Winemakers turned brew masters Kent Fortner & Ryan Gibbons honor the history of Mare Island

ByRobert Goldstone Localish logo
Wednesday, March 6, 2024
Mare Island Brewing Co. celebrates community through local taprooms
Translating their winemaking knowledge into brewing beer, Co-Founders Kent Fortner & Ryan Gibbons pay tribute to the history of Mare Island.

VALLEJO, Calif. -- Situated off the coast of Vallejo is historic Mare Island. This once shipyard and naval base is now the home to Kent Fortner and Ryan Gibbon's Mare Island Brewing Company.

Both Fortner and Gibbons came from the winemaking industry; their goal was to translate that knowledge into brewing great beer.

"We've taken the parts of the wine world that we think apply. But we have had to learn kind of a new approach in some of it," said Fortner. "You know the wine world is super fun on one level. And man it is sure fun to have a pint on the other level."

Everyone of their beers is named after an event that has happened on Mare Island and written on the side of each can is the story.

"We are trying very, very hard to uphold the incredible heritage and history of Mare Island." Fortner explained "We put some of that history on every can," expressed Gibbons. "We are kind of like a history company, we just end up making beer to tell all this great history."

Their goal was to create great beer to honor Mare Island, wonderful food to accompany it, and a safe and communal environment to enjoy them in.

"We want people to have the whole experience. We want them to have the beer. We want them to have the history and we want them to have the community gathering watering hole we try to provide," stated Fortner. "And it is that combination that I think makes us special."

Along with excellent beer they are also serving up delicious food at all three of their locations. Each location has its own unique style from nachos at the Pie Wagon on the Island, elevated pub fare at the Taproom in Vallejo, to more of a upscale cuisine at the Taphouse in Benicia.

"At the end of the day it is really chef's food that differentiates each location," said Gibbons. "We didn't want to have the same experience, the same thing at each location," declared Starr. "We wanted something completely different."

Fortner, Gibbons, and Starr all live in the local community of Vallejo and are proud that most of their employees do as well. They are extremely grateful for the hard work from their team and the support of the community.

"It is really the employees around us that helped us come along the way that you can't do without them," admitted Gibbons. "We certainly couldn't do this without the local community, and they have rallied behind us in a way that I had hoped for...but couldn't have imagined it could have been this good," said Fortner.

Starr expressed, "I feel like people gravitate towards us because they know that they can come in and it is a positive environment, a happy place for people to be."

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