If you spent any of your twenties (or earlier) in the city of London, Ontario, it’s pretty likely that you had at least an evening or two at Jim Bob Ray’s, a bar that has long been a staple of The Forest City’s student nightlife scene.
Indeed, if you went to the University of Western Ontario (I will not indulge my alma mater’s rebrand as *shudder* “Western”), your feelings about Jim Bob’s arguably shaped your approach to London’s nightlife. It was either “We’re going to fucking Jim Bob’s?” *groan* or “We’re going to fucking Jim Bob’s!” *fist pump, shotgun a beer*
Now, however, regardless of how you may feel about the (in)famous spot at 585 Richmond Street, the days of Jim Bob’s reputation as the quintessential London university drinking experience are numbered: Very soon the place will cease being “Jim Bob Ray’s” and will become Toboggan Brewing Co.
Opened in October of 1993 by Mike Smith, a longtime veteran of London’s bar and restaurant scene, Jim Bob’s has actually already begun its slow makeover to a craft brew pub. Full disclosure: Mr. Smith is a longtime friend of my family’s. Mike spent Christmas eves at my house when I was a kid, my dad actually “worked” at an establishment he owns as something of a post-retirement lark, and a picture of me at age 12 is even hanging among the many that adorn the walls of one of his bars, the London institution, Joe Kool’s.
Personal connection aside, I find Smith’s plan to turn Jim Bob’s into a brewery fascinating for a number of reasons; not the least of which is that I think the success or failure of the move will serve as a perfect litmus test for the current state of Ontario’s craft beer scene. Continue reading “Toboggan Brewing Co: Mr. Smith’s Interesting Experiment”