Now that Halloween is over (RIP Halloween Horror Nights) and it’s not quiiiiite the holidays yet, we’re officially in the most wonderful time of the year at Universal Studios: Dufftoberfest.
Every fall, the Universal theme parks in Hollywood and Florida release a seasonal variation on its Duff Beer, the real-life version of Homer Simpson’s favorite beer, called Dufftoberfest. It comes in for Halloween, and remains available until it sells out, probably around the first week of December this year.
In Springfield, the land at the parks themed after The Simpsons, there are usually three beers: Duff Beer is an amber lager, Duff Lite is a golden pilsner, and Duff Dry is a dark ale. Dufftoberfest is a German-style m?rzen, made after the Bavarian beer traditionally poured at Oktoberfest. In the Duff Beer Garden in Springfield, there’s a sign explaining the seasonal brew: “Dufftoberfest is a heavily-malted beer in keeping with the m?rzenstyle—its sweetness is nicely balanced with a hint of bitterness. The caramel and butterscotch flavors are distinct, and the smooth taste lasts well after the first sip.”
I’m not that much of a beer person, but at Universal, I become one. The park does exceptional custom brews, from Dragon Scale Ale in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Isla Nublar IPA in the Jurassic Park tiki bar, Isla Nu-Bar. But my favorite, by far, is Dufftoberfest. It’s light and a little sweet, but not so much that you’d describe it as sugary; those butterscotch notes really do come through and add a pleasant depth of flavor. It is, in short, irresistibly drinkable.
The other reason I love Dufftoberfest is that it gives me a good reason to slow down and appreciate a piece of the park that I don’t always pay attention to. Universal Studios Hollywood’s Springfield is excellent and underrated, given how many people I see walk through and not stop to appreciate it.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter gets the credit for being the most immersive land—and with the ability to do “real” spells and make magic happen with a wizards’ wand, I can’t argue with that—but The Simpsons’ land doesn’t get the credit it deserves. The decor, the details, the Easter eggs are all next level.
Springfield is in one of the main corridors of the park; you have to walk through it to get to the Krustyland ride, and to the lower lots where you board the Studio Tour or get on a boat to tour Jurassic World. The land also does a lot of work feeding people: there are four quick-service restaurants and two snack cafes there. But the area itself is one of the park’s most highly-themed—you just have to look up to see most of it. At “street level,” you’ll see most of the high points, the things you could likely rattle off about the show even if you haven’t watched it since you were a kid.
There’s Krusty Burger, and Moe’s Tavern, and a Duff Beer Garden. There’s a statue of Chief Wiggum outside his cop car, and a Kwik-e-mart where you can shop and usually spot one of the Simpsons out for photographs. Lard Lad Donuts sells Homer’s favorite pink doughnuts, only they’re the size of your face and cost $10. But on top of all that, there’s a huge amount of storytelling simply in the architecture. Above that street level, you’ll see Mr. Burns’ mansion on the hill with the Springfield sign, and the Springfield Penitentiary where Sideshow Bob is escaping out a window and rappelling down the building.
Inside Moe’s, the walls are covered in deep cuts. Beyond the New Yorker-style sketches of the bar regulars—Homer, Lenny, Sam, Larry and Barney—there are pennants for the Capital City Capitals and the Shelbyville Shelbyvillains, and not just the Springfield Isotopes but also the Ice-otopes as well. There’s also a “photo” of Homer when he caught Blinky the three-eyed fish, which is really a Duff Beer ad. “Duff,” it says, “you know you want it.”
The Duff Beer Garden has “real” tanks of Duff and Duff Lite swirling behind the bar, and a TV hanging above the counter plays Simpsons clips. While I sat there enjoying my Dufftoberfest in my $3 additional souvenir Dufftoberfest stein, the “Do the Bartman” video was playing on the TV and through the speakers hidden in the rocks behind me.
As I sat there sipping, disaster struck. Sirens wailed, lights pulsed, and smoke came from the two atomic stacks of the power plant. It was a full meltdown. Nobody flinched. Here, it happens on the hour.
Julie Tremaine is an award-winning food and travel writer who’s road tripping—and tasting—her way across the country. Her work appears in outlets like Vulture, Travel + Leisure, CNN Travel and Glamour, and she’s the Disneyland editor for SFGATE, covering California theme parks. Read her work at Travel-Sip-Repeat.com.