Sixty beers later, Florida Keys Brewing Co. celebrates another birthday on Sunday, Feb. 18. Now officially 3, the brewery plans on celebrating all day. Music by the Carousers starts at 5 p.m. and the brewery is releasing two new beers – the Bayside Coffee Blonde and Bean me up Scotchy, which has vanilla beans aged in Johnny Walker Double Black blended into the beer.
“It’s been an amazing three years,” said brewery owner Craig McBay. “We’ve seen a lot of growth, not only in the tasting room, but in our distribution too.”
McBay is already looking forward to years 4, 5 and beyond – but let’s revisit history.
In the first year, the tasting room featured 30 to 40 craft beers, which was a feat in itself, considering the brewery’s smaller system only made 30 kegs a month. The next year, larger equipment was installed, upping the count to 80 kegs per fermenter per batch. In all, the brewery has four 40-barrel fermenters, five 3-barrel fermenters, and two 7-barrel fermenters. A barrel is 2 kegs. Each keg is 15.5 gallons.
Last fall the brewery announced plans to begin distributing outside of Monroe County in 2018. So, year 3 could be big. Looking even further into the future, McBay said he’s looking into the brewery having its own canning system.
McBay attributes a majority of the company’s success to local word of mouth, the fishing community, his bartenders spreading the word, and maybe a little help from Trip Advisor. He’s learned to take it all as it comes and said patience has been the biggest lesson the business has taught him. He said the brewery’s involvement in charitable causes in the community is something he’s also really proud off.
“The emotional support my wife and kids give me has kept me sane through it all. It goes without saying that we wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of my staff,” he said.
When the brewery started, it was McBay and brewer Brad Mullis running a small brewing system. The staff was fewer than 10 then, and has remained close-knit, adding only a few more members.
The biggest birthday present for the brewery this year is the brand new taproom expected to open soon. The new location fronts Old Highway along the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District, and is visible from U.S.1. It’s quite the upgrade.
The original taproom has always carried ten brews on tap. The new taproom will make the jump to 20. Most of the brews on tap will be Florida Keys Brewing Co. craft beers, but a handful will be used to feature partnering breweries.
The room itself is slightly larger than the ‘O.G.’ taproom and seats about 20 more. It’s kept the intimate feel that is synonymous with the brewery, and like before, McBay invited four local artists to paint murals, design the sweet tie dye bar top, and add bottle cap art.
The revamped beer garden is sporting fresh grass and some new funky décor. The new taproom and garden are going to see a lot of action and not just as a venue for special events, live music and the monthly Art Walks. The brewery has started booking wedding-related events too. With new plans for scheduled tours and tastings and a new reward program in the works for loyal patrons, it couldn’t be a better time to drink Florida Keys Brewing Co. craft beer. Cheers to that.