Getting to know: First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the Southernmost Brewery of course.

In fact wherever you are in Key West there are feral chickens (and iguanas) crossing roads to get to all sorts of things.

First Flight is tucked away down a leafy side road within staggering distance of Key Wests rowdy Duval Street. And the Southernmost Brewery sits modestly behind French doors at the side of the beer garden (or dining patio for American readers).

The southernmost brewery in continental USA is a short walk from the famed Southernmost Point where tourists queue patiently to take photographs of a coloured marker.  It’s not unusual to see ‘Southernmost’ prepended to all sorts of enterprises across the island.

And First Flight? The well preserved and historically significant building is remembered as the first offices of Pan American World Airways.  The first ever American international scheduled flight ticket was purchased here in 1928 shortly before Pan Am flight number one took off from Key West bound for Havana.

Pan Am disappeared from the skies in the 1990’s but the aviation theme stayed with the building long after.  In a previous bar incarnation the building was called Kelly’s Caribbean Bar Grill and Brewery after its famous owner, Kelly McGillis of Top Gun fame; adding impetus to the aeronautical theme.

Fast forward at a rate of knots to the present day and First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery, the face of the Southernmost Microbrewery is putting the building to good use.  There’s a vast array of domestic and international beers on offer but the bar staff are keen to point out that most customers go for the house ales and then keep coming back for more.

Not wanting to miss out and with such a rich aviation heritage in front of me I felt compelled to order the flight which promised a sample of all three ales perfected by brewmaster Andrew Koennecke.

The taster started off well with Main Squeeze, a citrus wheat beer utilising local Florida orange peel, moved on to Havana Red, a dark amber ale which tasted much milder than it looked.  Finishing off with Maverick IPA, the strongest of the trio at ABV 6.1, I could see why the house brews were the mainstay of this interesting venture.

Happy hour is an institution in Key West and First Flight joins in enthusiastically with all three house brews going out at half price between 4pm and 6pm.  That’s half the price or twice the beer depending on how you look at it.

The three original ales are only available in First Flight at the moment but plans are being made to supply to other bars and restaurants across Key West.  And the market is certainly there with almost every bar on the island having at least a handful of real and craft ales on offer.

Stepping out of politically correct and wandering into dangerous territory my confidante behind the bar told me that “Guys always go for the Maverick IPA and girls go for the Main Squeeze”.  Don’t shoot the messenger – we have to report it as it is!

I sat on the fence and ordered another pint of Havana Red.