Bar Tab: Motorworks Brewing
Enjoy a fresh pint of beer while putting in the shade of a mighty oak. Listen to great music and the low hum of happy chatter in the background. Sink a long put and hear the cheers of friendly strangers.
The putting green is just one of the many fun activities you can experience during your visit to the new Motorworks Brewing. A bastion of wholesome adult fun that features everything from a grand taproom that includes a full-liquor bar to a spacious beer garden filled with lawn games, Motorworks is a must-visit destination spot. Yes, even for my beloved Bar Tab readers who live as far away as Venice or even Englewood.
The first production brewery in Manatee County, Motorworks might soon rank as the most important addition to Bradenton’s booming downtown district since Riverwalk. Located on the eastern border of the Village of the Arts, the brewery is poised to serve as the anchor business the artist colony has needed since its inception more than a decade ago. Motorworks’ proximity to McKechnie Field pretty much guarantees it will become popular with the sea of spring training tourists who visit Bradenton to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and other MLB favorites. In the future, Motorworks brews could serve as advertisements nationwide for The Friendly City.
My amazing wife Kristin and I approached the handsome brick exterior of the Motorworks Brewing building, which reportedly served as a Hudson Motors dealership in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, for the first time together Saturday evening. We found a pair of empty stools at the bar and before we could order or really soak up the chic surroundings a server presented us with a freshly popped basket of popcorn. Nice touch.
We nibbled while admiring the taproom filled with four rotating Motorworks brews, 26 rotating guest taps and more than 80 guest bottles of beer. The bar also features a full-liquor selection and wines including the excellent, locally-connected LOLA. Flat-screen televisions are viewable from any spot, including the lounge furniture area and high-top tables that also dot the smartly-designed room.
I started with samples of the four Motorworks brews on tap that evening. The Belgium Winter is a refreshing treat with citrus notes while the Pilot Porter has a wonderful coffee flavor coursing through it. The Sweet Stout also has the coffee taste, but it’s as if a dollop of cream and sugar has been added. I’m an avid IPA enthusiast and Motorworks’ version of the India Pale Ale didn’t disappoint thanks to its richly textured take on the traditional blast of biting hops.
Meanwhile, Kristin pored over the extensive draft menu, which changes daily. She went with the McKenzie’s Blackberry Cider ($5), a gluten-free beverage with 5% alcohol by volume. “Fruity nose with berry and apple prominent, nice acidity that keeps the sweetness from overpowering and a medium-sweet finish,” read the description on the menu.
“It tastes like candy,” Kristin said with a smile.
Next, we wanted to eat. I arrived at Motorworks disappointed that the tasting room didn’t have a kitchen. But then I learned the brewery had auditioned more than two dozen food trucks before going with The Traveling Kitchen parked in the back of the beer garden. Menus are available at the bar. You order the food and it’s brought to you - quickly - and then appears with your beverages on the same bill. We are big fans.
On Saturday, we ordered the $20 “super sampler” that includes two each of the burger, grilled chicken and roasted pulled pork sliders; with your choice of cheese and condiments, plus onion rings or fries. The burgers were fine but the chicken and pork sliders were tremendous. The kitchen’s spicy mayo is a must on all the sliders and the “wah-sum sweet sauce” paired perfectly with the onion rings. It helped goose the burgers, too.
Our bellies full and with a to-go box of leftovers waiting for us behind the bar, we finally made it outside to the beautiful beer garden, complete with a deck built around a sprawling, century-old oak tree. A man with a guitar performed familiar songs while people played corn hole, used the bocce ball courts, and, to my surprise, left empty the 3-hole putting green. I spent some time practicing before we called it a night.
Kristin and I returned Sunday - my birthday - with our French bulldog Tucker to meet my parents for an afternoon of pints and pulled pork and presents (for me!) A huge screen had been set up outside for the upcoming Super Bowl bash. Eventually, Dad and I snuck away to the putting green and the famously competitive Tatangelo men created a three-hole course. Pops took an early lead and my groans soon attracted a small crowd. I made a comeback, though, and when Dad pushed an easy put to the right, giving me the victory, I raised my pint of Cigar City Jai Alai IPA ($5) and cheered as if I had just won The Masters.
“There will be a rematch,” Dad said.
While my parents live in St. Petersburg, they’re already looking forward to returning to Motorworks as often as possible - and not just so my dad can get his revenge on the putting green. Again, even if you live in South Sarasota County, trust me, Motorworks is worth the trip, especially if you couple it with a visit to the Village of the Arts or McKechnie for a baseball game. If you live in Manatee County, be proud that Bradenton now has a bar, which as soon as it debuts its craft cocktail menu next month, will easily rank with the best watering holes I’ve frequented in Tampa, New Orleans, Colorado and Southern California.
1014 9th St. W., Bradenton