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Key West Bar Hops

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Hop #348

Coffee Butler Amphitheater

21 East Quay Road

Saturday, 17 April 2021, 7:00 PM


Copperhead Ale (draft) $6.00


It was GREAT to be out among people, digging live music again!


I mean, I came here to get a beer and add another Hop to the list, but The Bill Blue Most Exceptional Concert was a pretty nice bonus.  Conchtown Records put on the four-hour benefit show to raise money for the esteemed musician who calls Key West home.  Bill, who just put out a CD a year or so ago, is fighting cancer and all money raised went towards his medical expenses. 


Key West does this kind of noble thing all the time.  So, without hesitation, I bought my ticket and headed straight for the bar tent.  Between the ducat and the beverage, I shelled out $31, plus $1 tip.  That made for a pretty pricey cup of beer, but it was for a good cause, so WTF.


It was a gorgeous Key West spring evening: temp about 80, humidity not low (it never is when you’re surrounded by water), with a 0% chance of rain, and a slight breeze.  The sun was setting over the Gulf of Mexico.  People lined the top of the berm to watch it settle like a deep orange flare through the thick gray haze of humidity at the horizon. 


KW Amphitheater sunset - Key West Bar Hop #348Three tents had wine, booze and Cat-5 Key Lime Lager.  That didn’t sing to me, but if it was all they had, I was willing to take one for the Tour.  My tent-tender, though, pointed to the next tent over, and advised me that those guys had other options.


That next tent turned out to be a beer trailer:  a big box on wheels with taps poking out the sides.  There was a table set up in front, with either an awning or a tent covering the tenders’ greeting-and-pouring space.  Some would argue that this should not constitute a bar.  Well, I had a $25 ticket in my pocket that guaranteed it would be called a bar.  Besides, it said "BAR" on the front of the tent.  Good enough.


KW Amphitheater beer taps - Key West Bar Hop #348The choices at Trailer Tent Bar were few, but sufficient:  Bud Light (ugh), the Cat-5 Key Lime Lager that I was fleeing from, Copperhead Ale and Gypsy Lager.


The latter two are brewed by Fordham & Dominion Brewery.  Copperhead is the flagship of their fleet – “an interpretation of the American Amber Ale”, according to their web site – and it “pairs with roast pork, gouda and pear fritters.”  Well, darn the luck, I was all out of all three. 

I bought one anyway.  It was clearly the best choice.  Gypsy, it is said, pairs well with blueberry trifle.  Hm.

So, I guess someone sat down with a big ol’ bowl of blueberry trifle (photo, right), lined up 100 or so beers, and alternated spoonfuls and swigs, over and over until he (or she) could confidently declare, “Yup, this is the one!  This stuff totally rocks for washing down your blueberry trifle.” 


Blueberry trifle??  Pear fritters??  Yeeesh.  Guys, just tell me how it meshes with pizza, burgers or clucker wings.  Blueberry trifle indeed.


FoDo Brewery also makes Ram’s Head IPA (6% ABV), which I definitely would have purchased – for multiple reasons -- if it were available.  It pairs well with rice pudding … but that was not one of the reasons.


All that said, the Gypsy was already cupped:  the inverted cup atop the tap indicating the 86 was on for this selection.  The show is not even halfway over and Gypsy was a goner.  (I did not check, but I’ll wager that all of the tents were out blueberry trifle too.


KW Amphitheater bar tent - Key West Bar Hop #348With a translucent cup of cold ale in hand, and the Hop now official, I could relax and check the place out.  Hey, maybe even listen to the music for a bit!


There was a decent crowd, but it was far from packed.  Some, I’m sure had already come and gone in the first two hours of the 5-9 show.  This was good since the mask-up, social-distance thing was still the advisable way to go. 


I quickly decided that I should have brought a chair.  I'm just not accustomed tgo bringing furniture with me on a Hop.  The “VIP” area close to the stage had plastic chairs, but behind that – lower lawn, upper lawn, and berm – you were sitting on the ground. 


That’s no crisis, of course, unless the grass is really wet, or you come across some frisky fire ants. 


