National Post (Latest Edition) - Financial Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Adam McDow­ell

The Grif­fin Gas­tropub in Brace­bridge, Ont., gives the lo­cals some beers to cheer about.

Lit­tle Brace­bridge, Ont., ex­pe­ri­enced a frothy up­heaval in 2008 when new own­ers took over the Grif­fin Pub. In keep­ing with the pro-craft ethos of part­ners Jed Cor­beil and Curt Dun­lop, the familiar big brands were cast out to make room for an all-On­tario, all-in­de­pen­dent slate of brews. Most of the reg­u­lars were all too happy to ex­press their dis­plea­sure.

“We lost, I’d say, 75% of our clien­tele overnight,” Cor­beil re­calls. Those who stuck around abused the staff who were tasked with sug­gest­ing a lo­cal pale ale or sai­son in lieu of the no-longer-served Mol­son Canadian. There was yelling. A server felt over­whelmed. “They made her cry,” says Cor­beil, now safe in the knowl­edge that the ex­per­i­ment worked in the long run. Sales even­tu­ally dou­bled in the newly rechris­tened Grif­fin Gas­tropub, and it be­came a loyal north­ern out­post for the craft beer move­ment.

Brace­bridge is nes­tled in Muskoka, one of the re­gions that On­tar­i­ans call “cottage coun­try.” It fills up with recre­ational traf­fic in the sum­mer and goes quiet in win­ter. The Grif­fin found many of its new cus­tomers in the mostly white-col­lar sea­sonal res­i­dents who typ­i­cally have their main homes and earn their living in Toronto.

Rather than set­tle into a com­fort­ably pro­vin­cial rou­tine, Cor­beil and Dun­lop plan to keep chal­leng­ing lo­cal tastes. They’re cel­lar-aging large-bot­tle beers in a for­mer jail cell in the base­ment of their build­ing, wait­ing to be popped just like Cham­pagne for cel­e­bra­tions. And Cor­beil is con­sid­er­ing of­fer­ing cask ale on a regular ba­sis — that means beer served English-style, at not-quite-cold tem­per­a­tures. But he’s wary, just this once, of push­ing Brace­bridge beer drinkers too far. “Our crowd up in Muskoka is not beg­ging for it yet.”

Grif­fin Gas­tropub own­ers Curt Dun­lop (left) and Jed Cor­beil are also mem­bers of the Grif­fin House Band, and have three of their own beers on tap.

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