Fans of beers and ales can sample nearly 200 of them, while also discovering the flavours of the continental United States’ southernmost island, during the eighth annual Key West BrewFest.
Running from 31 August until 4 September, the festival kicks off with an early evening party at Key West’s Waterfront Brewery. Over the coming days, other activities ‘on tap’ will include brew-focused dinners, a Pool Beer Pong Party Tour and tap takeovers. Beers range from intriguingly named offerings such as Harpoon Leviathan and Andygator, to local favourites from the Florida Keys Brewing Company and Islamorada Beer Company.
The undisputed festival highlight is the BrewFest Signature Tasting Festival on Saturday, 2 September. Featuring some 200 beers from around the world, the tasting extravaganza is set for 5-8 p.m. on Key West’s South Beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Admission costs from $40 per person (less than £31). Lager lovers can also choose to pay $75 per person (less than £58) in advance for admission to an afternoon VIP tasting with appetisers from the Southernmost Beach Cafe.
Beyond BrewFest, year-round visitors to the Florida Keys can quench their thirst with samplings of local beers, ales, meads, rums and vodkas. Here are five spots not to miss:
1) Keys’ Meads: The Keys’ first meadery opened in Key Largo this year with tours and a tasting room. The company sells traditional mead made using honey acquired from apiaries or beehive collections including 40 hives in the Upper Keys. The meads are dry, semi-dry or sweet and flavours added include ginger, apple and Key lime. Specialty meads include habanero, coffee and caramel and new flavours set to be introduced include blueberry and huckleberry. www.keysmeads.com
2) Florida Keys Brewing Company: Locally owned and operated with brewing done on site, this craft production outfit on Islamorada’s Morada Way Arts and Cultural District produces tasty seasonal and barrel-aged beers including light, reds, ambers and browns. Beers include Iguana Bait, Flakeys, Spearfish Amber and Run Aground. Holidaymakers can stop by to sample the ‘Keys crafted’ products. www.floridakeysbrewingco.com
3) Islamorada Beer Company: For the local brewers at the Islamorada Beer Company, the Florida Keys are home. The No Wake Zone offering exudes the Keys’ weekend lifestyle of wading in the water with a cold one. Other offerings include Islamorada Ale and Channel Marker IPA. The brightly coloured tasting room that has served some of the top-selling craft brews in the islands since 2014. www.islamoradabeerco.com
4) The Waterfront Brewery: Located in Key West’s Historic Seaport, it offers American cuisine, homebrews – including the award-winning Key Lime Witness and Crazy Lady honey blonde ale – and a variety of other drafts from Florida breweries. Brewery tours are available. www.thewaterfrontbrewery.com
5) Key West First Legal Rum Distillery: Opened by local chef Paul Menta in 2014, the Key West distillery is housed in a former Coca-Cola bottling plant and pre-prohibition-era bar. Despite its colourful past, the Keys didn’t have a contemporary legitimate rum distillery until Menta has created a new chapter in the island chain’s history with his Legal Rum brand. Guests are invited to tour the plant, open daily, and enjoy free rum samplings. www.keywestlegalrum.com
Event information and ticketing: www.keywestbrewfest.com
For more information on the Florida Keys: www.fla-keys.co.uk