The Muddy York Brewing Company opened its doors in January of 2015 in the midst of a burgeoning beer market in Toronto and across Ontario. Husband and wife team, Jeff Manol and Susan Michalek, owned a sturdy building which housed the family’s tool and die company. Conversion to a brewery was eased by this fact, though its location in East York, among other manufacturing businesses and removed from any foot trade, made it quite a challenge for the duo to make it a destination.
The addition of a 45-seat tap room catered to by food trucks proved to be the way forward. Some people come for a beer and a bite, while others head straight to the loaded beer fridge to see what is new. Most people happily leave with a four-pack or greater. Now over 60 percent of sales are straight out the front door, which is good for the bottom line.
The opening of Brunswick Bierworks nearby also helped to elevate the area as a beer destination. Muddy York has a couple of beers, Helles and Heffeweizen, brewed and packaged by Brunswick. Brewer Jeff Manol says he has always been a beer guy but that he really caught the bug from homebrewing.
“At the time that we started thinking about opening a brewery, five or six years ago, the brewing landscape was much different than it is today. The decision was not difficult at all. I loved brewing and wanted to do it full time, so I just started working at it. I liked that the science and creativity of brewing was all wrapped up in one,” said Manol.
Currently, he operates a 10 hectolitre, all electric system. There are seven fermenters and two bright beer tanks. It takes about eight hours for a brew to go through the system. The brewery manually bottles some beer but they also use the services of a canning truck.
“Our roles are so different within the brewery that we don’t really get in each other’s way. We meet and discuss things when necessary, then go back to our respective tasks. We see eye to eye on pretty much everything to do with running the business and how we want to move forward, so there’s really no issues. We’re together because we love each other, so running the brewery is just an extension of that,” said Jeff.
At any one time, you will find 12 beers on tap, 16 in the fridge, and a further eight in the fermenters.
Manol says he likes to brew a cross-section of beer styles to provide variety and to keep things interesting for his growing customer base. He said as the company grows it depends more heavily on logistics, scheduling production, tracking inventory and making sure deliveries are on time.
“We try to make the best beer that we can so that people enjoy it and come back for more,” said Manol.
His personal favourite beers are pales ales, that is, lower in alcohol but with a late hop addition.
“I love it when a skeptical, somewhat nervous, person comes in to the brewery taproom and we take them through a personal tasting and then they leave with beer and a big smile. It’s fun to be a part of that experience.”
And Susan chimed in:
“Liking a craft beer brand, along with so many other commodities, for some, is an extension of their identity. Do you identify and relate to that brand? Does it align with your personal ethos and philosophies? Lululemon sells stretchy pants, but they definitely try to make you think it is more than that. We are a small family run business right in your community. You can visit and talk to us. We’re not a huge corporation with share-holders we need to answer to. We just try to stay authentic and real. But, with all that being said, there is only so far you can rely on good marketing, the product needs to be good, and that ultimately is the most important thing for us. We don’t like to be too heavy-handed with marketing. Yes, we need to promote and inform people about our beer and our brand, but I think most people feel very tired of being ‘marketed to’.”
She carries the title of ‘designer-in-chief’. Her background is Design and Art Direction where she spent 15 years of her career working for a major music label designing album packaging and promo materials for some of the biggest artists in the Canadian music industry.
“As exciting as that was, it was time for a change and joining Jeff at our brewery was a welcome transition,” said Susan.
“I design all the artwork for the beer labels, obviously. I really have fun with that, as my only client is me (well, and Jeff, but he is easy)! Basically, anything visual out there for the company is something I designed. I manage all the social media and designed and manage the website, online store, and I take photos for Instagram. I manage and execute all marketing for the company. The taproom is also my baby, I conceived and designed the look and feel of the space. I book and manage all the events out in the world and in the taproom. But I also do some sales, scheduling of the staff, and you’ll find me behind the bar from time to time,” added Susan.
“There are many styles I love. I like sours, Belgian and farmhouse beers, but the ones I turn to the most are a hoppy IPA or a well-crafted pale ale. Luckily, that is something Jeff is very good at. I still really like our Diving Horse Pale Ale. Nelson Sauvin hops are probably my favourite,” Susan said.
They had expansion plans to move to a 20 hectolitre system in January of 2019, starting small with floor drains and piping for water first.
However, the sudden demise of DME, one of Canada’s largest producers of brewing equipment in conjunction with Newlands of BC, has him wary but not awed.
“I expect we will find out how it plays as time goes on,” said Manol.
