The Nova Scotia craft beer guide 2017
NEW BREWS FOR FALL
As summer slows so do beer sales, giving busy brewers a moment to catch their breath and dream up new recipes. Here are five we’re waiting for.
Propeller Brewing Company
Cameron Crerar is hitting his groove as Propeller’s head brewer and bringing plenty of new flavour to the taps. This Germanic brew “is going through an extended maturation to produce the clean lager character with a medium-low bitterness,” he says. Watch for a dry finish with toasted malt overtones.
Sober Island Brewing
Sober Island, N.S.
Starting this fall, Sober Island will release 800-litre batches of beers highlighting an Eastern Shore ingredient. The recipes weren’t confirmed at press time, but owner Rebecca Atkinson says to expect styles outside the brewery’s core English ale line-up. Find it in crowlers at the brewery and on the beer truck at various farmers markets.
NACHTical Illusion (schwarzbier)
Uncle Leo’s Brewery
Lyon’s Brook, N.S.
Expect mild chocolate, coffee, and vanilla notes in this dark German-style lager. Grab this limited-time brew at NSLC between Oct. 2 and Nov. 19 in a four-pack with Uncle Leo’s flagship beers.
Island Time (Munich helles)
For those who worry the session sippers will all disappear with the sun, Island Time offers 4.3% ABV and 14 IBU. Co-brewer and co-owner Bryan MacDonald says this easy drinking lager will feature malty and bready notes.
Tatamagouche Brewing Co.
Hot on the heels of the returning Philomenaroma cherry Berliner Weisse, Tata plans to launch two yet-to-be-named fruit Berliner Weisses before October. Watch for the passion fruit and peach/apricot versions of this sharp and sour beer.
When sweater season returns, a beer-lover’s heart seeks out fresh hops, full-bodied brews, and seasonal favourites.
The Next Chapter (rye IPA)
Boxing Rock Brewing Company
This is one of my favourite seasonal beers. It’s over 30% rye malt for a massive, spicy punch, and generously hopped to create a beer that’s big on flavour.
Rise ‘n’ Stein (hefeweizen)
Garrison Brewing Company
This German-style wheat beer won a gold medal at the 2015 Atlantic Canadian Brewing Awards so we have high hopes for the year-three edition. Expect haze, clove and banana notes, and a persistent cloud of foam.
Promiseland (double IPA)
2 Crows Brewing
Head brewer Jeremy Taylor knocks out so many beers in a month that you can be excused for missing one. This juicy double IPA is dry-hopped with Citra and Simcoe. It made its first appearance in May and promptly sold out. Don’t worry, this time there’s 4,800 litres.
Homegrown (pale ale)
Meander River Farm and Brewery
Keep an eye on this brewery’s Facebook page in early September for the annual invitation to the hop harvest. The fresh hops will go into a brew within 24 hours. Last year’s batch was crisp and refreshing with light citrus hop aroma and flavour, and a mild bitterness.
Portland Street Porter
Complainers be heard! Co-owner and co-brewer Matthew McGrail says customers grumbled about this dark brew being shelved for the summer. It’s on the dessert side of the porter scale, backed up by rich coffee and chocolate notes.
THE GREAT PUMPKIN-BEER DEBATE
Love it or hate it, you can’t escape fall’s bounty of pumpkin beer. For the lovers: expect a mix of classics recipes and novel new entries. Haters: just drink something else.
Kelticdevil Pumpkin Spiced Latte Porter
Coming in at 8% ABV, this creamy, spicy brew is meant for sipping and sharing. But fear not, there will be plenty to share. After running dry prematurely last year, brewery owner Les Barr says he’s making extra this year, and plans to bottle it.
Double Jack (strong dark ale)
Munich and Crystal malts lend this pumpkin beer sweetness, that combined with a liberal dose of spices and Howard Dill’s famous giant pumpkins, create pie in a bottle. Like the pumpkins, this beer is big (8% ABV), so share it around.
Jack’d Up Pumpkin Ale
This easy drinking 5.5% ABV ale bucks the trend of high-alcohol pumpkin beers but doesn’t skimp on taste. The 2016 edition contained over 100lbs of Cape Breton pumpkin and fall spices aplenty.
Smokin’ Jack It
Big Spruce Brewing
This brewery and farm is back this year with its organic house-smoked and squash and pumpkin beer. If that wasn’t enough, it’s conditioned on a rum-based spice tincture.
