San Diego’s Ballast Point expands regional footprint and global reach with new Disney brewpub

With the first ever onsite brewery at Disneyland, San Diego-based Ballast Point hopes to expand its Southern California footprint and increase its global reach with beer drinkers around the world.

The brewer will feature 50 core, seasonal and rotating beers on 100 taps as well as the research and development beers brewed at the Downtown Disney location.

“Ballast Point is a Southern California brand with deep roots and commitment to the community, so when we were approached by Disney about opening this location, it felt like a good fit,” said Ballast Point President Ben Dollard. “The new brewpub at the Downtown Disney District allows us to strengthen our presence in Southern California and specifically the Anaheim community.”

The Ballast Point brewpub opened Wednesday. The new Anaheim eatery also marks Ballast Point’s first location in Orange County.

“With Disneyland’s steady flow of visitors, this new location will allow fans across the globe to enjoy the Ballast Point experience first hand,” Dollard said.

The new Disney brewpub could be a good fit for Ballast Point with a few potential risks, said San Diego restaurant consultant John Gordon.

“That’s a nice flagship location assuming they can get the right rent and the right clientele mix,” said Gordon, with Pacific Management Consulting Group.

Started in 1996 by a group of San Diego homebrewers, Ballast Point grew to become San Diego’s largest craft brewer by 2017. The brewery was purchased for $1 billion in 2015 by Constellation Brands.

The Disney brewpub is the brewer’s ninth tasting room, with locations in San Diego, Long Beach, Virginia and Chicago. Ballast Point plans to open its first Northern California brewpub in the spring.

With the highly anticipated June debut of Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Downtown Disney will offer Ballast Point plenty of foot traffic and brand exposure, said Gonzalo Quintero, who serves on the San Diego State Business of Craft Beer advisory board.

“From a business standpoint, it’s probably good to align yourself with anything Disney,” said Quintero, known as Dr. Q in the San Diego craft beer community. “The danger is this is the ultimate in selling out and cashing in. You’re literally a Disney brand. Any semblance of street credibility is out the door at that point.”

Ballast Point plans to create specialty brews exclusively available at the Downtown Disney location. Brewing manager Chris Klein hopes to collaborate with Disneyland restaurants and food stands on innovative new beers.

“I really want to do something with the ice cream shop on Main Street,” he said, referring to the Gibson Girl ice cream parlor, which serves mocha almond fudge, cookie dough and other flavors of hand-scooped ice cream in cones, sundaes and floats.

The brewery’s boutique three-barrel, two-fermenter system is designed to serve as a testing ground for innovative, small batch experiments, Klein said.

“We’re trying to do crazy R&D stuff,” Klein said. Ideally, he’d like to offer up a new beer every week, but it’s all going to depend on what style of beer they are making.

“That’s the cool thing,” Klein said. “People will come out here and they may be the first person to ever try a beer.”

The first batch of beer in the tanks for opening day was a single-hop Simcoe session IPA. It didn’t last long. The small brewing system only yields about five kegs per batch, which the Anaheim location will likely blow through in a day, Klein said.

The new Ballast Point brewpub sits at the center of the Downtown Disney outdoor shopping mall that stretches from the Disneyland Hotel to the main gates of the two Disney theme parks.

“It’s always good energy here,” said Ballast Point retail project manager Maddie Tomey during a recent tour of the new location. “It’s buzzing all the time.”

Naturally, the brewpub kitchen incorporates beer into much of its cooking and encourages beer pairings with many dishes.

“Ballast Point is known for big, bold flavors,” said executive sous chef Joey Lerma.

The sweet potato & ricotta cavatelli vegetarian dish is glazed with Longfin lager and pairs nicely with Piper Down Scottish ale, Lerma said.

The cavatelli is one of several dishes exclusive to the Downtown Disney brewpub that also includes the soyrizo & cauliflower tacos, glazed pork belly and smoky bourbon-glazed wings.

The menu will also feature popular staples like the Bavarian pretzel with Sculpin beer cheese and Fathom beer mustard as well as the Wahoo beer-steamed mussels.

Lerma expects the Disney brewpub to be Ballast Point’s highest volume location.

“Currently our busiest location is our Long Beach location and we’re probably looking to double that here,” he said. “We’re at Disneyland. This is about as big as you can get as a brewery.”

The wave-themed Art Deco-inspired building done in greys, golds and coppers is flanked by a recently renovated Wetzel’s Pretzels on one end and a soon-to-open Black Tap craft burgers and shakes restaurant on the other. The second-floor Ballast Point restaurant and bar takes over a location that once housed Build-a-Bear and Ridemakerz retail shops.

A Ballast Point tap handle blade sign marks the first-floor lobby entrance. The interior of the new brewpub boasts nautical and beer-making touches throughout, paying tribute to the San Diego brewer’s maritime theme. Wooden barrels that once held Victory at Sea imperial porter blended with Three Sheets rum line the wall behind a hostess station crafted from beer kegs.

The elevator is wrapped with a life-sized rendering of the scuba diver from the Fathom IPA beer label who ascends and descends with each “underwater” trip on the lift. More than 400 tap handles line the staircase from Ballast Point variants like Ginger Big Eye, Coconut Victory at Sea and Thai Chili Wahoo.

Upstairs, the ship-shaped wooden-topped main bar is wrapped in a gunmetal grey steel hull dotted with rivets. The wall behind the bar pays homage to the wooden hull of a ship. Pendant lights hang from rigging ropes. Wooden propeller blades spin on the ceiling fans above.

The 4,000-square-foot main dining room wraps around the glass-enclosed three-barrel boutique brewery. The back wall of the dining area is covered with an enormous version of the Sculpin IPA label, the flagship beer that put the brewery on the map and still keeps the lights on.

Like the indoor bar area, the 3,000-square-foot outdoor patio offers first come, first served walk-up counter service with a panoramic view of Disney’s Arts and Crafts-style Grand Californian Hotel.

And just like any good Disneyland attraction, you exit the new brewpub through the gift shop. A hefty chandelier made from 168 beer bottles hangs above the retail shop which offers branded souvenirs and beer to go in cans, 6-packs, bomber bottles, crowlers and growlers.

Brady MacDonald is a freelance writer based in Orange County who has written about theme parks for the past decade.

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