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From sports cars to craft beer in Punta Gorda

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When you rank cool-sounding jobs, sports car engineer places pretty high. So what do you do to top that? For Bill Frazer, he became a brewer.

Frazer is one of the two masterminds behind Fat Point Brewing, which is getting started in Punta Gorda as Charlotte County’s first production craft brewery.

A cooler at Fat Point Brewing's brewery in Punta Gorda (Provided by Fat Point Brewing)

A cooler at Fat Point Brewing's brewery in Punta Gorda (Provided by Fat Point Brewing)

“We’re kind of trying to lay low,” Frazer said in a phone interview last week. Only one restaurant, Opus in Punta Gorda, is regularly serving their beer as a test. Frazer says Fat Point hopes to open its tasting room at 611 Charlotte St. in Punta Gorda this summer.

“We’re just working to get open,” Frazer said. “We’re real excited to get open.”

Frazer, who grew up in Englewood, said that he spent years in the auto industry after getting his degree from the General Motors Institute. He ended up in Los Angeles, working for high-performance car company Saleen. He said he developed a passion for beer in California and started homebrewing and making his own brewing equipment.

When he decided to start brewing professionally he looked to Charlotte County.

“This area is just going crazy,” Frazer said of the craft beer explosion. “The demographics are changing.” It’s not just for snowbirds anymore, he said.

“The community and the area is finally starting to come around to different industries and to beer,” he said. With only three other breweries from Charlotte all the way south to Naples, he said Southwest Florida is ripe for craft beer growth. “I think it’s just the right time.”

He partnered with Duncan Scarry, his brother-in-law, and first considered opening a brewpub in Fort Myers. But they decided to open a full production brewery instead and bought a 12,000-square-foot warehouse in Punta Gorda with Scarry serving as Fat Point’s general manager. They named the brewery after the English translation of Punta Gorda.

Frazer -- the brewmaster -- said he designed a modular setup for the brewery with room to grow.

“We can pretty much double and triple our capacity” in house, Frazer said. Planning for growth is one of the major hurdles for craft brewers. Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, which has become one of the hottest breweries in the country since opening in 2009, has essentially maxed out its space and will have some of its beers brewed by partner Brew Hub in Lakeland.

Fat Point is fine-tuning recipes and making beer on its pilot system, Frazer said, before ramping up on the full 15-barrel brewhouse. Their first markets will be Punta Gorda, Fort Myers and Sarasota, he said.

As part of their rollout, they will be bringing four of their beers to Sarasota craft beer bar Mr. Beery’s (2645 Mall Drive) at 7 p.m. on Friday. You’ll be able to meet the brew team and try free samples of their Ryeght Angle rye IPA, Putsin Pale, Big Boca Ale (a California common, which is an ale brewed with lager yeast) and Chorange Stout. Buying a pint of their beer will get you a gift.

Frazer is bucking the trend of making high-alcohol beers and using tons of hops to cover up flavors.

“When I drink beer I want to try three or four,” he said. “I don’t want to go and get hammered off two beers.”

Look for their beers on tap at first, but they already have a canning line, he said, and plan to have their beers on shelves in local stores soon.

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Alan Shaw

Alan Shaw has been a fan of craft beer for nearly two decades. He is partial to hops and has been an editor at the Herald-Tribune since 1997. He can be reached at (941) 361-4914, by email or mail at 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. Follow him at @alancshaw on Twitter and on Facebook.
Last modified: June 20, 2014
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