Schoolhouse Brewery is in for summer

Photo: Schoolhouse Brewery Facebook page

Schoolhouse Brewery will officially graduate from the basement of a former two-room schoolhouse in Falmouth, N.S. to a 3,000L brewing system next week. The new Windsor, N.S. brewery opened to the public in April, but the Schoolhouse team will host a graduation party on June 17 to celebrate officially.
Class is in at 11 a.m at 40 Water Street. Nippers British Fish and Chips food truck will be there, and behind the brewery you’ll discover a beer garden, washer toss sets, and what Hartley believes to be the province’s largest, and perhaps only, competitive four-square tournament. All daytime events are free.
The after party starts at 7:30 p.m., featuring live music by local acts the Basin Brother and Tony Wood Trio. The evening portion of the event is ticketed; for $15 attendees will receive a stainless steel grad cup to take home.
All day and evening taps will flow with the breweries six core beers: Principal Ale (pale Ale), Chequers Ale (porter), Scotian Export (Scottish export ale), Staffroom Stout, Big Red Schoolhouse (imperial red ale), and the newest, brewed only once before, Vice Principal (American pale ale).
Hartley shifts into teacher mode when he talks about Vice Principal. It’s the same grain and hop recipe as Principal, but the timing of the hops changes the beer. “I like changing one variable when brewing and seeing what results happen,” he says. “People think your recipe is what makes the beer, but half of it is the recipe and the other half would definitely be your process. There are so many details in the process.”
Schoolhouse opened in 2013, and Hartley says he really feels like he’s graduating as a brewery. “The graduation theme is so appropriate to see where we’ve come from and where we are now,” says owner Cameron Hartley. “It didn’t happen overnight.”
He started with “a ridiculously big home brewing system” inherited from a friend. From there his love for brewing grew into a home-based business and bigger gear. He sold beer at farmers markets and started a growler home delivery service.
“God, we were carrying all of our kegs and bags of grain up and down the stairs,” he says. “My daughter went to sleep to the sound of a fridge compressor going on and off.”
Brewing in the basement of the almost 160-year-old schoolhouse he lived in with his wife and daughter wasn’t ideal, but it was the right move for Hartley.
“It’s be funny seeing other breweries start and get bigger while the whole time I’m still brewing my 150L at a time in the bottom of a school house,” he says. When Hartley started he had neither the time with his teaching job, nor the money to start big. He still teaches and works on the brewery outside of work hours.
“When you have to take your time your decisions are a lot more thought out. I think that’s true with any thing. If you’re trying to design a house in one weekend, you’ll make lots of mistakes. If you do it over three years it’s going to be perfect. It’s the long game.”
Playing the game right worked. His brewery’s footprint grew from 700 square feet and 150 litres in 2013, to 4,000 square feet and a capacity of 3,000 litres this year.
In addition to the on-site taproom and outdoor event area he’s building behind the brewery to host the graduation after party, Hartley saved space to eventually open a small kitchen to serve food to hungry punters.
“You strengths are your local and your community,” he says. “You’re a destination in yourself. There’s always going to be investors who can parachute in and put up the capital to build a big production brewery, a big Montana’s-style restaurant, out price you, and all that stuff. But the feeling of those breweries is really distinctive. It doesn’t have one person’s finger-prints all over everything.”

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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