Come fall, Lakewood Ranch beer lovers can rejoice: The area’s first brewery hopes to pour pints by October.
A five-member ownership group will open the Naughty Monk brewery at 2507 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. in the northern end cap of a strip owned by Crowder Enterprises LLC, the same company that owns Manatee County’s Crowder Brothers/Ace Hardware stores. It took the group about two years to find a building large enough for a brewery and with zoning that would allow a brewery and taproom, says Naughty Monk CFO Eric Keller.
“Wouldn't you know it, when I met with the county they said, ‘I think you found the only building zoned for what you want,’ and it was perfect,” said Diana Eibler, CEO of Naughty Monk. The future Naughty Monk brewery is a 8,560-square-foot spot zoned for planned development mixed use. The zoning doesn’t allow for a kitchen or food trucks, but Keller said they will allow food delivery from nearby restaurants.
60-70 Number of recipes in Joe Eibler’s “beer bible”
The brewery will be housed in the back of the building and the taproom in the front with a wall separating the two. Twenty-four taps, including Naughty Monk’s 15 inaugural brews and some guest taps, will rest against the south wall with pool tables on the north end. The taproom will not offer liquor, but the owners plan to have a selection of wine and hard cider available. Altogether with indoor and outdoor seating, the Naughty Monk will be able to house about 200 people.
In the beginning, the taproom will drive business, but Keller hopes keg distribution will take over in reaping profits. And in another two to three years, Naughty Monk hopes to distribute cans.
“In seven or eight or 10 years down the road, we are hoping to get popular and someone wants to write us a check,” Keller said.
Joe and Diana Eibler, both partners in Naughty Monk LLC, began test-brewing in their garage about five or six years ago, and when they tested the brews out on friends, the same feedback kept rolling in.
“A theme we heard for months was, ‘You should sell this; you should think about it,’” Diana Eibler said. Some of the experimental brew flavors beer snobs can expect include chocolate coconut, sweet potato, habanero wheat agave, raspberry and strawberry.
How did Naughty Monk get its name? The five owners, including Keller and his wife Judy Keller, the Eiblers and the company’s marketing representative Anthony Martin have brewery meetings at the World of Beer on University Parkway. Diana Eibler ordered a Belgian with an animated monk on the label and the Naughty Monk name just came to her, she said.
“I said, ‘We could call it Naughty Monk,’” Diana Eibler said in an interview with the Herald. “Everyone at the tables' eyes lit up.”
Keller and Diana Eibler both said most local breweries have done nothing but provide support and encouragement. Keller mentioned Darwin Brewing Co., Big Top Brewing Co., Cigar City Brewing and 3 Daughters Brewing as his company’s cheerleaders. St. Pete-based 3 Daughters even provided Naughty Monk with their business plan.
With all the local breweries; everyone is so helpful. It's not a competition; I'm not worried they're going to make my same recipe because they can't.
Diana Eibler, Naughty Monk CEO
Keller and his partners are confident about the success they’ll have in the Lakewood Ranch market. They’re “in more debt than we’re comfortable with” after putting roughly $500,00 into Naughty Monk, but the group thinks the investment and work will pay off.
“The affluent nature of Lakewood Ranch makes it perfect for craft beer,” Keller said. “There are people from all over and it's growing like crazy, and there’s a high median income.”
See how beer is made at Darwin Brewing Co.: