Meander River Farm and Brewery is the latest brewery to open in our region. Owned and operated by the Bailey family, Meander River Farm is located in Ashdale, NS, 20km from Windsor. The Baileys have been operating the farm for several years, growing livestock, as well as lavender and hops, with both of these crops used in beers by Garrison Brewing Co. We spoke with Alan Bailey regarding the brewery, and he was kind enough to answer our questions.
ACBB: Is there something specific that got you into the world of craft beer?
Alan: I have been homebrewing since the late 70’s – when bottles exploded as often as not, graduating to all grain brewing about 5 years ago… but it really just stems from something that I enjoy doing and educating my friends about. I like beer and I especially like beer that I make. There is something very gratifying about that.
What made you decide to take the step into brewing professionally?
It really completes the circle on the farm – we raise livestock pigs clear land and fertilize as they go, we come behind and plant hops, now the hops go into the beer, the spent grain is fed to the animals and the brewery waste water is used to irrigate the hops – so full circle. But beer has been a dream and passion of my wife and I for as long as we have been together – longer than we have been apart…
What steps have you taken so far getting everything up and running?
Wow – way too many to mention – but we first floated the idea about 2 years ago – we planned for over a year and have been in execution for about 9 months. In spite of our planning we still ran into lots of challenges – but we were determined.
Do you have any partners in the brewery?
No, the brewery is family owned presently.
What size/type of system will you be brewing on?
3 bbl from Stout Tanks and Kettles in Portland Oregon… When we were first in the market for a system, DME (Diversified Metal Engineering, based in Charlottetown, PEI) was only selling 5bbl and up… I understand that they may be in the smaller market now. It is a single infusion mash set up with a RIMS module. We have 2 jacketed fermentors at present – but room and hopes for additional tank expansion in the future.
Will you be the primary brewer, or will you be employing one?
I will be the primary brewer for now. But I want my wife, son and daughter to all be capable of creating a brew and running the brewery. I am also looking forward to working with other brewers because the I have lots to learn and lots to share.
What are your plans for distribution?
We will be selling growlers and kegs directly from the brewery retail store, and hope to establish 2 or 3 tap accounts. Because we are so small – we want to ensure we can keep the tap accounts flowing – so we are being careful not to overextend ourselves. We plan to be active in the community at local events as well.
Do you have any beer bars/restaurants in the area lined up to serve your beers?
We have a verbal agreement with the Spitfire Arms Pub in Windsor to serve our beer there. They are open to doing something special at the launch – but again still tentative as to when that will be – but hopefully in May. We hope to have other draft taps in the province, but are intentionally going slow to ensure we can produce enough volume to keep the taps flowing – no point in having draft contracts we can’t live up to.
Can you tell me about the beer style(s) you plan on brewing?
Our plans are for traditional American style ales… we grow hops on the farm – so look forward for some seasonals that showcase the hops. We want to establish at least 2 always available styles – and then expand our seasonal beers to utilize some of the ingredients on our and other local farms. Our first offering is a Pale Ale. At 6.5%ABV and 55 IBU’s it is at the high end of the Pale Ale style and the lower end of the IPA style, but we are planning a big IPA to coincide with our hop harvest in September. We’re calling this initial offering Lunchbox Pale Ale for some sentimental reasons (full story on the website) – but we are shooting for a beer that is appealing to both the seasoned craft beer audience and those making the transition to craft beer.
Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada?
There are many excellent brewers in the Maritimes – but I have developed a tremendous respect for Daniel Girard – Garrison’s brewmaster. In my mind, he is a true brewmaster – at a level I will never claim to be, and can only ever aspire to. His passion and creativity for the craft is truly amazing. Also, Jeremy at Big Spruce has been a great resource of information and advice.
With the recent increase in the number of new breweries in Atlantic Canada, what will make Meander River different from the rest?
We are focused on the agri-tourism and experiential tourism market. We think our farm currently differentiates us from the rest in NS anyway – I haven’t been to Barnone in PEI – but from what I see on Facebook – I would say they have similar goals.
Where do you hope to see Meander River in the next 2-3 years?
We are certainly not about world domination of the beer market – we want to be a brewery that our local community can get behind and support and want to have a strong presence in our local area. We see ourselves max-ing out at about 750 – 1000 hL a year. No plans to go any bigger.
Do you personally have a favorite beer style, beer, brewery?
IPA. 3 Fields Harvest. Garrison.
Will you be attending any farmers markets to sell growlers?
It is not our intent at this time to attend farmers markets. We are planning to participate in local community events and festivals to raise awareness.
Have you got a launch date for the brewery?
Yes, we will be opening for business next Saturday, May 17th. We will be open 10am-5pm. We will be selling kegs and growlers (1L refillable bottles are $5, fill is $6, and will fill bottles from other breweries), payment options will be cash, debit, and credit. We’ll be publishing all the details about the 17th throughout the week next week, as there will be some special offers/events on the day – folks will need to stay tuned to Twitter and Facebook for that.
Thank you to Alan and the Bailey clan for their time. Something special that they are doing is offering the public a chance to buy into their future: following the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model, they are selling annual shares in the brewery. Be sure to check out their webpage for more details on these attractive awards! We are happy to welcome them to the vibrant Atlantic Canada Beer family, and wish them all of the best on their May 17th opening.