They say Californians are living the dream. At least, they said that in those California commercials on repeat for the last few years. It’s especially true in Anaheim, where there’s churros everywhere. Bear with me here: If you’re reading this, you’re probably an adult with a credit card. Therefor, you can easily live your life like the Indian kid from Life of Pi, except replace the ocean with cinnamon sugar; the raft with fried dough; and the animals with Tigger, Winnie the Pooh and one of the Lion King hyenas (I’d go with Whoopi). All I’m saying is, among many fun things to do at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, you could easily be swimming in churros.
One park, however, wins monumental points over the other for a simple reason: beer. With the exception of Club 33—an exclusive club that you need to know a member of in order to gain access—Disneyland remains to this day as dry as a Mormon wedding. Sidebar: It’s truly unkind to take someone to a dry wedding with zero heads-up, just saying. On the other hand, Disney California Adventure has wine, cocktails and plenty of beer. I’m not just talking about a token Lagunitas IPA amidst a wide selection of shitty, truck-stop, mainstays. They have a huge selection of craft beers that vary from bar-to-bar throughout the park. No high-class sours for the truly committed, but respectable enough craft breweries that your average beer-lover will be grateful for.
I visited on a Sunday, the weather was perfect and I was secretly in love with my photographer, who helped me document my above-0% ABV fun from start-to-finish at Disney California Adventure. Later in the day, with lots of beer in my system, I would confess my love to her, to which she would reply, “You’re dumb,” because she is my wife.
Business in the Front, Party in the Back
My first move was to sit on a bench just inside the entrance, link my ticket to my Disneyland app, and pay ten bucks for a MaxPass. I cannot stress enough how important this move is if you want to go on a lot of rides and not wait in a lot of lines. It’s basically a FastPass that you can get on your phone verses having to physically be at the distribution center— you know what, I’m not going to explain it, just trust me, do it. And don’t forget to choose a FastPass for a ride. The Cars ride—formally called Radiator Springs Racers—is always slammed, so if that one is available within a four-hour window of your arrival, do it.
After that business was done, we headed over to the newly-being-built Pixar Pier—formerly called Paradise Pier—to hit Bayside Brews, where I grabbed a Sierra Nevada Orange Sidecar IPA and a Mickey Mouse pretzel. My normal next ride would have been Toy Story’s Midway Mania, but it was shut down, which doesn’t really mean it’s dead, but I poured a little beer out for it anyway… I justify every spill of delicious beer with a poetic reason why it happened and, yes, the view up here on my high horse is very nice. The Little Mermaid ride was close by and a five minute wait, so I drank up, hung out with a dancing crab, then beelined to the Karl Strauss truck.
Karl Strauss is Rachael Leigh Cook in She’s All That
The Karl Strauss truck, in the Pacific Wharf food area, is the most brewery-affiliated beer stop, as all of its options come from a single brewery. Now, I know Karl Strauss is not the “sexiest” name in craft brewing, but that was one of the first beer stops ever at Disney California Adventure. High horse or not, I greatly appreciated their presence when, previously, the hoppiest beer I could hope for was a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Karl Strauss’ Hoppyalis is my go-to. As for the restaurants, I applaud whoever paired the respective beers: The Mexican place had Modelo Negra, Micheladas and Pacifico; while the Asian-inspired eatery had Sapporo; and the New England clam chowder place offered a New England hazy-style IPA from Sierra Nevada. These moves may seem obvious, but at my wise-old age of 32, I’m learning most people take the easy way out. A little effort goes a long way, so kudos to the Pacific Wharf beer person. I’m going to call him Jeff. Kudos, Jeff!
Preparing for a long line? Here’s your hack: You can order two beers at a time. I haven’t tested whether or not they will sell you two beers if you were to, say, stumble up and loudly ask whether Pirates of the Caribbean was based on real pirates or not, but, if you play it cool, then you should have nothing to worry about. I like to take my two beers to either Soarin’ Around the World or the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride, both highly recommended and usually with an hour wait. The longest wait will most undoubtedly be the Cars ride, for which there aren’t enough hands to carry the amount of beers need for the two-hour-plus wait. You’ve got to get a FastPass or single-rider that shit. I chose Soarin’, since my photographer doesn’t like thrill rides, and, you know, I love her and whatever.
