It’s a long way from San Diego to Michigan, but if not for that distance – Fort Myers Brewing Co. might never have come to be.
Rob Whyte began brewing in his hometown of San Diego in the early 90s but by the time he and Jen Gratz-Whyte were married, his time making beer had all but went away. It was only Jen’s work schedule that changed the narrative. Jen, a Michigan native with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, took a position which required her to spend a considerable amount of time back in Michigan where her 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 the duo moved to Florida in 2011, Fort Myers was without a single local brewery, an opportunity the two 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 10-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.
Rob and Jen found that their 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 they would decide to open Fort Myers Brewing Company in the community they call home, Gateway, and build a place for family (including the furry family members) with an open seating plan that helps strangers become friends.