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Photo by Rob Bartlett

Orlando's theme park watering holes boast brews you won’t find in any ordinary bar 

Roll out the barrel

Everyone knows that Walt Disney famously eschewed alcohol sales when opening his original theme park in Anaheim, for fear that Disneyland would become a fairground full of drunken delinquents. But did you know that Walt Disney World might have been built in St. Louis instead of Central Florida, if brewing baron August Busch Jr. hadn't called Walt crazy for refusing to serve beer?

Walt was no teetotaler, but he could always sneak off to his private apartment above Main Street's firehouse for a Scotch Mist, and he certainly never had to stand in a three-hour queue for Flight of Passage while sober.

Fortunately, today's tourists can pound a pint of bright-green Hawke's Grog Ale (brewed by Terrapin Beer Co., and tastier than it looks) while they wait for Animal Kingdom's Pandora rides, or enjoy any number of other exclusive imbibing experiences inside each of Orlando's major attractions.

Unless you're an annual passholder, the cover charges may make you choke, but these theme park watering holes boast E-Ticket brews you won't find in any ordinary bar.

WALT DISNEY WORLD

Epcot's World Showcase has long been ground zero for theme park drinking (our MO is to start with a Black & Tan at the Rose & Crown Pub and stumble 'round counter-clockwise), while Animal Kingdom – in addition to the aforementioned Avatar ales – pours Old Elephant Foot IPA and African lagers at Nomad Lounge. Mickey has loosened the Magic Kingdom's anti-alcohol edict, at least inside table-service restaurants, but you still can't stroll the park sipping suds; Adventureland's Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen, which serves the resort-exclusive Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale, is your best bet for beer sans reservations. And a year from now, we'll all be drinking fermented Bantha milk inside Batuu, but until then BaseLine Tap House (located just outside the upcoming Star Wars land's entrance) is the hottest hangout at Disney's Hollywood Studios; select your own four-sample flight of Californian craft beers, pair it with a hot Bavarian pretzel, and watch for the Jedi fanboys to start lining up.

If park admission isn't in your budget, park for free at Disney Springs' Lime garage and settle in at the Polite Pig, which is pouring Cask & Larder Ales and Porters brewed by Larry Foor inside the Ravenous Pig.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Harry Potter's Butterbeer might not give you a buzz, but the Hogwarts Express train ride that connects his two Wizarding World areas inside Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure is the most beer-friendly theme park attraction we know of. Not only will they sell you a brew in the queue, but they'll let you drink it during the ride; we recommend grabbing a Wizard's Brew chocolate stout from Diagon Alley's Hopping Pot before hopping in line.

USF's Simpsons-inspired Springfield is home to Moe's Tavern and Duff Brewery, where the seasonal Dufftoberfest märzenbier is currently on tap. Volcano Bay's signature Volcano Blossom fruity pilsner is brewed locally by Orange Blossom Brewery.

Outside the parks, the fermentation tanks in CityWalk's NBC Sports Grill & Brew are fake, but Florida Beer Co.'s 862 IPA is only available here; ask what's in the bar's Beer Engine hand-pumped firkin. And serious beer enthusiasts should sign up for Jake's Beer Dinners at the Royal Pacific Resort, multi-course paired meals highlighting craft breweries from Abita to Walking Tree. The next events are Dec. 7 and Dec. 31.

SEAWORLD

SeaWorld was known as a suds-seeker's paradise during the Anheuser-Busch ownership era, back when the Budweiser Clydesdales were as much mascots of the park as Shamu.

The attraction's brand suffered badly in the wake of Blackfish, but has rebounded recently, buoyed in no small part by beer-based promotions. It began with the return of free beer (featuring the park-exclusive Mako Red Lager) at Mama's Pretzel Kitchen over the summer.

The recently opened Waterway Grill, located alongside the brand-new Infinity Falls raft ride, pours Motorworks Brewing's Midnight Espresso Porter, plus a dozen more rotating craft beers; annual passholders should ask about the refillable stein program.

Finally, this summer's first-ever SeaWorld Craft Beer Festival, offering samples of more than 100 drafts from local breweries like Crooked Can and Orlando Brewing, has been a success; it wraps up this weekend on Sunday, Nov. 11.

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