2017-05-25 / Key West Dining

Waterfront Brewery serves more than just suds

BY LAURA HACKWORTH
Florida Weekly Correspondent

Situated on the historic Key West seaport, the Waterfront Brewery is one of the best places in the Florida Keys to enjoy a meal and a locally brewed beer while watching schooners and skiffs of all sizes sail in and out of the wharf. The brewery itself is fully functional and there is a frequently rotating series of Waterfront Brewery beers on tap, featuring everything from the refreshing and light Crazy Lady honey blonde to the super hoppy Truman Double IPA, a heavy-hitting Imperial IPA. Beers are available by the flight and if you’re a beer drinker, you’d be remiss not to try as many as you can while you’re in one of the only breweries in the Florida Keys.

The food at the Waterfront Brewery is, for the most part, exactly what you want to eat when you’re sampling a few (or more) beers — pub food with fun and interesting twists. The calamari aren’t your average fried squid rings. Instead of traditional Italian-style breading, the Waterfront Brewery beer-batters its calamari for a fluffier, crunchier texture. The pretzel sticks, served with homemade beer cheese sauce, are lightly fried and heavily addictive.

Although fried food and beer typically go hand-in-hand, some of the best appetizer options are on the lighter side. The seafood ceviche features conch and shrimp cured in a bright citrus marinade and it is definitely a great complement to some of the heavier starters on the menu. The wasabi ahi is also a favorite — wasabi-crusted tuna served with a mild chili soy sauce and palate-cleansing pickled ginger. The Bahamian red conch chowder is one of the heartiest on the island and a nice contrast to the frosty brew in your pint glass. Conch, clams, potatoes, tomatoes and celery swim in a spicy tomato-based broth that I swear will stave off a hangover before it can even start to form.

The sandwiches at the Waterfront Brewery are bar favorites executed perfectly. The burger is one of the best in town, thick and juicy and topped with delicious grilled onions. The Waterfront Cuban sandwich is almost twice as thick as the burger, stuffed with pork slow-roasted in-house, ham, bacon and cheese and topped with the traditional (no one knows why) pickles and mustard. Add fries and you’ve got the perfect base for all the beer sampling you’ll be doing.

It’s always a good idea to order seafood at the waterfront restaurants in Key West and the Waterfront Brewery bolsters that truism. The fresh catch is usually yellowtail or grouper, served blackened with citrus butter or grilled with key lime chardonnay sauce. Incidentally, both preparations taste great with the Brewery’s Lazy Way IPA, a mildly hoppy IPA with notes of tropical fruit and citrus. Or you can go a little left of center and get the whole fish flash-fried, which is served with island staples like plantains, mango salsa and black beans.

Rooftop drinking is apparently all the rage this summer in cities like New York and Los Angeles, but one of the greatest benefits of living on an island where it’s summer year-round is that you can drink on rooftops whenever you please. And if you’re going to sit on a rooftop, the Waterfront Brewery’s can’t be beat. You can sip on an ice-cold Key Lime Witness (a Belgian-style witbier brewed with key lime that won first place in the 2015 Best Florida Beer Championship), watch the sunset away from the maddening Mallory Square crowds, and even catch some incredible live music if you’re lucky.

And as if there wasn’t enough happening on the food and beer front, the Waterfront Brewery is probably the best place on the island to take kids when they’re cranky from being out in the sun all day. The front of the brewery is a massive game room with air hockey and pool tables, Skee-Ball, video games galore (including cult favorite Big Buck Hunter), and those awful claw machines that are the source of so many juvenile meltdowns and so many adult nightmares. Whether you’re looking for a great beer and a satisfying meal or somewhere nice and cool to pass those brutally hot midday hours or catch a baseball game, the Waterfront Brewery is a crowd-pleaser for all ages. ¦

Waterfront Brewery 201 William St. www.thewaterfrontbrewery.com

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