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Jason Hynes and his wife Sheila Dwyer were marking the third month of operation as I visited Secret Cove Brewing in Port au Port East on a cold and windy March evening. Having just taken a walk on The Gravels Trail at the start of the Port-au-Port Peninsula, I was ready to come in out of the cold and have a pint. Thankfully, there were five Secret Cove beers on tap ready to slake my thirst. With so many to choose from, a flight was in order; but before I even had a chance to take off my coat and put in my request, a local already at the bar had deftly extracted my name, hometown, what I did for a living, and my reason for being there. This is the sort of hospitality I’ve come to love about Newfoundland: folks want to know all about you, so they can make you part of the family. As a CFA (Come From Away), I was well used to it, and happily played along.

Sample Flight

Once I was thoroughly vetted, I got down to the serious business at hand, enjoying this beer from the extreme West Coast of Newfoundland. Pouring that evening were James Blonde 00709Malt Water Joys Brown Ale, When in StoutHop a Ryed in my Dory Double IPA with Rye, and Hard Case In Your Face Double IPA. The taps also showcased a pair of beers from another Newfoundland brewery, Cormack’s Crooked Feeder Western Brook Wheat and White River Wit, but those would have to wait for another evening.

Music Stage

Secret Cove’s tagline is “Where Locals Play” and I soon learned why. A stage is setup near the door, outlined by a stack of kegs, with a backdrop of whale bones (donated by a local) and the last of the St Patrick’s Day decorations (I could only imagine the party that night!). The donated pieces don’t stop there, with the the decor showcasing fishing and navigation with industrial accents, including a dory and lobster trap, Hynes’ father’s fishing jig and reel, plus a chunk of purpleheart wood Dwyer’s father gathered on Chacachacare, while sailing between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. That same wood is used, unstained, as the accent on their locally-crafted tap handles.

Hynes and his father spent 13 months renovating the former Viking Lodge, which had sat empty and unused for several years. Tearing up the original carpet and wood, opting for poured concrete in the brewery and Newfoundland hardwood in the taproom, floor boards became accent walls, former walls became accent door frames. The back rooms, used for dry storage, and soon a kitchen where they will be preparing food for visitors, are still largely untouched, a gentle reminder of the building’s former tenant.

Looking into the brewery

The walls feature pictures of the Vikings hardball team, a throwback to the strong American influence in the area, thanks to the American base in nearby Stephenville, which operated 1941-1966. The airmen were there protecting the Straight of Belle Isle, among other tasks, but still had plenty of time to leave base and interact with the locals, bringing their national pastime to this corner of the world. We can imagine some family in Kentucky enjoying fish and brewis thanks this this cultural exchange.

Brewhouse

The brewery is visible through the windows of the large taproom, and Hynes will often take curious folks back there for a closer look. The brewhouse is a 10 barrel (1200 litre) system from DME Brewing Solutions, which they received just a couple of months before that PEI business went into receivership, meaning the Hynes men were mostly on their own installing and commissioning it (DME’s brewery equipment operation has recently been purchased and is working at getting back to capacity). They also faced a shortage of local tradespeople, as many of those trained were working on the mainland, in the Maritimes, Ontario, or Alberta, which strained the local companies to provide service in a timely manner. This pushed their opening date to later than anticipated, into December, rather than Summer, which is a common refrain heard from local breweries.

Coldroom door

Secret Cove is a Newfoundland good news story in the age-old style, as Hynes grew up in here Port au Port East and left for schooling at Memorial University before leaving the province for work, but has come home to open his brewery. While living in Nova Scotia he witnessed the explosion of craft beer and had taken up brewing as a hobby, amassing a book full of recipes honed during years of practice. After many years away, his line of work was no longer rewarding, so coming back home with his wife meant becoming his own boss, and turning his passion for beer into a professional reality. While the number of hours spent working may not have diminished, being in control and seeing the immediate positive impact his handiwork has had on his community is worth it. The stage has played host to countless musicians since the brewery’s opening on December 19th, with a mix of touring professionals and “kitchen party” fiddlers and guitarists playing their first paid gig, always with a happy audience ready to sing and dance along. Secret Cove truly is a place where locals, and CFAs, play.

Decorations

Secret Cove is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 4 PM (2 PM Sundays). They feature five or six of their own beers (two additional serving tanks are on their way to increase availability), with a few guest Newfoundland craft beers rounding out the offerings. Growler fills are available, with canning a possibility in Fall of this year. Food service is not yet available, but food can be brought along or ordered in. They often host live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, check their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates.

Malt Water Joys

Happy Spring Everyone! Now we just need to tell Mother Nature that! But it will be nice to see the snow eventually receding so that you have a big more time to dodge the potholes. A handful of new beers and events this week, so grab that coffee, or coffee stout, and get up to speed on the beer news. As always, if you have beer info you’d like us to share, please don’t hesitate to send it along! We’re always happy to spread the word about the great beer in our region.

News concerning collaboration beers brewed for International Women’s Day keeps trickling in; this week, we can fill you in on the one released by Petit-Sault and Big Tide. Brewed at the Petit-Sault brewery in Edmundston, Brighid is an 8.8% abv “Strawberry Brut IPA”. Hopped with Mosaic and Lemondrop, enzymes were added to help the beer dry out as much as possible, as is typical for the Brut IPA style. During fermentation, strawberry puree was added (to the tune of 300 lbs), giving the beer a hazy, pinkish hue. Tropical, juicy, and super-dry (as expected), it’s currently available on tap only, at both breweries. Look for 750 mL bottles to appear at both locations next week, as well.

