There's actually several answers to this question. Naturally, you have to get into SeaWorld first — that falls outside the scope of this article. While SeaWorld does have a high single day-ticket price, they run sales a couple times a year to make that a little more affordable. They also have a great Fun Card and Annual Pass system that really does save if you're going to visit multiple times in a one year period.
Once you're in SeaWorld, there's a couple different ways to purchase food and beer samples at the Craft Beer Festival — some are quite a bit better than others.
À la Carte and Out-of-Pocket
The first, is "a la carte / out of pocket" — basically this is just walking up to a Craft Beer Festival kiosk and paying for one or two things based on the menu board prices.
The festival menu board price on this small plate of three shrimp is $11.99 (from the 2022 festival). Paying out-of-pocket at the SeaWorld festivals can add up quick... but there is a way to save (quite a bit actually).
Honestly, it isn't really worth getting any of the food items — if this is how you're going to pay for them. The menu board prices are "just" under (by a couple of dollars) what an entree at one of the counter service locations cost. Yes, most of the food items at the festival booths are better than the main entree items at SeaWorld's counter service restaurants — but the portion size is smaller as well.
In a counter service restaurant like Voyager's Smokehouse or Expedition Café, the entree platters generally come with some small "side item" as well, so you're getting "Ribs and French Fries" or "Chicken Tenders with French Fries" etc.
Paying the full retail menu prices for festival food at SeaWorld will add up very quickly.
The Sampler Lanyard
So what's a better way to pay? SeaWorld has this great Sampler Lanyard system which ends up being a pretty great deal if you plan on purchasing at least five (or more) food and beverage items from the Craft Beer Festival booths.
The Sampler Lanyard at SeaWorld's Craft Beer Festival not only make buying food and drinks at the festival kiosks fast and easy... but less expensive too!
The Sampler Lanyard is a plastic punch card that has a barcode on the back and comes with a free lanyard so you can wear it around your neck. The whole idea is, you can pre-purchase a number of samples at once — for a discount, when compared to paying the full menu price. The more samples you pre-purchase this way ... the less expensive each food and beverage sample ends up being.
You just walk up to any of the Craft Beer Festival booths, order one food item… and the cast member will scan the barcode on the back of your Sampler Lanyard and "punch out" one of the entitlement numbers on the front. Once all of the numbers are "punched out" — you know there's no more sample entitlements left on that Sampler Lanyard.
For the 2022 Craft Beer Festival, there's three Sampler Lanyards available — but one of those lanyards is only available to Annual Passholders…
- 8-Item Sampler Lanyard is $55.00 ($58.58, including sales tax)
- 12-Item Sampler Lanyard is $70.00 ($74.55, including sales tax)
- Passholder Exclusive 15-Item Sampler Lanyard is $70.00 ($74.55, including sales tax)
With the 8-Item Sampler Lanyard
The out-of-pocket menu board price on the Brisket Mac & Cheese is $11.99, but if you purchase it with a 12-Sampler Lanyard entitlement... it comes out to just $6.22! (Which is what we feel is a more realistic price for the culinary level of the Craft Beer Festival samples.)
— you can select 8 food or beverage samples at any of the Craft Beer Festival booths. This makes the cost of each sample $7.33!
With the 12-Item Sampler Lanyard
— you can select 12 food or beverage samples at any of the Craft Beer Festival booths. That makes the cost of each sample just $6.22!
With the 15-Item Sampler Lanyard (which is only available to Annual Passholders
) — you can select 15 food or beverage samples at any of the Craft Beer Festival booths. That makes the average cost of each sample just $4.97!
So for example — if on the menu board, you read that the Brisket Mac & Cheese item costs $11.99 (which is about what most of the savory food items cost) — buying five such items — would end up costing more than just getting the 8-Item Sampler Lanyard.
The 12 and 15 Sampler Lanyards are an even better deal — they very nearly make the food items 50% off!
The Sampler Lanyard can be shared between your party … so that person number one, two, and three, can get three different things at any particular booth, and three "punches" will taken out of your Sampler Lanyard.
Each Sampler Lanyard is also good for the duration of the festival (but it's not still valid for next year's festival) — so you don't even have to use all your sampler entitlements on a single day visit. This is great news for Annual Passholders and honestly — it's one of the best perks. It's really fun getting to visit the festival on multiple occasions and getting a couple beers and a couple food items… each time you visit!
A Note About Drink Samples with the Sampler Lanyard
Most of the menu boards show beer prices that are served in 20oz. cups. This is where the Sampler Lanyard gets a little confusing. The cup of beer you will get when using a Sampler Lanyard is 7oz. (about 1/3 of the size of a "full" glass).
The "Sample Lanyard" cup size at the Craft Beer Festival is around 7oz ... so it's about the same amount as a typical half can of soda. However, if you buy a beer for the full out-of-pocket menu price, you'll get a 20oz cup - which is 3 times more beer!
The small 7oz. sample cups — are not available to purchase when paying "out-of-pocket"… so the only way you can get a smaller 7oz, sample of beer (and most of the cocktails), is by using a Sampler Lanyard.
If you want a full sized beer in a 20oz cup — you'll have to pay
the full "out-of-pocket" menu board price ... there are no discounts for the larger beer cups.
Wine and hard liquor cups, (like the whiskey samples), are completly different sizes... and are generally smaller. It's a good idea to ask, and see the cup size first ... if you're interested in one of those beverages.
So it really depends on how much beer you can drink. Personally, I find the 7oz samples nice, because I can try a couple different beers for relatively the same price as one large beer. If you drink a lot of beer though — money-wise, you're probably better off purchasing the 20oz beer with cash or a credit card, and not using the Sampler Lanyard.