Just across the street from Canada sits Soo Brewing Company.
The last exit off I-75 before crossing the border leads to this quaint brewery on the western edge of downtown Sault Ste. Marie. Although it’s only been open for three years, the brewery’s name extends much farther back than that.
“There was an original Soo Brewing Company,” Soo Brewing Company owner Ray Bauer said. “They ran from about 1901 to 1907 as Arnold Brewing Company, then from ’07 to 1948 as Soo Brewing Company other than, of course, during Prohibition. They closed down in 1948, so the name was readily available for me to pick up when I incorporated in 2009. We opened our doors in 2011, so we’ll be celebrating our third anniversary coming up in just a few short weeks.”
Bauer had been a home brewer for 20 years before opening the brewery’s doors and received a little help while transitioning to a larger brewing system.
Bauer said, “Jeff Williams and Jake Brenner were at the time brewing for Hopcat, and they ran with a system and still do, just like the one that you see in the background here made by ABT; it’s a three and a half barrel system. So I actually brewed with them at Hopcat a couple of times, and then Jake and Jeff came up here and literally slept in this place the night before on grain bags. We didn’t have any furniture, so they put the grain bags down and slept on top of them, and the next day we brewed our very first batch of beer here.”
Since then, Bauer has brewed 79 different recipes, eight of which are his big sellers with several other seasonals rotating on and off tap.
“Half the beer we sell has been eight of those beers,” Bauer said, “with 70, 71 other recipes making up the other 50 percent.”
And then there’s The Legend.
“The minute it turns 70 degrees, we close down the brewery; we stop working and have a party at an offsite location, and at that party, we break out The Legend, which happens to be the single best beer we brew,” Bauer said.
It’s a Dortmunder Export-style lager and it’s the final beer Bauer brews in the calendar year. That means that when the first 70-degree day comes, it’s been at least five months in the making.
“Then, when the keg is kicked, we come back to the brewery, open for business (and) sell The Legend, but we don’t allow consumption in the pub on that day until the sun goes down and it cools off because this is a beer that is absolutely, positively meant to be enjoyed on your deck, at your barbecue, wherever you want to take it, but outside,” Bauer said. “We are not going to let you waste a day as beautiful as that, one that we haven’t had in six months in here.”
And even though people want Soo Brewing to distribute in cans or bottles, Bauer has no plans for such an expansion.
Bauer said, “I love coming to work and I love brewing. I brew several times a week and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet and I don’t think I ever will, because this is what I did on my day off for many, many years before I ever became a brewer, so this was my hobby to begin with. When you get to that level, it kind of ceases to become a hobby.”
Bauer instead bought a property up the road from Soo Brewing and plans to open a second taproom called Lockside, which will allow him to brew the same amount of beer but serve a larger customer base.