And as to the current haze-craze in beer, Manol considered and said this:
“I haven’t really thought much about it to be honest. I’ve noticed the trend and have been curious to taste and try my hand at the style because I’m a hop lover. Back when I was homebrewing years ago I always preferred massive late hopping additions in my homebrews anyways, I just never really made a big deal about how hazy it was, as long as it tasted good. ‘Follow the Flavour’ is my motto.”
Muddy York Brewing Company
22 Cranfield Road
Toronto ON M4B 3H1
Just some of the beers…
Pavilion Pale Ale is a 5.5 percent abv American pale ale. Charged with Cascade and Centennial hops to the tune of 35 IBUs, it pours a polished harvest gold colour, with a head of snow-white foam. Floral aromas mingle with fresh malt and a mild citrus note on the nose. On the palate, a slightly sweet malt flavour is intersected by a restrained hop bitterness. The finish has the pending arrival of a greater hop presence but it remains in tow, neatly and securely held in check in the background by a kiss of malt sweetness. All in all, a finely tuned and executed brew!
R-100 IPA rides in at 7 percent abv and a sturdy 70 IBUs! It pours a hazy golden colour, while releasing a big nose of fresh, green hops, namely, magnum, equinox and topaz. On the palate, there is a leading edge of fruit, which is quickly followed by a big bold hop bitterness. The finish is strongly bitter but not distressingly so! For a big beer, it all works in harmony, that is, it is very moreish!
Sokol Pilsner to a strength of 4.8 percent abv. It pours a straw colour with a puffy snow-white head of foam. Aromas of sweet, wet grains on the nose are pleasantly undercut by Czech Saaz hops on the palate. This is a gentle reminder of how beer tasted before the arrival of double IPAs and super sours.
Brick Maker Common is 5 percent abv and tops out at 35 IBUs. This polished amber coloured ale has dense white foam, while releasing rich malt aromas. On the palate, chewy malt is neatly spliced by a solid hop charge. The finish is reliably bitter on a sturdy malt base.
Switchboard Session IPA yields a hazy golden coloured ale hitting 5 percent abv with 25 IBUs. Fruits of a tropical nature are evident in the nose. It is both fruity and effervescent on the palate. The finish is pleasantly hop bitter and refreshing in nature. This is a keeper and a knockout for hot weather.
From Muddy York and its Ward Series is Ward 20, a pale, almost shrouded, golden coloured ale topping out at 5.6 percent abv. Featuring Ontario grown chinook hops to the tune of 30 IBUs, it presents a nose of citrus and background light malt notes. On the palate, soft hop and malt profiles co-mingle in a gentle manner. A bit further advanced on the tasting, tropical fruits try to express themselves more fully. The finish is subtle and not fully showcasing what this beer might be about.
Muddy York also has a dry-hopped lager, Resistance, utilizing Sarachi Ace hops to the tune of 18 IBUs. This 5.2 percent abv yellow coloured lager releases bright citrusy aromas. On the palate, a light, unassuming, bitterness develops on a soft, yet resilient, malt base. The finish is refreshingly crisp.
First up: 1793 Barley Wine, which is aged in a cognac barrel, and rolls out at 11.9 percent abv. This ale pours a reddish-brown colour and releases a great depth of aromas, with notes of raisins, plums and alcohol vibrantly stepping forward. There is a rich and creamy texture from the dark malts on the palate, with a late hit of black licorice sliding forward. The finish is deeply delicious and invokes a contemplative mood. It is a well-constructed ale with the 70 IBUs keeping it all in focus!
Second up: 1793 Barley Wine, this time out aged in a sherry barrel, while hitting 10 percent abv. In colour it is brown-black with reddish hues out at the edges. It features a bracing nose of black strap molasses and hints of sherry. On the palate, sherry-soaked raisins are prevalent. The finish is sleepy-time warming alcohol and demerara sugar flowing to the brain. Here too, the 70 IBUs are much needed and working finely in the background.
Victorian Secrets Pale Ale, a 5.2 percent abv ale pours a veiled pale straw colour. It is fruity with notes of pink grapefruit. On the palate, some graininess is evident, with hop bitterness gaining traction while pushing forward. The finish is hop bitter and moreish in nature.
Storm Glass IPA rolls in at 7 percent abv, while pouring a hazy pale golden colour. Tropical fruit aromas burst forth from the glass. On the palate, Equinox and Amarillo hops push forward over a study malt base. The finish is equal parts fruit and pit stone bitterness.
Yet another fine brew from Muddy York is the elongated My Absolutely Guaranteed Famous Olde Tyme Capitol Special Club Pale Ale. This 5.2 percent abv ale pours a veiled golden colour with a dense head of white foam. Abundant fresh green hop aromatics are revealed forthrightly. On the palate, it is assertively bitter on a supple malt backbone. The finish has a rolling wave of bitterness across the tongue.