Last Call — Bier Fest Walkaround Day Two
Busch Gardens Tampa
| September 13th, 2018
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— There's just one weekend left for Busch Garden's new 2018 Bier Fest! We covered a couple of the food and craft beer offerings in our Day One Walkaround article
, but there's a couple more really great food items you'll find in the middle and toward the tail end of the Bier Fest trail.
The giant Bier Fest sign is great for taking pictures with! You can fit your whole group in the shot.
We'll start where we left off, at the "Kebabs" booth — and not surprisingly, they offer up three different Kebabs!
I really like the design of the Kebabs booth. It seems more like a real little building, and not just a temporary event kiosk.
There's a Beef Kebab, a Kielbasa Kebab and the one we selected, the Chicken Kebab! In relative terms, at $5.25-$5.75, these Kebabs give you the best value if you're just going to try one food item at the festival or are paying out of pocket.
Chicken Kebabs from the Kebabs booth.
There are three really great medallions of chicken on the skewer that was given to me. There were a few roasted vegetables in between the chicken and a light chimichurri sauce over the top. This was a really great "street food" item that would pair well with just about any craft beer!
The chimichurri sauce on the top of these Chicken Kebabs was well balanced and not really "strong" as far as chimichurri sauces go.
There are two additional experiences available at the Bier Fest for 2018 — a Wine Tasting (which I didn't get a chance to check out) and a Bourbon Tasting experience. Both are led by an experienced beverage "guide" and combine a little bit of education along with the sampling of various beverage.
Bottles at the Bourbon Tasting experience.
At the Bourbon tasting, there was a placeholder with double sided cards of the four spirits that you will be tasting — two turned upside right so you could see and learn about the first two bourbons, with the last two cards turned upside down.
The Bourbon Tasting experience cards. Two cards are flipped over and great little experiment is to see if you can match what you're tasting to the correct card.
For the final two samples, you are to use your new found bourbon knowledge to guess which sample goes with which card, based (more or less) on the bourbon color and aging process. It's a fun little extra activity!
All four of the Bourbon Tasting experience cards flipped over. There's a good amount of informaiton about each Bourbon on the back of those cards.
Getting back to the food, we "slide" on over to "Das Sliders" booth and try out (I'm sorry to have to say) what might have been my least favorite food item at the festival… the Impossible™ Slider… so named because it contains no red meat.
The Impossible™ Slider from the Das Sliders booth at Busch Garden's Bier Fest 2018.
Oh, it's sooooo pretty — I love the idea of a vegetarian hamburger patty so much — I really wanted to like this one, but I found the Impossible™ Slider (wait for it) nearly impossible to eat. The patty was very, very dry, to the point of being hard to swallow and the main flavor reminded me (more or less) of powdered onion soup.
It's really a pretty burger! The Impossible™ Slider features a plant-based meat-less patty.
Now I've never tasted or cooked with the Impossible™ meat-less product before, so I can't say if my experience here comes down to preparation or something else — but there's so many great, flavor-full things you can do with plants — this wasn't one of them. (Sorry, it won't keep me from trying it again, because now I'm really curious — but I call it like I taste it.)
Did I mention there's live music? There's a live band that plays several sets over the course of each festival day.
There's a live entertainment stage set up at the far end of the festival trail.
These guys were pretty good, playing mostly covers, but even tossing in an original song here and there!
The live band that was playing when we passed by. These guys were really good, playing a mix of covers and even and original song here and there.
Getting back around to one of the "hidden" food booths… number 12 "Seasonally Inspired" and 13 "Tavern" are a little off the beaten path.
The very last booth is tucked up next to the "Beer Garden" area, or what I think is now being called the "GartenGate" building.
I didn't try the Fish n' Chips at the "Tavern" booth because I was just getting too full… but I'm so glad I sampled a couple more of booth number 12's items!
The real "foodie" booth of the Beir Fest is number 12, "Seaonally Inspired" which is also kind of tucked in behind the GartenGate building.
