For the June #Flagship Friday, on tap is Ringwood Ale from Toronto- and Halifax-based Granite Brewery. Made since the early 1990s it’s a blonde ale, medium-strength, and a draft staple of the house. Ringwood is generally served chilled and fizzy, or “keg” style.
The Toronto Granite has been in business since 1991 and is owned and operated by Ron Keefe, a former corporate executive. With brother Kevin in Halifax they created a brewpub offering traditional, British-style ales and stout, many cask-conditioned. In recent years popular craft styles have been added to the range, among them Darkside, a Black IPA, Galactic Pale Ale, zesty with New World hops, and recently #1 Brand New Day, a New England-style IPA. There are continual one-offs and seasonal releases, everything from a molasses-laced Colonial porter to the Lady Macbeth Scotch Ale.
Increasingly, the family is involved in operations, and daughter Mary Beth now directs the brewing.
The sister brewery in Halifax is run by Ron’s elder brother Kevin. Kevin established the Halifax Granite after a few years mastering the bar business in the city. He studied craft brewing in England at the legendary Ringwood teaching brewery of Peter Austin. Ringwood was the cradle of many an early brewpub and craft brewery around the world including, say, Shipyard in the U.S.
The Granite’s flat-bottom, open-fermentation system and Ringwood yeast both derive from the Ringwood training. A departure is a new closed fermenter in Toronto, the ubiquitous cylindro-conical type. #1 Brand New Day NEIPA is the first output, and mighty good it is. If you blended a fruity Tiki cocktail and a West Coast IPA, that gives you an idea.
Due to recently losing its Halifax lease the Nova Scotia Granite is supplying area restaurants and bars with Granite beers made at the original Propeller brewery in Halifax (there is now a second location). A search is ongoing for a new site to restore the longstanding Granite retail business.
Ringwood Ale was not brewed when the Granite opened, it arrived a few years after. Ron explained to me how it came about. He had installed a Creemore Lager tap early on, the only beer not brewed on site, as an option for the many customers then who wanted a familiar mass-market brand. While offering more character than the typical Canadian beer then, customers could at least relate it to their usual brand preference. Soon the Creemore was taking a good part of the sales and it was decided to replace it with a similar but in-house alternative.
Enter Ringwood Ale. The name was taken from the house yeast. The beer did not derive from Kevin’s stint at Ringwood, Ron and Kevin hit on the formula using a variety of influences including the “Gold” taste popular at the time in craft brewing. The new beer took off and remains to this day a steady seller.
Ringwood Ale goes great with the Granite’s pub-oriented menu. It goes great on its own when you want something cold and light-bodied. Think lightly malty, fruity, with a mineral-like tang from yeast. While top-fermented, it does evoke lager to a degree – a secret to its success no doubt. The pale-coloured base malt and moderate hopping play a role here, but the beer has a character of its own.
Ringwood Ale is a classic Ontario flagship ale. The Granite itself is a flagship of the vibrant Ontario craft brewing scene. Try the beer if you pass by, it’s a taste that has endured and may meet your own.