Combining a family vacation with a beer-cation is sometimes a challenge. So let me suggest theme parks. Beercations are truly awesome, but from your kids’ point of view, hanging outside a bar isn’t how they want to spend their time. And while we’re fans of majestic beauty in natural settings, no childhood is complete without visiting the man-made kind of parks.
Some theme parks provide intriguing beer-tasting opportunities while others merely offer brands from a corporate sponsor. Worse still, some are devoid of brewskis altogether. That’s why the following destinations provide ample fun and frivolity beyond the parks for beer-friendly parents.
The two beer towns that follow—Anaheim and Orlando—are more synonymous with theme parks, but they never would have become family magnets if not for the original Imagineers, the Danes. Denmark is home to what’s called the world’s oldest surviving amusement park, Bakken (Bakken.dk/english.html), built in Klampenborg (13 kilometers north of Copenhagen) in 1583. The country also hosts the Tivoli Gardens (Tivoli.dk/composite-3351.htm), a Copenhagen attraction that opened in 1843 and later inspired Walt Disney. It features a brewpub inside as well as a sister pub adjacent to the main entrance. How do you say brilliant in Danish?
København—or Copenhagen to the English-speaking world—is the Danish capital. It has also become the Scandinavian gourmet capital in recent years. This manifests itself in its restaurants, which have garnered more Michelin stars than Rome, Madrid or Vienna, and in its breweries. It happened seemingly overnight. In 2000, there were 10 or so breweries. There are now more than 130 in a small country with 5.5 million people.
To help you get a handle on where to imbibe, Henrik Papsø, one of the most prolific reviewers on RateBeer.com, plays tour guide. To commemorate Papsø’s 20,000th review, local brewery Amager Bryghus concocted Hr. Papsø on Acid, a port-barrel-aged Quad with wild yeast.
The legal age to buy beer in a Danish bar is 18, or 16 for buying bottled beer in a store. But there is no actual drinking age. If a minor’s parents buy him or her a pint, the kid can drink it in good health. Papsø’s tour begins with a couple of his favorite beer bars, starting at Mikkeller BAR (Mikkeller.dk, Victoriagade 8 B-C) in the middle of the Vesterbro district. The bar was founded by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of the Mikkeller brewery, and Papsø declares it “the best beer bar not only in Denmark, but in the world.” Patrons will discover 20 taps, only half of which are house beers or Mikkeller collaborations. The other draft or bottle offerings are guaranteed to include rare imports you’ll not find back home.
Also on the tour is Ørsted (Oerstedoelbar.dk, Nørre Farimagsgade 13) close to the city center across from the Ørstedsparken (Ørsted Park). This basement bar features 13 taps and an extensive bottle list. Beers from Danish breweries such as Amager and Bøgedal Bryghus are what to look for. But you may have to look hard because the bar is mostly candlelit.
Aside from some cheese plates or light snacks, those bars don’t serve food. Papsø says that traditional Danish cuisine is solid and rich but not fancy (think Flæskesteg—roast pork with the cracklings, or skin, in place). If you’d like to try fancy Nouveau Nordic fare, get a reservation at Noma (Noma.dk, Strandgade 93), which has been voted the best restaurant in the world for the last two years by Restaurant Magazine. Its beverage menu is pages and pages of European wines, but Mikkeller does make a house beer for the restaurant.
Perhaps the best Danish pub grub is found at Nørrebro Bryghus (Noerrebrobryghus.dk, Ryesgade 3), in the Nørrebro district. Established by brewmaster Anders Kissmeyer in 2003 after he left Carlsberg, the bar is in the basement and the restaurant is upstairs in a former metal factory that has been nicely restored, Papsø says. While the beer that Nørrebro bottles is brewed out in the suburbs, all the draft specials are brewed in-house. Foodwise, try local specialties such as various herrings with rye bread and other Smørrebrød, or open-faced sandwiches on rye.
Denmark’s oldest brewpub—now more than 20 years old—is Bryggeriet Apollo (Bryggeriet.dk, Vesterbrogade 3), located at the entrance of Tivoli Gardens about half-a-kilometer from Mikkeller BAR. There are a handful of watering holes near the park, but Papsø says it’s show time at the Apollo again now that “a new brewer has increased the quality of the beers.” The food is also good, though the pricing takes advantage of tourists ($17 for lunch, $46 for a sirlion steak).
To get away from the park and into the Hareskoven birch forest, check out Bryggeri Skovlyst (Skovlystproduction.dk/, Skovlystvej 2, just outside Copenhagen in Værløse). The brewers there use forest ingredients in their beers. This means you can try a birch beer quite unlike the birch beer soft drink found stateside, or a licorice stout with anise. This brewpub makes for a killer picnic setting when the weather’s nice.
