Mid­town’s orig­i­nal craft beer

Gran­ite Brew­ery opened up shop in the ’90s a decade be­fore mi­cro­brew­ing boom

North Toronto Post - - News -

Ron Keefe in­tro­duced Toronto to craft beer in 1991 when he opened Gran­ite Brew­ery near Mount Pleas­ant Road and Eglin­ton Av­enue East. More than a quar­ter of a cen­tury later, Ron’s daugh­ter Mary Beth Keefe has taken over as head brew­mas­ter; the ros­ter of ales has grown from seven to over 15 sea­sonal and ro­tat­ing drafts; and many have glommed onto the boozy band­wagon. Keefe gave Post City the scoop on the craft beer craze just in time for May 2-4.

What chal­lenges did you face introducing the craft beer con­cept to Toronto?

The biggest chal­lenges were get­ting ap­provals and build­ing per­mits be­cause there wasn’t a lot of knowl­edge about brew­eries and brew pubs. Were you a restau­rant? Were you a brew­ery? That was the biggest has­sle for us. Af­ter we opened, then the chal­lenge was al­most one of ed­u­ca­tion. All th­ese peo­ple com­ing in that re­ally had no idea what craft beer was.

How has the clien­tele changed since the pub’s early years?

It’s a dif­fer­ent ball game right now. I’d say it prob­a­bly started to change in 2005 to 2010 — there was a big shift. Now we’re preach­ing to the con­verted. Back then it was a hard sell to get young kids to drink our beer be­cause they were more geared to the big brew­eries. La­batt and Bud­weiser had the cooler com­mer­cials. Now, 20-year-olds are com­ing in ask­ing, what do you got like Muskoka’s Mad Tom or Amsterdam’s Bone­shaker?

How do you main­tain such a strong local pres­ence?

We re­cently started a schol­ar­ship fund here for $5,000 a year. What we’re do­ing is gear­ing it to reg­u­lar cus­tomers, their kids and our staff. The ap­pli­ca­tions are rolling in for this year, which closes on July 1. Ev­ery year we brew a spe­cial schol­ar­ship ale, and so all the pro­ceeds from the sale of that brew will go to fund the schol­ar­ship (245 Eglin­ton Ave. E., 416-322-0723).

Brew­mas­ter Ron Keefe opened his brew pub in 1991

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