If you had any doubts about how robust Ottawa's craft beer scene truly is, the fact that Muskoka Brewery, one of the industry's early pioneers, chose the nation's capital as one of only four cities to visit for this summer's marketing tour says it all.
Founder Gary McMullen launched the company in 1994 after being a passionate home brewer for years. "We're now selling from coast to coast, offering a range of beers to cater not only to craft beer fans but also those looking for a good entry point when they are ready to venture off the beaten path. Our product is available at 50 restaurants in Ottawa - we do very well here."
"It's amazing to me how far craft beer has come since we started the company," said Gary at the recent Tap to Table beer and food pairing event he hosted at Ottawa's Hintonburg Public House. A delicious five course craft beer and bar snack tasting menu showcased both the strengths of the pub's kitchen and the versatility of the Muskoka beers.
Whether it's the ultra-hoppy Twice as Mad Tom IPA, the flagship Muskoka Cream Ale or the highly sessionable Detour, Muskoka Brewery now produces over 35000 hectolitres of beer annually and enjoys consistent success at the Ontario Brewing Awards.
Gary acknowledged that Ottawa's craft brew scene is particularly exciting, with such successes as Beau's, Beyond the Pale, Kitchessippi, Clocktower and Big Rig, to name just a few. New breweries are springing up all the time, including Stittsville's Covered Bridge, Lowertown and the soon-to-open Dominion City in the east end.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's the more the merrier when it comes to craft brewing," says Gary. "Having more companies means we can all work towards educating consumers and we frequently collaborate with each other." For example, he has invited Beyond the Pale to come check out their 5 year old canning line as they look towards implementing one of their own and Muskoka regularly helps smaller breweries by sharing ingredients or offering up its in-house lab for testing.
It's a tasty time to be a fan of craft beer. What are you drinking this summer?