A bond over beer: Couple to open craft brewery in Riverview

Published on: January 11, 2018

Jillian (left) and K.J. — husband and wife team, owners of Leaven Brewing, sitting among chairs and furniture waiting to be assembled.


K.J. Lynch had no idea he was walking in to a new profession when he entered Fort Myers Brewing about eight years ago to take professional photos.

Fast forward and he and his wife Jillian Lynch will open their own place in February, the first craft brewery located squarely in Riverview.

Leaven Brewing Co. opens Feb. 16, first Friday and Saturday nights and then more nights as the beer barrels begin to fill with five of K.J.’s flagship beers — an oatmeal stout, an IPA, a kolsch, a red ale and a blond ale, along with five other taps that will be rotated in and out of the bar at 11238 Boyette Road.

Leaven Brewing will also include a cider beer and one beer from a fellow brewer, changing regularly.

The couple has built a new bar in their space, and they are ready for their ribbon-cutting with the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce, Jillian Lynch said.

It all started by happenstance when K.J. entered Fort Myers Brewing “and never left.” He fell in love with the concept and ended up staying for three and a half years, first as a volunteer when he made his first beer, and eventually as the head brewer.

“A lot of people get in to home brewing, but my first batch was called Red Tape and there were 300 gallons of it,” K.J. said. “Most home brewers start with 5 gallons.”

K.J. said he just “hung around and lived there, basically. I became their first fulltime employee.”

“We met at World of Beer in Fort Myers and I got to be a part of K.J.s growing through the craft beer role,” Jillian said. “We loved beer so much, we decided to get married at a brewery, at Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa.

“The day after our wedding, K.J. had a job interview with Brew Hub in Lakeland, a production brewery. He went from 5,000 barrels a year to Brew Hub, where they do 98,000 barrels a year.”

Glassware on the handcrafted table tops, in front of the wooden wall Jillian and K.J. installed.

“It didn’t start out as my goal to have my own place,” K.J. said, “but I guess everyone in this business eventually dreams of opening their own bar, even home brewers.”

“We are going to have a five-barrel brew house, with the 10 taps and two guest taps,” Jillian said. “K.J. will make 10 of his own beers. We have approximately 4,000 square feet next to Anytime Fitness, at the corner of Balm Riverview Road.”

“Two of the taps will have hop-focused brews, like IPAs or pale ales, anything that is hoppy,” K.J. said. “There are four ingredients — water, malt, hops and yeast. Hops will give bitterness, flavor and aroma. A hoppy beer would have a heavy amount of bitterness, flavor and aroma.

“We’ll have a Belgian-style beer we will rotate. We’ll have a more malt-forward beer. That means it will be less bitter, and the malt will shine through with a more sweet, caramel flavor.

“And last will be a big beer that’s higher in alcohol, with more robust flavors like a Russian imperial stout. We’ll have a cider tap for those who are gluten free and a guest tap for our friends in the brewing business.”

Both K.J. and Jillian have taken on their new brew house as a fulltime job.

During the ribbon-cutting, Leaven Brewing will have a live band playing and two catering trucks from which customers can purchase food.

And speaking of purchases, K.J. said the couple plans to always have what he calls a Gratitude Ale. A portion of the proceeds every month from that particular beer will go to a different nonprofit. “We will find a different one to partner with each month, whether it’s a spay and neuter clinic, something for education, or with the elderly,” he said. “We are already involved with the chamber and want to get more involved in the community.”

Find Leaven Brewing Co. on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/leavenbrewing/.