Mayne Island Brewing Co. founder Michael Garratt may have made his living selling wine, but his true love has always been beer. To that end, he and his wife Annette opened their own brewery earlier this month on their property on tiny Mayne Island, with hopes of winning over locals with their hand-crafted ales.
Garratt’s modest operation includes a tasting room and bottle sales, and is just the second commercial brewery to operate in the Southern Gulf Islands (Saltspring Island Ales being the other).
We caught up with Garratt to find out more about one of B.C.’s newest – and smallest – craft breweries.
First off, congrats on opening! Tell me a bit about the process that led you to where you are now.
It’s been a bit of a battle for us as there’s not really anyone who’s done this on a smallish island before. It’s taken two years to get to opening our doors and it feels great now we’re there!
Why beer? What got you interested in craft beer enough to open your own brewery?
I’ve been in the business of selling wine for the last 15, 16 years, but I’m a home brewer. So I’d give out my beer, as Christmas presents or gifts, and people told me they’d be interested if I ever sold it commercially. I have no formal education in brewing, but I’ve been homebrewing for years. My wine warehouse is across the street from Four Winds, and I’d take them some of my beer, and Brent [Mills] was encouraging. Jack [Bensley] and Aaron [MacInnis] at Main Street Brewing have been a big help too. Main Street and Mayne Island, maybe there’ll be a collaboration there someday!
Mayne Island is a pretty small community, and I’m sure everyone there is excited about having a brewery on the island. How has the local support been so far?
It’s been great! Right now, our focus is really just on the Island. The liquor store on the Island and a couple of the restaurants have said they’d like to carry our beers. When we released our Blackberry Saison, the locals bought it all out the first week we had it!
How big is your operation? What size batches are you brewing?
The brewery is 800 sq.-ft., including the office and our on-site store. The brewing area is about 600 sq. ft. itself. I’m brewing 140L batches twice a week right now, so my goal is sell 280L of beer a week. I’m working seven days a week right now – four days selling wine and three days brewing beer.
Is there a tasting room onsite? Will your beers be available off the Island?
We do have a tasting room that’s open on Saturdays and Sundays right now. We haven’t lined up retail sales yet, but we’re looking at that in the New Year.
What beers will you be offering?
We have three beers that we’re rotating through. Right now, we have a blonde ale that’s 6.0% ABV, a British-style brown ale, and a saison we’re calling the Mayne Island Forager. Some of the ingredients are foraged here on Mayne Island; we’ve done that with blackberries, juniper, nettles.
We’re doing 330mL four-packs and 750mL bottles. All of our beers are bottle conditioned, which is the way the Europeans have been doing it for generations.
What makes Mayne Island Brewing unique?
We’re a small, family operation and everything we make is hand-crafted. The whole family helps with the bottling, even the labels are put on by hand!