LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It’s inaugural. It’s international. And it’s a unique way to celebrate something that’s pretty rare nowadays: positive news about the economy.
Lakewood Ranch’s first-ever beer festival takes place Saturday, with a worldwide flavor that organizers say is unique among such events.
“They really wanted to differentiate this festival by being an import beer festival,” said Chris Reynolds, marketing and sales administrator for Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, which is providing 400 cases of beer. “So we chose our import beers first. We’re bringing out 100 different brands of beer.”
The festival is a kick-off to Lakewood Ranch’s 14th annual “Tour of Homes,” and this year is the ranch’s largest tour ever, with 41 featured model homes, said Candace McElyea, spokeswoman for ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
“We’ve been seeing the economic recovery in Lakewood Ranch for about a year now,” McElyea said. “Our builders are feeling confident again, and buyers are showing up again.”
This year’s featured model homes outnumber last year’s by 13, McElyea said. Another indication of Lakewood Ranch’s economic recovery is the total of home sales: 301 so far this year, compared with 145 at the same point last year.
“Things are definitely picking up in Lakewood Ranch again,” she said.
The tour will include homes from 17 builders and range in price from the mid-$140,000s to more than $2 million. The tour will also cover everything from Lakewood Ranch’s highest-end neighborhood, The Lake Club, to its “entry-level” neighborhood, Central Park.
The four-hour beer festival, to be held on Main Street, will feature beers from 18 countries, Reynolds said, including Nicaragua, Jamaica, China, Venezuela, Honduras and Czechoslovakia.
The most unusual brands include Oxfordshire Ales Marshmellow, brewed in the English village of Marsh Gibbon; Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA, once brewed only seasonally but now year-round because of its popularity; and a low-calorie Nicaraguan variety called Tona.
The beer brands range in alcohol content from 3 to 9 percent, Reynolds said. To encourage “wise decision-making,” Reynolds said, Gold Coast and Triple A will team up to offer Tow to Go, which offers free towing and a ride home to anyone who is concerned they’ve had too much to drink and calls 1-800-AAA-HELP.
Another special touch to the day will be food samples offered by seven Main Street food vendors. Like the beer, the food will have an international flavor, McElyea said.
Tickets are available at participating businesses, including Ed’s Tavern, Growler’s Pub, Woody’s River Roo, Lost Kangaroo Pub, Jalehouse, World of Beer, and Shamrock Pub for $25 or online at www.lwrbeerfestival.com. Day-of tickets are $35. The beer sampling will start at 4 p.m. and end at 8 p.m.
A portion of proceeds benefits Honor Sanctuary Animal Rescue.
Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at (941) 745-7081.