On the outskirts of Orange county, a small town filled with old charm and dirt roads is home to the Windermere Brewing Company. The brewery was opened in July of 2022 by two members of the community and friends Andy Mcghee and Joe Ata. The community has longed for a place of gathering and a local hangout spot making the community the brewery’s priority.
Co-owner Andy Mcghee runs operations at the brewery and is originally from Pennsylvania. He moved to Florida in 2010 living in Tampa and Miami before calling Windermere his home.
“Windermere reminds me of the town I grew up in in Pennsylvania; it's small, quaint, everybody knows everybody,” Mcghee said.
The business initially started in 2018 where the neighbors started promoting their product at festivals and events. They knew, however, they needed to open a store so it was a no-brainer to have it in the town where they live.
“The whole point of this place is to become a true local and really give the community that local pub feel,” Mcghee said.
Before opening the brewery, Mcghee served in the Army for 8 years, serving two years in Iraq as well as being a diving instructor in Miami before going into marketing. He said his world and professional experience has helped him run the business and become a well-rounded person.
It wasn’t only his desire to be a part of the community that caused him to open the brewery but also his deep passion for beer. Andy loves the history and traditional value beer offers. He says it is arguably older than wine.
“The historical tradition, going all the way back to ancient times, has been that community and beer have been inseparable,” Mcghee said.
He said it was when he started drinking Belgium beer that he realized what beer could be. It was then that his interest sparked and he continued to try beers and learn more about the history behind them. He has since then turned his knowledge and passion for beer making into a business.
The brewery now stands on land where there was once a home.
“It was a mission to get this rezoned,” Mcghee said, “but we are definitely lucky we found a spot because at the beginning there were no spots in the town of Windermere.”
The brewery still takes on many characteristics of a home with rocking chairs on the front porch before entering a front door that resembles your own. To the right, a brick building stands where you can see the five fermenters and two conditioning tanks they use as well as a backyard perfect for events.
“It has been a pleasure being able to open this place, not only because we live here but we get to see our friends and neighbors every day.”
The members of the community are their main consumers. The place has turned into the community’s weekend hangout spot with weekly trivia, a run club and many other activities. The brewery likes to engage with the community and bring their neighbors together.
“We are a community driven brewery to start with. Most of our customers can walk here,” Mcghee said.
The brewery likes to focus on craft beer, getting back to classic styles like pilsners and lagers since Mcghee said the majority of drinkers still lean toward those styles of beer.
“We have a Bavarian style lager that is roughly 18% of our business, the reason being is it is a lager and our customers match what they know to what we have,” Mcghee said.
Craft beer has taken many different routes throughout the industry, but the philosophy at Windermere Brewing is to bridge the gap of older styles and newer styles.
Mcghee said he likes giving customers more knowledge on beer especially since the macro-brands dictate much of the image of beer. His goal is to introduce flavors full of life to their customers that they may not have found with previous beers.
“There are so many different styles of beer,” Mcghee said. “There is always going to be a beer that even a non-beer drinker will enjoy.”
Mcghee said it is cool to see people when they have their “ah ha” moment or say, “I didn’t know this could be beer.”
The brewery currently holds 10 taps with the hopes of packaging their product in the near future. Right now, Mcghee said they are focusing on perfecting their beer before furthering their market beyond Windermere.
McGhee describes the Orlando Life as "enjoying friends, enjoying life, having a great area as a community and working hard and playing hard."
If you're a beer lover or even want to learn more about the history of beer, head to this local community’s brewery born from the lakes and ask for Andy Mcghee.