States/American Adventure Pavilion on the far right side.
The Hot Beef Sandwich and all of the Beverages with Alcohol are new this year.
New England Lobster Roll – $8.50
While still on the small side of the spectrum, the Lobster Roll arrives with a couple bites of chunk lobster with no filler other than the addition of a squirt of buttery mayonnaise on the fresh griddled roll. This is always a popular item for those on the (unavailable as I type this) Disney Dining Plan, given its high-price-to-one-snack-credit ratio, but I don’t think there’s a tremendous value to be had out of pocket. Depending on how big your mouth is, you’re looking at about ~$2.12 per bite. Your money is probably better saved for The Lobster Roll from The Boathouse at Disney Springs. Or just about anything else. But if you have someone in your group who is a bit finnicky about what they eat, but Lobster Rolls are somehow in their wheelhouse, then you could certainly do worse on flavor.
Hot Beef Sandwich – $6.50
Disney actually brings the heat for once on a similarly-small griddled roll filled with what is probably Steak-Umm beef, chunky slices of spicy pepper, a few sweet onions, and a thick layer of tangy horseradish sauce. While my own tastes lean towards the spicy, I think this one will actually prove to be too pungent for most guests, particularly outdoors in Florida during the summer. The flavors balanced out better once we moved about half the peppers to the side, and wiped away a bit of the sauce, and we could actually taste a bit of the salty beef, but I think you’re better off saving your money for Regal Eagle Barbecue next door, where you’ll receive about eight times as much food for about four more dollars. Of course, if you do that and don’t share an entree, it’s going to be a while until you’re hungry again, so that’s also something to consider if visiting as many kiosks as possible is a goal. But if you like spicy, and particularly if you’re eyeballing one of the beers or wines, this would certainly work. I can’t remember a spicier dish served at the Festival. It’s still definitely on the small side, though.
Freshly Baked Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing – $4.50
Looks can be a bit deceiving as I feel like this looks pretty basic on the plate, but underneath the sweet cream cheese frosting is a delicious, warm, familiar carrot cake base backed up with a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg. Usually I get mad whenever someone orders a returning item on the first day BECAUSE IT’S NOT BLOGGABLE, but this is one item I can get behind no matter what. With that said, it’s not the most unique item at the Festival, and the portion size isn’t going to overwhelm anyone. We still return every year.
Beer Flight – $9.75
With 81Bay Brewing Co. Strawberry and Lime, SweetWater Brewing Company Hazy IPA, and Lord Hobo Brewing Boom Sauce DIPA
As usual, you’ll receive three 4-ounce pours as part of the Flight, or you can rock larger individual pours should that be your preference. Since each individual offering is regularly $9 for 12 ounces, you’re paying a 75-cent premium to try all three in the smaller cups.
81Bay out of Tampa brings a lime-forward beer that’s about equal parts crisp and sour with the lingering flavor of artificial citrus concentrate. While Strawberry is in the title, I didn’t detect much, particularly compared to something like Abita’s (better) Strawberry Lager or Strawgator. It might pair well with the Hot Beef Sandwich, but it was a struggle to get through the four ounces, and seemed out of place as part of the Flight given the fact that it’s paired with two IPAs. I think more wheat would have gone a long way or the hops didn’t quite compensate for the amount of juice used. Your tastes may certainly be different and it’s unlikely that you’ll find this beer too far outside of Epcot, so it may be worth a sip. But I won’t be getting close to it again.
The SweetWater Hazy IPA is about what you would expect, bitter and hoppy with a strong tropical citrus backbone and a dry, pine-y finish. Hopefully you enjoy it as much as I do, but if you’re not an IPA person, this is unlikely to sway your vote.
Finally, straight out of Woburn, Massachusetts, we have their Boom Sauce Double IPA coming in at 7.8% ABV, or about 1.5x a Budweiser on the alcohol front. There’s even more pine and citrus here to go along with the floral aroma, but not the bitter bite that you might expect given the style. The low carbonation makes it easy to drink, though the pine and alcohol flavors linger, making for a less refreshing finish. I’m not exactly sure why they went in this direction when they’ve offered the tremendous Ghost in the Machine DIPA in the past, but maybe the brewery couldn’t come through on volume this year. It’s worth trying, but I doubt it will land on too many people’s best of lists.
If you’re in the mood for three beers that run the flavor gamut, then the trio is certainly a viable option, but we’ve seen stronger performances in the past. Maybe every year.
Longevity Chardonnay – $5
This replaces one of the best white wines offered at the Festival in the Mer Soleil Reserve. Longevity has never been a personal goal, but it’s rare that we hold the name of something containing alcohol against it. This medium-bodied, juicy chardonnay works just fine as a table wine, but I thought it was a bit on the sweet side with the vanilla and tropical pear overpowering the oak. The crisp acidity and medium-body certainly make it drinkable, and it will cool down that Hot Beef Sandwich, but I doubt anyone is going to go home and seek out a bottle. On the other hand, you could certainly do worse elsewhere. France and Italy come to mind.
Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon – $5
This California red is bold and ripe with the usual flavors of cassis, dark cherry, plum, and vanilla with a velvety texture and a chocolatey aftertaste. It’s actually a bottle I would seek out and makes some sense to try here if you’re stopping for food and prefer a red wine to the other offerings. The wine may be the one improvement here over past years.