The "Seasonally Inspired" kiosk (number 12 on the map) seems to have some of the more… culinary inspired items. In my previous post I sampled the Watermelon & Heirloom Tomato Salad which was really great and refreshing. This time, I tried the Grilled Lamb Kefta with Tzatziki — I really like Tzatziki sauce.
The "Seasonally Inspired" kiosk was serving up this Grilled Lamb Kefta with Tzatziki item.
This was another really great item from this booth… I didn't think the Grilled Lamb Kefta was overly spiced, and really just had a great flavor (kind of what I wished the Impossible Slider had tasted like, but I digress). I wish there had been maybe just one more tablespoon's worth of the diced cucumber, tomato, and onion mix in the dish, and the cool Tzatziki sauce over the top of everything was a decent theme-park take on this Ottoman Empire classic. (Traditionally, Greek Tzatziki is a little thicker and you might even find diced cucumbers in it — this was a "sauce" version.)
The Grilled Lamb Kefta with Tzatziki is a great Greek-inspired find at the "Seasonally Inspired" booth at the Bier Fest.
Which takes me to the final food item for my Bier Fest 2018 experience, the Gochujang Duck Lollipops & Summer Peach Salad. First things first… it's very trendy right now to call any animal protein "leg" a "lollipop" — instead of going to your favorite bar and getting a basket of "buffalo wings" you may soon be ordering a basket of "chicken lollipops"!
Another amazing item from the "Seasonally Inspired" booth is this Gochujang Duck Lollipops & Summer Peach Salad.
Gochujang paste (used here as a glaze on the duck legs) is a red chili paste that's both savory and sweet, but I would only call it mildly "spicy" (heat level wise). Gochujang is sweet because it's made by way of a fermentation process with glutinous rice — the starch of that rice provides the sweetness and a good bit of the texture.
You don't need to know all of that though — it just taste really good on duck lollipops! The duck legs I received were perfectly cooked, they weren't dry or greasy, and were just really good duck legs. There were a few light and dark sesame seeds on top for additional texture and the peach and onion salad was a really great flavor compliment to the Gochujang Duck. From a foodie standpoint — the hidden "Seasonally Inspired" kiosk is worth looking for!
The Gochujang paste/Glaze on the legs paired so well with the duck and the peaches. A great pairing with any craft beer!
All in all — I had a lot of fun at Busch Garden's Bier Fest. I was a little disoriented at first, but that's probably because I came into the festival area, from the back end. Had I walked into the area at the entrance, looked at the map, and browsed around a bit before jumping in — I might have had a better idea of what all was going on.
This is a stroll-around kind of experience and a great new option for day guests and annual pass-holders looking for something new to experience at the park. It is decidedly smaller than the full-sized Food and Wine Festival that Busch Gardens hosts in the spring, but that's not a bad thing… it's just to give you some idea of the size of the event.
Craft Beer people are becoming more sophisticated, and while I really like that the ABV numbers were posted for the beers, it would be really great to see IBU numbers and some indication as to the beer's immediate origin — meaning… is the one you are going to pour me coming from a bottle or is it on tap? There is a difference, and I'd kind of like to know which is which before walking up to the booth.
Food-wise everything was great, although the prices -vs- what you're getting are starting to inch up to an eyebrow raising level on a couple of the items (I'm looking at you $7 Impossible™ Slider). I don't think the prices need to come down, I just think we could have seen at least one more booth practicing a little more of the "culinary arts". Beer is a great ingredient too cook with and infuse into food — in savory items and in desserts — none of which were present at Bier Fest for 2018.
I really hope the mini festival continues to grow (more in scope and not in size so much) over the coming years. It is a transition festival that fits in nicely as the park changes over to Halloween themed activities and now — has a really good blueprint to build on.
There's two more festival days for this year if you would like to check out Bier Fest for yourself — Saturday & Sunday, September 15th & 16th are the final two days of Bier Fest, Busch Gardens, Tampa for 2018.