Midtown’s original craft beer
Granite Brewery opened up shop in the ’90s a decade before microbrewing boom
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