Camaraderie, not competition, is key in Bradenton's craft beer market

Camaraderie, not competition is key in craft beer

Special to the HeraldOctober 31, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Beers that pair with food. A craft beer bar for the dog. And even a brewery built in a former car dealership.

The craft beer business is booming, and with plans for three production breweries to open within four months in downtown Bradenton, does it matter which is first?

In addition to being unique, fresh and flavorful, craft brewing is about camaraderie, say those involved in opening Darwin Brewing Co., Little Giant Brewery and Motorworks Brewing.

Each offers its own take on craft brewing.

Darwin uses what is called an Andean style of beer rooted in the restaurant's exotic menu offerings. The beers are expected to pair well with food, says co-owner Matt Cornelius.

Not only will Little Giant beer fans get to enjoy that beer at more than just fundraisers and festivals, a dog park will be part of the brewery when it opens, says brewer Mike Wagner.

Drinkers can get an education in the craft beer process at Motorworks Brewing, as part of the two-story facility will be open for tours, says Ann Altman, vice president.

Frothing for more? Here's a rundown of the three breweries planned to open in the next few months:

Darwin Brewing Co.

Where: 803 17th Ave. W.

Size: 6,000-square-foot facility that features a taste room, a beer garden that runs the length of the building and a 22-barrel brew house.

Offerings: 12 taps that include four to six Darwin-brewed beers as well as other craft beers.

Opening date: February 2014

Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight daily

Mug Club: Yes. "We're going to be encouraging that," Cornelius said.

Beer availability: Talks are in the works to offer Darwin beers on draft from Clearwater to Ft. Myers. With plans to maybe later look into canning.

Does it matter to open be first: "It does not matter," Cornelius said. "I think if you look at the larger picture and how craft beer is developing… at the end of the day, it's important that we are going to have a multitude of breweries. This industry is more about camaraderie, learning from each other, putting our heads together to make the best beer possible."

Visit: Darwinbrewingco.com.

Little Giant Brewery

Where: 301 Seventh St. E.

Size: 5,700-square-foot beer garden and a dog park

Opening date: mid-January

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays

Mug Club: Wagner plans to develop his own take on the mug club concept, but would not elaborate in case competitors take the idea. "We'll do special events and special deals," Wagner said, including special releases and small batches that could be available to club members.

Offerings: 20-tap system that is expected to have 10 Little Giant beers as well as other select craft beers (mostly from other parts of Florida, Wagner said).

Does it matter to open first: While it might sound good to say you are first, "ultimately it doesn't really matter," Wagner said.

Beer availability: The plan is to start kegging onsite and offer the beers to a few select establishments that have been demanding it. "It will be on draft and sometime next year we'll decide on bottles, cans or both," Wagner said.

Visit: Littlegiantbrewery.com.

Motorworks Brewing

Where: 1014 Ninth St. W.

Size: 27,000-square-foot, two-story car dealership built in the 1920s will feature a 3,500-square-foot tap room and wine bar (spirits also served). An outdoor patio surrounds a 100-year-old oak, Altman said.

Offerings: 30 taps; Motorworks will open with a limited selection, but "our goal is to fill all of our taps," Altman said.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays to Thursdays; weekends open until 2 a.m.

Mug Club: Absolutely. A charter "Pit Crew" for Motorworks Brewing members is planned, Altman said.

Opening date: First week of December

Beer availability: Canning and kegging is planned when the brewery is fully operational.

Does it matter to open first: "The craft beer industry is tremendously collaborative," Altman said. "We're all passionate about seasonal special offerings. We all just enjoy our own interpretation, our own take on a seasonal brew."

Visit: Motorworksbrewing.com.

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