In East York, beer doesn’t get much more local than it does at Muddy York Brewery.
The brewery, which has operated out of its 22 Cranfield Rd. location for the past three years, started in head brewer Jeff Manol’s home. When the long-time judge of beer competitions and enthusiastic home brewer decided to share his long-time hobby with the public, his wife, Susan Michalek, agreed to help with marketing and designing labels for the beer.
While the small-batch brewery started with a modest three-hectolitre system, it’s flourished since then, Michalek said.
“We are now 10 hectolitres and we have nine fermenters,” she said. “We probably didn’t do it as fast as some other breweries that have opened up in the city, but we’ve grown it all ourselves with all of our know-how and hard work.”
Toronto history runs deep in the Muddy York brewing brand. The name itself is a reference to a nickname from Toronto’s early days as the (unpaved) settlement called York.
The names of the beers themselves are also inspired by Toronto’s past. Along with the Muddy York Porter, there’s Diving Horse Pale Ale (both Michalek and Manol’s current favourite), which alludes to Hanlan’s Point amusement park and its famous diving horses. The Stork Derby Stout is a nod to the Great Stork Derby in the 1920s, where Toronto women raced to have as many children as possible in the hopes of benefitting from a rich financier’s will.
“Actually, one gentleman was here and said his grandmother was the result of the stork derby,” Michalek laughs. “No one would believe her when she told the story, but it’s true — you can look it up.”
Manol takes a less-is-more philosophy when it comes to brewing and ingredients, which he finds is beneficial to the taste.
“I kind of figured the less ingredients you use, the more of a challenge it is to have a better process of brewing and do a better job,” he said. “If you get good-quality ingredients, just like with food, you don’t need to do a lot to it. You just showcase the inherent quality in the ingredients you’re using.”
It’s not just about the flavours, though. The experience of purchasing Muddy York Brewery beers is unique as well.
“People like coming here because you’re going to talk to the people that make the beer. We’re generally here a lot — it feels very personal,” Michalek said. “You’re not just buying your beer at the beer store from a faceless monopoly. When you buy beer from us, you connect with us.”
As the brewery’s fourth anniversary approaches and its Helles Lager hits the shelves of the LCBO, Michalek and Manol are hoping to expand their brand and their connections to the community. They plan on hosting food pop-ups and a brunch, among other events. Manol wants to “get people to know us and stop in.”
“Many people feel very comfortable here. It’s very welcoming and that’s very important to us to be open and welcoming to everybody,” he said. “Whether you’re new to craft beer or not, everyone is welcome here.”