Over the last eight weeks, Jack Astor's has invited their customers to "have a fling" with craft beer. The idea is that Jack's drinkers are faithfully married to a national brand and would never leave (think of the kids), but they might want to branch out a bit. The chain of over three dozen bars brought in four craft beer options and created a menu to go with them.
Muskoka Cream Ale and Mill Street Organic (or Tankhouse in some locations) represented the lighter end of the spectrum, Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion PA was there for the hop heads, and Granville Island's Lions Winter Ale covered the winter seasonal base.
Todd Baril, Jack Astor's Beverage Director tells me they chose the four featured bottles based on availability in a bottle, representation from local breweries, and checking the necessary style boxes. A short list of 20 options was narrowed down to the eventual four with a blind taste test at their corporate head office.
Given that some locations saw up to 40% of their bottle sales switch to the featured craft options, I'm not surprised that the chain plans to increase their emphasis on craft beer. This week, Jack Astor's locations across Ontario will be rolling out a new menu. In many places this will include an update to the draft list with options from Mill Street and Muskoka in Toronto and Beau's and Naughty Otter in points east of here.
It will be interesting to see how larger chains of restaurant — especially the ones like Jack Astor's that lean toward the sports bar — handle the introduction of craft beer to their menus.