- Disneyland Resort is getting its first brewery-slash-eatery in Downtown Disney.
- Ballast Point, a craft brewery started in Southern California, opens its new location on Wednesday.
- INSIDER visited the family-friendly restaurant ahead of opening to sample the food and beer.
San Diego beer company Ballast Point is coming to Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney District. Chosen by Disney as the first-ever brewery to grace the footpaths of the theme park property, the brand new eatery opens Wednesday.
INSIDER visited the restaurant for an exclusive preview of the food and beverage offerings guests will soon be able to sample at the family-friendly “brewery and kitchen,” including duck confit nachos, vegan lettuce cups (made with the popular “Impossible” meat), and over 50 varieties of beer.
Keep reading for a look at what you can expect from Downtown Disney’s newest destination.
The Ballast Point Brewery & Kitchen is right in the middle of Disneyland’s bustling Downtown Disney District.
With more and more alcohol options popping up in Downtown Disney and California Adventure (no booze is served in Disneyland proper yet), we can see Ballast Point becoming a great place for adult Disney goers to sit back and have a few great beers without feeling trapped among the hubbub of the parks.
Downtown Disney is open to the public. Visitors have to park and go through a small security area to get inside, but there’s no ticket purchase required.
This is about halfway down the stretch of Downtown Disney, which runs from the Disneyland Hotel to the entrances of the Disneyland and California Adventure park.
Downtown Disney has undergone some changes since first opening in 2001.
Though some iconic restaurants like Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and the La Brea Bakery have been there from this start, others like the Rainforest Cafe and House of Blues have since closed. Ballast Point is one of the newcomers to the block as the area becomes more modernised.
The new location will sit on top of another soon-to-be eatery, Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer.
Taking up the whole second story, the restaurant includes a bar, dining room, brewing station, and outdoor bar with patio seating.
Inside the Ballast Point, there is a full dining area where guests will be able to reserve tables in advance.
As you can see in the back corner, the space includes a small brewing facility where Ballast will eventually be crafting an exclusive beer for the Downtown Disney location. They haven’t landed on a specific type yet (Ballast makes dozens of beer varieties) but brewing manager Chris Klein is experimenting with something any beer aficionado would enjoy.
“It will be a more approachable, easy drinking beer,” brewing manager Chris Klein told INSIDER. “I know that we’ve toyed around with a couple different styles. I think it will be more of like a lighter, hoppy ale. Not overly bitter.”
Ballast Point will be offering a rotating selection of its award-winning beers. If you can’t pick just one, there are flights available.
Ballast’s beer menu is helpfully sectioned to help you narrow down your choices. “Hops, Hops, and More Hops” is where you’ll find the gold-medal winning Sculpin IPA, while Ballast’s Amber Ale sits under the “Rich and Malty” category.
We sampled the Grunion Pale Ale, Sculpin IPA, California Amber, and the Blackberry Sour Wench. Our favourite was the Sour Wench, a sour ale that was a perfect balance of tart and sweet. Ballast also make two variants on this sour ale – one aged in white wine barrels and another in red wine barrels.
The signature west coast style IPA, the Sculpin, was also really tasty. It’s a lighter IPA, which makes it more appealing to anyone who doesn’t like a really hoppy or bitter brew.
The unique challenge of Ballast’s Downtown Disney location is how customers are going be coming from all over the world.
Ballast Point’s other breweries typically have a rotating set of regulars, just like any bar. But in Downtown Disney, the clientele will be made up of mostly of tourists coming to visit the theme park.
“It’s been a lot of figuring out how we are going to make everybody that comes in here happy,” Klein said. “Thankfully we’ll have sometimes upwards of 50 to 60 beers on tap, so people coming in can try our interpretations of styles that they might be more familiar with, like Midwest style beers or East coast.”
The staff are all eager to see the 4,000 square-foot space fill up with thirsty visitors who might want to know a bit more about beer.
“If I’m talking about a beer, it’s fun to be able to run over [to the bar] to pour them a sample and have them try it,” Klein said. “Because that is going to be a lot more helpful – they can be receptive and understand what you’re saying versus just explaining to them.”
One of the restaurant’s best features is an outdoor patio dining area.
There will be two cabanas available for rent if you want a more private group experience. INSIDER was also told that you get a partial view of the the nightly Disneyland fireworks from the far side of this patio – a rare treat.
