The Dog-Friendly Brewpub with Mascot Wrigley
By The Get Leashed Doggy Style Team
While here in Toronto, we cannot enjoy dog-friendly dining in the same casual way as our Californian and New Yorker friends, we can go out to the brewery for a pint with our furry sidekicks. One of these brewpubs is the east end’s Left Field Brewery. They love dogs so much, they even have a Basset Hound mascot, Wrigley, who has a brew named after him. We spent an afternoon with Mandie Murphy, who, along with her business partner and husband, founded Left Field. Read on to discover why beer, baseball, and dogs are a winning combo.
Please tell us a bit about yourself, how your love of beer and baseball became a business, and what a typical day at the brewery is like:
My background is in Marketing, having worked on big brands for years in very corporate environments, I was looking to make a change and had long known that I wanted to work for myself. My husband and business partner Mark, is a Chartered Accountant and made the decision one day while travelling on an audit in rural Alberta to leave his job to become a brewer. He enrolled in the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management diploma program at Niagara College. Together, we combined our backgrounds to start the Left Field Brewery.
We started home brewing, networking and falling deeper in love with craft beer. Beer can be so much more than what most people think it is. We became obsessed with dark ales, bold and hoppy IPAs, sour beers, farmhouse styles and so many more as we got more and more into it. I admittedly didn’t even like beer until I started exploring more flavorful, craft beers. I can now return to a light lager an enjoy it in circumstances, but it’s almost never my first choice.
We launched the brewery in 2013 as a contract brewery, meaning that we brewed our beer in other small breweries. By 2015, we had opened our own place at 36 Wagstaff Drive and now exclusively brew all of our own beers. Craft beer is possibly the most fun, welcoming industry you’ll ever find.
The baseball angle is a passion of ours. Whenever we have the chance, we visit ballparks throughout the US. We both played ball growing up and still do today. I like to keep score at the games with my score book and a pencil. The baseball theme also helps to inspire a never-ending supply of great beer names with rich brand stories.
There is no typical day at the brewery. The demands are constantly shifting and as much as you may think you know what’s in store for you any given day, the priorities will almost always change. I look after business planning, sales, marketing, retail operations, human resources and production scheduling and purchasing. We have a Tap Room and Bottle Shop that is open to the public from 11am – 9pm every day. Most of our customers are local neighborhood residents and most of them come in with dogs or babies or both. I often joke that it’s Leslieville Law for residents to have children or a dog. It’s a super casual place where we try very hard to make everyone feel welcome. During baseball season, we play the games with full audio and it gets very passionate!
Please tell us a bit about Wrigley. How did he come into your life and how did he become the Left Field mascot?
This has got to be one of the greatest perks of running your own business. Knowing that a new puppy would be able to be at work with us through the puppy stages, snooze in the office all day and greet guests in the afternoons and evenings in the tap room, it felt like the right time to bring a dog into our lives again (we had a beagle-basset cross named Spice years before). In the early days, we found ourselves chained to our desk and to the office a LOT, and getting a dog seemed like a good way to get us out, walking and breathing in some fresh air a little more often.
What drew you to the Basset Hound breed?
Mark and I have always had a soft spot for the breed. I melt every time I see one to the point of some ridiculousness. My eyes tear up and I start talking in a high pitched voice. For us, it just had to be a Basset Hound. They are lazy, gentle, affectionate, very social and they have such a unique look.
How would you describe the brewery vibe and style?
Casual, relaxed and easy going. We are warm, friendly and inviting. No matter how much or how little you know about beer, you should feel equally as comfortable in our place, talking to our people. Having so many dogs and babies visit with our customers really helps prevent the place feeling like a sports bar or pub. We aspire for the Tap Room to be a community hub, where everyone is welcome.
What are some of the beers you’re currently featuring? We hear that Wrigley has his own special brew!
Wrigley indeed does have his own brew. It’s an Oat Pale Ale and it won the Gold Medal in the North American Pale Ale category at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2016. In 2016, we donated a portion of the proceeds from the two batches of this beer to improvements at our local dog park, the Greenwood Dog Park. This year, we brewed one batch in the spring and are donating we’re donating a portion of the proceeds from that batch to Save Our Scruff, a local rescue organization.
In addition to Wrigley, you can find other baseball-inspired beers available in the line-up including Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale, Maris* Pale Ale, Sunlight Park Grapefruit Saison, Squeeze Play Cherry Lime Sour Ale, Laser Show Vermont Style IIPA and Cannonball Helles Lager.
Has the brewery always been dog-friendly?
Yes, we have since day one.
What can a dog owner expect when visiting Left Field?
A friendly smile, other neighborhood dogs, families and babies, treats behind the counter for dogs who sit nicely and a water bowl at the front door.
Finally, can you leave us with a funny story about Wrigley?
He’s bit of a clumsy guy and really struggled with stairs for the first year or so. Tripping over his ears as a puppy was pretty hilarious, but he’s (mostly) grown out of that. This sort of faceplant was pretty typical for him whenever stairs were involved.
We grow hops in our backyard. They’re an ingredient that’s used in brewing for bitterness, flavor and aroma. The vines grow up to 30 or 40 feet in the air and at the ground, can be quite dense toward the end of the growing season. As a puppy, Wrigley got himself tangled in the hop vines on more than one occasion and we had to cut the vines to free him.
He’s almost 2 years old now and is a little less clumsy. He’s a sucker for tissues, paper and garbage and takes any opportunity he gets when we leave the office to get in to our paperwork or trash bins. In recent months, Wrigley has most notably eaten; the weekly bank deposit, my birth certificate, post-it notes, keg tags, mail, expense receipts and important printed documents off my desk.