The opinionated Craft Beer Week guide

Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week is back featuring new events, more brewers and of course, more beer than ever before. Over the last three years this celebration of our province’s beer making prowess has grown, this year it even features its own signature beer.
Our love for beer at Halifax Magazine is well known, but what you might not know is how much Nova Scotian beer contributes to our economy. In 2016, the industry directly employed 400 people across the province, sold $16 million worth of beer, and exported $800,000 worth.
To help you keep contributing to the economy and plan your Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week (NSCBW), we asked the experts—brewery owners and brewers, their staff members, bartenders, beer bloggers, and podcasters—for their advice and what to try and where. Their recommendations include classic local favourites and new start-up breweries across the province.

New beers for NSCBW

One of the best parts of this province-wide event is the bevy of new brews released to celebrate. Find one of these brand-spanking-new beers at an NSCBW event.
Collaboration Ale (Scottish ale)
Nova Scotia Craft Brewers Association members
We can’t imagine the effort it took to get 30+ brewers to pick a style. But they did and this sweet, smooth Scottish ale, brewed at Nine Locks, is the result. Grab a can fast because it won’t be available after Craft Beer Week.

Halifornia Commons (California common)
Brightwood Brewery / Dartmouth, N.S.
“Matt’s been dreaming and tinkering with this one for a while,” says Brightwood co-owner/ co-brewer Ian Lawson. “We’re aiming for the floral and fruity notes of the single New Zealand hop to really pop with a solid Horton ridge malt backbone.”
Smackwater Jack (farmhouse ale)
2 Crows Brewing /Halifax
Head brewer Jeremy Taylor says he’s excited to launch this farmhouse ale conditioned on locally-grown quince. “It is super lemony, bright, and funky,” he says. Watch for other small-batch releases at the 2 Crows tap room during NSCBW.

XPA #2 (IPA)
Lunn’s Mill Beer Co. / Lawrencetown, N.S.
“We’re planning to release our second experimental IPA, creatively entitled ‘XPA #2’ for the moment,” says Mark Reid, brewer and co-owner. “Where XPA #1 was focused almost entirely on the hops, this version is more malt-balanced, darker in colour, and features a more robust body.”
Blonde Ale
Sober Island Brewing Co. / Sober Island, N.S.
This easy drinking brew is the latest addition to Sober Island’s core line-up, and the first brewed on its new 820-litre system installed in March. It’s low on hops and easy to drink, but still has plenty of character.

Welcome (back) wagon

Few things make a beer enthusiast’s heart sing like the re-release of a much loved seasonal. Don’t miss your opportunity.
The Silver Tart (sour wheat beer)
Big Spruce Brewing / Nyanza, N.S.
Based on a recipe found in Alexander Graham Bell’s notes and named for his famed airplane, this beer first hit shelves in spring 2015. Pucker up: this kettle-soured wheat is aged on raspberries for an extra-tart finish.
Seaport Blonde
Garrison Brewing / Halifax
Seaport Blonde will look a little different when she comes out of hibernation this year in a four pack of cans. This ale pours straw-gold and light, and is a quaffable 4% ABV with 8 IBUs.
Brew-Deau (cream ale)
Trider’s Craft Beer / Amherst, N.S.
The first run of this beer sold fast, so we’re happy to see it back. It’s a smooth sipper that brings a low hop profile and high carbonation. Plus it’s extra patriotic with PMJT looking slick in a pair of shades on the label.

Cellar Slammer (India session ale)
Tatamagouche Brewing Co. / Tatamagouche, N.S.
This collaboration beer with Bishop’s Cellar sold quickly last summer, likely because of how well it paired with lawn mowing and lazy Saturdays. Watch for fresh citrus and hop notes. Find it at the Tata tap takeover at Bishop’s Cellar.
Unobtainium Intrepid Amber Ale
Boxing Rock Brewing Co. / Shelburne, N.S.
A dark red beer with a rich malty soul. This beer is heavily dry-hopped with five hops, so it packs a flavourful punch and a unique profile.

