Gore Bay waterfront home to Split Rail Brewing Co.’s manufacturing and retail outlet
GORE BAY— The bright summer sun provided perfect beer weather for the official opening of the Split Rail Brewing Company, Manitoulin’s first craft brewery, and a large crowd was on hand to sample the wares and pick up a sample pack of the two inaugural (and tasty) brews.
“We did have to limit quantities to start,” laughed co-owner Eleanor Charlton, “we didn’t want to run out at the opening.” The limit was lifted the following day, but the retail location will be closed until Friday, July 31 as the initial stocks were completely snapped up over the course of the next two days.
Opening the official remarks following a welcome from Ms. Charlton and her business partner Andrea Smith, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha gave words of welcome on behalf of himself and his federal counterpart Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes.
“It’s been an honour to be part of this journey with Eleanor and Andy on this project,” said Mr. Mantha. The MPP noted that he had been part of the journey “since they were working out of their garage.” Mr. Mantha said that he had been assisting with the various applications through the different levels of government the pair had been working on. “But it is a testament to their dedication, hard work and tenacity that we are celebrating here today.”
“Thank you Mr. Mantha for your remarks and your ongoing support and enthusiasm of Split Rail,” said Ms. Charlton.
Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane welcomed the new business to his community, making note of the fact that the opening of the Split Rail Brewery marks a record four new businesses starting up in the community this year.
“Thank you Mayor Lane, council, and the town of Gore Bay for hosting Split Rail,” said Ms. Charlton. “We are thrilled to be situated in this beautiful bay on the shores of Lake Huron.”
Ms. Charlton also thanked the general public “for coming to help celebrate Split Rail’s official opening. Your presence and all the incredible expressions of support and welcome has been overwhelming,” she said.
Ms. Charlton then provided a short history of Split Rail Brewing Company, noting that the concept began in earnest five years ago and that the July 24 opening was made possible thanks to a literal army of volunteers and advisors. “We have so many people to thank but we also want to keep this brief so you can get on to sampling Split Rail’s inaugural products,” laughed Ms. Charlton.
“From our KickStarter supporters to the dozens of people who helped during the concept and development stages, you will see in the retail store our efforts to thank those who helped along the way,” noted Ms. Charlton. “We aren’t going to name everyone tonight, but please know that we are deeply touched by the contributions of time and expertise of so many people on Manitoulin and elsewhere.”
“VIP Kickstarter supporters, thank you, we have extra tokens of our thanks to you and we hope everyone will take a moment to look at the contributor walls and thank you plaques, as well as the bar inside the retail store which list all supports,” she continued.
Ms. Charlton did single out a number of outstanding supporters. “We are deeply thankful to Manitoulin Transport and the Smith family for their support of Split Rail,” she said. “Split Rail’s stars aligned when this building presented itself and we are truly grateful for the opportunity to be located in this ideal spot.”
“Glenn Fobes, thank you to our patient brewmaster, who has mentored us for five long years,” she said. “We were fortunate to be connected with Glenn in 2010 through an instructor we had at Seibel’s Brewing Institute in Chicago. Glenn has stuck with us, for better or worse, to this day. Thank you Glenn.”
Ms. Charlton also singled out Ned Martin “for your patient and expert support with all things financial.”
She noted that while his financial expertise, provided voluntarily, was invaluable in negotiating the potential shoals of finance, Mr. Martin’s deep experience as an enthusiastic amateur brewer also came in handy. “He dropped by to the brewery while we were developing the recipes,” she said.
Shane Desjardin (and Kristin for ‘sharing him’) was also recognized. “Very special thanks to Shane for your contributions of time, energy, and expertise and to Kristin for your patience and willingness to share Shane with us,” she said.
“Finally, we thank our partners and family members (in particular Andy’s mom Denise) and friends who have become vital members of the team, we won’t name you all but you know who you are and we hope you know how much we value and appreciate your efforts and support over the years.”
In closing her remarks, Ms. Charlton called on the crowd to “meet the team, and enjoy your evening” before taking part in the ribbon cutting that included Ms. Smith, Mr. Mantha and Mayor Lane, with brewmaster Glenn Fobes wielding the scissors of honour.
“Isn’t this absolutely fabulous,” said long-time Island resident Caroline Lane-Rock, who was kept busy introducing her friend and Liberal federal candidate Heather Wilson to folks taking part in Gore Bay’s Harbour Days, which was concurrent with the opening of the brewery.
“I think this is great,” agreed Ms. Wilson. “There are so many smiling faces here today and the weather is perfect. It is very nice to see small businesses starting up here on Manitoulin. These are the kind of people who keep our Northern economy so diverse and dynamic.”
Richard Gamelin of Espanola was smiling broadly as he stepped out of the retail outlet with a four-pack of beer under his arm. “I got mine,” he laughed. Mr. Gamelin knew what he was in for, however, as he had taken part in a limited tasting of the Copper Lager last year. “It is really a great beer for the summer,” he said.
Going forward, the brewery will be concentrating on its three signature beers, although the Hawberry brew will soon be complete. “We have just about used up our supply of local hawberries,” said Ms. Charlton. “It is really more of a seasonal offering.”
The need for local hawberries is important, noted Ms. Charlton. “Authenticity is an important thing for Andy and me,” said Ms. Charlton. “This is an intensely personal project for us and we want everything to reflect well on Manitoulin Island and the people who have given so much of their time and skills to make this day a reality.”
Split Rail Brewing Company is located at 31 Water Street in Gore Bay, right across from the new Harbour Centre and just a step away from Buoy’s Restaurant, where pitchers of the Split Rail Copper Lager were being quaffed by an enthusiastic crowd on the patio following the opening ceremonies.
Full disclosure, this writer also sampled both the Copper Lager and the Hawberry Ale and found both to be perfect beverages to slake a thirst on a hot summer day—light, smooth and refreshing.
The brewey products are locally made in the authentic brewery building on the waterfront of Gore Bay across from the Harbour Centre arts facility and the opening events snacks were local too: pulled pork sliders made by Richard from the nearby Buoy’s Eatery and sushi from The Island Jar in Little Current.