With my friend Rick Radell, an ace commercial photographer, we visited the Old Flame Brewery Co. in Port Perry, ON last Saturday and were greeted by owner Jack Doak. Jack is originally from Newmarket, ON but long connected to Port Perry which is about 50 miles northeast of Toronto along Lake Scugog.
The lake was originally a shallow series of marshes that were flooded intentionally long ago to form a proper but shallow lake. Today it is a sport-fishing haven and part of the lake country that stretches into the Kawartha hills and lake system finally.
Jack explained the history of the handsome building which was a carriage-making house up to about WW I when for a short time it was a Model T dealership.
The building had multiple uses in succeeding decades and was purchased by Jack, who has a business entrepreneurial background, about a half-dozen years ago. He restored it to much of its original look including the ceiling with its beautiful fine oak beams and joists from the late 1800s. He installed a restaurant and small craft brewery.
Many of the counter and table tops are fashioned from re-purposed old Ontario wood rescued from a nearby barn. The effect is warm and evokes both past and present effortlessly.
The brewery, separated from the main room and bar by a wall, houses multiple fermenters, mashing and boiling equipment, and a compact canning line in an oblong room.
I tasted a number of beers of which my favourites were a California Common style and Perry Loves Mary India Pale Ale, for which the recipe has not changed since Day 1 said Jack. It is a malty, assertive West Coast style with a good lingering bitterness.
The place was packed on a Saturday afternoon and there was a singer-guitarist fully capturing the attention of all.
Jack emphasized that a craft brewery and restaurant, at least in his area, is as much in the tourism as the beer business as a lot of the clientèle is from outside Port Perry whether near or further afield like Toronto. Hence the Old Flame has relationships with other businesses in town, e.g. one supplies an excellent butter tart that uses some Old Flame beer in the recipe. The businesses try to help and support each other in overall support of the town which makes perfect sense.
I didn’t get a chance to meet the brewer but hopefully the next time. The list of beers is certainly “of today”, well-made, and were evidently enjoyed by the guests.
I didn’t eat anything but Rick loved his charcuterie plate shown in his wonderful photo above (the other is my certainly non-professional effort!). We sat at a table formed from a 1930s Maytag washing machine and Jack related the story how Fritz Maytag in San Francisco helped kickstart the craft revolution, and here was an actual artifact from the family business whose support made that possible.
What a kick to drink a California Common beer, i.e., made in the California steam beer style, using the top of the machine as a table. I wish Fritz Maytag had been there to see it.
Old Flame is an exemplary example of the modern brewpub: not fazed by all the competition and constantly seeking a way to stand out. I greatly enjoyed the visit and look forward to returning.