Fort Myers Brewing Company to Celebrate 5 Years in Business This Month
Feb 15, 2018 02:24PM ● Published by Kevin
Gallery: Fort Myers Brewing Company Five-Year Anniversary Preview - February 2018 [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
Tuesday, Feb. 20Food Truck: Red Roc Cravings
Trivia Night starts at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21Food Truck: The Nosh Truck (Burger Night)
Live Music: Bobby James, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 22Food Truck Rally: Red Roc Cravings, The Nosh Truck, Rollin' Raw Bar, Currie's Smokin' Hot BBQ, Doner Kebab King Karl
Live Music: Soulixer, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23Food Trucks: Hungry Pony, Rollin' Raw Bar, Taste of the South
Live Music: The Good Bad Kids, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 24Food Truck Rally: The Nosh Truck, Gator John's BBQ, Mobstar Lobstah, The Sizzle Truck, Up North Doggs, Coasting Donuts
Live Music: The Troublemakerz, from noon to 3 p.m.; Them Hamilton Boys, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.; The Freecoasters, from 7 to 11 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 25Beer Mile, registration starts at 11 a.m., race starts at noon
Food Trucks: Flavour Street and Buddha Blends
Live Music: Gator Nate Gladezmen, from 2 to 6 p.m.
For more information, visit fmbrew.com.
We caught up with Jen Gratz-Whyte, co-owner of Fort Myers Brewing Company, who gave us a brief on the brewery's five years in history.
Gulf & Main Magazine: Tell us a little bit about Fort Myers Brewing Company. When and how did it get started?
Jen Gratz-Whyte: Rob, my husband, began brewing in his hometown of San Diego in the early 90s, but by the time Rob and I were married, his time making beer had all but went away and I had no idea he had a passion for homebrewing. It was only because of my work schedule that changed the narrative. I am a Michigan native and just after we were married I took a position which required me to spend a considerable amount of time back in Michigan where my career had begun.
This left Rob with plenty of idle time to rediscover his passion for brewing and he soon found himself earning some recognition in many of the uber-competitive California homebrewing competitions. Now fully engaged with his brew hobby, Rob began volunteering at a nearby brewery in Oceanside. He continued volunteering for years - and never missed a brew day - which provided him plenty of knowledge on the business of beer making.
When we moved to Florida in 2011, Fort Myers was without a single local brewery, an opportunity that we could not pass up. After two years of research and planning, Fort Myers Brewing Company opened its doors with very modest aspirations. What started as a small system serving a few drafts from a simple tasting room that bore a remarkable resemblance to someone’s basement has since grown into a four-vessel, 30-barrel brew system with 90-, 60- and 20-barrel fermentation tanks that churn out draft and packaging to service an ever- expanding distribution points and a constantly busy and growing tasting room and outdoor social hangout.
We found that our favorite breweries shared more in common than great beer; they all served as a gathering place where new and old friends could mingle and a sense of community could be felt by all. It was only natural then that we would decide to open Fort Myers Brewing Company in the community we called home, Gateway, and build a place for family (including the furry family members) with an open seating plan that helps strangers become friends.
GM: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your role there?
Gratz-Whyte: When Rob and I opened FMBrew, we anticipated that at some point he would leave his day job and this would become his full-time career. We thought that would happen at about the five-year mark - it actually happened at the one-year mark. We did not anticipate that this would also become my full-time career; however, it has become a full-time position for me as well. I wear a lot of different hats - I've poured concrete, written business plans, helped put together equipment, analyzed projections, cleaned bathrooms and I am always the one you can count on to stress about everything!
GM: What's one of the most popular brews so far?
Gratz-Whyte: Gateway Gold started as our most popular beer. It is a blonde ale that is a great "gateway" into the world of craft beer. However, five years later, our IPA, High 5, is our most popular brew. High 5 is an approachable IPA brewed with citra and centennial hops and in 2015 it was named the best IPA in the state of Florida. It's fun to be a part of people's growing pallet for craft beer. Our tasting room allows us to experiment with bigger and even more flavorful beers like Somebody Else's Dream, our chocolate stout, which tastes like a chocolate bar in a glass; or, our Prickly Pear Gose, which is slightly salty, tart and refreshing!
GM: What's one of the most memorable moments you've had while working there (so far)?
Gratz-Whyte: There are so many memorable moments! At all of our big festivals - we host 4 festivals every year - Rob and I take a moment to stand outside, in the middle of the crowd with our arms wrapped around each other and just look around and take it in ... the massive crowd of people enjoying our beer and the food from local food trucks along with some people dancing to the live music ... it is pretty incredible to think of how much we have grown in such a short amount of time.
Another memorable day was on March 6, 2016 - we took our entire staff to Tampa for the Best Florida Beer competition. The Best Florida Beer competition is special because the judges are Florida brewery owners and brewers so the awards are the highest honors from local industry experts. On that evening in March, our entire staff celebrated together after Fort Myers Brewing was named the Best Large Brewery in the entire state!
GM: What can someone expect while visiting the brewery?
Gratz-Whyte: Our tasting room is relaxed and a place where you might meet your new best friend! We welcome the biggest craft beer enthusiast, the craft beer newbie and everyone in between all the same. We have games - like cornhole and jenga, that people can check out and play while enjoying a beer and food from a local food truck. Our tasting room is open seven days a week and we have at least one local food truck on-site everyday. Patrons can step into the back and catch a glimpse of our brewing equipment or schedule a tour to get a closer look at the manufacturing process.