Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Boozy Tourism: Florida

Yay! Florida! Yes, it is probably one of the last places I’d ever choose to go on holiday but… why not? The thinking here was that it is a useful halfway point (in a way) between Mrs Cake and I, and our relatives in Canada. Since we wouldn’t be going to see them at Christmas this year, why not meet for a holiday? Somewhere hot. And go to Disney World. What? You heard me.

Yes, I have two young nieces (and an overenthusiastic brother-in-law (set to vibrate)) who would love the fuck out of a week in theme parks, water parks and whatever else goes on out there. For me it could be like Fear and Loathing on the Cartoon Trail… it sounded fun – bizarre, but fun – so I hatched a plan to take my hip flask with me and just get hammered the whole time.

Before you waste any time reading further only to be disappointed; I didn’t bother taking my hipflask. I’m not an alcoholic! I need to keep reminding myself of that. Nearly everywhere I go now, I say to myself, “hey, this would be fun if you took your hipflask”… but yeah, then I’d be an alcoholic. There’s a time and a place. I just need to find a sensible way of devising what time and place that is. Moving on.

Duty Free part 1

Outward duty free of course. That’s right, the discerning booze tourist needs to pick something up to enjoy during the holiday. You can always get something when you get there, but I’d already decided that any purchases made in the states would be for bringing home.

So I had a look around, and most of the stuff was more than I wanted to pay. I ended up plumping for a Dewar’s 12 blend at something like £8 off (£19.99).

It turns out I’ve been done. It’s just a rebranding of the 12 year old double aged that I picked up about 3 years ago in Spain and if it wasn’t £8 off, it would be a complete rip-off. Sure, the bottle is more attractive and it actually comes with a stopper instead of a screwcap, but it tastes pretty much the same and, even worse, when I do the £ to cl calculation, it turns out I’ve paid exactly the same amount I did back then – to like, 3 decimal places (£0.285 per cl – what the actual fuck?). I mean, I wouldn’t mind but I thought I was getting something I hadn’t tried before – and at a discount.

Did I enjoy it though? Well, it was all right. It still has the grainy element I associate with cheapish blends, and this one isn’t even all that cheap. It’s no better than a Grouse, a Whyte and MacKay, or even a number of the supermarket blends. Still, it was nice to have something to relax with after a long day out in Florida, or on the parks, or just to accompany a cigar in the afternoon on the resort.
Dewar's 12


It would be a few days before our Canadian family would join us so Mrs Cake and I rented a car and did touristy things like visiting the NASA centre and swimming with manatees. I also used the mobility to indulge my search for bourbon. I figured I’d pick up one bottle from a liquor store and one from the duty free.

We didn’t have any trouble finding liquor stores, there were plenty about, it’s just that none of them were particularly good. Next time I’ll have to do some liquor store research in advance along with the normal product research.

I’d made a shortlist of targets, but I was finding the same uninteresting products like Jack Daniels (and varieties) and Jim Beam (and varieties) in every store. One had the Bookers’, which I’ve read is supposed to be the best, but I didn’t want to blow $80 in one go.

One of the stores had a few varieties of moonshine, which I wish I’d considered now, but I’d gone prepared only to pick up bourbon. In the end I opted for this – it’s a single barrel edition of Four Roses. Four Roses was on my shortlist, but I found soon after that I’d specified a limited edition, and while this single barrel is considered better than the standard edition, it isn’t the imited edition I was after. It’s still interesting though, and at $42 + tax, a modest price.

Four Roses is made from 2 different mashbills  and 5 different yeast strains, making 10 different recipes. There are a variety of bottlings comprised of blends of various recipes, but these single barrel ones are, as suggested by the name, produced from one recipe – and indeed, one barrel.

It’s bottled at an encouraging 50%, with the warehouse location and barrel number handwritten on each label. Quite a nice touch. You can learn a bit more here.