Harvest Pumpkin Spiced Ale
Nine Locks Brewing
This was my favourite pumpkin beer last year. It’s full-bodied and sweet with the right mix of malt flavours to keep the pumpkin in the background. Let it warm a bit after taking it out of the fridge.
THE BREWER’S BEER FRIDGE
You might expect brewers’ fridges are stocked with rare beers traded with distant breweries, but you’d be wrong. Nova Scotian brewers drink closer to home.
Dynamite Trail Ale (hefeweizen)
Mahone Bay, N.S.
“Perfect,” is how Chantell Webb of Lunn’s Mill Beer Company describes this wheat beer. The Bavarian wheat yeast lends spicy clove and banana flavours, while dried orange peels add a hint of burnt citrus.
Beyond Reality (wheat beer)
This one made several brewers’ lists. Sober Island brewer Rebecca Atkinson says she’s not normally a fruit beer fan, but this one grabs her. The fresh raspberries are present but not overwhelming—the wheat flavour shines.
Enigmatic India Saison
Like the name suggests, you won’t find this beer often, but Angus Campbell, co-owner of Good Robot, cites it as a favourite regardless. This unique beer presents IPA-style malt characteristics with a Belgian yeast profile to confuse and delight your taste buds.
Killick Session Lager
Halifax brewers cited this most often as the beer in their fridges. That it’s clean and smooth, with only 4.7% ABV, meaning you can have a few while, say, brewing is probably key to its popularity.
Sour Apple (kettle sour)
Hell Bay Brewing Co.
While Firkinstein Brewing co-owner and co-brewer Devin Fraser admits he mostly sticks to Boxing Rock Brewing, he says Hell Bay’s Sour Apple is amazing. Kettle soured with the addition of yogurt, and conditioned Pazzazz apples, this beer will tickle your tongue.
Stashing away a bottle or six used to be only for serious beer fans, but as craft beer grows in popularity so does cellaring. Unlike wine, beer is more forgiving of small temperature fluctuations, but you still want to keep your savers at a cool, constant temperature in a dark location to avoid spoilage. When choosing beers to age, look for the words bottle-conditioned, reserve, and barrel-aged on the label. An expiration date, “drink fresh,” or an abundance of hops suggest not to cellar. When a beer looks like a candidate for cellaring, buy several and drink them over time to see how it evolves.
Ra Ra Rasputin (Russian imperial stout)
Big Spruce Brewing
“I was able to get a single bottle and thought about keeping it to age, but got thirsty and drank it,” says Propeller’s Cameron Crerar. “If I can get my hands on a few more bottles and a bit of self-restraint, I’d love to store it for 12 months and see how the flavours develop.”
2 Crows Brewing
This sweet, Old World-style ale was one of the first fermented in 2 Crows’ Calvados foeders. The brewery acquired the massive wooden barrels earlier this year for long-term fermenting. Jeremy Taylor says after a few months of aging, he’s aiming at 9% ABV for this highly carbonated, slightly spicy beer with notes of apple and pear. Watch for it this fall.
Ol’ Fogburner (barley wine)
Gahan House Harbourfront brewmaster Kyle Jepsen suggests aging both the 11.5% ABV barrel-aged and 10.5% ABV non-barrel aged versions of this barley wine. “It is one of the best yearly releases we have available to us that can be cellared. Buy a few each year so you can do a vertical tasting on a cold day,” he says.
Barrel-aged Mississippi Goddamn Barley Wine
Good Robot Brewing Co.
Watch for this limited release around Christmas. The Robots are borrowing
a bottling set-up for this one-off, which will be aged in Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon barrels. Try some on tap now at the brewery to have something to compare with your aged bottle.
Oyster Stout-Shipbuilders Cider Blend
Sober Island Brewing and Shipbuilders Cider
Sober Island, N.S/ Windsor, N.S.
What do you get when you blend 1,100L of oyster stout with 900L of cider? A gargantuan Black Velvet. Rebecca Atkinson of Sober Island says, “Both products come through nicely with a hint of apple and the smooth salty stout behind it.” This limited quantity release will be available in 750ml bottles at the brewery and select events through the fall.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this guide misidentified Rebecca Atkinson’s role with Sober Island Brewing and misstated where the ingredients for the “Foraged” series beers come from. The information above is correct. Halifax Magazine regrets the errors.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.