It’s been half a year or more since the first reports of 2 Crows Brewing made the rounds, and excitement has been building steadily ever since. This Saturday, January 28th, at noon, the doors will finally open at 1932 Brunswick Street and everyone will be able to see what the anticipation has been about. Named for a fascination with an old rhyme about crows that begins, “One for sorrow, two for joy,” the spirit of 2 Crows is all about seeing one crow and immediately looking for another, that is, seeking out joy even when faced with sorrow and trying to find the brighter side.
2 Crows brings the husband and wife team of Mark and Kelly Huizink together with brewer Jeremy Taylor in a venture that will bring some unique brews to our scene right out of the gate. Originally from Vancouver, Jeremy and his wife Elaine, who is from Dartmouth, have been looking to come East for some time. Jeremy most recently spent a few years as head brewer at Bridge Brewing in North Vancouver after some time in Scotland where he acquired his formal brewing education and took his first brewhouse job.
After a childhood of travelling from country to country, Mark landed in Halifax for University in the early 2000s where he met Kelly, who is from the area, and they’ve been based here ever since. Mark is half Belgian and half Dutch, and his trips with Kelly to visit family over the years introduced them to many varied styles of beer and gave them an appreciation for the industry on an international scale. Watching the beer trends change at home, with friends becoming more interested in different styles of beer, seeing the local industry grow by leaps and bounds and having always loved the idea of opening a business locally, they decided to take the plunge. Mark leaves behind a 7-year career in accounting to work the business side of the enterprise, while Kelly will run the taproom.
Jeremy and Mark were kind enough to answer our many questions about how the brewery came about, what beers they’ll be introducing on Saturday, and what they’ve got planned for the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Jeremy: I am from Vancouver originally. My wife is from Dartmouth, and we have been aiming to move back here for a number of years… I have wanted to be here because of how exciting the NS beer scene is, and how awesome people from NS are. Outside of beer, I do a fair bit of camping, hiking, and fly fishing with my dog and wife. I used to play a lot of rugby when I was younger, and first came to NS in the early 2000s because I played for the Newfoundland provincial team.
Mark and Kelly Huizink are the other part of the brewery. Mark is 1/2 Belgian and 1/2 Dutch, and grew up bouncing around from country to country because of his father’s work. Mark landed in Halifax around 15 years ago for university, and has loved life here ever since. He met Kelly while in university, they have been together ever since. Kelly, having been born and raised here in Halifax, was always excited about the idea of opening up a business locally. They have two kids, both born here in Halifax, and are excited about the idea of raising their kids in such a wonderful place. Being part of the burgeoning craft beer industry here in a place that they love so much has been a dream for both of them, and it’s now starting to look like a reality.
How did you get into the world of beer?
Jeremy: I started off by homebrewing. I was working as a researcher in a biochemistry lab, doing some really neat genetic sequencing work… but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. My wife got me a very simple homebrew kit, and I was sold — it had the perfect combination of geeking out on science, playing with flavours (I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking), plus there’s a beer at the end of the process. I decided to give up the scientist job and go back to school for brewing. I did an MSc in Brewing & Distilling at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University, worked a little bit helping set up a barrel-ageing program at a Scottish Brewery, then worked in Vancouver as a head brewer for a couple years before ending up in Halifax.
For Kelly and Mark, drinking craft beer started on their many trips to Europe visiting Mark’s family. These travels have opened their eyes to the many different styles of beer available in Europe and the rest of the world. Watching the demand for variety and quality in beer develop over the last few years has made them all the more excited to be living in Nova Scotia and have more and more of their friends get into the appreciation of good beer being produced locally. Their excitement for beer is more on the “consumption” side of things, but with this business we are all hoping to push the envelope and make some exciting new styles of beer.
What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
Jeremy: Since I started getting into brewing, the goal has been to move to Halifax and open a brewery. It is great to have any sort of brewing work, but the idea of being able to call the shots and brew what you love is really the dream. Nova Scotia has such a cool brewing scene that I feel is still just starting to get rolling, and the hope is that we can be part of this wave of high-quality craft beer and keep pushing the levels of quality and craftsmanship. Mark, being an accountant and a beer lover, put together a business plan for a brewery here in Halifax. We were put in touch with each other by a mutual friend, who is also a brewer, and we came to the conclusion that we had very similar ideas of what a successful brewery should look like and that between us we had the skills and resources needed to make it happen. Fast-forward a year and here we are, opening up a brewery and living our dream.
Can you share some info on your homebrewing history?
Jeremy: I think the first brew I ever did was an all-extract kit from Dan’s Homebrewing in Vancouver. After that, I wanted more control over the brew, so I stepped up to doing partial extract, and it all went from there. I stuck to mostly English and North American styles at first, but got a little bit more adventurous as time went on. I haven’t had a chance to homebrew for probably about a year now, but some of my last batches were a lambic-style with aged hops, a no-boil Berliner Weisse with wild lacto and wine yeast, and a Brett IPA.
What system will you be brewing on? What sort of output do you expect?
Jeremy: We are brewing on a 24hl (20bbl) DME brewhouse, and brewing into 48hl (40bbl) unitanks. The brewhouse is a 2 vessel system — a combined mash/lauter tun, and a combined kettle/whirlpool. We will be canning using a Cask canning unit, their 5 head automated filler that is capable of roughly 36 cans/minute. Monthly output will depend on demand. We have oversized our system a little bit, as we heard about a lot of breweries locally that were basically maxed out and looking to expand within a week of opening their doors. If we ever get to max capacity on this system, we would be producing about 310hl (264bbl) per month.