Local favourites

Over a dozen brewpubs and breweries call Halifax home, so it hard to pick favourites. But we asked N.S. craft brewers to try.
Nine Locks Brewing / Dartmouth, N.S.
“I’m a huge fan,” says Trider’s Craft Beer co-owner Scott Parker. “I had a few too many at Good Robot not long ago and didn’t want to switch to anything else! Gold in colour, white head, fruity aroma, and flavour followed by a great hop balance and dry finish.”
Priority Pale Ale
North Brewing Company / Halifax
Anthony Wight of the 902 Brewcast, Halifax’s craft-beer podcast, prefaces his answer with a question: “Right now?” He says this beer “has a really enticing aroma and is nicely, but not overly, hoppy on the finish.”
Honey Lavender (strong ale)
Garrison Brewing / Halifax
This is an all-time favourite for Alan and Brenda Bailey, owners of Meander River Farm and Brewery, which grows the lavender. It’s strong at 6.2% ABV, but sweet upfront thanks to honey from GG Smeltzer & Son in Shubenacadie.
British IPA
Sober Island Brewing Co. / Sober Island, N.S.
“Sober Island is consistently producing quality beers,” says Cameron Hartley, brewer and owner of Schoolhouse Brewery. “I find [this] a nice change from West Coast IPAs: the malt and hops are well balanced, the body isn’t too heavy, and it has a nice aroma to it.”
Pollyanna Wild Northeast IPA
2 Crows Brewing / Halifax
This was the beer most named by the brewers we surveyed. “It’s hoppy and tangy, has a nice complexity,” says Mark Reid of Lunn’s Mill Beer Co. “The fact they used a wild strain of yeast instead of a commercial strain just adds the icing on the cake for me,” says Hartley.

Get out of town

Travel this province and you’ll find gems in unexpected places. Take a day trip (with a designated driver) or make a weekend out of it, and try some of these recommended brews.
Uncle Leo’s Brewery / Lyon’s Brook, N.S.
“A great beer balancing malt and bitterness from the hop character, very drinkable,” says Tatamagouche Brewing Co. co-owner Christiane Jost. It took home a silver Atlantic Canadian Brewing Award in 2015 and gold in 2016.
Black Angus (IPA)
Breton Brewing / Sydney, N.S.
“It is quite a nicely balanced IPA,” says Tidehouse Brewing head brewer and co-owner Peter Lionais, who is also from Sydney. “I really enjoy that it is not overly bitter and the hops flavours are not too aggressive. A really pleasant brew when you want a bit of hoppiness.”
Deadeye DIPA (Imperial IPA)
Tatamagouche Brewing Co. / Tatamagouche, N.S.
“This is one of favorites by far,” says Kellye Robertson, Spindrift Brewing Co.’s brewmaster. “It’s got a great balance of light grainy sweetness to fresh citrus and tropical fruit. For the IPA lovers, this is a must try, when you can get your hands on it.”
Mosaic (double IPA)
Bad Apple Brewhouse / Somerset, N.S.
What’s your favourite beer brewed outside of Halifax is a question that pains Maritime Beer Report blogger Todd Beal. “Leaving HRM it gets even harder to pick one,” he says before settling on Mosaic. “Brewed using mostly Mosaic hops, this beer it has a floral and fruity character.” Proceeds from this beer help send kids to camp and fund community projects for families affected by Down syndrome.
Over the Top (sour wheat beer)
Boxing Rock Brewing Co. / Shelburne, N.S.
“I was very impressed with this beer. It is a very well balanced sour ale, with notes of cranberries,” says Jeremy Fehr, brewer at Saltbox Brewery in Mahone Bay. Boxing Rock collaborated with former Gahan House Harbourfront brewmaster Karen Allen, on this sour mash beer.

