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A brewery tour of the Florida Keys

Last updated on August 18th, 2021 at 11:40 am

Jimmy Buffett songs and pop culture suggest that when you visit the Florida Keys, you should drink a margarita.

But anybody who has spent a salty, sun-soaked day in the Keys knows that the real beverage for the Keys is a thirst-quenching beer.

No surprise, then, that Florida Keys breweries have sprouted from the Upper Keys down to Key West. 

Sampler at Florida Keys Brewery in Islamorada. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Florida Keys breweries: Sampler at Florida Keys Brewery in Islamorada. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

None of the beers from Florida Keys breweries has cracked the top 100 beers for the state on Beer Advocate. Several of the breweries are new and there is not a great volume of reviews or ratings online for beers from Florida Keys breweries.

On our recent trip through the Keys, however, we didn’t care.

It was fun to sample a few beers in these atmospheric breweries, each of which offered an ambiance that captures the Keys experience.

At this writing, there are four operating craft breweries – two in Islamorada mere blocks apart – and two breweries in Key West, each in a unique location. (There are also a few restaurants that serve their own beer, which we have not included here.) 

Garden at Florida Keys Beer Company. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Garden at Florida Keys Beer Company, one of the earliest Florida Keys breweries. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Islamorada breweries

Florida Keys Brewing Company
81611 Old Highway, Islamorada.

Mosaic made of bottle caps inside tasting room at Florida Keys Beer Company. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Florida Keys breweries: Mosaic made of bottle caps inside tasting room at Florida Keys Beer Company. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The oldest of the two Islamorada breweries first opened in a warehouse a few blocks off the Overseas Highway. With popularity and success, it moved its tasting room in 2018 to a new location on the Overseas Highway, where it will snag more drive-by visitors.

The new space features one of my favorite things about the Florida Keys Brewing Company – décor created by making mosaics out of thousands of beer bottle caps.

One advantage to the new location is the backyard beer garden, a lush inviting space that is child-friendly. When we visited, kids and adults were trying out the hula hoops. The tasting room has a wide choice of games and the atmosphere is friendly and fun.

This brewery has cultivated the patronage of locals and one sign of that is the busy schedule of events that take place here, from a book club to yoga classes. Live music is performed two or three times a week.

Oh yeah, and they serve beer – a large selection with whimsical names and pretty good reviews. Lots of visitors tout Iguana Bait, made with local hibiscus (Iguana’s favorite food) and Keys honey. 

Floriday Keys breweries: Tasting room at Islamorada Brewing Company (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Florida Keys breweries: Tasting room at Islamorada Brewing Company. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Islamorada Beer Company,
82229 Overseas Highway, Islamorada.

The second craft brewer to open in Islamorada, this place devotes about half its space to displaying T-shirts and logo merchandise and for a sand-pit and boat where kids have a blast.

That leaves room for a half dozen tables and a bar in the tasting room, where we saw friendly tourists and locals chatting about places to go in the Keys.

Florida Keys breweries: Boat and sand pile whree kids can play in the Islamorada Beer Company tasting room.
Florida Keys breweries: Boat and sand pile where kids can play in the Islamorada Beer Company tasting room. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

In an adjoining space in the same building, you’ll find Islamorada Distilling, which makes rums, gin and vodka, a popular Keys souvenir.

Among their highest rated beers is Channel Marker IPA and Sandbar Sunday, which you will find on tap in many Keys locations.

Key West breweries: First Flight brewery is located in the historic Pan Am building in Key West. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
One of the first Key West breweries, First Flight, is located in the historic Pan Am building in Key West. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Key West breweries

First Flight,
301 Whitehead St., Key West.

This brewery and restaurant occupies a lovingly restored historic building that was home to Pan American Airways when it began service in 1927 with its first flight to Havana.

For aviation buffs, there is much to love about this place – Pan Am memorabilia decorating the space, ceiling fans in the shape of an airplane’s radial engines, the illusion that a Sikorsky seaplane has plunged through the ceiling.

The original owner of the place was movie star Kelly McGillis, who opened Kelly’s Caribbean Bar Grill and Brewery. The restaurant has changed hands and been renamed First Flight, but it continues brewing and serving three beers in its classy bar and outdoor beer garden.

First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery in Key West. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Key West breweries: First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery in Key West. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

This was the first of the the Florida Keys breweries and ranks as the southernmost micro-brewery in America. But beer lovers do gripe about the limited choice of beers – it’s pretty rare for a brewery to have only three choices. The Havana Red Amber Ale gets a slightly higher rating than the others, though they all end up in the mid-range on beer-rating sites.

The food gets good reviews, but what we loved about the place was its budget-friendly happy hour.  From 4 to 6 p.m. every day, house beers are $3.50 a pint, wine is $5 a glass and there is a menu of $5 appetizers. We each ordered a couple appetizers and ended up calling it dinner. We recommend the Beef Brisket Mac and Cheese and the trio of hummus dips.

Sampler at Waterfront Brewery in Key West (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
This Key West brewery has a prime location. Here’s a sampler at Waterfront Brewery in Key West (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Waterfront Brewery
201 William St., Key West.

What a great location for a brewery.

Located in a large building overlooking the Key West Historic Seaport, Waterfront Brewery offers splendid views of water, sky and boats in the harbor.

Waterfront is also a restaurant with a full menu, full bar, and, for Key West, reasonable prices. (Example: A good mahi sandwich with fries for $15.)

Key West breweries: Waterfront Brewery in Key West has an unbeatable location. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Key West breweries: Waterfront Brewery in Key West has an unbeatable location. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The place is huge, and offers entertainment in the form of a large game room with pool tables and video games. The restaurant occupies two levels.

When we visited, there were 10 house-brewed beer choices.

Resources for planning a Florida Keys breweries visit:

Mile marker guide with dozens of stops to help make the most of your drive south.

Florida Keys wildlife: Places to see animals

Tiki bars: Soak up the Keys atmosphere. Many of the local beers are served at these tiki bars.

12 great kayak outings in the Keys

Top 10 pit stops on Overseas Highway

Best Florida Keys beaches

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

This article is the property of FloridaRambler.com and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


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