Remember when home-brewed beer swept the country a decade or so ago? Wives gave their husbands beer-brewing kits for Christmas and the Willy Wonka-style tubes and kettles would burp occasionally in a corner, or stowed in a bathtub when company came over for poker night.
Key West native Jorge Quintana was one of those home brewers. He was also a recipient, in 2011, of one of the home-brewing kits from his then-girlfriend, now wife.
But unlike most other initially committed beer creators, Quintana stuck with it.
“It turns out I was good at it. The science behind it made sense to me, and the results were really good. I started to win some competitions when we were living up in the Jupiter area and the idea kind of took root to turn it into a business,” Quintana said on Oct. 16 while stirring a roiling pot of beer-to-be in the new Cayo Hueso Brewing, 5635 1st Ave., Stock Island. “We got married in 2014 and wanted to start a family. So when we decided to move back to Key West to be close to family, I really started thinking I could make the brewery happen.”
The couple moved back to Key West in 2018. But it was the pandemic, in March and April 2020, that prompted Quintana to start working in earnest. He bought the building on 1st Avenue and installed all the kettles, fermenters and walk-in cooler for keg storage himself.
“Gotta love YouTube,” he said, nodding to all the hoses, pipes, pressure valves and temperature controls that line the walls of the brewery.
The new brewery and tasting room will celebrate its official grand opening, after a few “soft openings,” on Friday, Oct. 20 from 5 to 9 p.m. All are welcome at the event that will feature live music, tastings and flights of beer.
The brewery’s location behind Roostica Wood-Fire Pizzeria also makes food easy.
“(Roostica owner) Bobby Mongelli has been really great,” Quintana said. “Our customers can order food from Roostica and we’ll bring it to them back here. It’s really easy, and is popular with our happy hour crowd.”
A gate behind the brewery’s comfortable outdoor courtyard opens into the Roostica rear parking lot. Murals by local artists cover the interior and exterior walls, depicting Ernest Hemingway, Key West roosters and more.
“We started production in January for wholesale distribution and currently have about 30 local clients selling our beer,” Quintana said, adding that Cayo Hueso beers are on tap at Roostica, Hogfish Bar & Grill, Boat House Bar & Grill, Half Shell Saloon and Hank’s Hair of the Dog Saloon, among others. “I’m brewing two or three times a week, because I don’t have too much storage space, so the good news is, the beer is always fresh. Most beer takes about 10 days from the start of the process until you’re drinking it, but lager takes longer — four to six weeks, because that has to be stored cold for longer.
“By the grand opening, we’ll have 10 beers on tap,” Quintana said, adding that he’s currently brewing a pumpkin spice ale and a Havana harvest brew for the fall.
With names like Expired Passport, El Hemingway, Malecon, Jet Noise, Coconut Coma and Neon Palms, the libations are as decidedly Key West as Quintana himself.
Visit Cayo Hueso Brewing online at cayohuesobrewing.com and on Facebook and Instagram.