But I thought it would have been funny if I brought my big, leather, swivel-rock-and-roll desk chair.  It’s a rock-n-roll show, right?  Just add swivel.  I coulda wheeled that big comfy sucker down Southard to Truman Waterfront Park, right onto the lawn, then fat-assed the night away.  Even better would be one of those zero-gravity recliner chairs. You might get an odd look from the ticket-takers at the gate, but you’d get a whole lot of envious looks from the damp-ass lawn sitters.


KW Amphitheater lawnview - Key West Bar Hop #348As it happened, I found some sitting space on the two-foot-tall concrete wall that stands along the sidewalk which separates the lower lawn from the upper lawn.  There was a spot comfortably between two small groups of folding chair people.  Their feet were right at the wall, but I had six feet of room on both sides, so I knew I would not infringe on their experience.


The design of the pavilion seems a bit, um, blunt.  I’ve been to several similar venues where the stage area was sleek, with triangular and rectangular stretched awnings providing some shade for the patrons and, especially, for the band.  Those earlier performers must have been baking on that stage, surrounded by gleaming stainless steel.  I didn’t even want to be in the audience before sundown.


KW Amphitheater at night - Key West Bar Hop #348The band called Happy Dog took the stage shortly after my arrival (nice of them to wait) and played a solid set of Grateful Dead tunes.  They did not play especially long – 30 minutes or so – but they started in daylight and finished up in nighttime.


My Copperhead finished too.  I returned to the Trailer Tent Bar to get another.  Cupped.  Damn it.  And I got to see the cupping.  The dude two in line ahead of me got the last half-helping of 'head. 


Oh, well, one choice left.  Bring on the Cat 5 Key Lime Lager.  How bad can it be?  Just a slight hint of tangy lime hiding delicately within a full-bodied European-style lager, perhaps? 


Nope.  No such luck.  This stuff was difficult.  It tasted like someone had poured a half-bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice into a Miller Lite.  Yeah, I drank it, but I had to gird up my loins before choking down each healthy swig.  I’ve always attacked beers that I didn’t like.  The more ounces you kill with each guzz, the faster that swill is gone.  An aggressive four ounces will taste the same as a sipped two ounces, but you’ll only need half the torment.


And I made the cardinal error of letting it get warrrrm for the final guzzle.  Arrgh.  I put it off and put it off, pretty much deciding that I’d just dump it.  Buuut, that’s not how I was raised.  I clenched up and poured it down my gullet.  My face must’ve looked like the Jagermeister dude.  Ughhhh. 


Having the day slide into night was a great effect for an event like this, but Key West found a way to make it even more unique:  it was a termite night.


If you live here, you know that around this time of year, around this time of day, if the temperature is high enough and the wind is low enough, termites fly.  LOTS of termites fly.  And, unless to live in a house made of Dade County Pine, being indoors does not save you.  Ever hear the phrase “coming out of the woodwork?”  That’s what they do.  Or, in this outdoor setting, they come out of the ground.


They’re not small, especially when they spread their translucent wings.  Makes you wonder how so many of them can be in there without you ever knowing it.  


But they’re harmless; they’re not looking to bite.  Also, they are slow and easy to swat.  So, they’re mostly just a nuisance.  They blunder into your face or land stupidly on your neck.  You see one, then another, and you go, “ohhh noooo.”  Before you know it they are fluttering all around you.  You look towards a light and you see dozens of them, sometimes hundreds, swirling around like idiots.

KW Amphitheater Juliana MacDowell - Key West Bar Hop #348

Tonight was a mild swarm, thankfully.  It wasn’t too thick and didn’t last too long.  Actually, it kind of filled the time between Happy Dog and the final act of the evening.


The “ushers” who had been keeping the riff-raff out of the VIP section must have called it a night early because I walked right in and took a seat in the second row.  Half the seats were empty, so I had my pick.


The closing set was really good!  A nameless gathering of musicians, mostly featuring Julianna MacDowell, Erickson Holt, and Michael Ault -- with a couple of very cool backup players on trumpet and sax -- cranked out a fun set of good, jamming tunes.  


KW Amphitheater Erickson Holt - Key West Bar Hop #348MUCH better view down here in VIPville!  Ha.  And they played till almost 10:00.  Bonus! 


But I’m glad I also got to hang out on the lawn and watch some people dancing around in their tie-dyed skirts, and others lounging around on the good earth.


All in all, this bar was a very entertaining Hop! 


Get well, Mr. Blue!!!