A new Corkscrew City Tour will give people a chance to hop aboard “The Beer Bus” to get a taste of Owen Sound's prohibition past and enjoy some local watering holes.
“We describe it as meeting the saints and sinners of yesterday and the brew masters of today in Owen Sound,” Paulette Peirol, the city's tourism marketing co-ordinator, said in an interview.
The first tour was held June 22, but there's three more dates this summer – July 20, Aug. 17 and Sept. 14.
The roughly four-and-a-half-hour tours begin at Grey Roots Museum – although Peirol said people can arrange a pick-up in downtown Owen Sound – where guests can visit the in-house exhibit Saints & Sinners: A Spirited History of Grey County.
The exhibit tells a range of stories, from the wild days of prohibition and secretive bootlegging operations to the successful breweries and distilleries of modern times.
The city has partnered with Collingwood-based The Beer Bus, which offers beer, wine and cider tours in the region, for the Corkscrew City Tour.
The tours are led by Owen Sound historian and author Richard Thomas, who literally wrote the book on the city's prohibition past – Saints & Sinners, The Story of Owen Sound: Canada's Last Dry City.
After Grey Roots, the bus makes a stop at two breweries and other watering holes as well as a former temperance hall in Owen Sound. The tour includes beer tastings, dinner and surprises along the way, Peirol said.
Participants will meet owner and brew master Spencer Wareham, one of the youngest brewery owners in Canada, during a stop at Kilannan Brewing Co.
“The interesting thing about Kilannan is it was the first brewery to open in Owen Sound in over 100 years,” Peirol said.
“The Schwans Brewery was the last one to close and that's when prohibition took effect in about 1906 and Kilannan, of course, opened a few years ago.”
The bus also stops at the 153-year-old former church, now the home of Tone Yoga Studio at 898 1st Ave. W. The building was purchased by the Women's Christian Temperance Union in 1882 and used for many years as its headquarters.
“We have partnered with members of the Roxy Theatre to have a very interesting, immersive theatrical element to the tour,” Peirol said.
The new Mudtown Station in the historic Canadian Pacific train station is also on the tour. At that stop, participants will meet brewmaster Morag Kloeze.
Peirol said the tour will give people an appreciation of why and how temperance came into effect in Owen Sound.
“I think it's important. We don't appreciate necessarily how far we've come,” she said.
“These were women fighting for prohibition at a time when women couldn't even vote. They were literally fighting to keep their families and children in tact. It was the forerunners of the suffrage movement. In Owen Sound, we had the first chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Canada. So we were the birthplace of prohibition.”
The Corkscrew City Tour is part of the broader “Saints & Sinners” trail, which includes 26 producers across Grey, Bruce and Simcoe counties. That tour was launched two years ago as an exhibition and self-guided walk through Owen Sound, touching on historic sites from the prohibition era.
Tickets for the tour are $100 and must be booked in advance by visiting corkscrewcitytour.ca or calling the Beer Bus at 1-705-994-4346.