The Nova Scotia Craft Beer & Drink Guide
Halifax Magazine’s third annual beer guide offers your taste buds a tour of the province featuring beer, cider, wine, and spirits enough to prove Nova Scotia knows how to make alcohol. (Yes, we know that spirits and wine aren’t beer; sometimes it’s fun to broaden one’s horizons). You’ll find new beers for September, young breweries to seek out, and learn a little bit about this growing industry along the way.
NEW BREWS FOR FALL
As the city fills with students, so too do the kegs fill with new beers to help us celebrate Halifax’s favourite season.
Cahoots (tart saison)
Tatamagouche Brewing Co. | Tatamagouche, N.S. | 6.2% |
“We were trying to create a beer with some wine character and then use the Nelson Sauvin hops to really drive that flavour,” says co-owner Matt Kenny. Expect this blend of a four-month-old saison and 16-month-old saison to be tart and dry. The dry hopping will leave it with plenty of aroma and the Brett (a yeast known to beer aficionados for its barnyard aroma) will lend funky flavours.
Kiwi Passionfruit Sour (kettle sour)
Breton Brewing Co. | Coxheath, N.S. | 4% |
The third brew in the Sour Sessions series, which Haligonians have to visit the brewery to try, features kiwi and passionfruit. Brewer and co-owner Andrew Morrow says it “will pour a golden colour with a notable sour taste that will complement the kiwi and passionfruit undertones in the finish. A refreshing crisp sour beer.”
Axe Cutter (rye IPA)
Bad Apple Brewhouse | Somerset, N.S. | 6.2%|
This brew will feature a “pleasant, spicy finish that disappears into a soft bouquet of stone fruit,” says brewer/owner Jeff Saunders. You can find it at Bad Apple’s new location in Wolfville (3 Elm Street, behind the Library Pub). Opening day is Labour Day Weekend, and the space will feature a retail area and tasting room. Plus, Saunders is saying goodbye to growlers. “The local breweries only fill their own growlers so we’re bypassing that structure and providing an affordable yet functional package,” says Saunders. He’s nicknamed the two-litre clear plastic bottles “bottle rockets.” The bottles will be in paper bags with the brewery’s logo for branding, and to protect your beer from light.
Perfect Situation (NEIPA)
2 Crows Brewing Co. | Halifax | 5.6% |
This New England IPA brings so many hops to your glass that I suspect a spoon would stand up in it. It’s also double dry-hopped with Idaho 7 and Vic Secret for what should be a beer with hugely tropical aroma and flavour that feels soft in your mouth. Watch for it at the brewery Sept. 7.
ONES TO WATCH
These new breweries are making their first appearances in our beer recommendations. Seek them out for other offerings you may have missed.
Out of the Gate (blond weizen)
The Harbour Brewing Company | Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S. | 5% |
This was my favourite of Harbour Brewing’s initial releases. It’s crisp and fruity, with a lightly sweet aroma. It drinks like a light session beer but pulls its weight, so don’t keep the whole growler to yourself.
Court House Coffee Stout
Annapolis Brewing Co. | Annapolis Royal, N.S. | 6.3% |
Annapolis Royal is changing, says brewer and co-owner Paul St Laurent. “It used to be people would come here and it was art gallery, art gallery, art gallery. Now the town is going through a bit of a revival.” He cites breweries and new restaurants like Founder’s House as part of the change. This stout offers smooth hints of vanilla, coffee and chocolate, alongside eight malts that give it a dark, smooth body. Watch for it in mid-September.
Coat of Arms (Scottish export ale)
New Scotland Brewing | Dartmouth, N.S. | 5% |
Dartmouth’s newest brewery offering is brought to you by some familiar faces. Brother Kevin and Scott Saccary founded New Scotland Clothing in 2014. This summer they, with business partner-brewer Mike Gillespie, opened the Alderney Drive brewery and tap room. This on-brand ale features local malts and a smooth flavour.
If your friends don’t like beer you have two choices: find better friends or turn them on to cider.
Haskap (wild apple cider)
Sourwood Cider | Halifax | 6.3% |
New on the scene this spring, this two-man operation has largely flown under the radar. Jake Foley and Kyle O’Rourke focus on aged and wild ciders to add a new depth to the local market. In September, find them at their new Cornwallis Street location. This cider is aged in oak barrels on haskap berries. The naturally occurring yeasts on the berries fire up a second round of funky, wild, and unpredictable fermentation. As a result, Foley says it’s damn near impossible to replicate a batch, so each one you try will be unique.
Maritime Express Cider | Kentville, N.S. | 4.5% |
According to cider maker and co-owner Jimi Doidge this semi-sweet cider will be juicy with lots of apple flavour, smooth with slight carbonation, and very easy-drinking. This cidery will be worth the wait when it opens in October. The tap room is located inside a historic former luxury hotel owned by the Dominion Atlantic Railway.
Malagash Cidery | Malagash, N.S. | 7% |
A cidery on a first-generation family farm grows copious heritage apple varieties, pears, plums and small fruit along the Northumberland Strait. This honey-infused cider is made from a mix of over 30 apples (many heritage varieties) grown on-site. It’s lightly sweet and highly bubbly.
