Take Owen Sound's Corkscrew City Tour

Jul 23, 2018
Owen Sound’s love affair with alcohol is a long and sordid tale and the Corkscrew City Tour aboard The Beer Bus is the perfect way to unravel that history.

The tour begins at Grey Roots Museum and Archives just west of the lights in Rockford. The museum houses a permanent exhibit called Saints and Sinners: A Spirited History of Grey County that details the history of Owen Sound’s relationship with alcohol. From the first stills and breweries to the days of prohibition and the rise of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, tour guide Richard J. Thomas brings those early days to life, stirring up laughs from the crowd. He’s the expert on the subject, being the author of Saints and Sinners: The story of Owen Sound: Canada’s Last Dry City.

There are old photographs of downtown Owen Sound landmarks, and Thomas relates those locations to today’s modern buildings, helping people imagine what those early days were like. After the stage is set by Thomas and the exhibit, everyone boards The Beer Bus to head to the nearby Kilannan Brewery in Rockford.

After a few more tales on the bus from Thomas, we pull into Kilannan. History is thirsty work and it’s time to get a taste of the local brews that Spencer Wareham has been crafting. We meet Wareham—among the youngest brewery owners in Canada—and hear about how he started Kilannan back in 2012. We sample unique brews like Cucumber Kolsch and a Grapefruit Radler, (his selections change with the seasons) as well as tried and true favourites like the Altbier and the Kolsch. After a few samples, Wareham takes us into the production side of the brewery for a tour. He shows us the mash tank and the canning line—his passion for the industry is clear. The brewery is named after his family’s farm, located between the nearby villages of Kilsyth and Annan.

With a few beers in our bellies, we climb back on The Beer Bus, and Thomas pulls out Life Pictures from Rum’s Gallery to regale us with more tales from reformed drinker Thomas Trottier. The language is powerful, reminiscent of a sermon, and sets the tone perfectly for our next stop: the former Temperance Hall.

The doors swing open and we are ushered into another era. We’re joining a meeting of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. We’re lectured on the sins of drinkers and the virtues of saints. We join the women in song. We vow to lead better lives going forward. After the meeting, we’re served tea in fine china with delicious scones from the Milk Maid. It’s in stark contrast to our refreshments at Kilannan, but the actors from The Roxy Theatre have done a fine job of taking us back to the days of prohibition.
We’re back on the bus and driving past some of the historic sites we’ve now heard stories about, such as Salvation Corners and Damnation Corners, and we find ourselves inside one of them – the Seldon House.  Here we get to sample locally brewed cider from Coffin Ridge Winery while hearing songs and poems about Corkscrew City, Mudtown, and Owen Sound’s working class by Larry Jensen and Rob Rolfe, the city’s former poets laureate.

It’s a perfect segue to our final destination: Mudtown Station Brewery & Restaurant —the city’s newest brew pub in the recently restored CPR railway station.
We’re greeted by brewmaster and owner Morag Kloeze, who gives us a guided tour of the heritage building that is drawing crowds who remember those early days in Owen Sound.
We head to the back of the brewery to see where the magic happens. Morag gives us more insight into the brewing process and tells us a bit about the decision to build this brewery in the heart of Mudtown.

After the tour, we’re seated at a long harvest table that provides the perfect atmosphere for conversation and tomfoolery. Flights of beer come fast and furious and we’re all laughing, chatting and enjoying the vibe. Dinner is soon served, with guests praising the juicy burgers.
The tour winds down here at Mudtown Station, but it’s a Friday night and some of the newly named ‘Corkscrewers’ decide to stay behind and make a night of it.
If you’re looking for a blend of history and good times, if you’re looking to decide if you would have been a saint or a sinner back in the day, or if you’re just looking for a unique experience right here in Owen Sound, then the Corkscrew City Tour is for you.
Book your tour online with The Beer Bus at https://thebeerbus.ca/product/corkscrewcity/.
Tours are scheduled for August 17th and September 14th, with limited seating available. More tours are planned for October. Check www.corkscrewcitytour.ca or call 519-376-4440 ext 1245 for info.