International Beer Festival at Lakewood Ranch brings craft brews to masses

jbartolone@bradenton.comOctober 24, 2013 

The International Beer Festival returns to Lakewood Ranch Main Street this Saturday. LOGO PROVIDED

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Craft brews. Ciders. Lagers. IPAs. Beer.

Main Street will be transformed into a beer drinker's paradise from 5-9 p.m. Saturday at the third annual International Beer Festival at Lakewood Ranch.

About 100 different beers will be available to sample, including plenty from the popular and ever-growing craft beer movement.

"It's just a huge, huge niche in the market," said Hugh Shields, marketing manager for Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, which is supplying the beer for the festival. "It gives people an opportunity to taste something other than your staples, your Buds, Bud Lights."

Among the crafts that will be flowing: Tampa Bay-based Florida Avenue Ales, Bold City Brewery of Jacksonville, Big Top Brewing Co. of Sarasota and Darwin Brewing Co., which is planning to open a Bradenton location.

The festival will also feature several Oktoberfest-themed beers, gluten-free brews and a special beer that's "an absolute surprise," said Shields, who is sworn to secrecy.

Attendees can also take part in Budweiser's "Project 12," a nationwide sampling effort to choose new beer varieties to be included in a limited-edi

tion sampler pack. Customer feedback from Project 12 previously led to the establishment of the company's Black Crown label.

Local rockers Muphin Chuckrs and Pitbull Toddler, featuring Tampa Bay-area radio personality Cowhead, which played last year's festival, is supplying entertainment again.

"They loved it so much they actually reached out a couple weeks after and said they wanted to come back, so apparently they enjoyed themselves," said Rachel Gray, events and promotions coordinator for Lakewood Ranch.

It's free to show up at the beer fest, but there are three levels of tickets for those who want to partake in beer drinking. For $25 you get unlimited craft and specialty samples; $35 tickets include the samples plus full 16-ounce domestics; and the $65 VIP tickets include an hour-long pre-party at Polo Grill and Bar, a commemorative Tervis Tumbler, food and some beers not available at the main event, including a few from Chicago's Goose Island Brewery.

Tickets can be purchased in advance online at lakewoodranchbeerfestival.com or in person at World of Beer, 8217 Tourist Center Drive., University Park, or Ed's Tavern on Main Street, or the day of the festival. VIP tickets are only available online, and there were only a few dozen remaining as of Wednesday afternoon, said Patrick Green of event organizer Brewed Life.

There will be some food vendors set up along Main Street, in addition to Main Street's restaurants.

Karen Ronney, co-owner of MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, said events like the beer festival are great because they draw new people to Main Street. And festival-goers can find even more exotic Scottish beers inside her restaurant, like Belhaven Scottish Ale and Tennents.

Tennent's Lager is "the equivalent of like a Bud Light, but with a kick," Ronney said.

A portion of the proceeds from the beer festival will go toward the Humane Society of Manatee County.

Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.

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