Florida Brews n’ Tunes
“I’ll have a Big Dick.” Ordering America’s most politically incorrect beer is just the start of the fun at the Florida Keys Brewing Co. There’s everything from bingo to live music every night in the garden out back. The menu is decidedly southern with tacos taking the spotlight. A rental upstairs from the taproom is for anyone who prefers the convenience of a Bed n’ Beer. And a tour of the brewery is a great way to meet the cool folks behind this cool craft brewery, including the bearded canuck who founded it with his Floridian wife.
Behind the bar in the taproom on the island of Islamorada, a line of handmade ceramic tap handles hints at the skills of co-founder Cheryl McBay. She made every handle, each one a clam shell clad party mermaid. Another brew goes by the equally politically incorrect name, “Honey Bottomed Blonde.” Thing is, there’s a story behind every brew on tap. Big Dick is named for a big guy named Dick who’s well known around these parts, both for his presence and his big… personality.
Bearded canuck co-founder, Craig McBay gives me a tour around the taproom, giant beer garden and brewery. The jovial bloke looks more like a hockey player or lumberjack than a savvy businessman, but Florida Keys Brewing is killing it down here. It’s gotta be the most popular craft beer in the Keys. It’s the creativity that explains the popularity. That and the quality of the quaff. There are murals made of bottle caps in the taproom and painted murals on the brewery walls. A band plays in the beer garden. Cats laze about. Everywhere I look, things have about them the unmistakable glow of Canadian humour, lit in fabulous technicolour by that distinct sunny Floridian warmth. Standing next to a twisty, purple octopus mural, McBay talks about the popularity of his brews at tasting events where he refuses to serve guys his most famous beer until they stop pointing and just come out and name it. “Okay, fine. Just give me a Big Dick.”
Seriously, Keys Brewery is a brilliant little craft brewery with a super fun vibe, an in-your-face attitude and a compelling backstory about a Canadian with a passion for brewing, his Keys wife and life in the wannabe breakaway state of Florida Keys. The brewery is into Afro-centric music, Mexican grub and threatened heritage such as out-of-service lighthouses. This is politics and life in a strange and radically liberal (by Florida standards) corner of the US through the lens of a Canadian beer glass.
Happy Independence Day, America! Same to all you beer swilling, bacon frying, hockey playoff beard sporting Canadians who help make the Florida Keys so fascinating by calling it home!