BRADENTON -- The sun was shining down and the beers were flowing Saturday afternoon, as residents in Bradenton came down to the ballpark to have some good brews and raise money for a good cause.
The seventh annual Bradenton Beer Festival's Lucky Dog Craft Beer Expo wowed beer lovers with over 80 craft beers, including many from breweries around the state, at the festival's new location at McKechnie Field.
"It's just the right mix," said Nancy Collins as she sat enjoying a beer. "There's a good mix of breweries here, a lot of local breweries."
She and her husband, Richard Collins, both love craft beer and have been to other festivals.
"This is really one of the best-run ones we've seen," she said. "As you can see, I have a great seat."
They were happy not to experience long lines and everything clustered together as they have seen in other festivals, she added.
"I've been taking pictures with my iPhone of the ones we like; I probably have seven or eight," she said. "Now I can go buy them from the store or go to the breweries."
All proceeds from the event will go to benefit Animal Network's Medical Fund for pets in need of medical care.
In addition to the wide selection of beer, there was also live music, food and even cigar rolling for those in attendance.
Breweries were also thrilled to have so many folks trying what they had to offer.
Among those were Rooney's Beer Company, made in Pittsburgh
and on tap at McKechnie Field, the Pittsburgh Pirates' spring training home.
"There's a great Pittsburgh connection here," CEO Alexis A. Barbish said. "So for us, we thought it was a perfect fit."
Lee Allen was standing in the shade to beat the heat as he enjoyed a beer.
"I'm a beer drinker, and this is great," Allen said.
He also liked the fact the cups were small, he added.
"It's good to see all the breweries from all round," Allen said.
Allen, originally from California, said he used to enjoy going to breweries there.
"The ones that were good couldn't make enough," Allen said. "I'm hoping they catch on here."
Meanwhile across the street, some beer lovers opted to attend the grand opening of Bradenton's newest brewery, Darwin Brewing Company. Opening its doors just a few weeks ago, the brewery is the second in the city after Motorworks Brewing and the only brewery to produce Peruvian beer in the U.S.
CEO Matt Cornelius said he was thrilled with the number of people who showed up when they opened their doors.
"The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," Cornelius said. "It's a great place to get great beer with local people."
Lane Spaulding, of Parrish, was enjoying his first pint at the new brewery.
"I've never had anything like it," Spaulding said.
Spaulding had learned of the grand opening on Facebook.
"This is my first time in a microbrewery," Spaulding said. "It's something different, it's not the same old thing."
"We always get an amazing reaction when people try our beers," Cornelius said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.