MANITOULIN—Hardy voyageurs once plied the waters of the North Channel and Georgian Bay as they hauled the furs of a continent to factors in Montreal and Quebec to be shipped overseas. This past October a hardy group of canoeists recreated a leg of that journey bringing the first off-Island delivery of Manitoulin Brewing Company’s (MBC) new Killarney Cream Ale to customers located in its namesake community. But those looking to sample this latest offering from the MBC will need look no further than their local LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) outlet.
“There are around 600 LCBO outlets in Ontario and our beers can be found in over 300 of them,” said MBC co-owner Blair Hagman. “We are pretty excited to be able to offer Killarney Cream Ale as well.”
MBC has eight signature brews, four of which are offered for sale through LCBO outlets and four that are only available on site at their Little Current brewery.
Another new MBC brand will be shortly unveiled on Saturday March 2 at an event at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre. The event, styled ‘Winter Brew” starts at 7 pm.
There will be entertainment by Rodger, Disarm and a cover fee of $20.
Mr. Hagman explained that MBC branding has a theme of naming local landmarks to each beer they brew. For instance, Bridal Veil Pale Ale is named after Bridal Veil Falls, Swing Bridge Blonde is named after the bridge that connects the Island to the mainland and Cup & Saucer English Ale is named after the famous Cup and Saucer Hiking Trail.
Last fall MBC ventured off the Island, but opted to remain within the Manitoulin District, by naming their cream ale after the community of Killarney. But Killarney Cream Ale still has some very solid Manitoulin cred… it is made with local honey from Isle Away Honey near Mindemoya and the can was designed by local artist Kendra Edwards of Kendra Edwards Design (full disclosure, Ms. Edwards also works in The Expositor’s art department).
“Actually, we are currently seeking more honey supply from Island producers,” said Mr. Hagman.
The concept for the Killarney Ale came about when co-owner and brewer Mr. Hagman was in Killarney for the first annual Killarney Music Festival. The idea blossomed when Mr. Hagman had the opportunity to meet the famous Canadian paddler Mike Ranta. “I brought up the idea to paddle the first beer to Killarney,” he said. “From there it was locked in—we were going for it.”
So it came about that last October 13 MBC was set to launch the 30-foot voyageur canoe. “It was touch and go on whether or not we could launch the boat based on weather,” said Mr. Hagman. “It was the confidence of avid canoeist Mark Gibeault and Rob Mellan who gave the green light. Mark and Rob built the 30-foot cedar strip voyageur canoe by hand in Manitowaning. MBC also recruited Make Ranta. Mike has paddled across Canada in support of our Canadian soldiers and veterans. MBC staff John Kift, Victoria Pitiwanawat and Laura Hagman joined the expedition to make it a team.”
The Manitoulin Brewing Company team settled into their seats in a 30-foot replica Voyageur canoe to travel the 35 kilometres to Killarney, braving 30 kilometre winds and three-foot waves, complemented with a steady supply of rain, sleet, snow and (luckily) a little sun.
“It was…exhilarating,” deadpanned Mr. Hagman, who admitted being very happy to reach the safe haven of Killarney’s harbour. The folks waiting onshore were pretty happy to take delivery of the boatload of Killarney Cream Ale.
When it came to the inaugural delivery, things were pretty exciting, especially for those paddlers who were relatively new to big water canoeing, let alone braving the big water in the chilly days of late autumn.
“It took five hours to paddle from Little Current to Killarney,” recalled Mr. Hagman. “The camera crew were able to capture the moments and create a 30-second video that is being promoted through the Killarney Mountain Lodge website, our own MBC website, MBC social media and licensees’ outlets.”
The film crew recording the epic paddle for posteriety included Orange Bazooka’s Rob Worling and Carter Nedorozny with the professional photography of Mike Jackson complementing the effort.
The boat support crew included Rick Krasowski, Teina Pitawanakwat and Jeff Pitawanakwat.
The new brew has an amber to golden colour when poured into the glass, topped with a creamy white head. “There are subtle notes of honey in its aroma and flavour,” shared Mr. Hagman. “It has a clean finish, that means no lingering aftertaste or bitterness, so it is very easy on the palette and five percent alcohol.”