LCBO: Next year, Muskoka Brewery will celebrate its 20th anniversary. What inspired you to start the company?
GARY McMULLEN: I was an avid home brewer who loved making different and unique beers. And I thought craft beer was a really good fit for the Muskoka lifestyle, where it’s all about free time, downtime and social time. The match seemed intuitively obvious in my engineering mind.
LCBO: What keeps you going through a hard day at work?
GM: There are definitely tough days running a small-batch brewery; there’s always another challenge
to face. But that’s the essence of Muskoka Brewery: we love the challenge of what’s next. Our attitude is, if there’s something we really want to achieve we’ll find a way to get it done.
LCBO: Mad Tom seems like a bit of a bushwhacker. Why pick this character to embody your award-winning India Pale Ale?
GM: We wanted to evoke a slightly different view of what Muskoka might mean to people: it’s not just big cottages and big boats. Mad Tom is a guy who loves camping, the great outdoors and hanging out with friends and family. He’s earthy and guttural, and that comes through in the beer’s flavour: crisp, citrusy, with great malt depth.
LCBO: That’s a good point. I know you don’t have a cottage either. Is it possible to live the Muskoka lifestyle without a cottage?
GM: Muskoka is a state of mind. You can live in a condo on the Gardiner in Toronto and slide open your patio door, and two Muskoka chairs are sitting there. Pan-fry some lake trout, toss a salad, pour a glass of Summerweiss, and you’re there.
LCBO: Looking ahead to fall, what will we see in beer trends?
GM: I think we’ll see more sour and barrel-aged beers popping up. We’re adding to our roster of barrels and having fun with it. I’m excited about it because I love sour beers. It’s great for the brewing team to work on these experimental batches, because for once they don’t have to worry about consistency. They can just escape, adjust on the fly and be creative.