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SeaWorld Launches New Coaster—with Craft Beer and Food Festival

Plus, meet our new social media manager who’s a finalist at Cannes World Film Festival

I’m suspended fourteen stories above San Diego Bay. I am being dangled over the edge of a cliff made of metal. I smell vaguely of quality craft beer. I am an offering to the gods of amusement. Questioning life choices, my emotional state in that jittery nook between joy and terror. Just hanging there, looking directly down, wondering how good latch technology is these days. Intellectually, you know how safe this is. You know the byzantine safety measures in place. But intellect is no match for that primal scream inside you that says “WHAT THE NO.”

This roller coaster’s new trick (new to me, at least) is that, instead of just plunging you down the thrill drop, it dangles you over the edge and then stops for a full 3-5 seconds. Lets you take it all in. Then it lets you go. It just drops you, at a 90-degree angle, 143 feet down, 60 miles per hour freefall. Your feet just dangle the whole wild time.

The Emperor, SeaWorld’s new roller coaster, opens tomorrow (March 12). It’s been two years in the making. It’s the tallest, fastest, longest dive roller coaster in California. And it’s where we podcast from this week. You can hear our adrenaline shakes.

To commemorate the coaster’s arrival, local craft brew success story Hess Brewing created the Emperor Hazy IPA—a juicy little number that’s available exclusively at the park. And it’s coinciding with SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival and Craft Beer Festival, which runs now through May 1. VP of Marketing Erika Diprofio—whose name either sounds like a law firm or an expensive perfume—explains the coaster, the beer, and the cause (a portion of sales of the IPA will go to Penguins International).

We also hassle the newest member of the SDM media team—our social media manager, Rachel Frank—and make her get on the mic with us to meet you guys. Rachel is a ball of energy and creative force. She created and ran her own music platform, She dressed as a panda “to meet friends” in San Diego, and it became such a big hit that she ended up dancing on stage in panda gear with Snoop Dogg, The Flaming Lips, you name it. During the pandemic, she created a short film, “I’m An Ant,” about the meaning of life in an ant costume. It’s wonderfully weird, charming, creative. And… it’s a finalist at Cannes World Film Festival—after winning Best Experimental Short at the Paris International Film Festival. She’ll be creating the new SDM on social media going forward. We actively adore her.

Point is, it feels good to be podcasting in public with real people again. Our Zoom-exclusively podcast era has come to a merciful end.

In “Hot Plates,” we talk about one of San Diego’s best brewpubs, Gravity Heights—a collaboration between master brewer Skip Virgilio (he co-founded AleSmith) and chef Ryan Johnston and Whisknladle Hospitality—which is planning to open a second location in Mission Valley, and Anthony Wells of Juniper & Ivy is a semifinalist for a James Beard Award. For “Two People, Fifty Bucks,” David’s has a codependent relationship with soup (this time at Pho on Fifth), Erika professes her love for all things Callie, and I found myself in a sweet life spot while staring at warm focaccia bread with melted brie cheese, balsamic, and Granny Smith apples at Seneca, the rooftop restaurant from Consortium Holdings.

Episode sponsored by SeaWorld San Diego

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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