Suds and Thrills: 5 Amusement Parks with Craft Beer Nearby

By Joe Baur

Summer and craft beer are natural companions. This also happens to be the time of year when fun-loving travelers emerge from hibernation, stretch their legs, and start heading out to their favorite amusement parks across the country for some much needed thrills.

So why not combine these incredible feats of human innovation?

With that in mind, we caught up with some of our favorite amusement parks across the country to pair a local craft beer with a popular ride. As always, you’ll want to savor the flavor—lest you find yourself at the climax of a winding roller coaster, realizing a little beer always goes a long way.


Schlitterbahn | New Braunfels, TX

Schlitterbahn | New Braunfels, TXSchiltterbahn Waterpark & Resort is nestled between the two fast-growing craft beer communities of Austin (50 miles) and San Antonio (32 miles). Winter Prosapio, Schiltterbahn’s corporate director of communications, suggests pairing a Texas Honey Ale from neighbor Guadalupe Brewing Co. with the Raging River Tube Chute.

“Both start incredibly crisp, turn smooth and end with that natural Texas taste—honey and the Comal River,” says Prosapio.

Even more local is Faust Brewing Company, which also happens to be a hotel. Originally built in 1929, the historic hotel is only a mile away from Schiltterbahn. With a handful of guest taps and six year-round offerings, Faust Brewing is the perfect vacation from your vacation!

Other craft breweries in the area:


King’s Island | Mason, OH

King’s Island | Mason, OHLocated just outside of Cincinnati along the Little Miami River, King’s Island has long been regarded as one of the best amusement parks in the country, often credited with reviving worldwide interest in the roller coaster industry. But they don’t just take their rides seriously. Now they’re paying attention to the local craft beer industry.

In April 2013, King’s Island announced they would be opening the Christian Moerlein Bier Garten in the coming season. Thrill seekers can now enjoy a full-service bar from the Cincinnati brewery with no shortage of Morelein brews.

Pair a ride on The Beast, the longest wooden roller coaster in the world, with Christian Morelein’s Dopplebock. The brew’s full body and smoothness harken back to Germany’s Reinheitsgebot Purity Law. A classic brew for a classic ride.

Other craft breweries in the area:


Cedar Point | Sandusky, OH

Cedar Point | Sandusky, OHCedar Point’s accolades line up like a hall of fame athlete. Most notable is their 16 consecutive years of being heralded as “Best Amusement Park in the World” by Amusement Today. Naturally, you can find some pretty fantastic craft beers nearby.

Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland (60 miles east) is the crown jewel of Northeast Ohio brewing. But you already knew that, so try something new and even closer to the park at Catawba Island Brewing Company in Port Clinton on the other side of Sandusky Bay. Their Couple Three Hops IPA is a solid choice after taking on Millennium Force—one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the world.

Other craft breweries in the area:


Busch Gardens | Tampa, FL

Busch Gardens | Tampa, FLFlorida is a mecca of theme parks. Since it might feel a bit weird to go hunting for craft beer alongside a life-sized version of Mickey Mouse, we decided to go with Busch Gardens (now owned by the Blackstone Group). This park is surrounded by a healthy selection of craft breweries in the greater Tampa Bay area.

Of particular note is Cigar City Brewing, which The American Craft Beer Cookbook author John Holl calls a “major attraction for those who appreciate and seek out excellent beer” in a state known for theme parks.

Like Busch Gardens, Cigar City has no shortage of offerings that will leave visitors smiling. Jai Alai IPA, Improv Oatmeal Rye India-Style Brown Ale, Cubano-Style Espresso Brown Ale, and special release Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout are all guaranteed winners.

Founded in 1959, Busch Gardens has a unique mixture of zoo attractions and rides, including their newest roller coaster Cheetah Hunt, a triple launch coaster that comes in at 4,400 feet long—the park’s longest thrill ride. Visiting Florida in the summer can be quite a steamy experience, and Cigar City’s Hotter Than Helles Lager is a perfect match for the sunny weather. This beer has a malty backbone with notes of hay and honey that are balanced by noble hops and a refreshing finish.

Other craft breweries in the area:


Knott’s Berry Farm | Buena Park, CA

Knott’s Berry Farm | Buena Park, CAOne of the benefits of being in a massive metropolitan area like Los Angeles is that you’re likely never too far away from a brewery. Long Beach, Huntington Beach and Anaheim all have a handful of breweries to check out after a day at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Leidy Arevalo, PR and marketing pro with Knott’s, suggests checking out Noble Ale Works in Anaheim.

“One of Knott’s Berry Farm’s most famous attractions is GhostRider,” says Arevalo. “Looming 118 feet over historic Ghost Town, GhostRider is the largest attraction in park history—the ‘big whig’ of coasters on the West Coast.”

A perfect complement to this behemoth of a ride is Noble Ale Works’ Big Whig IPA. True to the name, Big Whig clocks in 6.8 percent ABV. This beer is loaded with citrus flavors (tangerine), and a powerful resinous finish typical of a West Coast style IPA.

With an initial drop of 108 feet, GhostRider is one of the tallest wooden roller coasters in the world. Riders will reach top speads of 58 miles an hour during the two-minute ride of twists, drops and turns.

Other craft breweries in the area:

Joe Baur is a Cleveland native currently living abroad in Costa Rica, enjoying all the Imperial and Libertas he can get his hands on. His videos and editorial work have been featured in a variety of domestic and international publications, including All About Beer Magazine, BBC Travel, Yahoo Travel and Matador. You can follow him at joebaur.com and @BaurJoe.

Read more from Joe Baur