Words and photos by Zak Erb

When one considers how best to spend a chilly afternoon in Grey County there are never a shortage of options. Between our world class skiing, stunning frozen waterfalls, and abundant snowshoe trails the outdoors are certainly an enticing option. I submit to you however, that the premier winter Grey County experience is to be found in the good company of its people. Belly laughs with friends new and old, the advice of a neighbour, a frosty beverage shared beside the hearth. These acts of community and camaraderie are the warming fire by which we in the frozen north sustain ourselves.

Nowhere is this sense of kinship more prominent than in our robust group of craft brewers, cideries and wineries. This tight knit community of “spirited” producers has flourished, in part, due to friendly cooperation between businesses and a desire to share the love with their patrons.

MacLean’s Ales of Hanover demonstrates these strong bonds beauti- fully. Craft brewing pioneer Charles MacLean says that he received a lot of help from others when he was getting started in the industry and now loves the chance to give back. These values are mirrored by his business partner Curtis Schmalz, who seems to desire success for other breweries as much as he does for his own. Monthly beer tasting events, hosted by Charles, feature not only MacLean’s products but many offerings from other local producers.

This friendly approach leads to a truly welcoming environment at MacLean’s, which is fully realized in their warm, rustic retail space. On offer are locally made pizzas, tasty appetizers and of course delicious pints of their seasonal specialties; Scotch Ale and the truly exceptional Cherry Porter.

You needn’t look far for a prime example of MacLean’s eagerness to collaborate. Mudtown Station, the darling
brewpub of Owen Sound, benefited from the advice of Charles MacLean as they launched to a tremendous reception in 2018. Since then the team at Mudtown, headed by Morag Kloeze, has been busy forging their own friendships with patrons and other local businesses.

Morag Kloeze at Mudtown Station in Owen Sound

Located in an iconic harbourside Canada Pacific Railway station, Mudtown pays ample homage to local history while presenting a very welcoming face to visitors. This welcoming nature is evident in the little things – the large window offering patrons a peek into the brewery proper, homey seasonal décor, the friendly patter of bar staff. Morag describes positive community interactions as the most rewarding aspect of running this new business. So stop in, enjoy their inspired lunch or dinner menu, sip on a refreshing seasonal offering (Spiced Apple Sour Saison anyone?), and bask in the warm glow of good folks doing what they love.

Craft breweries are by no means the only local businesses highlighting this community-based approach. Further to the east, right in the beating heart of apple country, intrigue and mystery are brewing. Spy Cider House and Distillery, just south of Thornbury, is poised to make their mark in a big way.

Spy is a collaborative effort featuring significant talent in the form of Garnet Pratt and Piers Roberts, both of whom place significant value on quality craftsmanship. Everything is being done ‘right’ at Spy. Their decision to employ geothermal heating, the growing of organic apples on site, the purpose-built facility literally constructed around their gorgeous hand-hammered copper still—everything speaks to a respect for the craft and for the consumer. The satisfaction of visitors is of utmost priority to the brains behind Spy, as evidenced by the care and attention being put into the developing facility.

Look for Spy to officially open their retail space in Spring of 2019. In the meantime, enjoy their signature dry cider, “Golden Eye”, at local restaurants.

Piers Roberts and Garnet Pratt at Spy Cider House

When Spy opens their doors, they will be welcomed by outstanding local comrades. A mere 7 kilometers away lies one of the crown jewels in Ontario’s cider market; the Thornbury Village Cider and Brew House.

Retail Manager Derek Hammond encapsulates well the collaborative nature of the local industry saying: “A rising tide floats all boats—if you can make this area a destination for craft breweries, craft cideries, and wineries then all our businesses will benefit.” He goes on to speak to the importance of local partnerships with other producers through initiatives such as the Saints and Sinners tour map. Featuring a truly gorgeous, newly renovated taproom and retail space, Thornbury is eager to share this camaraderie with patrons as well. Be it a seasonal cider, part of their growing portfolio of beers, or Ontario wine produced by their parent company Colio, there is something for every palette on offer here.

This is by no means a complete list of our local producers. Indeed, through the wisdom of established businesses and the innovation of new ventures, that list becomes longer and stronger every season. Ultimately it is the people behind these businesses, and their passion for community, which will see this industry thrive for years to come. All that remains is to get out and enjoy their good company!