Brewery Review of Waterfront Brewery in Key West, FL.
As I discussed in my review of The Porch (read here), Key West isn’t really a beer town. I’m not going to belabor those points again, but I will say it was very nice to find a new brewery had opened up since my last trip. Waterfront Brewing is right on the water along (along the pier walk behind Caroline St.) and has one of the best views of any brewery out there plus has the advantage of being an open air venue (like many Key West locations).
The first thing you’ll notice is that this place is huge, and it’s really deceiving from the entrance, but once you’re inside feels quite cavernous. This is really unexpected in Key West due to real estate (especially waterfront real estate) being at such a premium. The bar is quite long and we had no trouble grabbing a stool. My first impression was it felt a bit like a chain restaurant, without a ton of character, and I was worried that would carry over to the beer selection. You have to understand that the Waterfront Brewery is a full fledged restaurant and you certainly don’t have to enjoy beer to come here. I often find that big restaurants that also make their own beer can have a pedestrian, recipe-based beer selection. Basically, a pilsner, a blonde ale, a hefe, an IPA, a red ale, a porter and a stout. Sometimes if your lucky you might see a pale ale or brown ale, and none of them come across as very inspired, but rather just a way for the restaurant to be able to say they make their own beer.
Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see some really creative and experimental brews coming out of Waterfront’s taps. There was a Key Lime Belgian Wit (Key Lime Witness), a English Dark Mild (Pallina), and even a peanut butter lager (Extra Terrestrial). I have to admit that the PB lager nailed the flavor of peanut butter, but it was fairly one note. However the PB lager is a great sign that this brewery is pushing the envelope, trying to forge their name with unique products by not just following some recipe, and to me that’s the most important thing. Every beer you come up with isn’t going to be a winner, but if you keep trying you’ll eventually hit on something spectacular and people will remember you for it. I should also mention that the key lime wit was quite delicious, and all the beers I tried were of high quality.
When you combine an innovative and rotating beer list with great views and a fresh ocean breeze, you’re in a pretty good place, and certainly one of the true beer venues on Key West. Ernest Hemingway probably wouldn’t have like the commercial nature of this bar, or its dominant footprint on the pier, but he’s dead and this isn’t his island any more. Deal with it, Ernest.