Brewer attended Bar Harbor High School in Bar Harbor, Maine. In 1968, Brewer and his friend and former high school football teammate, Father James Gower, conceived the idea of a four-year college to be located on Mount Desert Island. Mount Desert Island residents had wanted a four-year college, with an environmental focus, to stimulate the island's economy during the off-season, when revenue from tourism declined. Brewer and Gower founded the school in 1969. Three other Mount Desert residents were also involved in the establishment of the college: Bernard K. "Sonny" Cough, Richard Lewis and Robert Smith.
The College of the Atlantic began offering its first classes in 1972 with an enrollment of just 32 students. The institution now has approximately 300 students, as of the 2012-2013 school year. Since its establishment, the College of the Atlantic has offered only one academic major, human ecology.
- "College of the Atlantic co-founder dies at 90". WMTV. 2012-12-16. Retrieved 2013-01-06.
- Trotter, Bill (2012-12-17). "COA co-founder, priest, James Gower, dies at age 90". Bangor Daily News. Retrieved 2013-01-06.