In honour of this weekend’s St John’s BrewFest, we wanted to lead this week’s post with the great beery news from The Rock. While the number and reach of locally-owned breweries in Newfoundland and Labrador was lacking for many years, the past few years have seen an explosion in number and variety of offerings available to the public. For a more thorough overview of that history, as well as the present and future of beer in Newfoundland (and soon Labrador), check out the Newfoundland Beer History site, and the latest post from writer Chris Conway (himself part of the opening-late-2018 Landwash Brewery in Mount Pearl). The local alt-paper The Overcast also keeps an eye on the latest Nfld Beer News, and has summarized the history in The Overcast’s Guide to Beers of Newfoundland, out this month. After reading those and getting excited for the rest of 2018, here what’s new this week:
• Port Rexton‘s retail shop on Torbay Rd is open again this weekend (Friday 4-8pm, Saturday 12-6pm), and will have 3 varieties in cans: Chasing Sun New England IPA, T-Rex Porter, and the return of Mixed Opportunity, their 5.6% ABV mixed fermentation Saison, employing multiple strains of Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces yeasts to ferment, giving funky farmhouse flavours and aromas. On growler fills are Baycation Blonde and T-Rex Porter. With their brewery taproom opening May 4th, they will continue to operate the retail location in town, concentrating on growler fills and merchandise sales, as they will be winding down their canning offerings.
• Also keep an eye open this weekend for Port Rexton’s Barrel-aged Brett Porter, which was a collaboration brewed back in September with Jana of Motion Bay Brewing (coming soon to Petty Harbour), and our own acbbchris. This beer was fermented in a freshly-emptied red wine barrel with Brett D (a specific strain of Brettanomyces bruxellensis), where it sat for several months before conditioning and packaging (sorry, kegs only!). The lovely wine notes complement the funky nose and flavour from the Brett fermentation, with the dark malt providing a pleasant base. It debuted at the Melee in the Market Port Rexton x 2 Crows Tap Takeover last night, and should be available this weekend.
• YellowBelly Brewery launched a new beer earlier this week, Patridgeberry Wheat. The Wheat Ale base was enhanced by the addition of local partridgeberries, known for their tart kick and full flavour, for a true taste of the Island. At 5.0% ABV, and quite quaffable, you could certainly be forgiven for going back for a second. It is on tap at the brewery and Takeaway (down the street at 264 Water) now, and in 1 litre bottles at the Takeaway and select NLC locations this weekend.
• Renovations continue at Quidi Vidi Brewing, as they expand their retail shop and transform their event space into a full-time taproom, which will offer visitors great views of the gut, and a fine pint to pair it with. The recent additions to their beer line-up, Calm Tom’s Double IPA and Mad Mike’s Big Belgian, will be around for the summer months, and complemented by beers brewed on their 350 litre pilot brewing system. We’ll let you know when the renos are done and the beer is pouring once again.
A few NL events for you this week, too:
• Believe it or not, a few tickets for tonight’s St John’s BrewFest are still available, and if you don’t already have yours, you’re best served to grab one now. In addition to beers from Mill Street, Port Rexton, Quidi Vidi, Split Rock, Storm, Western Newfoundland, and YellowBelly, there is a good showing from the rest of the Atlantic Provinces, including New Brunswick’s Hammond River, Loyalist City, Maybee, TrailWay, and Yip Cider; PEI’s Gahan and Upstreet; Nova Scotia’s 2 Crows, Bad Apple, Big Spruce, Garrison, No Boats on Sunday, and Spindrift. Plus from (further) away, Blindman, Flying Monkeys, Half Hours on Earth, and Other Half. The full list is available here. And all attendees receive a code for the pre-sale for the St John’s Cider Fest, which is June 22nd and 23rd.
• For those wanting to meet up with other beer fans in the area, The Brewnettes Beer Appreciation Club are holding a bottle share next Thursday, April 26th at 7pm, at Common Ground on Harvey Rd. This is a BYOB event, where you can share your latest homebrew or a cool bottle you picked up while traveling or your current fave from around town, and talk with friendly folks who love beer as much as you!
• If this weekend’s BrewFest isn’t enough, the NLC’s Beer Expo is happening May 11 and 12th at the Delta Hotel. As it is an NLC event, most of the beer will be those currently available at the stores and/or available after the event, though Quidi Vidi will be debuting several small batch beers at the event. The full list is available here, to plan your attack. The ticket includes pub grub, and a $10 Taxi Voucher to get home safe. There is also a separate Saturday afternoon Tasting Panel from 5:30-7pm, with speakers tasting and discussing 9 products in a more relaxed setting. Tickets are available online, or at the Mile One Box Office.
Let’s jump into the rest of our region now. Not surprisingly, with the weather warming up, we’re seeing a steady increase in the beer release frequency, the patios of the region are being set up and enjoying a beer outside seems like a fine plan, and not the crazy idea my neighbour yelled at me for last week.
