Meet Joel Manning (in the middle), the talented Brew Master at the Mill Street Brewing Company. Manning is the man (no pun intended) behind the ever expanding Mill Street line-up, producing the beers that we in Ontario have come to love, and the rest of Canada for that matter.
Manning's products have won an astounding number of awards in the last couple of years, including nine medals at the 2008 Canadian Brewing Awards (6 golds, 2 silvers, 1 bronze). And again, under Manning's watchful eye, Mill Street was crowned the Canadian Brewery of the Year for the second year in a row, at the same awards.
I've known Manning for quite some time now, but got to know him a little better when we shot the Mill Street Video Podcast for TAPS. He is very passionate about the beer industry, which is clearly evident in his work, and that passion was recently showcased when he was profiled in the LCBO's 'The Inside Story - Meet the Makers' media program. People can keep tabs on the beer scene at Mill Street by heading over to Mill Street's website to check out Manning's brewmasters blog.
So sit back, pop a cap off a Mill Street product and get to know the man behind the beer.
How many years have you worked in the industry?
I have been a commercial brewer for 22 years.
How did you get into brewing beer?
I got a job in 1986 as a trainee at the Amsterdam brewpub in Toronto while I was taking a year off my studies at U of T and I never went back! I recognized it instantly as the combination of science and art that I had been looking for and took an opportunity that I knew was rare.
Where were you before Mill Street?
I was at the Amsterdam Brewing Co. in Toronto before I came here.
So how long have you been brewing with Mill Street?
I have been with Mill Street since December of 2005.
Can you provide a little history on the brewery?
Mill Street opened at the end of 2002 in the Distillery District at #55 Mill Street in Toronto. It was housed in Building #63 which was an old "tank house" for the Gooderham and Worts distillery. All brewery operations were conducted at that site until mid-2006 when we opened a larger brewery in Scarborough due to increased sales--we had literally grown out of the Distillery building and there was no way to expand there. We re-configured the brewery in the Distillery District as a brewpub and retail store that year and it still operates that way. We make a number of small-run specialty and seasonal beers at the pub facility.
What is your best selling beer?
Too close to call! Our Original Organic Lager (certified by the OCIA) and our Tankhouse Ale are neck and neck.
How successful have the seasonals been for Mill Street?
We do the seasonals because we love them. They are not big commercial ideas, but they are very pure "beer" ideas. We have a very highly skilled group of brewers here at Mill Street (I have never seen such a competent technical team assembled in a brewery this small before) and we love beer and know how to make a huge range of traditional styles. The owners of the brewery give me completely free reign to make the seasonals the way I see fit, so we make some very rare and unique styles that you won't see elsewhere. From the point of view of making lots of money from the seasonals, they aren't very successful because they are very small batch and aren't designed for everyone. But from the point of view of Mill Street contributing to beer education and beer culture development in Canada, they are extremely important to us and we consider them very successful.
Which provinces currently sell Mill Street products?
We sell Mill Street products in every province except for Quebec, PEI and Newfoundland.
What is it like brewing in Canada's biggest beer consuming province?
Ontario is a great place to brew beer these days. There is a well-developed and ever-increasing beer culture here and Toronto is one of the best draught markets in North America, so it is an exciting place to be. Mill Street is a small brewery that has success making a range of craft-brewed beer, so with the diversity of both retail accounts (pubs and restaurants) and consumers in this province we make something for everyone without ever having to compromise the beer. We make a range of beers to each be different and stylistically accurate without making any one beer that is trying to please everyone. We make it the way we want to, and have been pleased to see that beer drinkers like it too.
Describe your time as President of the Master Brewers' Association of Canada.
I have been a member of the Master Brewers' Association of Canada since 1991 and served on its technical, executive and education committees since then. In 2003 I was fortunate enough to be elected as Chair of the Technical Committee and then by succession as President of the MBAC in 2004. It was a real honour to serve the MBAC in this capacity since it has such a rich and long-standing history (it pre-dates the First World War) and it gives you insight into the common goals that have bonded brewers together in this country throughout that whole time. The MBAC's commitment to technical advancement in brewing and personal development through a spirit of mentorship within the industry is essential to its growth and these commitments are independent of the name or size of the brewery you work for.
The involvement of craft brewers such as myself in an executive capacity further augments the relevance of the association in this day and age where craft breweries are commonplace. Craft brewers have gained respect both for business and brewing acumen but also bring in a lot of energy and resourcefulness which have always been essential in the very competitive world of the brewing industry. My time as president of the MBAC have made me a better brewer and strengthened my commitment to this industry as a whole. The friends that I have made through the MBAC are resources that have strengthened me in return and will continue to do so for the rest of my career.
Tell us something about yourself that not a lot of people know about.
I grow tropical epiphytic orchids as a hobby.
What's your favorite beer style?
Personally my favourite style of beer is Bamberger Rauchbier.
What is your ideal food and beer pairing?
Pale ale and curry.
Pick one Mill Street beer to drink forever.
Tankhouse Ale. It rocks.
What has been the highlight of your brewing career?
The first time that I was promoted to Head Brewer. One of those euphoric yet terrifying feelings when you are in charge of a brewery. I never forget that feeling.
Best time for a pint?
7 pm in a pub with friends.