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3 Keys Brewing & Eatery's Buffalo chicken waffle sandwich

Make way for another local brewery. Bradenton's 3 Keys Brewing & Eatery, which has been open since Black Friday, just last week started pouring its own brews. It's one of the newest breweries to hit the local market, joining a roster that includes Big Top, JDub's, Darwin, Motorworks, Calusa, Naughty Monk and the Sarasota Brewing Co.

Like many breweries, 3 Keys started with a home brew kit. A decade ago, Jeff Douglas whipped up his first batch, using a hot tub stocked with ice to keep it cool. He and his wife, Cathy, later bought an RV and spent two and a half years cruising the U.S., visiting 126 breweries in 49 states. The couple's son, Scott, also caught the craft beer bug and began making his own beer. The three eventually teamed up and set out to open 3 Keys, with Cathy in charge of food and Jeff managing things. "I clean a lot of toilets and bus a lot of tables," Jeff says. Scott is responsible for making the beer. "He's well surpassed me," Jeff says.

3 Keys opened last November, before its own beers were ready, with 20 taps stocked with both local brews, as well as Florida-born and national concoctions. It finally began offering its own beers last week, serving both a pale wheat ale and a blonde ale. On Tuesday it rolled out a new IPA and is planning to begin offering a porter on Wednesday. Jeff says the plan is to eventually offer between eight and 12 house beers at any given time, with a mix of guest beers filling out the menu.

The brewery's food menu includes a distinctive mix of grub. A variety of sandwiches ($9-$10) use waffles in place of bread, with main ingredients like chicken braised and doused with Buffalo sauce or pulled pork. A "pint of bacon" ($6) is just five pieces of bacon stuffed inside a pint glass; a cheese dip ($5) incorporates beer made on the premises.

One attraction: the giant, red-awninged deck out front. On a cool afternoon, it's an ideal place to loll away the day, with long picnic tables, a foosball setup and the suddenly ubiquitous giant Jenga set. Bring a book, bring a friend. There are way worse ways to spend an hour. Or three.

3 Keys Brewing & Eatery is located at 2505 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton, and is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday. For more info, call (941) 218-0396 or click here.

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