The journey started with Gary McMullen’s love of brewing his own unique beers; a hobby that quickly became his career when he left his job as an aerospace engineer. In 1996, Gary enlisted his good friend and fellow Muskoka native, Kirk Evans to bring the dream of opening a cottage brewery to life. Less than a year after kicking the doors of Muskoka Brewery open, Kirk passed away suddenly in an accident.
In the wake of that tragedy there was no certainty that this new and growing microbrewery could even go on. But with the support of friends, family and the community, Gary and his small business persevered.
This, according to Gary, is how things are done in Bracebridge. When someone is in need, people step in to help. They rally around. It’s that sense of community that he loves and loves to foster within the doors of the brewery – now more than 100 people strong – and throughout the area where it operates. It’s also why, when other breweries relocate to larger urban centres as they outgrow their microbrewery locations, Muskoka Brewery simply moved to a larger space on the other side of town.
Twenty years later, as one of the fastest growing craft breweries in the country, Muskoka Brewery is staying true to its roots, to the community that supports it and to the beautiful region that inspires so much of how the organization operates. From Bracebridge Muskoka Brewery crafts and distributes more than a dozen products, including seasonal beers, throughout Ontario, the Maritimes and Upstate New York – producing and estimated 50,000 hl in 2015.
In Gary’s words, “This special place of rugged beauty and freshwater lakes ignited our passion for discovery and shaped our resolve to always thirst for better. This small town with kind neighbours helped us along the way, instilled in us a sense of respect and caring and fostered our unhurried approach to crafting great beer. We take all of this with us wherever we go. It’s in every one of us and in every bottle we brew.”