This marks the fifth year of the Manatee Pride Festival, the annual celebration of the LGBTQ community in Bradenton and Manatee County, and Darwin Brewing Company is whipping up some special suds for the big day.
Dubbed Manatee Pride Beer, the fresh guava-infused lager will be available exclusively at the festival, which will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Bradenton Riverwalk.
This is the second year Darwin is providing the green-tinged, fruity elixir for the festivities. The beer is made with guava puree sourced from growers in southern Florida.
Matt Cornelius, Darwin’s general manager, says it is designed to be refreshing in the March heat. The brew was dreamed up specifically for Manatee Pride, with collaboration between festival organizers and Darwin’s brewers.
This year, a few Manatee Pride members joined in on the brewing.
“Jorge Rosabal, Darwin’s brewmaster, is just a super nice guy, and he crafted the guava lager and invited us down to see the process from scratch,” said Valerie Fisher, chair of the committee for Manatee Pride.
“The Pride beer is light and crisp and refreshing,” Fisher said, adding that non-beer drinkers like herself likely would enjoy its taste.
Darwin Brewing will donate six kegs of the beer to Pride this year, doubling last year’s amount. The brewery also will host the official Pride afterparty.
“We’re so pleased that Darwin has been such a tremendous sponsor,” Fisher said.
“We put all the weight that we have behind Pride,” Cornelius said. “This is all about people being who they are and being proud of who they are.”
Cornelius said that members of Manatee Pride and the Bradenton LGBTQ community have been regulars at Darwin since they opened in 2013.
Last year, a couple bartenders overheard Pride members in the taproom wishing they had a beer for the festival and took the idea to management. The concept blossomed from there.
“The community has embraced us, and we try to embrace the community,” Cornelius said.
Darwin Brewing Company was hatched in 2012 out of Sarasota restaurant Darwin’s on 4th (now closed) and expanded to a full brewery and taproom at 803 17th Ave. W. in Bradenton in 2013.
The brewery is known for its four staple beers, which are found in taprooms and on shelves throughout Florida. They include Summadayze, a bright and refreshing India Pale Ale, and Llama Mama Milk Stout, a hearty and sweet beer (find it in the can emblazoned with the happy llama.)
Cornelius describes the Pride guava beer as one for beer enthusiasts (and geeks) to be excited about, and it is only available at the festival. The beer is not the only thing that is unique to Pride.
“The thing that I like best about Manatee Pride is the sense of community and the sense of joy. It’s a bunch of people walking around having a gay old time together,” Fisher said. “Pun intended.”
The proceeds of Manatee Pride Festival benefit Prism Youth Initiative, a non-profit based in Bradenton “dedicated to supporting, affirming, encouraging, enabling and empowering the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 13-23 of Manatee County.”
Prism provides counseling, education and community outreach for LGBTQ youth, and the organization has plans to open a permanent youth center. For now, the group hosts one meeting and one local outing a month.
Besides downing a unique beer, festival-goers can look forward to seeing live performers throughout the day, including local acts Divine AF, Craig Singleton and Sandi Grecco, drag queens, DJ Oliver Dill and an ensemble from The Players Center for Performing Arts.
Festival organizers are touting this year’s festival as the biggest yet, with more performers and vendors than ever.
Admission to this dog-friendly, family-friendly event is free.
More information can be found at manateepride.com.