No beer trip to Copenhagen is complete without a little shopping spree at Ølbutikken (Olbutikken.dk, Istedgade 44), the bottle shop run by Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. It is widely considered the greatest in the world. Bjergsø also created Evil Twin Brewing, playing off the fact that he’s the identical twin of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeller. If you’re traveling with children, don’t worry that the shop is in the middle of Copenhagen’s red light district. It’s cleaned up and near Hans Christian Andersen Square. The shop stocks only high-quality beers, according to Papsø. They include Danish micros, rare American imports and even harder to find Belgian lambics. This is the only store you can find bottles of Cantillon Blåbær, the blueberry lambic that Jarnit-Bjergsø helps make at Cantillon. Park yourself at the long table to enjoy your beer—bottled or draft—among friendly enthusiasts. And know that cheers in Danish is pronounced skaal.
Speaking of H.C. Andersen, the Danish fairy tale author, your kids will no doubt want to see the famous sculpture of the Little Mermaid in the Copenhagen Harbor. Instead of staring at it for an hour, hop on a harbor cruise that will whisk your family past the statue and lots more sites, and help you get back to Ølbutikken or Mikkeller.
Metro Orlando has more than 2 million residents, but it welcomes 50 million tourists a year—more than any U.S. city, including New York. So central Florida has been forced to develop a beer scene. Local Gerard Walen, who blogs at BeerInFlorida.com and RoadTripsForBeer.com, says that “a trickle of craft beers from other states has turned into a flood, and homegrown breweries have sprouted up faster than most of us can keep track.”
Families visit the Orlando area for its many theme parks: Disney World Resort (including Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom); Universal Orlando Resort; Sea World, which until recently operated under the umbrella of Anheuser-Busch; and the one that started it all in this area, Gatorland.
Walen starts the beer-oriented tour at Redlight Redlight (RedlightRedlightBeerParlour.com, 745 Bennett Road). He says it would be easy to drive by this place because it appears to be a shady dive from the outside. “But once you walk in,” Walen says, “you’ll find beer geek heaven” in the form of 23 rotating taps, two beer engines and more than 200 bottles. Look for Tampa’s Cigar City and Swamp Head from Gainesville among other in-state brews on draft.
As for local breweries, your only bet is Orlando Brewing (OrlandoBrewing.com, 1301 Atlanta Ave.), purveyors of organic beer. While its beers are ubiquitous in Orlando, “It’s worth a trip to the tasting room,” Walen says, “because there are always some great beers that aren’t available anywhere else,” such as the awesomely named Miami Weiss. Not only are there free tours, but also every 30th of the month there is Beer:30, when all drafts are $2. The service epitomizes Southern hospitality.
Pubwise, start with The Ravenous Pig (TheRavenousPig.com, 1234 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park). There’s a small tap and bottle list, but Walen insists “the quality is top-notch,” pointing to a recent keg of the rare Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout from Cigar City. As for food, Walen’s a fan of nontraditional dishes such as crispy quail salad ($14) and grilled venison ($29). “Prices can be a bit steeper than some other places, but if it’s in your budget, the great beer, food and atmosphere are worth it.”
Nearby is the Shipyard Emporium (ShipyardEmporium.com, 200 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park), an outpost of the Portland, Maine, brewery. In addition to Shipyard staples, check out the in-house creations of veteran local brewer Ron Raike. Walen says “the restaurant-brewpub encompasses a market and bakery as well, featuring fancy cheeses and meats, fresh-baked bread and sweet treats.”
Walen gives a nod to Rossi’s Pizza and Pasta (RossisPizza.com, 5919 S. Orange Blossom Trail) where the Central Florida Home Brewers Club meets. If you’re visiting with a large family, this second-generation restaurant run by the Rossi family is certainly the place, and with 26 taps ranging from inexpensive beer to pungent IPAs, it’s a great way to carbo-load before a marathon of roller coasters.
After dinner, do your souvenir shopping at Knightly Spirits (KnightlySpirits.com, 12975 S. Orange Blossom Trail, seven miles south of Rossi’s). Although there are five locations in the area, Walen insists on heading to the largest one, describing it as the “craft beer equivalent of a dusty bookstore.” While you are apt to find a vintage Belgian import on the back of a lower shelf, you’ll also find Florida beer, such as Dunedin Brewery Apricot Peach Ale. It’s comforting to know that locals such as Walen are excited that “the Sunshine State’s craft beer industry is in high gear.”
