N MANY WAYS, LIFE IN KEY WEST is like one of those idyllic Corona ads. Frosty drinks, crystal clear water and the sound of palm fronds rustling in the breeze are never more than a few footsteps away. What the ads don’t tell you, however, is that Key West at the beginning of September is borderline unbearably hot. The gentle breeze isn’t enough to cool your sweaty brow, the ocean is so warm it feels like nature’s bathtub and it often seems like all the water (or beer) in the world couldn’t possibly quench your thirst. And just when you think you couldn’t possibly be any more parched, a woman with thick pigtails I who is wearing a traditional German dirndl hands you a tall, foamy-headed golden pilsner and you think to yourself, “Wait … have I died and gone to hoppy Heaven? Does everyone get a drink ticket at the pearly gates?!” No, friend, you haven’t ascended to the great beer hall in the sky and this is definitely not a dream; you’ve just happened to find yourself at Key West BrewFest, an alcoholic oasis among the palm trees and the heat waves coming off of the scorching pavement.
Think of Brewfest as Key West’s interpretation of Oktoberfest … in September (don’t ask questions; we do what we want down here). As though it’s any surprise for a reputedly hard-drinking town, Key West BrewFest — now in its ninth year — has become a hugely successful event.
What started as a small town gathering for beer enthusiasts has ballooned to a five-day, 30-plus event festival featuring more than 200 beers, thanks to a generous collaboration between the Southernmost Hotel Collection and the Key West Sunrise Rotary of the Conch Republic, with proceeds to benefit the Rotary Club’s many charitable efforts.
Spread out across Labor Day weekend, this year’s Brewfest offers something to please even the most snobbish of beer consumers. There are intimate beer-paired cooking classes, raucous pool parties, sunset beer cruises, beer-themed fun runs, hangover brunches, late-night meet-ups and even a New Orleans marching band that will boogie you down to the Green Parrot after you’ve finished tasting every brew under the sun while relaxing on the white sand of South Beach, located at the southern end of Duval Street at the Southernmost Beach Resort.
The festival has been painstakingly put together for all manner of consumers, from beer aficionados to casual consumers to total newcomers to the beer world. There will be ales, lagers, Weiss biers, stouts, microbrews, special brews, throwback brews and brews served in plastic buckets. Brews with no gluten, extra gluten and just the right amount of gluten. Brews with unpronounceable German names, classic favorites and limited-release drafts.
Representatives from breweries across the nation will be happy to chat you up over a frosty draft.
There will be tacos. There will be epic rounds of beer pong played in a sparkling hotel pool.
You’re guaranteed to hear the word “mouthfeel” at least once per hour.
And yes, there will be pigtails and dirndls.
Here’s the rundown of events:
Thursday, Aug. 30
¦ All day event: Poker Run: Stop by five participating bars and have a pint from the featured brewery to receive a poker card from each bar. Turn in your hand at the Sunset Pier by 8 p.m. on Friday. $200+ in prizes will be awarded to the winners. Participating bars/restaurants to receive a card are: Cork and Stogie, Old Town Tavern, Sinz Burrito, General Horseplay and Sunset Pier.
¦ 1-4 p.m.: Estrella Galicia Pool Party at The Marker Waterfront Resort featuring DJ Chaka, beer specials, tapas, a Jenga competition and giveaways. Located at 200 William St.
¦ 3 p.m.: Duck, dive and dodge your way to the winner’s circle in the first annual Key West BrewFest Dodgeball Tournament at 24 North Hotel, sponsored by Wynwood Brewing Co., Tampa Bay Brewing Co., Florida Keys Brewing Co. and Waterfront Brewing Co. Bring a team of five to compete in a bracket-style tournament. The $20 entry fee per team benefits the Key West Sunset Rotary Club. Located at 3820 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
¦ 5:30-9 p.m.: Shipyard Brewery Tap Invasion at the Green Parrot Bar. Located at 601 Whitehead St.
¦ 6 p.m.: Opening Kick-off party at Waterfront Brewery. The Waterfront Brewery will be releasing new brews at the event, in addition to their 13 beers on tap. Enjoy Key West specialty draft beers, great food and fun. Located at 201 William St.
¦ 6:30 p.m.: Blue Heaven beer dinner featuring Florida Keys Brewing Company. Reservations required. Located at 729 Thomas St.
¦ 7 p.m.: Dog Fish Head Beer Dinner at Bagatelle. Located at 115 Duval St. Tickets are $99 per person plus tax and gratuity.
¦ 7 p.m.: Barrel of Monks Beer Dinner at The Perry Hotel. Located at 7001 Shrimp Road, Stock Island. Tickets are $85 per person plus tax and gratuity.
Friday, Aug. 31
All day event: Poker Run: Stop by five participating bars and have a pint from the featured brewery to receive a poker card. Turn in your hand at the Sunset Pier by 8 p.m. on Friday. $200- plus in prizes will be awarded.
Participating bars/restaurants to receive a card are: Cork and Stogie, Old Town Tavern, Sinz Burrito, General Horseplay and Sunset Pier.
¦ Noon to 3 p.m.: BYOD (Bring Your Own Dog) to the Lagunitas Tap Takeover at Island Dogs during the Island Dogs Pup Kraal. Continue the party at Shots and Giggles, then head over to Turtle Kraals. A portion of all proceeds will benefit the local FKSPCA. The Kraal kicks off at 505 Front St.
¦ 1-4 p.m.: Come party with the Islamorada Brewing Company Crew at Southernmost Beach Resort’s Pineapple Pool. There will be an Islamorada Brewing Company tap takeover, DJ, games and giveaways all afternoon long. At 1319 Duval St.
