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Free beer is back again at Busch Gardens in 2019

Busch Gardens is toasting its 60th anniversary in 2019 with the return of two free beers to all visitors, a return to the park's roots as a vehicle to promote then-owner Anheuser-Busch. The park's passholders are getting an early preview, with two free samples in the month of October at the Garden Gate Cafe or Serengeti Overlook Pub. Times files
Published Oct. 4, 2018

Busch Gardens is toasting its upcoming 60th anniversary in 2019 by giving two free beers to all visitors, a return to the park's roots as a vehicle to promote former owner Anheuser-Busch.

The Tampa theme park announced the deal Thursday. The park's passholders get to belly up to the bar early, getting two free samples in the month of October at the Garden Gate Cafe or Serengeti Overlook Pub. The perk promotes the park's new Annual Pass program with four tiers.

The Tampa park opened in 1959 with a Hospitality House that gave out samples of Anheuser-Busch products. The freebies came to an end in 2009 after the Blackstone Group bought SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

A summer promotion brought the free beer back this year, and both Busch Gardens and SeaWorld reported a rise in attendance. Analysts credited the company's improved fortunes, in part, to the free 7-ounce beers.

RELATED: How we scored more than two free beers from Busch Gardens back in the day.

The park also rolled out a new four-tiered passholder system that offers more perks at each price point.

• Bronze Pass: A drop in price from 2018's Annual Pass at $119 (or $9.99 a month in the park's EZPay plan) this tier has block-out dates, but there are discounts for parking, dining and shopping.

• Silver Pass: $167.88 or $13.99 a month. Unlimited admission, free parking, one free guest ticket and discounts on shopping, dining and events such as Howl-O-Scream.

• Gold Pass: $203.88, 16.99 a month. Free preferred parking, two free guest tickets, bigger discounts and extras like a free animal encounter and free annual PhotoKey.

• Platinum Pass: $359.88 or $29.99 a month. Unlimited admission to all 12 SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks nationwide, free ride-again privileges, reserved show seating and more.

The prices currently listed are for a limited time and are expected to go up after Nov. 30.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. reported earlier this month that the company's attendance numbers were up by 1.4 million visitors compared to the first three quarters of last year. Revenue is expected to be up by $90 million for the first three-quarters of 2018 compared to the same period last year.

Industry analysts have noted the company has been making it more affordable for people to visit its parks and sweetening the deal at some locations with free beer seemed to be working.

Busch Gardens will be holding commemorative activities to celebrate its 60th in 2019, and will open Tigris, Florida's tallest launch coaster, in the spring.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

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