Split Rail moves to six products, expands brewing premises in Gore Bay

Split Rail Brewery’s lineup of fine craft beers glint in the sunlight as they cool outside the craft brewery facility in Gore Bay. The brewery is currently undergoing a major expansion of its brewing capacity in order to be ready for the season of thirst. Joining the original three brews, Hawberry Ale, Copper Lager and Amber Ale, are three new offerings: LoonSong Oats Stout, Summer Wheat and Golden Lager.

GORE BAY—Manitoulin’s Split Rail Brewing Company has been busy over the winter months as they prepare to ramp up their production facilities to meet increasing demand for their frothy wares brewed here on the Island, but it isn’t only bricks and mortar infrastructure that is on the build—there are three new brews on the rise.

“We are very excited,” said co-owner Andy Smith, who along with business partner Eleanor Charlton founded Split Rail Brewing Company a couple of years ago. “We spent some time this winter coming up with three new recipes to introduce at the Stack Brewery festival and they all really went over well.”

Split Rail Brewing Company took part in Stack Brewing’s Northern Microbrew Festival in Sudbury on Saturday, March 5, and the three new Split Rail Brewing Company offerings, LoonSong Oats Stout, Summer Wheat and Golden Lager, were joined by made-on-Manitoulin favourites Hawberry Ale, Copper Lager and Amber Ale in slaking the thirsts of the more than 800 beer aficionados who attended the event.

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“It was really cute,” said Ms. Smith, “people kept coming back and asking for a LoonSong. We might have to change the name.” The brewer explained that the LoonSong Oats Stout is made from a recipe that includes oats grown in the fields of Little Current’s own LoonSong Gardens.

There were 12 or 13 craft breweries at the festival, most hailing from the North, but a couple from southern Ontario taking part, as well as one Northern distillery from Hearst.

“We were hoping to get to sample some of the other breweries’ beers, but we were kept too busy at our own booth to be able to get out on the floor,” said Ms. Smith. “We were so swamped at our booth it was all we could do to keep up.”

“We have been brewing, getting product ready for the festivals and for our commercial customers.”

The Split Rail Brewing Company has been ramping up its facility over the winter months to be ready for the summer season. “We are really upping our capacity substantially,” said Ms. Smith. “We will be huge compared to where we started out, but still small enough to retain touch with our roots.”

Ms. Smith explained that it was important to herself and her business partner that their operation “grow authentically and maintain our values of being locally produced by local people here on Manitoulin.”

“We have had amazing support from people on the Island,” noted Ms. Smith, pointing out that while the company has grown its own capital for the expansion of its facilities, they have enjoyed an incredible crowd-sourced base of volunteers who have stepped up to help make the operation a success.

A number of local restaurants and bars are now offering the company’s brews on their drink lists and interest has been strong. “We have not really been operating as a retail outlet through the winter,” noted Ms. Smith. “We have been brewing, getting product ready for the festivals and for our commercial customers.”

Come later this spring, when the new brewing facilities are in full swing, the company will be better positioned to meet the full local demand. “We also won’t have to be brewing as often,” suggested Ms. Smith. Judging from the initial reaction to both the original brews this past summer, and the response at the festival to the new three new brews taking their position on tap this summer, the Split Rail Brewing Company team is going to be kept very busy.