Swing Bridge Blonde Ale

MANITOULIN—The Manitoulin Brewing Company will be launching its flagship beer, Manitoulin Swing Bridge Blond Ale, later this month. From a garage dream two years ago to a reality this summer, brewers Blair Hagman and Nishin Meawasige combined their passion for beer and love of Manitoulin to create a brew that Islanders can be proud to call their own.

Growing up in Blind River, the 34-year-olds first met in Grade 10 and have been close friends ever since.

“We’ve both always had a fondness for beer and trying new types,” explained Mr. Hagman. “We also have both always been into music. We met up at a music festival in Guelph, Hillside, a few years ago and had a few different craft beers. We started talking about how great it would be to start our own craft brewing company.”

“I had just moved to Manitoulin and Nishin came for a visit a few months later and we couldn’t stop talking about it (starting their own brewery),” continued Mr. Hagman.

“We started researching, reading any books on brewing we could find and exploring the history of brewing, but we knew we were just scratching the surface,” said Mr. Meawasige. “We felt Manitoulin would be an ideal place—it’s such a unique and special place and we thought it deserves its own unique beer.”

“We had the passion, but not the knowledge, so we hired brewmaster Mark Lewis, who has worked for Flying Monkey (Craft Brewery), Collingwood Brew and is head brewmaster at King Brewery,” explained Mr. Meawasige. “We worked with Mark experimenting with different styles of beer. We created 12 different styles before we developed our flagship beer.”

To create their brew, the pair purchased a system from BrewFab Ltd.

“We researched nano brewery equipment and came across this system,” said Mr. Meawasige. “We wanted something practical that we could start on, but continue to use in the future.”

“This system is actually what Muskoka Brewery and Amsterdam Brewery use to make sample batches,” added Mr. Hagman, who noted that the system creates a batch of 405 pints.

After many lessons with Mr. Lewis, the Manitoulin Brewing Company partners started brewing on their own, bringing Mr. Lewis back to sample and help fine-tune the brew.

“Swing Bridge Blond Ale is slightly bitter to start, but not strong,” explained Mr. Hagman of their finished product. “It is full bodied but has light feet and features a white foamy head with no strong aftertaste. We wanted to introduce a classic beer, a beer that everyone could appreciate and enjoy. The Swing Bridge is something that can be enjoyed on a hot festival day or after a day of ice fishing. We targeted the beer to be paired with what people do on Manitoulin.”

“It’s a very easy drinking beer,” Mr. Meawasige said. “As our flagship beer, we wanted to create something that will appeal to everyone.”

Mr. Meawasige and Mr. Hagman have been working on creating the Swing Bridge Blonde Ale and developing their company business plan over the last three years, ensuring that they created the best product possible.

“It has been a lot of work, but we wanted to create something that Islanders could be proud of,” said Mr. Meawasige.

“We wanted something that people on the Island would be excited to share and call their own,” added Mr. Hagman.

The logo of the Manitoulin Brewing Company features a hawberry as the main symbol.

“We wanted to do something simple, but something everyone on the Island can relate to, something universal on Manitoulin, which is why we choice the Hawberry,” said Mr. Hagman.

The Manitoulin Brewing Company launched its social media campaign last Wednesday, including a splash website where individuals can sign up to receive updates on the company. The full website will launch later this month.

Nishin Meawasige and Blair Hagman toast to their brewing adventure with a Swing Bridge Blonde Ale. photo by Robin Burridge
Nishin Meawasige and Blair Hagman toast to their brewing adventure with a Swing Bridge Blonde Ale.
photo by Robin Burridge

“We are currently able to sell to licenced establishments and have been travelling across Manitoulin, meeting with restaurant owners and bars and introducing ourselves and our product,” shared Mr. Meawasige. “We plan to launch exclusively on Manitoulin later this month, with a focus on Manitoulin establishments and festivals this summer. We have been receiving some amazing feedback and a lot of support and interest.”

The Manitoulin Swing Bridge Ale will also be available at Haweater Weekend this year, complete with customized beer cans for Manitoulin’s largest festival.

The pair have purchased a Little Current location which they will be using as a distribution centre this summer, with the intention of the building becoming their permanent brewery location in the fall. The new location will also allow for growth moving forward and they plan to offer brewery tours.

Swing Bridge Blonde Ale will also be hitting LCBOs this fall and will be available in select restaurants and bars across the North later this year.

Other types of brews are also in the works, but the guys aren’t giving up the type or name of the new brews yet.

“We have two other beers in the works, and names,” revealed Mr. Hagman. “We want to create a family of beers for the Manitoulin Brewing Company.”

“We would like to launch our next beer in the fall, but we want to engage with the public this summer and really draw on the feedback we receive,” said Mr. Meawasige.

Being a Manitoulin company, Island partnerships are important to Mr. Meawasige and Mr. Hagman.

“We want to support other local business and are looking into Island grown hops,” said Mr. Meawasige. “We have also been working with photographer Peter Baumgarten whose photo is featured on our splash page and Kathryn Corbiere of One KWE who is making the branding iron to make our tap handles.”

Visit www.manitoulinbrewing.co to sign up for the latest updates from the company or visit the Facebook page, Manitoulin Brewing Company.