Wasted Away Again: Craft Beer in Key West

Key West! The land of beers to go and every type of mixed drink imaginable. The land of Hemingway and Jimmy Buffett. I’ve been visiting America’s southernmost spot for years now, as I like to channel my inner Hemingway and finish my annual novel writing project there. And like so much of America over the last few yeas, craft beer continues to grow in popularity. After getting hit by Hurricane Irma this fall, I was worried that Key West would be a shell of its former self. But let me tell you: the island is open for business and the party is on! And for craft beer drinkers, it starts at Waterfront Brewery.

Waterfront Brewery: The Essentials

We’ve all been to the breweries hidden away in warehouse area or office park. And it’s ok, because we are there for the beer, not the view. Waterfront is not like that! Located right on the water (it’d have a terrible name if it wasn’t) just a few blocks from the famed Duval street, this is the first brewery I’ve been to where I can order a flight and then watch the boats come in and out from the bar. It’s become one of my first stops when I get onto the island every since it opened back in 2015. If you want to learn about how they make their beer in addition to drinking it, they offer tours four days a week (check their website for details). They also have great food! I’d highly recommend the shrimp lettuce wraps.

Brews to Choose

Waterfront offers two different flight options, each with four set beers in them. Here are some of my favorites between the two of them.

  • Key Lime WitNess: not on draft this past time, but this witbier is my favorite beer of theirs. It’s Key West! You’ve gotta try everything Key Lime flavored.
  • The Truman: named after the president who vacationed on the isle, this double IPA  packs a punch at 9% but is still refreshing.
  • Rockland Ruby: you’re in the islands! Suck down this tasty shandy/radler.

Other  Craft Beer on the Island

  • The Porch: located right on Duval Street, this is the original place to get craft beer on the island. Boasting an extensive list of craft beers from Florida and beyond, this bar tends to have more regulars than tourists drinking at it. Grab anything from their extensive list of drafts, bottles, or cans, and take it outside to the giant porch in front and watch the mayhem on Duval.
  • The Crafty Kraken: located a block off Duval on Southard street, the Kraken is brand new. They opened just before the hurricane hit, and so have had a rough start, but I’m convinced they have staying power. Featuring great local-ish drafts from Florida breweries like Cigar City and Funky Buddha, the staff here is super friendly and the vibe is really chill. They’ve got an upstairs balcony as well for that essential KW people watching. They had Elysian’s Space Dust in bottles, which means that it is a good place.
  • Conch Republic Seafood Company: Probably the most tourist-y listing so far, this place nonetheless has great food, good local beers, live music, and great views of the water. Their conch chowder is best on the island, and their shrimp and some of the best I’ve ever had.

Side Quests

Here’s a non-comprehensive list of other places I check out when I am on the island:

  • Firefly: my favorite restaurant on the island. Go there for brunch and get the fried chicken biscuit. Ask for it sloppy. Then plan for a nap later.
  • Books on Books: the best place to grab something to read. Go there most days and you may just run into the indy bookstore’s owner, famed novelist Judy Blume!
  • Captain Tony’s: the best tourist-y bar on the strip. It’s the oldest bar in Florida, and is where Hemingway used to drink when it was still Sloppy Joe’s (which is now located across the street). Their pirate punch is a nectar of the gods in a collectible plastic cup.
  • Bad Boy Burrito: fantastic tacos and burritos. The Blue Room next door has stand up comedy every Thursday night.
  • Hemingway’s House: lit buffs need to see this place where Poppa Hemingway wrote several of his classics. So do fans of six-toed cats – they are everywhere here.
  • The House of Wu: this new dumpling shop is a can’t miss.
  • Pepper’s: every hot sauce you could imagine. Go to the bar and do a free tasting!
  • BO’s and the Conch Shack: both great palces to get your conch fritters while on the island.

What are your favorite places on the island? Let me know, and until then,

Best Brews!

–Dwain

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