• Starting a ferry ride from Newfoundland in Nyanza on Cape Breton Island, we mentioned last week that Big Spruce had some big releases coming up and we weren’t kidding. They’ve clearly been busy preparing to make a splash for NS Craft Beer Week. As we mentioned (late) in our Friday Wrap-up last week, The Gose of Christmas Past is already pouring at the Sprucetique and tap accounts around the Province. This is a 3.8% ABV beer in the Gose style, of course, brewed with Indian Coriander and French Sea Salt back in December with Merit Brewing of Hamilton before being racked into Tequila barrels for 2 months of aging. Also released this week, to strong reactions of every stripe, is The Real McNeil a Red IPA that was brewed with our Province’s Premier, Stephen McNeil. Weighing in at 6.8% ABV and 48 IBUs, however bitter the beer actually tastes, it’s almost certainly not nearly as bitter as some of the public response to it. Seemingly forgotten is the open letter to the province owner Jeremy White penned last year, detailing many of the frustrating laws in place holding back the flourishing of small business, and is still actively pushing for changes in those. While some progress has been made on these issues, further improvements aren’t likely to come without education and engagement, which is the stated point of this exercise. And if it also yielded tasty beer? Well, that’s surely a bonus. If you can stomach it, you’ll find it in red cans featuring a typically masterful caricature of the Premier by Bruce MacKinnon at the private stores in Halifax and coming on April 30th to 35 select NSLC stores around the province. Probably only in Liberal ridings, wha? Meanwhile, those who’ve pledged never to buy Big Spruce beer again surely won’t care that the first batch of their incredibly popular Silver Tart Raspberry Kettle Sour is ready and will be available at the Sprucetique this coming Wednesday, April 24, before hitting the private stores in Halifax next Saturday.
• Speaking of next Saturday, fans of Big Spruce’s Ra Ra Rasputin Barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout are probably feeling the itch, knowing that it’s traditionally released around this time each year. But this year Jeremy White and the gang have upped the ante considerably. Yes, you’ll be able to buy the Ra Ra you know and love, aged in Whiskey Barrels from Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton. But you’ll also see a version aged in French Cognac barrels. And another in California Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. And another in good ol’ American Bourbon Barrels. And finally one that spent time in Nicaraguan Rum barrels. Yes, that’s five, count ’em FIVE different variations of Ra Ra Rasputin available for your dilection. Whether you’re an existing fan of Ra Ra Rasputin, a fan of big beers in general, or just BA-curious, we can vouch for all five of the variations. Have you ever done a bottle share? It’s a great way to try several beers without a serious financial commitment. Consider getting some friends together to split a set of 2018 Ra Ras and figure out which are your favorites before going back for more. Tasting the same beer with 5 different treatments can also be an excellent beer education experience that shows just how much influence a single variable (barrel type in this case) can influence otherwise identical base beer. These will be available a week from tomorrow, Saturday, April 28th, at the brewery and in private stores in Halifax! Some bottles of the 2017 vintage are still around if you want to do a comparison and some tap accounts may see the 2017 version on tap to open craft beer week!
• And lastly in Big Spruce news is the release of another annual spring tradition, Cerberus Double IPA. Brewed this year with Tatamagouche Brewing and Port Williams’ Sea Level Brewing, this is an organic beer whose recipe has been rejigged for 2018. Weighing in at 7.5% ABV, it’s described as “abundantly bitter and deeply aromatic,” with late-addition hops in “lip-smacking” quantities that produce a complex, yet balanced beer. Also new for this year is availability in cans. You’ll find them as of today at the private stores in Halifax and, we believe, at each of the participating breweries.
• Continuing with Tatamagouche Brewing, after more than a year’s hiatus, they’ve brought back Square One, their 6.2% ABV dry-hopped Saison. With a fairly simple grist made up mostly of Pilsner malt, with some Oats, Spelt, and Rye in there as well, it was bittered with Chinook to 32 IBUs, and dry-hopped with a blend of Citra, Hallertau Blanc and Amarillo, giving tons of fruity, citrusy goodness. Fermented with the New World Saison blend – which includes both Sacch and Brett – from Escarpment Labs, this year’s bottles have been bottle-conditioned to let the Brett funk develop further with time… so, buy some now to enjoy the hops, and cellar some to compare over the coming months! Don’t want to wait? Stillwell has a keg of this year’s batch AND one from the last batch, both of which will be tapped alongside one another today. For bottles, pick up yours at Tatabrew now, and at the private stores in the HRM next week.
• Halifax’s Garrison Brewing was among several breweries in the region to brew a beer with Angus Ross from Canadian Yeast producer Escarpment Labs and theirs is, we believe, the first to come ready. Country Road Farmhouse Ale was brewed with Honey from Wolfville’s