Most kids would be happy to visit Disneyland just once, ideally two or three times. Greg Nagel’s 5-year-old romps in the park several times a month because Dad has annual passes and they live a mile away. Greg also blogs at OCBeerBlog.com and offers tips to find “great craft beer and food in every direction.”
Developing a reputation as the Disneyland for adults, The Bruery Provisions (BrueryProvisions.com, 143 N Glassell St., Orange) is the retail outlet for The Bruery (TheBruery.com, 715 Dunn Way, Placentia). Provisions is five miles southeast of Disneyland and the brewery six miles northeast. You’re likely to find more Bruery concoctions at the brewery’s tasting room, but there are 30 taps at the shop with an array of sampler flights ranging from all-Bruery to a California-centric or pan-farmhouse ales lineup. It’s also wine-friendly, with cheese and charcuterie plates.
Four miles from The Bruery is Bootlegger’s Brewery (bootleggersbrewery.com, 401 S. Richman Ave., Fullerton), which opened in 2008. The tasting room boasts 20 taps. One of Bootlegger’s most popular beers is Knuckle Sandwich, a limited-Double IPA (the ruby red hue and perfumey nose sets Nagel’s heart afire). Black Phoenix Coffee Chipotle Stout kicks with espresso aroma and initially hits with a sweet, creamy texture, while the aftertaste hints at the heat from the dried jalapeños. Visits to the tasting room are improved by the gourmet food trucks that Nagel says “make a delicious dinner, pint and growler-fill a convenient one-stop shop.”
Orange County has witnessed a smattering of new brewpub openings, including two in Anaheim. Noble Ale Works (NobleAleWorks.com, 1621 S. Sinclair St.) just celebrated its first anniversary. Nagel calls this one a “must stop for hop heads.” Among the offerings at the tasting room (closed Mondays and Tuesdays) is Dark Sybian IPA, what the brewers call “our version of a Cascadian Dark Ale, brewed with Midnight Wheat malt.” There are also plenty of Cascades, Centennial and Magnum hops. If there’s a home game at the nearby Angels’ stadium, the food trucks park at Noble’s.
In the Anaheim Colony Historic District, Anaheim Brewery (AnaheimBrew.com, 336 S. Anaheim Blvd.) held its grand opening last July and, according to Nagel, “has quickly become a fixture for Anaheim locals. Their tasting room showcases classic beer recipes in a modern saloon atmosphere.” The Gerovacs—married owners Greg and Barbara—named their flagship California common beer Anaheim 1888 in homage to a much earlier Anaheim Brewery that never saw the modern side of Prohibition. Nagel’s favorite is the Chocolate Stout blended with the Bavarian hefeweizen. “It’s called The Chocolate Banana and tastes exactly as described.”
For beer-forward dining options, Nagel champions Haven Gastropub (HavenGastropub.com, 190 S. Glassell St., Old Town Orange) for its “perfectly balanced craft draft selection along with an ample bottle list. Chef Greg Daniels prepares gourmet comfort food such as crisp braised pork belly cooked in a saison ale reduction.” Make reservations a week in advance and you can order a whole suckling pig for the family to enjoy together. Try it with the Dopplebock from nearby TAPS brewery.
Among the food trucks, Nagel singles out the winner of The Great Food Truck Race on FoodTV, The Lime Truck (TheLimeTruck.com) offering organic food such as its Ultimate Taco, “made from 12-hour slow-roasted pulled pork, homemade guacamole, chipotle honey slaw and cotija cheese—a steal for $3.” Chef/owner Jason Quinn just opened a brick-and-mortar version called The Playground (Playgroundtsa.com, 220 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana). “The menu changes daily,” Nagel says, but “the real draw for local beer geeks is the hiring of Jarred Dooley, formerly of the Bruery. The skills he learned for a Cicerone certification fill this new restaurant with a tempting draft list of pan-California breweries. This drool-inducing spot is another must.
If you overdo it on beers, Nagel has a hangover cure: the Menudo soup from Los Sanchez (LosSanchez.com, 11906 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove) about two miles from Disneyland. But only if you are adventurous enough to eat tripe.
Finally, since this is Southern California, make sure you get to the natural place for recreation—the beach. The closest to Anaheim are Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Before heading out, pick up sandwiches and some bottles to go from Hollingshead’s Deli (HollingsheadsDeli.com, 368 S. Main St., Orange). Sandwiches such as the hero start at $5 (get the $2 add-on avocado; it’s California after all)There are 21 taps and the deli sells more than 500 bottled beers, so it’s no wonder it hosts many California brewery events.