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Winter Brewing in Muskoka

According to the calendar, winter is officially over. We can wave goodbye to winter with all its constricting and isolating ways, because on March 20th, we crossed the vernal equinox and entered the welcoming warm embrace of Spring. We all know that Spring hasn’t really sprung quite yet though, we’re all still wearing our winter coats to work and there’s still that crazy mid-April snowfall yet to come.  But at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The snow has mostly disappeared, small little buds are starting to peek out of the tree branches and the birds are already starting to sing. We finally have something to look forward to. 

During the later spring months and throughout the summer the brewery is humming. We all know that during the warmer months, people like to drink more, it is a universal truth of the industry. So, from April to September, we’re busy brewing, the world seems right, and everything is just jimdandy. Even into October, November and through December, we stay busy because the holiday season has people celebrating. Then, as soon as January 1st hits, it all comes to a crashing halt. The year's cycle begins anew with its usual slow start.

Winter in MuskokaRight after the holidays and well into March the brewery is just crawling along. It’s usually around this time of year, when demand is at its lowest and production slows, that you start looking to make any repairs or upgrades you might need around the brewery.  You got to use these slow months to get ready for the next beer drinking season by making sure that everything is in tip top working shape. This does give you something to focus on and tends to keep your mind preoccupied and not concentrating on the stark loneliness of winter. And at the same time, during this slow regular production period, it’s also a good time to start playing around with new beers; styles you can’t get to when your busy cranking out your day-to-day beers. Barrel-aged beers, wild ales, lager-style beers…or basically any style that requires more time, focus and energy.  This certainly gets the creative juices flowing, which can be very exciting and sustaining during the long winter months.

Beer Inspection!This past winter we brewers at Sawdust City occupied ourselves by exploring new lager styles. We teamed up with our good friends at Brew Culture Muskoka to produce a four part lager series that includes some new lager styles and some of our takes on traditional techniques.

In years past there were always cracks in the claustrophobia, little rays of sunshine in the form of festivals and events.  They were a welcomed respite from the weariness of winter that gave us a chance to catch up with colleagues or talk face to face with beer lovers from across the province.  But with the pandemic and the shutdown of all these events, it’s made this year doubly difficult.  We’ve been without any in-person, public facing events for over a year now and it’s made the long trek through winter just that much more difficult.  I could always look forward to the Steamwhistle Winterfest at the Roundhouse in Toronto or the Northern Ontario Microbrew fest up in Sudbury to bring a smile to my face.  And who can forget last February’s Rooted in Place festival hosted by Dominion City? A world class beer event that got us out to the Nation’s capital to hang with old friends, to meets some new wonderful brewers from across North America and talk shop with some craft brewing fans. It was a wonderful event that happened right before the shutdown. And now a year later, here we are, still in the dark as another winter slowly begins to fade away.  A break is truly needed. 

There's No Way of Knowing Spring SaisonYou may not have noticed, but we like to make a big deal about the first day of Spring around our brewery. We usually have a few beers lined up and ready to be released with spring themed relevance. Personally, it’s one of my favourite days of the year. I know it’s not a magic switch that’s going to turn everything around once we pass from winter to spring, but it’s a point on the calendar that gives me hope. It’s something I can look forward too, because I know that in the coming weeks things are going to brighten up and change.  The sun will shine a little bit brighter; people will start coming out of their homes more frequently and production at the brewery will finally start to pick up.  We’re still in the throws of the pandemic, but hope is on the horizon. I think. 

I’m not complaining, and it’s not my intention to do so, as I count myself very lucky to be doing what I’m doing for a living. I’m sure there are plenty of other industries out there that go through these same seasonal swings, so believe me when I say that I understand what you are going through. Brewing beer is a dream come true, but sometimes we all can use just a little break from darkness with some much needed light. And for me spring brings that light.  And now that it’s just around the corner, I can’t wait to wind up the brewhouse and start getting ready for summer. We’re brewers, we want to brew.   

-Sam Corbeil
Brewmaster