For some, midlife changes involve buying a Harley-Davidson or hiring a personal trainer. For the Murphys, it meant hitting the bottle to open a baseball-themed brewery.
Since they first met at Brock University 13 years ago, Mark and Mandie Murphy have dreamed of opening a business together—like a bed and breakfast, or a bakery.
But when Mark realized that success could be found in the beer industry, he applied to Niagara College’s brewing program. He decided to wait until he had mailed the paperwork before telling his wife of his plan to quit his full-time job as a chartered accountant. “That’s crazy” and “You can’t do that!” is what she said upon finding out.
It didn’t take Mandie long to warm to the idea, though: As Mark was busy studying beermaking in Niagara, she took a marketing job with Canada’s largest winemaker, Constellation Brands, to learn the ins and outs of the beverage industry.
It’s her marketing savvy, combined with the couple’s shared love of America’s favourite game, that has resulted in Left Field, a baseball-themed brewery.
“If there’s any sport out there that lends itself to beer, it’s baseball,” Mandie says. “The pace of the sport is so slow, so it’s perfect for drinking. Plus, with the game’s rich history, there are a ton of pun options for beer names.”
Since launching last April, the Left Field folks have been working out of bigger craft outfits like Grand River in Cambridge and Picton’s Barley Days Brewery, pumping out their creamy Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale and 6-4-3 Double IPA—a lush brew that packs citrusy aromas and a caramel backbone. Earlier this month, Mark and Mandie signed the lease on a new space at 36 Wagstaff Dr. in the city’s east end, which they plan to turn into a stand-alone brewery and tasting room by early 2015.
On Jan. 25, the couple will be pouring their brews at Steam Whistle’s Winter Craft Beer Festival, which, coincidentally, has a nice view of Toronto’s baseball Mecca, the Rogers Centre. Moving in on Molson Coors’ exclusive beer-supply contract with the venue might seem like a field of dreams for most tiny breweries, but for the Murphys, it’s just another goal.
“Fans will go on the road to Cleveland to see the Jays play, then geek out at the best breweries,” says Mark. “We hope to be a stop, too, one day.” Sounds like a home run to us.
Steam Whistle’s Winter Craft Beer Festival takes place Jan. 25 at the Roundhouse, 255 Bremner Blvd., 416-362-2337, steamwhistle.ca.