This coming Friday and Saturday, August 9th-10th, the 7th Annual Halifax Seaport Beer Festival take place at the Cunard Centre on the Halifax waterfront. Featuring lots of beer, food, and live music, it’s a popular event for beer-lovers in Atlantic Canada every summer. We recently exchanged emails with Brian Titus, President of Garrison Brewing, to get a little more information on the festival.
ACBB: This year, the Fest will be held in the Cunard Centre. Can you tell me about this change in venue?
Brian Titus: The change was necessitated by progress, as the Port was doing construction that meant the street site wasn’t available. Loved that street! That said, Cunard Centre has more room, provides sun and rain shelter for the breweries/attendees, has more bathrooms (no more Porta-Potties!), a food truck/boardwalk patio, and 375 feet of waterfront patio with a lifeguard!
With craft beer exploding in the Atlantic region and around the world, can you tell me about the local breweries that attendees will be able to try, as well as some special breweries from further away?
Local has come on strong this year, with all four new Nova Scotia breweries represented: Big Spruce, Bridge Brewing, Boxing Rock & Uncle Leo’s! Sea Level is back (Harvest Wines booth) and the newly expanded Hell Bay will be in for both Saturday sessions. Add in some cask offerings from Garrison and a barrel-aged Rockbottom monster, and WOW! The Irish Craft Beer Village is also big news. Seven Irish micros and cideries shipped a pallet of what’s exciting in Ireland today. Along for the ride is VIP guest Seamus O’Hara (Carlow Brewery) & Daniel Emerson (Stonewell Cider). Ontario came on strong as well with 40% more brands (!) including Denison’s Weissbier, three Spearhead brands and four from new brewery Sawdust City. Quebec is big again with more Trou du Diable, Brasseurs du Temps, Charlevoix & (new) Micro du Lac Saint-Jean. Maine returns for the 7th year with lots of favorites, plus tasty new micro Rising Tide. Finally, check out three Bruery (from California) beers, one for each session, at Premier’s booth.
I see a few ciders will also be available, can you comment on those drinks? Any other beverage styles to be highlighted (craft sodas, etc)?
Gluten-free beers and cider grow every year as their markets expand. Cider has fully doubled this year with 17 great offerings, including those brought directly from Ireland. Beyond that there’s really no interest in expanding to new categories. Whiskeys, coolers, ready-to-drinks… just not what this event is about.
What food options will be available at the fest?
Always strong on local and good-value food that is beer-friendly and no more than $5. We’ll have our first food truck with Food Wolf on the boardwalk, plus Q Smokehouse, Bramoso Pizza and Saege/Stubborn Goat inside. Hell, Stubborn Goat isn’t even open and we’ve got them!
It looks like a great line-up of entertainers for the sessions; will they be playing throughout, or one group per sessions?
One per session as in the past, providing three very different backgrounds but never overtaking the beer. DJ Stilldrunk (I didn’t name him!) Friday, Thom Swift band (think Hot Toddy fame) Saturday afternoon, and Petty Larceny returning to close us out Saturday night.
I see that you have some charitable partners this year, can you comment on that?
Prostate Cancer Canada is our main charity partner and we’re increasing our contribution once again this year. We’ve also been pretty taken aback by the Lac Mégantic tragedy and are working with the Quebec micros to raise several thousand for a targeted Red Cross Relief Fund. We’re hoping people can spare a couple bucks at the fest to throw into the a donation box onsite and top that up. Lastly, the Ladies Beer League is gathering before the Saturday afternoon session and plan to raise a few hundred dollars towards the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre.
How many sessions and what are the ticket prices for these? One more popular than the others, or are they all equally well-attended?
As in the past, there will be 3 sessions: Friday evening (7-9:30), Saturday afternoon (2-4:30) and evening (7-9:30). Tickets unchanged at $45/$40/$45 (+hst) respectively. Go Ticket Atlantic for online convenience and NSLC stores for no surcharges. Saturday evening sells out, period. The afternoon is my favorite though as all breweries are there and the vibe is just more relaxed. Can’t beat havin’ a beer on the pier in the sun, too!
Are there any options for Designated Drivers?
Yup, $10 gets you a vitamin water and access to the good times with your “non-designated” friends. No pre-purchase necessary, and you won’t be turned away even if the session is sold out.
Are you looking for volunteers? If so, how can someone apply?
All spots were filled a month in advance with over 150 signed up and lots of returning folks. For anyone interested next year it’s a pretty good gig – free T-shirt, food ticket, no crappy jobs and a half-price ticket for another session (free ticket if you volunteer twice).
Are there any events planned surrounding the fest (Brewers breakfast, VIP tastings, etc)?
One that’s open to the public: the Irish Rare Beer Dinner at Brussels Brasserie. Hosted by Seamus O’Hara (Carlow Brewery); amazing meal paired with four Irish craft beers/cider and ending with a barrel-aged O’Hara’s Leann Folláin Whiskey-Aged Irish Stout – Yum! The other is a closed event – The Brewers Brunch at Old Triangle. It’s really a chance for brewers and owners to network and shoot the sh#t while fueling up for a long day of sampling.
Do you have an idea on how many breweries will be coming, and what sort of numbers of beers?
So, the final list is on the website and the numbers are… 110 breweries and 267 brands (40% more than last year)!
Thank you to Brian for all of the great information. With indoor facilities this year, breweries and attendees alike will not have to worry about the fast-changing Halifax weather! in addition to the beer list above, take note of the floor layout, so you can make an attack plan to hit your favourite breweries first. As Brian also mentioned, some beers or breweries will only be attending certain sessions, so check the list to be sure you choose wisely. Saturday afternoon looks to be our favourite, but whichever you choose, you’ll have a great time. Hope to see you there!