That would be all the booze hunting till the end of the holiday, though I assure you, you can buy bottles of spirits in the resorts. It’s just the selection isn’t extensive and I’m not making any guarantees about the price – they don’t put prices on anything in the “general store” at the Port Orleans Riverside resort, and it’s probably a case of if you have to ask, you can’t afford it, but you probably need it.
a gre't fuck off manatee

Disney World

There is no, repeat: no booze at the Magic Kingdom. ”How can it possibly be magic, then?”  you may well ask. “Is it all psychedelics and weed?

No, this isn’t San Francisco in the early-mid 60s! It’s for kids. I know! I figured there must be some bars there, you know, fo’ t’dads. But no, in the Magic Kingdom park itself not even the restaurants sell beer. [I have heard talk of a secret VIP venue where you can get a drink, but… I’m not a secret VIP].

So er, yeh. Nothing much else for us to talk about there unless you want to hear about rides (there’s a bit on the log flume where I definitely heard the line, “come on, show us yer balls” in the song that was being played) or the weather, or the Princess Breakfast where you have an extortionately priced but disproportionately average breakfast while actresses dressed as Disney “princesses” circle the tables posing for photos with the children. Snow White called me Grumpy despite having a beaming smile on my face at the time. I looked around, “Grumpy? I’m feeling positively jovial – in spite of the aforementioned breakfast discrepancy.” She clarified it was because I had a beard, which I accepted at the time, but then; all the dwarves have beards don’t they? Except Dopey. 

Don’t worry the prohibition does not stretch over the rest of the site. In Downtown Disney for example, there are a number of themed bars, stands selling shit margaritas for $5 a time, restaurants and even a bowling alley that is remarkable value compared to what you have to pay to bowl here in the UK. The beer tends to be interesting and good quality though at an average price of $8.50 perhaps a little pricey.

You can also get ice cold Ethiopian beers at the Animal Kingdom park, enjoy a burger with a beer at the Typhoon Lagoon waterpark and authentic German beers at the Biergarten buffet at Epcot. Just be warned, they can be a bit funny about IDs. Your UK driving license should be fine, but one “cast member” advised us that some places insist on seeing your passport. If you don’t want to carry that around with you, you can take a photo of the appropriate page and keep it on your phone. It wasn’t a problem for us though; I suppose I’m wrinkly enough. Mind you, I recall now one instance where they asked for ID and I went, “how about if I do this?” then smiled to show my wrinkles. She just looked at me, probably thinking I thought I could bypass the ID by smiling.

So I didn’t really get hammered while I was there – I didn’t really give it my best effort if I’m being honest, but I did try to maintain the British tradition of getting slightly loaded before heading out in the evening and I did enjoy the beers we picked up along the way.

Here’s a little breakdown (in association with my Untappd account) of all the beers I was able to procure throughout the holiday and (where possible) the venue.

Magic Hat Dream Machine (5.7%) – Splitsville, Downtown Disney. An IPL if I remember correctly.I enjoyed it very much, and the food that accompanied it. 4.5/5

Michelob AmberBock, Anheuser Busch (5.1%) – Cody’s Roadhouse, Crystal River. A nice traditional type bar that you’ve seen on TV and films countless times. So familiar in fact that you look around and wonder when a fight is going to break out or someone’s going to call you “boy” and state that you’re not from around there. This doesn’t happen though because Americans are nice, ordinary people like anyone else.  4/5

Redhook Longhammer IPA (6.2%) – Orlando supermarket. The first of two varieties of IPA bought for keeping in our room fridge. 4/5

Rebel IPA, Boston Beer Company/Samuel Adams (6.5%) – Orlando supermarket. And the second. 4/5

Yuengling Traditional (4.4%) – Splitsville. We were in a bit of a hurry, but were able to get my second one “to go”. Bonus. 4/5

St George Beer, Kombolcha Brewery (4.5%) – Animal Kingdom. Ethiopian lager served from a stand at the Animal Kingdom. A bit picky about IDs, but worth the hassle for the ice cold condition it came in. 3.5/5

Longboard Island Lager, Kona Brewing Company (4.6%) – Animal Kingdom Lodge. An African themed restaurant where the food is Indian and the beer is American. If you’re from the UK you aren’t going to be impressed by the curries on offer here, but at least there’s a good variety of strong beers. 3/5