Perfect pair

Craft beer pairs well with any food–you just have to find the right style.
Propeller Brewing / Halifax
Kyle Jeppsen, brewmaster at Gahan House Harbourside, offered the most Halifax suggestion: Propeller Pilsner and Alexandra’s Canadian Classic Pizza. This Bohemia-style lager delivers a crisp mouthfeel and a bitter finish that compliments salt bacon and pepperoni.
Bitter Get’er India
Big Spruce Brewing / Nyanza, N.S.
“Grab a glass of that with a double diner burger and you got a right-on pairing,” says Peter Lionais, co-owner of Tidehouse Brewing. “The darker malt flavours match up with the grilled patties while the hop bitterness of this black IPA makes an excellent palate cleanser against the rich mushroom duxelle and the cheese on the burger.”
Riptide (India pale lager)
Spindrift Brewing Co. / Dartmouth, N.S.
“I love heading out to Eastern Passage on a rainy day and picking up oysters and lobster from Wayne’s World, it seems like the quintessential N.S. experience,” says Jeremy Taylor of
2 Crows Brewing. “The briny sweetness of the oysters is cut by the crispness and hoppy bite of the IPL. Simple, no guff, clean, and fresh.”
Rock Your Boat Stout
FirkinStein Brewing / Mount Pleasant, N.S.
“I had this with some homemade ribs the other day, and it was delicious,” says Lucas Mader, a Cicerone Certified Beer Server on the Bishop’s Cellar retail team. This smooth oatmeal stout featuring Laughing Whale coffee is hard to find, but well worth the hunt.
Keefe’s Irish Stout
Granite Brewing / Halifax
Kellye Robertson, brewmaster at Spindrift Brewing Co. suggests pairing this classic with N.S. smoked salmon. “The smoky characteristic of the salmon lends so well to the roasty and smoky qualities of this fantastic stout,” she says. “It may sound like an odd pairing, but if you’re a fan of both on their own it worth exploring the pairing.”

You’re new around here

Your friends are up to their eyes in hops, but you don’t know where to start. Don’t worry! Even these brewers once tried their first craft beer. Here’s their advice.
“It’s not all hops and malt. Start light, get a taste for it and move forward. There are all kinds of easy drinking ales and lagers out there, Garrison Seaport Blonde or Tall Ship, Tata North Shore, Spindrift Killick, Propeller Pilsner, so you don’t have to be overwhelmed off the top.”
—Jeff Green, sales manager, Garrison Brewing
“I had the pleasure of trying both the Nine Locks Cream Ale and Trider’s Cream Ale this week. Along with our own Henry’s Cream Ale, these are well-crafted yet extremely accessible beers that are a great introduction to what makes N.S. Craft Beer so special.”
—Emily Tipton, founding partner and beer engineer, Boxing Rock Brewing Co.
“It’s super important to just try a range of beer and find out what you do and don’t like about different styles. Start with something easy drinking and crisp like the Killick from Spindrift or the Hunky Dory from Boxing Rock and go from there.”
Anthony Wight, 902 Brewcast co-host
“I’ve lived in and travelled to some of the best North American beer cities, and I can safely say ours is a notch above when it comes to IPAs. If they’re already versed in craft, dive into a big IPA like Bad Apple, Tatamagouche, or Unfiltered. Truly nothing like them anywhere I’ve gone. For a more truly Scotian historical beer, hit Hell Bay (a woefully underrated brewery) or Granite for some English styles. And get them on cask at Stillwell or Henry House.”
—Josh Counsil, co-owner, Good Robot Brewing
“It’s hard to recommend just one beer as craft brewing in Nova Scotia has a lot of different styles on the go. For example, the West Coast IPA, which is still quite popular, is defined by the hop bitterness, whereas a Scottish Export style, like the N.S. Craft Beer Week collaboration brew and our own Scotian Export, is characterized by its malty (sweet) profile. There are sour beers, and beers that have been aged on wood or fruit, each providing different tasting notes like you would find in a wine.”
—Cameron Hartley, founder, Schoolhouse Brewing
CORRECTION: Due to fact-checking errors, the May 2017 print version of this story misspelled Josh Counsil’s name and misstated Lucas Mader’s job. The story above has been corrected. Halifax Magazine regrets the error.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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