WAY BACK IN THE SPRING, when the fresh schedule of tours was published, tour enthusiasts and newcomers alike piled through the types, locations, and dates of the planned expeditions. If you were familiar with Halton, that might be appealing, or perhaps the Kawarthas struck a chord, and for others the feature of a gimmick rally filled the bill.
A fan favourite is always Muskoka, and several were among the list. In particular, was an outline for a tour in Muskoka, but cropping up from the imagination of the organizer, Kathrin Menge, VP of UCR. It was one unlike any previous. Not possible you say? But yes, quite possible, and very appealing when the blended feature happened to be beautiful roads combined with brewery hopping. In fact, six breweries in one day.
It will come as no surprise to learn that registrations were robust and filled quickly with the complement of 24 Porsches. The wait list was half as long.
The back story has more elements to it, as Kathrin tells us. Jay and Joanne Diament from Toronto expressed a “pre-commitment” going way back to last summer when Kathrin asked casually if she organized such a brewery tour would there be any interest. Instant answer – yes! Then at this year’s picnic, Kathrin mentioned the tour to others (David and Lucy Adams) who then offered to help her execute it. On speaking with Dave and Lucy, they casually omitted mentioning that David put the entire route together. Following the careful, thoughtful route planning, Kathrin then got to work organizing plans with the breweries, plus, traversing the route several times to scope out any potential obstructions. “Teamwork makes the dreamwork,” says Kathrin.
For clarity’s sake, the premise of the tour was to stop at six different craft breweries, and for every car to receive one sealed can of beer. Thus, at the end of the tour, each car would have a unique six-pack of beer to take home. The designated meeting place was set for the parking area adjacent to Couchiching Craft Brewing in Orillia, at 9 a.m. Although the location and the time seemed a mismatch, as the first brewery only opened at 11 a.m., the organizers were well prepared, and they already handed out our first can of beer along with a cardboard carrier courtesy of Muskoka Brewery.
As the troupe headed out for the first leg of the expedition, we were treated to a splendid debut of things to come our way. Not only were the roads a joy to navigate with the gentle meandering, but this section also wrapped us in a glorious canopy of trees for much of the time. The clear blue sky and the perfect top-down warmth issued a message that Muskoka was still in the grip of ideal summery weather.
The second stop was in Gravenhurst at Sawdust City Brewing. Staff was asked to explain the name of the brewery, such that in days gone by, the town was a major centre for lumber milling which generated mountains of sawdust in the process, sometimes lightly blanketing the town in, you guessed it, sawdust.
If the climbing temperature had not already prompted the rag-top Boxster contingent to raise their roofs, over the next leg, all of them were compelled to do so else stick to their seats.
The third stop took us up to Bracebridge to the Muskoka Brewery meandering past Taboo Resort. Not lost on the stopover was taking note of the staff’s creativity in naming some of the beer varieties with titles like Hazed & Confused, Twice as Mad, and membership in the Moonlight Kettle Beer Club. One also couldn’t help but notice the plentiful contingent of Caymans in the parking lot. The brewery staff even rolled our third sealed beer sample out to our parked cars. Nice. There appeared to be a few extra cases of cans as well, but those were not given out just yet, but rather packed into Kathrin’s 993.
During the short six-kilometre jaunt further in to downtown Bracebridge, for the fourth planned stop at Katalyst Brewing, the thermometer by this time had shot upward significantly. Exploring the neighbourhood and the brewing facility absolutely added to the thirst level. Kathrin reminded us that the beer cans we were collecting were not to be consumed during the driving portion of the tour. Instead, she surprised us all by handing out an icy cold can of Muskoka Brewery Wandr, a non-alcohol sparkling drink, along with a giant pretzel with mustard. It was, after all, already past 12 noon.
Off to brewery five, we had a 90-kilometre, very engaging route to follow to arrive in the small community of Torrance and the virtually “secret” Clear Lake Brewing. Tucked way back from the road was this dual brewery and spa. Wandering through the facilities was an excellent time to poll a few drivers on the question of what feature of this tour was the prime draw. Craig Allen and Abby Webster with their Carrera 911 called “Chalky” said that meeting new people in the group was top of their list. The breweries were a bonus. Walter and Joshua Henriques also said meeting all the cool participants and discovering new places topped their list. There seems to be a theme developing here.
The final beautiful 68 kilometres brought the caravan to the sprawling facilities of Quayle’s Brewery in Coldwater for our sixth stop, where we each received our final sealed can and completed our unique six-pack of craft brews. For those who chose to, here one could enjoy a mug of suds and some sustenance which we all deserved by then.
A successful, delightful journey? You bet. Should it be considered again for next season? You bet. </>
Story By Marc Etherington | Photography by Marc Etherington and Kathrin Menge