Hopageddon, Napa Smith Brewery (9.2%) – Animal Kingdom Lodge. 4/5

Ranger American IPA, New Belgium Brewing Company (6.5%) – Animal Kingdom Lodge – I chose to have another beer instead of dessert. 4/5

Session Black Lager, Full Sail Brewing Company (5.4%) – 50s Primetime Café. Fucking bizarre place where menacing, over-sized waiters prowl around insisting you don’t rest your elbows on the fucking tables. Who’s the fucking customer here? Again, decent beer helps to compensate for the slightly uncomfortable atmosphere that is supposed to be fun and sub-par food. 3.5/5

Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch (4.2%) – I’m not proud of it, but my brother-in-law bought some cans for the resort. 2.5/5

Schofferhofer Hefeweizen, Binding Brauerei (5%) – Biergarten Restaurant. I think you can get this in bottles at Aldi. 4/5

Altenmunster Oktoberfest, Allgauer Brauhaus (5.5%) – Biergarten Restaurant – there were four German beers to choose from, and I would have had them all, but after a couple of visits to the buffet I just wanted to get out of there. Most expensive buffet ever, and they actually expected a tip at the end – when you’d been serving yourself the whole time. 3.5/5

So you can see, there’s                 quite a lot of beer to explore when you’re in the United States. Looking back over the star ratings I’ve given these, I see I’ve given 4 out of 5 on no fewer than 7 occasions. That’s pretty remarkable. So, on to…

Duty Free part 2

Ah, the return leg. One last thing to look forward to before a long, uncomfortable and sleepless night flight, jet lag and a return to work. There’s something soul-destroying about stepping off a plane into a cold Manchester Airport and knowing for the first time in a week, that this temperature isn’t the air conditioning. This is life. Your life. How do you do it? And the duty free was never going to stave off the gathering grey skies. Problem is, you just never know what to expect from Duty Free – you can only hope there’s a rich selection of interesting products to choose from. Aaaaaand… at Orlando Airport, there isn’t.

The only bourbon they had that wasn’t some variety of Jack Daniels, Jim Beam or Woodford Reserve was Bulleit, and that wasn’t on my wishlist, nor did I even know what it was at the time – I’ve since checked the Whisky Bible, and it seems it’s very good though.

The disappointment was almost crushing. I decided to look to the scotch for inspiration. That turned out to consist of the usual selection of Johnnie Walkers, Ballantines, Bell’s’… they did have the Highland Park Harald at $96 but… this just won’t do.

I seriously considered getting the Harald but, realising I hadn’t opened the Einar that I’d picked up in Spain yet and ultimately, even if they didn’t have specific bourbons I wanted, I may as well get bourbon anyway cos: when else am I going to buy bourbon if it isn’t when I’m in the United States?

So I went for these: different varieties of brands I was already familiar with. One is the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked (45.2% ABV and $49 for 75cl) and the other is Jim Beam Black 8 year old (43% and a bargainous $25 for one litre!).

These should be products that are ripe for comparison really, since both are aged longer than their entry level counterparts – the white Jim Beam is aged for only 4 years.

Interestingly, that Jim Beam Black works out in terms of cl per pound to be the third cheapest whisky I’ve ever bought. That’s amazing because only the Cutty Sark I bought in Spain and Wall Street (which isn’t even really whisky) from Vietnam have been cheaper.

So I’m not overly excited about these, but I do at least have two poker nights coming up this month, so I’ll save at least two of my purchases for those. Also, from what I can tell so far, you can’t get the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked in the UK [this has since turned out not to be true], so I have at least achieved one of my booze tourism aims there [no, I haven’t]. You’ll just have to join me later for my verdict on them. And I really hope you do.

In the meantime, a self-imposed prohibition continues in my life until the mini-Cake comes along. I’m sure I’ll write about how hellish it has been eventually, but in the meantime I’ve always got booze related posts waiting for you. And next week I can see that the focus will shift to absinthe once again. See you back here for that.

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