Florida Keys Business
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Thirsty work
Bone Island Brewing taps into the craft beer trend

Confucius probably wasn't thinking of beer 2,500 years ago, when he said, "Choose a job you love, and you'll never work a day in your life."

But the ancient advice couldn't be more relevant today on Eaton Street, where Jim Brady expertly blends hops and barley before adding yeast, adjusting temperatures and carbonating the finished beverage known as beer.

As the owner of Bone Island Brewing, Brady is now making a living doing what he loves -- brewing beer, and Brady will debut two of his tasty creations today at the monthly Artisans Market that takes place in the parking lot of The Restaurant Store, 1111 Eaton St., on the last Sunday of every month.

Bone Island Brewing is housed at the same location, in a converted garage area that now holds the ingredients and equipment needed to make quality craft beer that will be sold by the pint, or in quart- and gallon-sized growlers. Another popular growler size is the 64-ounce container, which is currently prohibited by Florida law.

But the statewide home brewers association is lobbying lawmakers in Tallahassee to end that prohibition and allow home brewers to sell the 64-ounce growlers, or containers.

"Jim is a home brewer of tremendous renown," said Richard Tallmadge, owner of The Restaurant Store, which is the exclusive retailer and marketer of Bone Island Brewing's creations. "We're thrilled to have the exclusivity to market and sell his products."

Brady's brews have won numerous national awards. He is also a nationally certified cicerone, or beer sommelier, one of the only ones in Monroe County. Brady's creations also earned him a scholarship last year to the prestigious Siebel Institute brewing academy in Chicago.

His eyes light up as he describes the brewing process, the science behind fermentation and the subtle flavor differences that result from different grains, yeasts, temperatures and processes.

"I lived in Germany for seven years while I was in the military, so as a beer lover, that was Heaven to me," Brady said Thursday while reviewing the brewing process and keeping a watchful eye on thef five giant vats that were slowly becoming the beverage we call beer.

Brady has been brewing beer at home since 1993.

"I started it primarily for my own consumption," he said.

But soon friends were asking for more than the occasional pint at his house, and the idea for a business was born.

And Brady quickly learned that he wasn't the only Key Wester who brewed his own beer. He founded the Conch Republic BUBBAS (Brewers United Brewing Better Ales), which meets on the first Wednesday of every month in a bar that specializes in craft beers, such as The Krawl, The Porch or World of Beers.

Brady acknowledged that Key West arrived late to the craft beer party that has been taking the country by storm for more than a decade. But the island is quickly making up for lost time, with more and more craft beer options opening up almost monthly.

"I was working as an electrician a few years ago, and we were doing a job here at The Restaurant Store, when Richard told my coworker that he was thinking of doing a brewery or a brew pub here on the property," Brady recalled. "My colleague put us together to start the conversation."

That conversation led to the installation of the right equipment, several tasting sessions and finally, the unveiling of "The Garage Mahal," which is what Brady calls the converted garage that becomes a pub today during the monthly Artisans Market.

"We'll debut two beers at [today's] market as a sort of soft opening, but then at the February Artisans Market, we'll have the real grand opening when we'll introduce five new craft beers that will be available for sale at the outdoor market, and then every day at The Restaurant Store," Tallmadge said.

Although it came late to the craft beer party, Key West is quickly catching up.

Taste for yourself.


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