Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The Porch & Beer, Smokin Tuna & Music
My Little Island Town by Key West Chris Rehm
^ Click to hear "My Little Island Town" while you read the Blog!^
A very interesting thing started in Key West just over a year ago. The Porch opened on the corner of Caroline St. and Duval, across Caroline from The Bull, in the gorgeous Porter Mansion. One of the owners and publican is Chris Shultz, well known co-author of the bible for anyone even contemplating of moving to Key West, “Quit Your Job And Move To Key West”. The Porch is much more along the lines of a pub, than a bar, per say, but call it what you will. It’s warm and homey,only has one TV (thank God!) and resides within its stately surroundings inside the Porter Mansion. The Porter Mansion dates back to 1838, according to Dave, who was sitting next to me and lives upstairs, so he should know. And yes, you can take your libation out to the large veranda that is in front of the estate and have a seat and enjoy it in classic fashion.
What The Porch is, to be more specific, is an establishment that focuses mainly on, what we call today, Craft Beer. They also have a splendid wine selection that lines the entire wall of their adjacent sitting room. The really curious thing is that they always have a very knowledgeable clientele on hand. Many are locals and many more are visitors to Key West, from all over the globe, who didn’t just stumble across The Porch by accident. These people heard about it and searched it out. Personally, I find this remarkable for such a quaint little place, that only opened in July, 2010! They usually have roughly a dozen or so, craft brews on draft. How many they have in bottles, I’m not even going to guess, suffice to say it’s extraordinary. There is a chalkboard behind the bar that is jam packed with beers on hand, both from the U.S. and around the world. Bear in mind, this is Key West. We’re on the outer fringes. We’re talking the end of the line. It’s one hundred and six miles to get back to the mainland and almost one hundred and thirty to get to civilization, in the form of Florida City’s Last Chance Saloon.
Getting all of this rare beer here must have involved a lot of time and effort in logistics, which can’t be overlooked as well. Hats off to Mr. Shultz, his partners, and the distributors. The staff is exceptional as well. Very knowledgeable and well educated on the products they handle. Equally as important, it’s a fun crew setting a great atmosphere in a great place.
Here is the fascinating thing that seems to be somewhat of a byproduct of The Porch’s success. First off, the owners of The Porch have started looking into the Waterfront Market, with the intention of turning the Wyland painted building into a brew pub. Naturally, there are a lot of hurdles to clear, however it’s progressing as expected. Next, there is Krawl Off Duval, which opened a little over month ago. This is on Southard St., just a few doors east off Duval, as the name implies. Like The Porch, Krawl Off Duval focuses on craft beer. As I understand it, they are hoping to have a large selection of draft beers in the near future.
Also in the works are two more brew pubs, one on North Roosevelt and another on Eaton St. I don’t think these are too far off either. The town’s main home brewer, Jim Brady also mentioned on a KONKAM radio interview that he’s purchasing some beer equipment over on the west coast of Florida. There’s also talk of yet another craft beer establishment opening somewhere around the 600 block off Duval.
It should also be stated that Kelly’s Caribbean Restaurant has been brewing their own beer at their restaurant for at least a dozen years. Frankly however, they’ve always focused on their establishment as a restaurant, more so than a brew pub. Their beer was lacking, in my opinion, however they now have a new brewer there, so I’ll have to stop by again.
In the past, of course Key West had the Key West Brewery, which produced the famous Key West Sunset Ale and the beautiful Sunset Wheat. The brewing company closed its doors years ago, however the Melbourne Brewing Company continues brewing their beers about 330 miles north of Key West. There also used to be a brew pub on the two hundred block of Duval. However that ceased being a brew pub at least ten years ago.
However, the bottom line here is that Key West, like a wild fire, is very rapidly becoming a high quality brew town and unquestionably, The Porch has spearheaded this movement. Hats off to them!
On the musical front, Smokin Tuna is hoppin’! The bar opened a couple of months ago in the former El Alamo location, run and co-owned by former Hogsbreath manager Charlie Bauer. Charlie was there for nearly twenty years and the Hogsbreath has the most live music in town, running from noon until two am seven days a week. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Smokin Tuna is stretching its legs bit by bit. They’ve had a good assortment of quality music acts there thus far, in the pm hours. I was fortunate enough to be invited up to play at Gary Hempsey’s birthday celebration to do a fun version of the Neville Brother’s tune “Yellow Moon”. Thank you Gary!
My friend and a major musical supporter in town, Steve Mellette, also invited me to play there on Saturday, September 24th, for the Key West Musician’s Festival. A fabulous assortment of players will be there including Bill Blue, Chris Cook, Chief Billy, Cory Hayden, Ericson Holt, George Victory, Kenny Fradley, plus a bunch more including the fabulous Deb Hudson and Joel Nelson, who both were kind enough to share their incredible talents on my new CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)”. Many thanks to the Smokin Tuna and Charlie Bauer for hosting and Singing Iguana Productions for putting it together! 20% of the proceeds also go to the Sister Season Fund. Smokin Tuna is directly up the street across from Irish Keven's, at 4 Charles St. Saturday, September 24th Noon to Six PM.