BRADENTON -- A week after one brewery opened in Bradenton, another one is taking shape.
Darwin Brewing Co., 803 17th Ave. W., received a truckload of key beer-making equipment Wednesday morning that will help put the microbrewery on schedule to open during the last week in March.
"It's the heart of the brewery," owner and chef Darwin Santa Maria said, smiling at the tanks readying to be lifted into the building.
The truck's delivery included the brewhouse, keg washer and a glycol pump that helps keep the beer cold in the 6,000-square-foot warehouse -- all key equipment for brewing.
The former Bradenton Press building is being remodeled with high ceilings for the 15-tank system, a tasting room, lab room for the brewmaster, and side garage doors that open up to the beer garden with a stage for bands on the east side. Fawley Bryant Architects designed the building.
"I love it," Santa Maria said. "For me and my partner, this is a dream come true. We've worked really hard on our recipes at our brew pub in Sarasota for two years."
On the west side of the building, a food truck alley is being created with electrical outlets for trucks to conveniently plug in and start cooking. Santa Maria acknowledges he could have created his own food truck, thanks to his award-winning brew pub in Sarasota. But he wants to introduce new businesses and foods to the community.
"We already have the restaurant in Sarasota and this, and we're looking for somebody to come in here and help them out," he said, inviting food truck vendors to come and talk to him at the Sarasota brew pub or the Bradenton brewery.
Motorworks Brewing, 1014 9th St. W, also received its tanks last week, but went ahead and opened serving craft beers on tap. With the delivery Wednesday, it's possible Motorworks and Darwin could start to offer their own brews for sale at the same time.
Santa Maria and business partner Matt Cornelius met with the Motorworks owners, Denise and Frank Tschida, to exchange tips and ideas last week.
"We look forward to being their neighbors and making the best beer possible in Bradenton with Motorworks," Cornelius said.
He heavily credited the Tschidas from Motorworks and Michael Wagner, owner of Little Giant Brewery in Bradenton, for helping with the opening.
"Michael actually took us on a tour of Bradenton. He helped recruit us to this area, and this particular site," Cornelius said. "He was the one who introduced it to us."
Little Giant, 301 Seventh St. E., is starting construction next week and hopes to be open in May with a small pilot brewing system, Wagner said. He plans to launch a second phase later in the year with a 20-barrel system. He's just as excited for Darwin's brewery and Motorworks.
"I'm a big believer in Bradenton, for one thing. I've been living down here for about 19 years, and I have no problem -- the more breweries the better," Wagner said. "There's nobody in this area more happy to see the growth of breweries than me. I've been brewing professionally for 13 years and also consider this the beer frontier of Southwest Florida."
Santa Maria anticipates having his brewery license next month and if all goes well, maybe the brewery will open while Pirates fans are still in town.
"It's still our goal: maybe we get the end of spring training," he said. "But we believe we're going to make things right. Spring training is not going anywhere, so people are going to be seeing what we're doing over here and get excited."
Besides, Santa Maria added, visitors should support Motorworks in the meantime, and the Bradenton Marauders have a whole season to play that will bring in crowds.
Just like they're reaching out to fellow brewers, Darwin Brewing is also making connections in the community.
Santa Maria is planning events with his chef friends for some Sunday grilling, pairing the food with beer.
"You could do different kinds of paella -- grill it, smoke it," Santa Maria said. "Get a group together, bring a couple chefs in, get some food that's an affordable price with some affordable beer."
Local artists are being recruited to design his beer labels and imprints, and Darwin Brewing is connecting with the Village of the Arts to be tied into the brewery.
"We're going to combine a lot of artwork with local artists here," Santa Maria said. "We're working on some nights here to have nights for the artists."
Santa Maria also has high hopes for the McKechnie and the Village of the Arts community, seeing it as an up-and-coming neighborhood.
"Our love for our beer, our love for our new community in Bradenton -- we believe a lot in this area," Santa Maria said. "We have a nice art section over here and a lot of people are going to see this. I believe this is going to be the next entertainment district here."