Having a Beer with...Groot (Sorta)
My editor had one request for me going into this day: Find out whether or not you can take a picture with a character while holding a beer. Earlier, Captain America was posing with guests, and I asked one of the cast members there if I could pose with him and a beer. She said, “Oh, um…no.” She was a lot nicer than the trolley operator who I asked if I could bring my beer on board. To him, I would now say, “Oooh, I’m sorry, it must be sooo annoying for me to politely ask you questions, HOW DARE I?!”
Regulations be damned, being the hard-hitting journalist I am, I persisted to get a picture with a sweaty person in a lovable costume, a beer and me. I got close to an ant in Bug’s Land, but once he saw the beer in my hand, he denied me with a finger-wag and then prayer hands. I finally gave up and used forced perspective to take a selfie with Groot. In protest, I put Groot in my beer. There, I win trolley guy. Let’s call him Tom. Suck it, Tom.
After that, we headed to the Monster’s Inc ride, which, at a 30-minute wait, was perfect for round three and a snack. Next door, Studio Catering Co. had a pretty mediocre version of an LA taco truck, but round three cares not for ethnic authenticity. After our “nachos,” I grabbed a beer from the beer stand facing the truck, which offered another great selection to choose from. At this point, I usually go lighter, so I grabbed a Hangar 24 Orange Wheat. I also forgot to look at what the beer stand is actually called, and I can’t find it anywhere on the internet, so, I’m sorry, but I cannot give you that information. This is a beer-drinking story of course, so facts will inevitably suffer.
Kelcey Ayer and the Holy Grail
If you don’t find what you’re looking for at one of the main beer stands, every restaurant offers a different assortment of beers. You can have anything, from a Boring AF Karl Strauss Red Trolley Ale (that’s not it’s full name, it’s just what I call it) at Award Weiners in Hollywood Land to a huge selection at Sonoma Terrace at the Golden Vine Winery, including Ballast Point’s Sculpin, Green Flash’s Hop Head Red and North Coast’s Brother Thelonious. I feel a little bad talking so much shit about the Red Trolley Ale, but, c’mon, you know it and I know it. It’s no flavor explosion. It’s like a flavor dam. And all the villagers are like, “Where’s our flavor?” and the huge flavor company is like, “We need to use it for energy!” OK, this has gone of the rails. The Red Trolley is off the rails, get it? You know, come to think of it, I might be letting my feelings for Trolley Tom get the best of me.
Anyway, my favorite selection of any restaurant is found at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land. Cars is probably my least favorite of all of Pixar’s rich offerings, but they did do an amazing job with detail-rich Cars Land. We usually end our stay having dinner there, and since the new Incredicoaster wasn’t open yet, and we missed getting FastPasses for the Cars ride, we decided it was time. Before there was craft beer coming out of the woodwork here at Disney California Adventure, a beer enthusiast could find one beer of great comfort and familiarity at this very cafe. I remember when I stumbled upon it for the first time, back in those dark Sierra Nevada Pale Ale days. I walked in, casually read over the menu and gasped. In the drinks section, the letters that spelled it out were shimmering like an oasis in a desert. Could it really be? Oh, that is right my friend, it was Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA. A beer was already sitting on the counter, and I walked up slowly to switch it out with a bag of sand—Indiana Jones-style. Then, whoever stupid person I was with was like, “You’re weirding everyone out,” and then I just paid for it and drank it. I still feel a little tingly every time I walk in there. Probably because, at that point, I’m drunk.
And with that, we said goodbye to Disney California Adventure and stumbled over to Disneyland, where we sobered up with silly ghosts, mountains from space, better versions of Johnny Depp (robotic and controlled) and churros. I cannot say enough how much I’ve enjoyed Disney California Adventure’s embrace of craft beer. It makes sense, when you have a company like Disney, which is always so thoughtful with paying attention to details, in a place like California, which has more densely populated areas of burgeoning craft brewery than any other state. While Disneyland may remain the happiest place on earth, Disney California Adventure is definitely the hoppiest. Please don’t be mad at me, it was just too easy.