What are your plans for distribution?
Jeremy: We plan on kegging and canning our beer right out of the gate, and we will also be offering growler fills in our tap room. The hope is that we will have our canned beer, and possibly kegs for growler fills, at a few of the private stores — we have been chatting with the folks at Bishop’s Cellar and RockHead, who have both been very supportive. We are also trying to get our canned beer into the NSLC eventually too. We are also aiming to be on tap at bars/restaurants around the city.
Can you tell us about your taproom?
Jeremy: We hope the taproom is going to be a pretty cool experience for people. We wanted customers to feel like they were coming for a drink in a working brewery, so it has been designed to be very open. People will be able to see the brewing process, and chat with me (or just shout profanities at me) as I brew. We will have 12 taps on the go; one of which will be a cider, and the rest will be a combination of our beers and a few guest taps. We have had a local artist, Christian Toth, do up a really impressive mural on the main wall in the tap room, which we think looks pretty cool. People will be able to drink full pints and have tasting flights there. We will be offering a pretty limited, but well-curated selection of food — charcuterie and cheese from Ratinaud — but we also encourage people to bring or order food from elsewhere while they are visiting.
Can you tell us about the beers you’ll be offering initially?
Jeremy: Our core lineup will consist of three beers: Pecadillo, an Oat Pilsner, 4.8% and 28 IBU; Liesse, a Table Beer, 3.5% and 16 IBU; and Pollyanna, a Wild Northeast IPA, 7.3% and 64 IBU. We will also hope to be brewing lots of seasonals and on-offs, the first of which will be Innisfree, a 7.6% ABV Rustic Saison brewed with spelt, and fermented with yeast we harvested and built up from a bottle from Belgium. Plus a few more tap-room-only releases that you’ll have to drop by Saturday to try!
Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in the province?
Jeremy: Everyone we have met from the NS brewing scene has been awesome! We have had advice from basically everyone we encountered — many of whom have gone out of their way to track us down or come visit in order to let us know how best to navigate the trials and tribulations of starting a brewery. Nash invited us by Unfiltered a few months back when he heard we were about to install our glycol system, so he could show us what did *(and didn’t) work on his setup, and how to avoid headaches. Daniel at Garrison actually helped me out of a bind with hops that came as a result of miscommunication with our hop supplier. Jeff from Bad Apple came by (bearing gifts of beer) just last week when he heard we were having some trouble with some controllers, to help troubleshoot. Shean and Peter at Tidehouse have been awesome too, offering to help in any way possible, and we have had visits from Big Spruce, Granite, Schoolhouse, Spindrift, Tata…. the list goes on. Basically, everyone in NS has been incredible and really supportive.
Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
Jeremy: From a beer standpoint, I am hoping we will have a decent wood ageing and sour program by then, along with a nice selection of seasonal beers. I am hoping we can build a reputation both locally and beyond for brewing modern and complex beers. I would love to see us distributing beer a little further than Nova Scotia, if our production level allows it. Obviously, NS is first priority for us, but I have a few good friends across the country that would love it if they didn’t have to come visit in order to get the beer. I would also like to be seen as good brewery people, friendly and helpful to other breweries and other businesses. I would love to work alongside lots of brewers from around the province, and I also have plans for collaborating with brewers from different parts of the world.
Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Jeremy: I have been spoiled since moving here because of all the Belgian beer that Mark’s family has been bringing. Obviously, I am a sucker for anything from Cantillon. I also love North American sours a lot too — I recently had a Reynard Oud Bruin by Iain Hill at Strange Fellows brewing that was sublime. The guys at Four Winds in BC also make some exceptional sour and clean beers. I love the juicy/hazy Northeast IPAs too, the stuff by Bissell Brothers is incredible, and I had the good fortune of getting a bunch of Alchemist beers a few months ago too, which was really a treat. I also visited Hill Farmstead… if I could drink nothing but beer from them for the rest of my days, I’d probably be OK with that.
How about favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
Jeremy: I love Thomas Fawcett Oat Malt — I feel like it gives a really nice texture, more so than flaked oats do. I tend to sneak it into a lot of the beers I do. There was a recent article by Scott Janish that has done nothing to quell that, basically saying that oats in beer can lead to a lot of improvements. For hops, I really enjoy hops from the Southern Hemisphere, although they can be a challenge to acquire. My favourite is Nelson Sauvin, but I’d probably have to sell my soul a few times over to get it in any sort of decent quantity/price. For styles… that’s a good one. I really enjoy wood ageing and sour beers, probably more into brewing American sours than traditional European sours. They can be very challenging and a little unpredictable, but I think that’s part of why I am so fascinated by it.
Thanks very much to Jeremy, Mark, and Kelly for spending some time with us. Drop by the brewery tap room from noon on Saturday, Jan 28th, and daily going forward noon to eight (noon to ten Thurs-Sat). Drop by to purchase cans of their Pecadillo Oat Pilsner, Liesse Table Beer, and Pollyanna Wild Northeast IPA to go; growlers of those three, plus the Innisfree Rustic Spelt Saison will be available as well. Those who pull up a stool (or rocking chair) will also have their pick of some draught-only small batch brews from their pilot system, including a Bakeapple Sour, Aztec Milk Stout, and a Mango & Brett IPA. Keep your eyes peeled on their social media accounts for more details: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.