When Greg Taylor and two fellow brewery workers found themselves unemployed following a buyout, they decided to jump into the vat and brew a craft pilsner beer better than anyone else. That decision was 16 years ago. Now Steam Whistle Pilsner is sold in almost every province in Canada and the brewery, located in a former railway roundhouse at the foot of the CN Tower, is one of downtown Toronto’s most popular tourist attractions.
How did Steam Whistle get started?
Cam Heaps and Greg Cromwell and I were co-workers at a microbrewery in Ontario, but we were all fired when the brewery was bought out. One night, during a canoe trip, we sat around a campfire talking about the business of brewing beer and how much we all missed the industry. Just before sunrise someone said, “We could make a better beer.” Somehow, we followed up on that statement.
Happy customers and happy staff make for a successful business; take care of the staff and they will take care of the customer in the same way. My dad said the way to success is to build word of mouth by doing a good job, with better value than the customer expected.
What’s the story behind the name?
We considered calling our brewery and beer “3 Fired Guys,” but my wife, Sybil, thought we needed a more positive name. In the 1950s, the sound of the steam whistle let everyone know the work day was done and it was time to kick back.
Describe the Steam Whistle experience.
We hire people who are as enthusiastic about working at the brewery as we are. We call them the “Good Beer Folks.” When visitors stop by for a tour, they go through most of the building including our head office, see the brewery, sample our craft beer and learn about the history of the old roundhouse right under the CN Tower.
What’s your edge over the competition?
At Steam Whistle, we brew one beer. We do one thing really, really well.
Advice to anyone dreaming of starting a brewery?
Go for it! Why not? There’s plenty of room for more craft beer. Across the country, craft brewed beer only represents five per cent of the beer sold. If people are dreaming of starting a brewery, they should chase it. It’s a dream we managed to make work.
Greg’s Guide to Craft Beer Trips
Thunder Bay, Ont.
“North of Lake Superior, you’ll find warm-hearted beer enthusiasts at Sleeping Giant Brewing Company. Try their new barrel-aged beers, Organic Blue Agave Tequila and Kentucky Bourbon.”
Halifax, Nova Scotia
“Craft beer is on fire in Halifax. The folks at Good Robot Brewing Company are making tasty beers with a new taproom, and Propeller Brewing Company is dispensing beer knowledge and a wide offering of brews at its growler station.”
Hood River, Oregon
“Home to Full Sail Brewing Company, one of the early entrants in North American craft, Hood River has a robust beer scene for a town of about 7,400 people. Other small producers include Solera Brewery and Pfriem Family Brewers.”
“Too many breweries to name here, and they’re all so good. Order a charcuterie board with your beers at Main Street Brewing Company. And enjoy sampling all that’s on offer at Brassneck Brewery’s tasting room.”