GORE BAY—Split Rail Brewing Company continues its year-after-year growth with another expansion underway. This year’s expansion represents more than a doubling of Split Rail’s current production capacity and is critical to meeting the demand for Split Rail products on the Island and beyond. This expansion also allows for more flexibility and diversity in product availability.
Three large new stainless-steel vessels–two fermentation tanks and one carbonation tank–recently arrived at 31 Water Street, Gore Bay, along with a new glycol cooling system to replace an aged system used by the brewery to date. In reference to the expansion co-owner/founder Andrea Smith said, “With the popularity of Split Rail beer, this was a necessary investment in order to provide our existing brands: Hawberry Ale, Copper Lager, Amber Ale, LoonSong Oats Stout, and new brands, including Manitoulin Gold, to those who have supported the brewery since inception, and to allow us to enter new markets.”
Ms. Smith added, “Upgrading our cooling system was a must with the additional tanks, but also our original unit was well used—one could say antiquated! It made the circuit of several breweries before Split Rail purchased it in 2015, so it was time to replace the old unit with a new, robust system with more capacity for this and future expansions.”
New markets for Split Rail include select Beer Store (TBS) outlets across the Manitoulin region, including Little Current, Espanola and Sudbury. Operations Manager Jason Quinlan notes that “with these new vessels this year we can start producing enough volume to get beyond our front door and local restaurants and bars, to enter new distribution streams such as The Beer Store. All Split Rail beer is made here onsite so we have to increase our ‘tank farm’ footprint and add more vessels. Expect to be seeing Amber Ale in regional Beer Store outlets soon!”
Other exciting happenings at Split Rail include a product line expansion to include another popular product, Manitoulin Gold—a light bodied and delicately crisp pilsner named after the distinctive ‘Manitoulin Gold’ or ‘lakeside daisy’ flower, a species at risk (in the aster family) that frequents the alvar ecosystems on Manitoulin’s west end. Growing staff numbers are evident at the brewery—Split Rail is one of Manitoulin’s growing employers. Several crowd-clamouring special events were held throughout the winter and spring, including the ‘May-Brew Four’ event on the long weekend, which, despite the rainy and cold weather, saw packed crowds enjoying local beer and food including Manitoulin Pizza Company pizza and Burt’s Farm pulled-pork sandwiches.
Split Rail also hit the provincial beer news scene twice in recent months. At the Ontario Craft Beer Association (OCB) Queen’s Park beer competition this March, Split Rail’s LoonSong Oats Stout was selected as one of six brands from across Ontario, including Manitoulin Brewing Company’s Cup and Saucer Ale, to be served at the Ontario Legislature events.
Further, Ms. Smith was selected for a full scholarship for the Thirst For Knowledge Inc.® Prud’homme Beer Sommelier program. The bursary was awarded by the OCB in homage to International Women’s Day and the promotion of women in the male-dominated craft beer industry. This unique training opportunity builds on course work Smith and co-owner/founder Eleanor Charlton undertook in 2010 at Siebel’s Institute, in Chicago, Ill., where the duo started their beer industry education prior to opening Manitoulin’s first craft brewery.