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Busch Gardens Bier Fest offers new brews and fresh bites

This year’s rendition of Busch Gardens Bier Fest is bigger and more filling than ever, featuring more than 100 craft beers and specialty food dishes. The annual event is taking place every weekend until October 31st.

Thanks to a big-time upgrade, the annual Busch Gardens Bier Fest is one of the best theme park deals around. While good craft beer is still the focus, this year’s rendition ties in all the other things that make beer drinking such an enjoyable social activity – food, music and interactive experiences.

The park has brought in a deliciously creative culinary angle to the event, as each location for beer sampling also includes tasty food pairings. Combining the food and drink with live music, their new Giraffe Bar overlooking giraffes and zebras, and an expanded “beer trail” that takes imbibers throughout the entire park, Busch Gardens has created a reason to visit that has nothing to do with the thrill rides dotting the landscape.

But the rides are still fun, too.

Sampler lanyards offer best deal for food and drink – especially food

Anyone who purchases a ticket can take part in the Bier Fest by purchasing beer and food items a la carte, but the best value comes in the Bier Fest Sampler Lanyard. Starting at $49.99, they can sound like a lot, but the return on that investment is strong, especially if you employ a little strategy to your food and beverage game plan. A full list of available beer, food and liquor can be found here.

Lanyards offer guests either eight, 12, or 15 (available to passholders only) “samples” of beer or food at any of the Bier Fest outposts throughout the park. The sampler cups for craft beer are actually close to half of an entire can of beer. If you use all eight on just drinks, you’ll spend about what you would have on that amount of beer purchased by the can or pint anyway, but you’ll have been able to try twice as many craft brews.

The hot honey chicken slider at Busch Gardens Bier Fest

However, the food is where the real value comes in. One stamp on the sampler lanyard gets a full serving of whatever dish you like, and the options are not only creative, but extremely enjoyable. Try a habanero honey fried chicken sandwich, the pepper-smoked chopped brisket poutine, or the loco goat mac and cheese (Kraft mac and cheese with applewood bacon, chicharron crumbs and goat cheese). Got a sweet tooth? Check out the whiskey-marinated pineapple skewers, pop some Bavarian donut holes, or get a plate of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire Whiskey beignets.

Most people probably won’t be able to eat eight stamps worth of food (challenge accepted!), but mixing in something to eat after every beer or two makes Bier Fest a fully gastronomically-pleasing event that doesn’t break the bank.

How to navigate Busch Gardens Bier Fest

As for the beer part of Bier Fest, all the local favorites you’d expect are available. Hillsborough staples Cigar City Brewing, Coppertail Brewing and Florida Avenue Brewing Co. are joined by Gulf-side stars like Big Storm Brewing Co., 3 Daughters Brewing and Motorworks Brewing. National brands like Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams and, of course, Anheuser-Busch have stands, as well. There’s even some liquor on the trail, with Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve setting up for samples and bites.

In total, there are 20 stops on the beer trail spread throughout the park. The easiest way to navigate the terrain is to head left immediately after entering the park and work your way clockwise around the outer rim. The home base for Bier Fest is easily found just around the corner from the entrance, and here you can find the Bier Fest welcome center (purchase lanyards here) as well as stops 1-14 clustered in the area. Winding clockwise as you go, you’ll finish the journey at the new Giraffe Bar, the last stop on the trail and the most scenic one, with views of roaming wildlife from the balcony seating.

Combine Bier Fest with Summer Nights or Howl-O-Scream

Bier Fest is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays every weekend until October 31st, with the exception of a four-day run on Labor Day weekend allowing for some Monday holiday fun. To get even more out of the experience, head in this weekend to enjoy the last of Busch Gardens Summer Nights, featuring a fireworks show at the end of every night. Or check the schedule for the annual Howl-O-Scream, with dates beginning on September 10th.

For more information on Busch Gardens or to purchase tickets, visit their website here.

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