This March we were given a rare chance to start patio season a little early. My wife’s family had rented a house on Anna Maria Island. We went down for a week, and my parents visited the week prior. Since we arrived on a Friday night and my parents weren’t leaving until Saturday afternoon, they wanted to take us to lunch before they hit the road for the long drive home. It didn’t take too much to convince my father that a brewery was a good idea, and as long as there was food my mother was happy. I’d done a little pre-trip research so I figured what better way to kick off our trip than a visit to Motorworks Brewing, Bradenton’s first craft brewery.
There was an initial struggle during arrival. We got confused reading signs for event parking. It turns out they offer parking for spring training baseball games. After explaining that we were there for the beer and not the game we were able to park for free. It’s a good thing we enquired, since I think they would’ve gladly taken our money!
As we parked I gazed up at the large brick building that houses their taproom. In the middle of the last century it was an auto dealership, and that history provides a backdrop for the name and theme that create Motorwork Brewing’s identity. Upon entering I knew we were in for an experience that wasn’t quite what we’d grown accustomed to back home. The feel was more akin to a sports bar, with people jammed at the bar watching a bevy of flat screen televisions mounted wherever their gazes may land. Since televisions in taprooms are one of my biggest craft beer pet peeves, and the fact that we’d just arrived in Florida the night before, we figured it only made sense to head to their patio to enjoy the comfortable temperatures.
All my gripes were set aside when we walked onto their extremely expansive patio. A monumental oak tree stretches it’s impressive branches to shade a majority of what I would learn is Florida’s largest beer garden. Truly an impressive site to behold! After finding a spot that was equal parts shade and sun for the various preferences in our group we dove into their menu. The first order of business was the beer, a tap list our waitress claimed to contain 34 beers (I only counted 21). I learned that on games where the Pirates are playing in town they don’t serve flights. That put a damper on my plan to try as many of the beers as I could stomach. There was something for everyone, from a V Twin Vienna Lager to a Monita Tequila Imperial Amber Ale. The latter piqued my interest and that’s where I began.
While waiting for the beers to arrive we took a look at their food. They don’t cook on site, instead leveraging the local restaurant Kites Corner daily to provide their patrons with meals. We would also learn that they rotate food trucks that offer various dishes on premise as well. A few minutes later the beers were on the table and our food was in the queue, and after a short mixup (the Lavender Ale was definitely not the Tequila Imperial Amber) we settled into both the shade and our glasses.
I’d been burned (no pun intended) by spicy beers before, and this one was truly an assault on my palette. At 8.8% ABC it wasn’t too boozy for an imperial but the spice was right at the front and heat all the way to the back of my throat. There was a definite complexity with the tequila wood chips offering a smokey, sweet, and oaky alternative to the pepper, but 16oz of this beer was too much for me to handle right out of the gate. I was able to grab a few tastes of my father’s V Twin Vienna Lager which was an amazing counterpoint to what I was undertaking. Having been in Munich a month prior it brought me back to those lager filled beer halls we’d grown accustomed to.
I went to the complete opposite end of the spectrum for my next drink: A Bizarre Gardening Accident. It’s names like these that only add to my love for craft beer. It was a grapefruit Berliner Weisse and I’m not sure if it was because of the beer I had prior but it was very enjoyable. Champagne yellow, with a tart fruity flavor; this was my favorite beer of the visit. This beer combined with the previous truly highlighted the range of flavors that craft beer can offer.
With a refreshing beer in my hand I settled down and focused on my surroundings. Not only did the patio contain a wide array of tables, they also had cornhole boards, bocce ball courts, and even a small putting green! I can imagine that this place can get pretty raucous at night, so I was glad we were there for lunch for a more relaxed time. In between my pints I was able to try several others that my wife and father had ordered. I’m happy to report that all were brewed well, and each one seemed to be good representations of their style. I can’t provide feedback on all their beers, because it would’ve taken me a full day to taste them!
If you’re a craft beer fan and you’re in the area you’ll see Motorworks brews available in taprooms everywhere. I would say you’re definitely safe ordering them, and if you’ve got time it’s worth visiting their brewery for the oak tree alone. It’s a magnificent site and it’s a rare setting to enjoy a beer with friends.