Inside story on Creemore Brewery captured

By JT McVeigh, The Enterprise-Bulletin

There a lot of municipalities in Ontario that have been shaped by one industry, but precious few have had one company change the fortunes of a town as much as Creemore Springs Brewery.

Beginning in the ‘80’s, the little brewery that could, did and the history and the myth about the brew just keeps building.

A film created by Aiken Scherberger, Creemore Springs: The Inside Story, being premiered Thursday evening at the Simcoe Street Theatre takes you to a boardroom conversation with how the Brewery came to be with the people who helped create this brewing phenomenon in small town Ontario.

Founder of the brewery, John Wiggins got in the beer business because of circumstance.

Hosting a successful marketing and design business, the Town of Collingwood logo is one of his designs, that career was cut short by severe rheumatoid arthritis in his hands and he had to come up with some other means of earning a living.

There were a couple of microbreweries in Toronto at the time and he didn’t fancy trying to launch anything were the costs and the competition would be too large but the popularity of microbrews as a business was still in its infancy.

Now more than 60 breweries are members of the provincial craft beer association.

Wiggins, remembers thinking at the time that the world doesn’t need another brewery, just a better one and with that in mind set off to create one.

“The good thing about the film is that it is a good piece from an entrepreneur’s standpoint to see what the ideas were that made the thing work,” says Wiggins from his Collingwood home. “It reflects as well that there was a concept that there was a philosophy which they carry on and I’m very grateful, because I was afraid that when Molsons took it over we would lose that.”

Creemore in the 1980’s was somewhat in decline, there wasn’t much if any local industry and the main street had more store fronts closed then open.

Wiggins choose the main street as the canvas for this brewery.

As the film shows, first getting good people on board as well as being able to market economically was the biggest challenge.

“I came to the conclusion that you had to look at it as guerilla warfare, don’t do it like the other guys were,” says Wiggins. “At first the only bottles we could get were pop bottles, 750 ml, and I thought that was distinctively different so that’s what we used. It was always a matter of trying to find the edge.”

Early days brought a number of innovations, a newsletter about the comings and goings of the brewery and the town on hand for pub visitors, which in the days of social media brought the myth of Creemore to life.

Convincing bars that they wanted to stock Creemore brought another problem. Who needs another beer said Wiggins. Instead of talking to the bar owners first though, Wiggins would seek out the chef, the one who Wiggins thought probably had a better sense of taste, who then would help convince the owner.

“That worked surprisingly well,” says Wiggins.

The film brings together the major players in the formation of Creemore Springs, from partners, to the initial brew consultant and brewmaster, to department heads who are still with the company.

This was at the time, one of the few companies that made all of their employees ambassadors and who were made to feel that they were integral to success of the brewery, and attitude that still prevails.

“It’s a good presentation and it does give a good sense of some of the trials and tribulations and it gives a good indication of what made the place run,” says Wiggins. “They (Creemore Springs) realized that they should have something historical in place because I am going to kick off one of these days so you might as well do it while I’m still around.”

The filmmaker and Creemore Springs is hosting a public screening and beer tasting at the Simcoe St. Theatre on Thursday, September 22. Tickets, $15, are available at Theatre Collingwood, a reception then screening begins at 6:30.

 

 



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