This area will be first-come, first-served seating with full food and bar counter service.
Many of the Downtown Disney eateries require diners to wait for full-service tables. This patio section is likely to get crowded with parkgoers who want to grab a quick drink or bite without making reservations or waiting for a table.
Then comes the really good stuff — brewery food.
From house-made pimento cheese and flatbreads to a steak burrito and more, Ballast has a diverse menu designed with the tourists of Disneyland in mind. They also offer up two fantastic vegetarian options that use Impossible Foods’ “meatless but bleeding” beef.
“The thought process for the menu was to have food that represents Ballast Point as a body,” executive chef Colin MacLaggan told INSIDER. “And since the clientele here is pretty much a melting pot of America, we didn’t want to leave anything out.”
The food items, many of which have sauces or batters made with Ballast Point beers, are designed to compliment the large beer selection.
“We try to get flavours in our menu that work very well with our food,” executive sous chef Joey Lerma added. “We have very bold beer flavours. Our food needs to be able to match and be on point with that.”
The Ballast Point wings, for example, have a “Spicy Sculpin Buffalo” glaze made with the brewery’s signature IPA.
“I always say that since our beer portfolio is so vast and interesting, that the food has to be equally as vast and interesting,” MacLaggan said. “So we kind of self-compete against our own selves, our other half.”
Though nearly every Disneyland Resort restaurant has vegetarian options, Ballast Point’s menu is one of the most diverse and veggie-friendly we’ve come across.
“Vegetarian food and vegan food does not have to be bland,” Lerma said. “You get a lot of places where [the meatless option] would be steamed vegetables and rice. It doesn’t need to be like that. During my background with cooking, I used to get a lot of people that requested vegetarian food and we would have to get creative with that. You can see that reflective in our menu.”
The Impossible beef is prepared like ground meat, with fresno chillis and pickled peanuts.
The Impossible Foods protein is served with hoisin and sriracha, as well as julienned carrots and pickled onion. It was fresh, spicy, and tasty – perfect for omnivores and vegetarians alike.
“[Some restaurants] just have a whole section of vegetarian stuff,” MacLaggan said. “We’re not gonna go that extreme, per sé, with our menu diversity, but we wanted to plug in some things that weren’t so cliché.”
Ballast also offers meatless flatbreads as well as “soyrizo” and roasted cauliflower tacos.
These options, along with the Impossible burger and sweet potato cavatelli pasta, make for a much more diverse set of options for anyone looking to have a meat-free meal.
Just like the beer selection, the Ballast Point kitchen will rotate its food offerings.
“We’re still keeping our philosophy and we’ll be changing the menu seasonally,” MacLaggan said. “It’s not going to be the all-year-round menu like some of these places have. We’re going to stay to our chef roots.”
This Californian approach to cooking with what’s available means guests will be able to return year-round to different offerings.
“We go heavier in the fall/winter and lighter in the spring/summer,” MacLaggan said. “So you’ll see braises and big sauces and bigger flavours in the fall and winter, and then by spring you’ll see some more vinaigrettes […] something lighter more colourful.”
Another Disney-exclusive dish is the sesame crusted ahi tuna.
Like the rest of the Downtown Disney eateries, Ballast’s restaurant and menu design is a bit more upscale but still family friendly. You won’t find any Mickey-shaped foods here, though.
The kids’ menu includes dishes like chicken skewers and fries.
Ballast Point is going to donate $US1 to No Kid Hungry for every kid’s meal ordered at the Downtown Disney location.
INSIDER also sampled Ballast Point’s take on the Impossible burger.
The Impossible Foods meatless burger patty is sold around the country at various restaurants but the only other place inside Disneyland Resort you can get the Impossible burger patty is California Adventure’s Lamplight Lounge bar and restaurant.
The Ballast Point Brewery and Kitchen opens in Downtown Disney on Wednesday, January 16.
“I think the best part of the experience is still to come,” Chef MacLaggan said. “Getting to see the clientele show up, and then knowing that they’re probably not going to be here again, but super stoked that you’re a part of their enjoyment, their vacation, and their whole experience through Disney.”
You can learn more about Ballast Point at its website here, and visit Disney’s website for more info on the Downtown Disney District.
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