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Side of Ranch

Fat Point Brewing offers pint-sized satisfaction at UTC

LJ Govoni, president of Fat Point Brewing Co., offers up a Keywaydin Island blonde ale at the grand opening July 28 at UTC.
LJ Govoni, president of Fat Point Brewing Co., offers up a Keywaydin Island blonde ale at the grand opening July 28 at UTC.
Photo by Jay Heater
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I like beer

There, I said it.

When you've lived a little, you find your attraction to a pint is about more than taste. If you don't temper your desires, you end up using holes on your belt that you never imagined would be in use.

Facing a growing beer gut potential, I learned I had to pick my spots. I always had promised that if I ever had to switch to "light" beer, I would quit altogether.

Of course, light beer has different meanings. It could mean low calorie beer — brew's version of a Diet Coke, which is just not my style.

For me, a light beer is the one you can roll down your throat like a glass of water. Think Rolling Rock, for instance, or a Corona.

Growing up, the lighter version for me meant all the usual suspects. In upstate New York, Genesee was king, or Genesee Cream Ale if you wanted a little extra kick. Pabst, Bud, Schaefer, Coors, Miller. They were interchangeable.

I would walk around singing the jingles, because beer companies' targeted the sports programs I watched every night.

"Here comes the king, here comes the big number one! Budweiser beer, the king is second to none."

"Schaefer, is the, one beer to have when you're having more than one."

"If you've got the time, we've got the beer, Miller beer."

But evolution took place and the beer market changed. Sure, you can still find most of the usual suspects on the shelves, but now they are accompanied by dozens of competitors that boast of honey and fruit and wheat in their beer. Somewhere along the way, we began to chew our beer.

Smooth Hoperator, Baby Got Bock, Moose Drool and Audrey Hopburn were brewed to tempt our curiosity.

Bartenders Louis DelFabro and Toni DeRosa stand in front of the taps at Fat Point Brewing, which opened in UTC on July 28.
Photo by Jay Heater

To each their own.

I have tried to adapt my taste to accept some of the craft brews because my friends have embraced them, and because we have so many cool places in East County to experience them.

First, I should note that it makes sense that the Lakewood Ranch area is a beer haven. Don't forget that Lakewood Ranch was formed because the Uihlein family wanted a Florida playground in the early 1900s.

The Uihleins owned the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, which at one time was the largest producer of beer in the U.S. That included Schlitz, "the beer that made Milwaukee famous."

The Lakewood Ranch area has beer in its blood, with more on the way.

On July 28, I checked out Fat Point Brewing, the newest entry into the area's craft beer market that has taken over the former Burger Fi location at  257 N. Cattlemen Road in UTC.

LJ Govoni, president of Fat Point Brewing Co., was on hand for the grand opening.

"I envisioned this small, intimate setting," Govoni said. "This gives us a nice mix of industrial sleek. We are still missing a significant portion of our outside furniture because of supply issues, but once it gets nicer out, we will have as much activation as possible with Cattlemen Road."

Fat Point Brewing originally was established in Punta Gorda in 2012 but its original owner struggled to be successful before the company was bought in 2020 by Govoni's Seaboard Craft Beer Holdings, where he is CEO and co-founder. Seaboard Craft Beer Holdings includes Fat Point, Big Storm Brewery and Distillery, Blood Brothers Bloody Mary Mix, and Boston Capital Leasing.

A new location helped in Punta Gorda, but Govoni's attempts to find a better downtown location didn't materialize, and then Hurricane Ian hit, so the search for other options began.

"We were talking to Benderson (Development) about Big Storm (for UTC in Sarasota) and then the Burger Fi spot opened," Govoni said. "UTC is a good place to be a tenant. It's a destination and it has been so much better to work with a great landlord, which is transparent and honest."

The new business at UTC has 2,500 square feet inside and an outdoors space about the same size that borders Cattlemen Road and allows its patrons to enjoy a few beers while watching the world go by. The area also is prime for music, if Govoni so desires down the road.

Fat Point's signature beer is Big Boca and the company has garnered U.S. Open Beer Championship and Best Florida Beer Championship awards for its Bru Man Chu (Belgian Trippel), Ryeght Angle (rye IPA), and Oatmeal Stout.

Govoni calls Fat Point's menu "coastal-inspired" with features such as gator bites, smoked fish dip, shrimp po’boy, and an umami burger. 

While Govoni is committed to reopening a Punta Gorda location, he is not in any hurry to open several more Fat Point locations.

"Fat Point needs time to grow and we are a small, family business," he said. "Being (at UTC), with the growth in Sarasota unprecedented, will allow the brand to grow.  Great food and great service also will allow us to grow. We are going to execute meticulously and slowly."

LJ Govoni, president of Fat Point Brewing Co., says the new Fat Point Brewing tasting room will brew 93 gallons of beer on-site at its UTC location.
Photo by Jay Heater

Fat Point will brew craft beer on site 93 gallons at a time, about once a week. The menu lists 12 craft beers, some from Big Storm Brewery.

"This will be authentically original beer," Govoni said. "There will be a lot of flavor profiles we will be trying."

Although Govoni said he is more of a businessman than a brewmaster, he noted, "I could make a great moonshine."

For now, Govoni is using his Big Storm production team to develop beer for Fat Point at UTC, but he is looking to hire the Sarasota tasting room's head brewer.

That brewer will use experience and feedback from Fat Point customers to develop the future beers. 

Govoni said a soft opening has produced positive feedback.

Among the positive feedback was my own opinion after tasting Fat Point's Keewaydin Island blonde ale. Finding a craft beer that can satisfy my undeveloped craft beer palate can be troublesome, but Keewaydin gave me the light taste of my past with only a small zip of the world's craft beer future.

"We are trying to be inclusive of changing tastebuds," Govoni said. "But the trend is coming back to classic beer styles."

Thank goodness. Pour me a beer, and start working on a jingle.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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