¦ 1-4 p.m.: Keybilly Island Ale Pool Party at The Marker Waterfront Resort. Enjoy tunes from DJ Chaka, giveaways from Keybilly Island Ale and drink specials all afternoon. At 200 William St.
¦ 2-6 p.m.: Florida Tap Takeover with special release beers released every half hour at the Waterfront Brewery, 201 William St.
¦ 2:30-5 p.m.: Bring your team of four to the second annual Paddle Battle at Mellow Ventures Café. Compete alongside your favorite breweries in this relay-style race. Located at 1605 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
¦ 4:20-9 p.m.: Link up with the Pup Kraal-ers for Lagunitas’ Acoustic Sunset at the top of Turtle Kraals. Watch the famous Key West sunset from one of the premiere spots on the island.
There will be plenty of cold beer, live music and, of course, the world-famous turtle races. At 231 Margaret St.
¦ 4-7 p.m.: Funky Buddha and Ballast Point Brewery Pool Party at the Wicker Guesthouse. At 913 Duval St.
¦ 5-8 p.m.: Cigar City Brewing and Rodriquez Cigar Pairing at the Rodriquez Lounge at the Gates Hotel. At 3824 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
¦ 5-8 p.m.: South Beach Brew Company Pool Party at The Marker Waterfront Resort. Giveaways, a DJ and drink specials all evening long. At 200 William St.
¦ 7 p.m.: Kona Beer Beach Party at the Southernmost Beach Café overlooking the Atlantic Ocean featuring four food stations paired with Kona Beer, including one rare brew coming all the way from Hawaii. Tickets $60, plus tax and gratuity. At 1405 Duval Street.
¦ 7 p.m.: Florida Whales at The Porch. Check out some of the rare and hard-to-find beers from some of your favorite breweries in Florida and beyond. At 429 Caroline St.
¦ 8 p.m.: Lagunitas Pint Night at the Green Parrot Bar. Buy a pint and keep the mason jar. At 601 Whitehead St.
¦ 9 p.m.: Let’s get poppin’ with Lagunitas and Corn & Co. Craft Popcorn as they pair some of Lagunitas’ most special beers with Corn & Co. specialty popcorn at General Horseplay. Try one or get a flight and try them all! All the way from Jupiter (Florida, that is), The Helmsmen will play Island Indie tunes on the patio. At 423 Caroline St.
Saturday, Sept. 1
¦ 8:30 a.m.: The Magic Hat BrewFest Hot Trot kicks off your Saturday nice and early. Jog from The Southernmost Beach Café to The Porch, drink a beer and run back. 7:30 a.m. bib pick-up and registration.
¦ 3-5 p.m.: VIP admission at the Key West BrewFest Signature Tasting Festival on South Beach. Tickets for $75 must be purchased in advance and are limited, so act fast. At 1405 Duval St.
¦ 5-8 p.m.: The Signature Tasting Festival on South Beach. Tickets are $40 in advance; $50 day of or at the door. At 1405 Duval Street.
¦ 8 p.m.: The Second Line March led by New Orleans band Water Seed, sponsored by New Belgium Brewery, leaves South Beach at end of the Signature Tasting Festival.
Put your dancing shoes on to march your way from the festival at South Beach to the Green Parrot Bar via Duval Street. Keep the night alive with the live brass band leading you to the next party!
¦ 8 p.m.: Enjoy Water Seed on stage at the Green Parrot Bar for the after party. At 601 Whitehead St.
¦ 8 p.m.: Key West BrewFest’s annual after party at The Porch and General Horseplay. At 423 and 429 Caroline St.
Sunday, Sept. 2
¦ 9 a.m. until the party ends: Hangover Brunch and Pool Party at The Perry Hotel. Call 305-294-3939 to reserve your table for brunch at Matt’s, then head over to the Perry’s waterfront pool for live music, pool floats, beer games and more.
Pool party is open to brunchers and non-brunchers alike. At 7001 Shrimp Rd., Stock Island.
¦ 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: First Class brunch at First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery with beer specials to pair. At 301 Whitehead St.
¦ Noon to 7 p.m.: Lagunitas Pool Party at the Southernmost Beach Resort Pineapple Pool. Cool off and ease into the evening at the Pineapple Pool as the sun sets on Key West BrewFest 2018. Enjoy cold beers, live music and fresh eats.
There will be a VIP area available as well, with proceeds benefiting the Key West Reef Relief Foundation. At 1405 Duval St.
¦ 1-4 p.m.: Kona Pool Party at The Marker Waterfront Resort, featuring tunes by DJ Jimmy and a pig roast. $20 buys you a plate full of pig roast and a draft Kona beer. At 200 William Street.
¦ 1-4 p.m.: Funky Buddha Brewing Co. Tap Takeover at the Salty Lime in the Hilton Garden Inn. At 3850 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
¦ 5-8 p.m.: Islamorada Beer Co. Tap Takeover at Rum Row at The Gates Hotel. At 3824 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
¦ 7 p.m.: Funky Buddha Beer Dinner at the Southernmost Beach Café. Tickets are $60 plus tax and gratuity per person. At 1405 Duval St.
Monday, Sept. 5
¦ 7 p.m.: Bingo at the Green Parrot. Located at 601 Whitehead Street.
¦ 7 p.m.: Funky Buddha Dinner at Roostica. At 5620 MacDonald Ave., Stock Island.
To book tickets to any of the above events, visit www.keywestbrewfest.com/tickets. ¦