Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review of Brews, Bands, and BBQ at SeaWorld

SeaWorld began its late-winter festival this past weekend (disclosure: I was invited as press and received a free meal, though no free alcohol). Since this is Central Florida here, late winter means 79 degree temperatures, outdoor bands, and a search for shade even in February. Amazing.

I'd not seen this exact event before, though it's at least more than one year old (my fellow bloggers assure me). What I have done is attend beer and food/wine type events before from SeaWorld. There are differences and variations each time, but they usually take place in the pathway from the Bayside Stadium back toward the dolphin nursery, with shacks and stands scattered about on the way. That held true this time as well. With the decorations around and a few theme additions (Harley Davidson motorcycles), the area took on a character of its own that reminds me of the Christmastown stuff they do in the same spot, but with enough color changes that it has its own tenor and rhythm. If nothing else, the blaring rock (or country) music sees to a different vibe than you saw here in Christmas.

There are numerous local vendors here with BBQ foods--Tony Roma's, Cecil's, and Sonny's leap to mind. SeaWorld also has its own booth. I had pulled pork from both Cecil's and SeaWorld (the latter one had more spice and added flavors), and I sampled other things from the SeaWorld booth: grilled chicken (moist and tender, but not overly meaty) and sausage (spicy and my favorite).

If you're not here for the food, maybe it's the bands. Many of them are big-name bands: Beach Boys, Third Eye Blind, Hall and Oates, Sheryl Crow, that sort of thing. The complete list of bands is on the official site. The concerts are included with admission, so that's a pretty big draw.

If you're like me, though, you may show up here for the beer. The booths sell individual brewski (for almost $8) but what you really want is the $21 sampler, giving you ten cups of beer (or cider) for a total of about 70 ounces of beer. That's essentially half off the price of the drinks! There were about 25 kinds of beer to choose from, all of them craft beer (rather than mass produced giants you already know well). It seemed to me that the event was heavy on the ales, pale ales, and Indian pale ales this year. I saw a few stouts here and there, but lagers and ambers seemed more rare. The pricing and portions seemed just about right to me--this is a good event and we left feeling like we had paid fairly for good quality.

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.