Boar’s Back Cider | Harmony, N.S. | 6.2% |
This aged cider offers a history lesson in traditional cider making. Fresh apples are pressed using a traditional rack and cloth press. The juice is stored in oak barrels, in a cold fermentation shed for months, and bottled with a small amount of sugar to allow further fermentation and natural bottle carbonation. This sparkling cider features a blend of ciders from three different barrels: Russet, McIntosh, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Northern Spy, Rhode Island Greening. Find it at Bishop’s Cellar while you can.
WHAT THE BREWERS DRINK
Sometimes the best beer is one a friend recommends. Here are four options that Nova Scotia Craft Brewers think you should try now.
First Cut IPA
Lunn’s Mill Beer Co. | Lawrencetown, N.S. | 5.5% |
“My current favourite,” says Emily Tipton, co-owner of Boxing Rock Brewing and president of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia. “Super fresh and delicious, well balanced, and refreshing.” This pale, slightly hazy and hop-forward beer appears on tap in Halifax from time to time. Catch it if you can.
Pucker Up (kettle sour)
Garrison Brewing | Halifax | 4.9% |
“It’s crafted with the utmost attention to detail to bring a plethora of flavours together to create a unique sour ale,” says Andrew Morrow, co-owner of Breton Brewing Co. This beer gets its pink hue and puckeringly tart flavour from pomegranate, hibiscus, rose hips, and cranberry. Sip this seasonal while it lasts.
Alloy (Champagne IPA)
North Brewing Company | Halifax | 6% |
If you grow weary of hoppy, hazy New England-style IPAs, Lucas Mader, retail beer manager at Bishop’s Cellar, has the antidote: “It’s a new style of IPA emerging, where an enzyme is added after fermentation that eats up every last bit of remaining sugar, giving a very light and crisp mouthfeel. IPAs can lean on the sweeter side sometimes, so this is a refreshing alternative.”
Nieforth Original Cider
Lake City Cider | Dartmouth, N.S. | 6.8% |
“Right now, I’ve got a 750-ml bottle of Lake City Nieforth Original in the fridge,” says Brian Titus, owner of Garrison Brewing. “For a producer that just opened its doors, this is a remarkably clean, crisp and balanced cider with just a touch of sweetness. Nice change from all the great local craft beer I have access to.”
THE HARD STUFF
It hurts to write this, but sometimes you just don’t feel like drinking beer. For those rare occasions, Nova Scotia produces an array of spirits. Try these favourites.
Compass Distillers | Halifax
Called “wild” for the hand harvesting of the Nova Scotia juniper picked along the coast. This small batch gin is sweet with a hint of pine and a juniper aroma. It won gold at the New York International Spirits Competition, double gold at the Denver International Spirits Competition and silver at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
JD Shore Black Rum
Halifax Distilling Co. | Halifax
A favourite at the downtown distillery’s house bar, this black rum is rich and dark with notes of burnt sugar and molasses. It’s distilled in Halifax, and then blended with Caribbean Rum. Try it with Propeller Brewing’s ginger beer for an extra dose of Halifax.
Homemade Apple Pie Liquor
Cold Stream Clear | Stewiacke, N.S.
This liquor combines vodka made with 100% Canadian grains and local spring water, plus Nova Scotian apples. It’s lightly spiced and then sweetened for the pie-in-a-bottle flavour. Find a recipe for the Spiced Apple Martini on the distillery’s website.
Before Nova Scotia was awash with craft beer, there was a fast-growing wine scene. We asked Heather Rankin, sommelier and co-owner of Obladee Wine Bar, Jenny Gammon, sommelier and brand, communications and event manager at Bishop’s Cellar, to share their favourites.
Blomidon Cuvée L’Acadie (2012, sparkling)
Blomidon Estate Winery | Habitant, N.S.
This boutique winery in the Annapolis Valley produces 100% Nova Scotian grapes and wines. “This one is a bit more austere than their softer-styled Crémant with classic citrus and pear aromatics, some rich toasty notes and a fine but lively bubble,” says Rankin. Pair with fresh Atlantic haddock.
Old Bill (2016)
Luckett Vineyards | Wolfville, N.S.
Renamed from Black Cab after a trademark dispute, this wine retains its bold flavours, if not it’s witty label featuring a taxi. “This is one of the boldest and fully bodied reds I’ve had from our region,” says Gammon. The grapes are dried before the wine is made, creating a concentrated and spicy flavour.
Small Lot Cabernet Franc Rosé (2017, small lot)
Benjamin Bridge | Gaspereau, N.S.
“A wild-fermented natural wine with no added sulphites and no filtering,” says Rankin. “Fruity, herbaceous, and floral on the nose with a surprisingly weighty palate of fresh herb, black cherry, rock salt, and a brisk, clean acidity.” Serve chilled on a patio for best results.
Bubbly Rosé (2018, sparkling)
Lightfoot and Wolfville | Wolfville, N.S.
“People think of rosé as a summer wine, but it works so well with fall harvest foods,” Gammon says. Several types of locally grown grapes are fermented separately and then blended to reach a fruity, floral, and highly aromatic final product. Brilliant pink with fine bubbles.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.