MILFORD BAY -- If you’re going to celebrate local food and drink, what better place to do it than in a local barn?
Jed Corbeil of the Griffin Pub house band was among the entertainers at the launch of Muskoka Brewery’s Harvest Ale, held last weekend at Brooklands Farm in Milford Bay.
Photo by Bev McMullen
That was the philosophy behind an event at Brooklands Farm in Milford Bay last week, when area chefs, brewers, farmers and foodies gathered in a historical barn and former dairy.
The event was organized by Muskoka Brewery to launch its latest seasonal beer, Muskoka Harvest Ale. This is the third year the brewery has produced the strong ale, which is only available from now until November.
While the beer was at the centre of the event, the evening was also a celebration of other local foods and the people who produce them.
“We wanted this year to highlight local flavours, local products, local ingredients,” said Mike Laba, director of marketing for the Bracebridge-based brewery.
“We’re firm believers in sourcing locally.”
So, too, are many area chefs, including David Friesen of Riverwalk and Darren Hehir of Regatta. Both men created special dishes for the occasion, coming up with foods that would pair well with the Harvest Ale, as well as highlight local foods.
In the farm’s demonstration kitchen — housed in a historical log building that was the farm’s original homestead and later served as a dairy — Friesen and Hehir walked visitors through the creation of their dishes. As they presented the recipes, they were able to confer with people in the audience who had produced many of the ingredients, including the potatoes, maple syrup, honey, shiitake mushrooms, beef, greens and, of course, the beer.
The dishes were then served to the crowd, who were asked to vote on which paired best with the beer: Friesen’s beef curry, or Hehir’s chilled beef with greens and blue potatoes.
Other pairings on offer included blue cheese and Milford Bay smoked trout — strong flavours to go with a strong beer.
Katya Riley of Brooklands Farm encouraged the other farmers in the room to continue looking for new markets and products. She noted that hops and barley, two of the key ingredients of beer, can be grown in Muskoka.
“Thank you to all the farmers who are here tonight, and who are still farming in Muskoka,” she said.
While awareness is building about the amount of food produced in Muskoka, there is still a way to go, said Bracebridge deputy mayor Rick Maloney. “When you look at Muskoka, farming is not the first thing that comes to people’s minds,” he said. “But farming in Muskoka has an economic benefit of $15 million a year. It’s huge.”
Laba noted that the best way to grow Muskoka’s food sector is by simply supporting it.
“When you go out of your way to buy local food or eat at a local restaurant, it makes a big difference,” he said.