Today We Feature Muskoka Brewery
I don’t know about you, but as we’re all nearing the end of summer I’m hoping to get into the #LetsLoveCanada spirit by taking as much vacation time as I can before Old Man Winter arrives. While I usually call Toronto my home, a constant love of mine over the years has been heading into Muskoka to take a break from the city life, take in some nature, and venture off the beaten path.
And Muskoka Brewery has been the official drink of going off the beaten path since they started in 1996, pioneering much of Ontario’s craft beer movement from their home in Bracebridge.
Those with long memories may remember that the brewery was originally called Muskoka Cottage Brewery. Launched in a small storefront area in downtown Bracebridge by founders Gary McMullen and the late great Kirk Evans, it became an instant hit among the locals happy to have a beer brewed nearby and visitors looking for, as the original tagline went, a “taste of cottage country”. Their first beer, the Cream Ale, was an instant favourite that also took the gold for Best Canadian Ale at the Canadian Brewing Festival. By 1998 other beers were brought on that would continue to be fan favourites, the Craft Lager and Summerweiss. Within their first ten years Muskoka managed to sell over a million bottles of beer, showing that both the business model and the quality of beer were on the right track.
But all good businesses can’t remain stagnant and must evolve over time. Throughout the years special seasonal beers like the Harvest Ale and the Winterbeard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout were introduced to showcase the creativity of beer while also keeping folks interested. In 2011 an extensive rebranding effort took place doing away with the 90s-style cottage aesthetic. The newly recreated Muskoka Brewery, content that people knew where to look for a taste of cottage country, created a new tagline to reflect their adventurous spirit: “Venture off the beaten path”. This line took a more literal meaning when the brewery’s success allowed them to move out of their downtown bracebridge location to a larger facility.
And an important note in Ontario’s own history of craft beer is that Muskoka Brewery were pioneers in bringing more than one popular style to the masses. Mad Tom IPA was one of the first generously hopped IPAs in the province, which kicked off an IPA craze that even now is alive and well. What’s more, in a time when all beers never really went below 6% ABV the Detour was the province’s first session IPA, showing that you don’t have to sacrifice quality by lessening the alcohol content.
And over the years Muskoka has just grown more and more, selling in America, branching out to spirits and seltzers, and most importantly adapting with the times, not just with innovative beers through their Moonlight Kettle series or through inventive brands such as Shinnicked Stout or the Ebb & Flow sour beers, but by being a strong voice of change in the world. They’ve made continuous and award-winning efforts to further their commitment to being a sustainable and environmentally conscious brewery, are the first Canadian brewery to adopt a living wage to all staff, and recently proceeds of their Born This Way IPA go to the GetREAL Movement to help combat LGBTQ+ discrimination and promote acceptance for all.
It’s been a long journey for Muskoka Brewery, but every year they just show that they’re barely breaking a sweat and are just getting started. They’ve proven themselves to be a brewery that doesn’t just want to be a part of the community, they want to grow and improve that community for all of us while making some damned fine drinks.
And in my point of view, Ontario is definitely better off with them around. If you’re looking to explore the province with some of the best beers available, you better put Muskoka Brewery on the map. And don’t forget to bring some Not Your Child Corp. breathalyzers along for the ride!
A 6-Pack of Beers to Try at Muskoka Brewery
Cream Ale (5% ABV)
The OG flagship beer that started it all. Light caramel sweetness with a hint of orange zest in a light body that ends on a soothing dry note. Stop by the brewery for a special 25th Anniversary edition bottle and glass!
Mad Tom IPA (6.4% ABV)
A long time favourite featuring a loveable grump for a mascot, Mad Tom is heavy on the citrus and pine with a nice malt undertone.
Harvest Ale (6% ABV)
A wonderful seasonal beer to mark the end of the growing season, Harvest Ale features all-Ontario ingredients and is the perfect accompaniment to the gentle chill of Autumn.
Hazed & Confused Juicy IPA (6.5% ABV)
If the can says that this IPA is juicy you better believe they mean it. Originally part of Muskoka’s Moonlight Kettle series, the intense juicy citrus notes of this beer were too good to keep as just a one-off.
Wheat Ale (5.3% ABV)
Because it’s still warm and sunny out, a good wheat beer can do wonders to help you cool down. And this fruit-forward brewery exclusive, brewed with mango and passionfruit, will have you feeling cool!
Tread Lightly (4% ABV)
Honestly, nothing beats a nice lager and Tread Lightly shows that you don’t have to lose out on quality to have a light beer. Cool, crisp, clean. What else do you want?
Final note: If you do visit, be sure to pick up some of the fantastic cottage-style merch and the wonderful mix packs. Their current pack, the IPA Mixer, seriously can’t be missed.
Muskoka Brewery can be located at:
1964 Muskoka Beach Rd, Bracebridge, ON P1P 1V4
Robin LeBlanc is an award-winning drinks columnist, author, and beer judge. Since first starting her blog The Thirsty Wench in 2011, she has gone on to write for numerous publications, has co-written two editions of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, a book detailing the many breweries of the province, and is co-host and organizer of the very successful podcast The Ontario Craft Beer Guide the Podcast, where she regularly provides news and insights into the goings-on of the Ontario and international beer world.
You can follow her on Twitter at @thethirstywench