Brits in Toronto got word of a family-run brew pub at the corner of Mount Pleasant and Eglinton that has been open since 1991. What’s so special abut that you may ask?
Well, they have an open fermentation brew house with Ringwood yeast which is a 200-year-old yeast that came to them from the town of Ringwood in the New Forest, UK.
They serve real ale as well as a number of English ales all brewed in-house.
So, let’s all say hello to The Granite Brewery & Tied House to find out more about this British connection.
Over to you, Brewmaster Mary Beth …
What kind of breweries and restaurants was Kevin interested in and inspired by from the UK? Did he have a British background or heritage?
Kevin Keefe owned a few pubs in Halifax with his brother Wilfred in the 1980’s. At this time there was a growth of brew pubs in England and he came across a three-month brewing course taught by Peter Austin and Alan Pugsley in the town of Ringwood. He took his family over, learned to brew and purchased his brewhouse which was then shipped over to Halifax.
He began brewing at Ginger’s Tavern in 1985, then moved it to the historic Henry House where it stayed for twenty plus years. It was the first Ringwood brewing system in North America.
His brother Ron decided five years later, in 1990, that he too wanted to open a similar brewery in Toronto. He learned from his brother in Halifax and Alan Pugsley who had relocated to Maryland where he was brewmaster at Wild Goose Brewery. The Granite Toronto opened its doors in August of 1991 at Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton.
It is now run by Ron, my brother Sam who is the general manager and myself, who took over brewing operations in 2009. I won Canadian Brewer of the Year in 2021 at the Brewer’s Journal of Canada Brewer’s Choice Awards.
Please describe why Ringwood yeast was chosen and how the fermentation process works.
Ringwood was chosen because that was the yeast and system that Kevin learned on. What makes this yeast so special is that it is open fermented. When properly cared for, this yeast can be used over and over again.
Today we are using this pitch of yeast for the 1,300th time. A Granite record by a long shot! It is quick to ferment … a batch can be ready in under two weeks.
It makes wonderful English ales which is what we primarily use it for, although we make an award-winning Irish Stout with it, IPA’s, a blonde ale, etc. It has a very fruity and floral characteristic that makes it stand out.
What ales do you provide that would be of interest to Brits in Toronto missing the taste of home?
Our most popular beers at the Granite over the last 31 years remain our Best Bitter Special on cask and Peculiar, our homage to Theakston’s Old Peculier, an English strong ale.
We now have three casks on at any given time: always our Best Bitter Special and most often our Hopping Mad (an English/American hybrid IPA) and our English IPA. We also have our Best Bitter and Keefe’s Irish Stout on draft which are pub classics.
Which ones are the most popular?
We offer a blonde ale which is very popular. That is our most approachable beer style and it is called Ringwood after our beloved house yeast strain.
Four years ago, we put in one closed fermenter, FVX, in our brew house which allows us to make styles of beer that are not possible with the open fermenters and Ringwood yeast.
You’ll regularly find a NEIPA or West Coast IPA on tap, but we have also experimented with Belgian styles, lagers or German wheat beers!
Describe your typical day as the pub’s Brewmaster.
We are a small brewery, and a crew of four, so I do a bit of everything. Brew days are my favourite.
When I’m not in the brew house, I will be doing cellar work, packaging, cleaning, or administrative work.
Anything else we should know about The Granite Brewery & Tied house?
We are a family-run establishment and community is the most important thing to us. We are so lucky to have so many regulars that have been supporting us for the last 31
We like to think of the Granite as a home away from home.