One of New Brunswick’s newest breweries (for a little while longer, anyway), Hampton Brewing, dropped a new beer release in time for St. Patrick’s Day last weekend. Ol’Marley is a Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, brewed with a mixture of Roasted Barley and Chocolate malts to impart plenty of roasted, coffee-like character in the aroma and flavour. The beer also features the addition of rum-soaked, organic cacao nibs, adding even more chocolatey goodness to the finished product. Weighing in at 5.5% ABV and 32 IBUs, it has a medium body and moderate bitterness in the finish. Look for it on tap at your favourite Hampton Brewing account.

Let’s move back to Brut IPA territory; specifically to Smiths Cove, NS, where Lazy Bear Brewing has released their very own. Simply named Brut IPA, it was dry-hopped with Ariana, Callista, and El Dorado; we’re going to assume no hops were added during the boil, as the brewery lists the IBUs as “very low to none”. The beer comes in at 7% ABV and finishes very dry (again, thanks in part to the addition of enzymes); it’s available on tap at the brewery during the Thursday Growler Evenings and the Annapolis Royal Farmers Market, with kegs possibly being sent elsewhere soon.

Hanwell, New Brunswick’s Niche Brewing has a new beer out this week that hopefully will put you in mind of warmer days to come. A grisette, In Limbo was brewed with primarily Pilsner malt, with plenty of spelt and both flaked and malted wheat rounding out the grist, and it was hopped lightly with classic noble Saaz before being fermented with Niche’s house culture. The result is a beer with a light body and a pleasant lemon presence that’s definitely on the funkier side of the style, but which certainly doesn’t bash you over the head with yeast character. Easy-drinking and refreshing, at 4.2% ABV you can have a few and without worrying you might dart out in front of an oxcart during the festival of the vernal equinox! Look for it at Niche tap accounts around NB and, if the folks in Halifax are lucky again, maybe some will come to that city as well.

We warned you a month ago to keep your eyes out for a beer featuring carrots, and sure enough, it has come to pass as those crazy kids at Boxing Rock in Shelburne, NS, have pushed the boundaries yet again with 14 Carrot Gold. This beer is a collaboration with Square Roots, a brand that encompasses a pair of projects under the aegis of Enactus SMU that aim to help reduce food waste and eliminate food insecurity in our communities. One way to address the former is to find uses for the less pretty produce that might not be sold if it were put on the shelf. So this beer isn’t just full of carrots, it’s full of ugly carrots, carrots that might roll a rabbit in a dark alley, carrots that you wouldn’t bring home to meet your Mom, but carrots that taste just fine. The juice of these carrots was added to the mash, joining a grist that included some honey malt to encourage some balancing malt sweetness. Into the kettle the wort went, to be hopped up (sorry*) with Calypso, Magnum, and Hallertauer Mittelfruh. The overall result is a clean and refreshing rather orange pale ale that is herbal and slightly spicy, but which also definitely tastes of carrots. You can find it already in 650 mL bottles at the brewery, Boxing Rock Bottle Shop at Local Source and private liquor stores in Halifax, and it will also be on the shelves at NSLC locations starting April 1st. Maybe grab an extra to put out for the Easter Bunny to enjoy? And speaking of the bottle shop, thanks to the associated Test Kitchen, they’ve also got a brand new one on the taps: FLEX IPA clocks in at a hefty 7.3% ABV and sports plenty of Falconer’s Flight, Centennial, and Simcoe hops. Stop by to grab a growler if you’re in the North End.

* totally not sorry

Spindrift Brewing has their latest entry in their Out of the Hold series bottled and available for sale, FIKA. This one is a 10% ABV Imperial Stout that was fermented in stainless, and then transferred to a French oak barrel for months of aging. Once it was ready to be packaged (in 500 mL bottles), the beer was infused with espresso beans, vanilla, and cardamom (in essence, now making it an Imperial Coffee Stout). Wondering about the beer’s name? Well, “fika” is apparently the Swedish word for “coffee break”, and the espresso beans were bought from IKEA (which we’re sure we do not have to explain to you what that is). You can pick up your bottles at the brewery’s taproom right now; check out the HRM’s private liquor stores in the near future as well. Note that this beer was brewed with lactose, just in case you’re intolerant of such things!

Halifax’s Garrison brewed up a special collaboration with the staff of Agricola Street Brasserie that made its debut last week at their beer dinner at that restaurant. How Dairy?! is a one off draft-only release available for now at the brewery for samples, pints, and growler fills, although it’s expected to be sent out to a few tap accounts as well. A stout weighing in at 4.7% ABV, it was built on pale ale and Munich malts, with oats, crystal malt and roasted barley rounding out the grist. Hopped to 32 IBU with Millennium, it also contains lactose, which very well might take it into the sweet stout or milk stout category. You can make that determination for yourself if you head down and give this smooth and full-bodied beer with notes of coffee and chocolate a try.

Bryan Carver, certified Cicerone, former Brewmaster at PEIBC, and former employee in the technical services department at DME Brewing, will be opening his own brewery – Modern Brewer’s Village Green – in Cornwall, PEI, this summer. Located at 1 Cornwall Rd, the building currently houses a dentist’s office which is relocating at the end of this month. While his equipment has not been ordered yet, as he’s waiting for the building to be rezoned, Carver plans to brew on a 2 bbl (240 L) system, to concentrate primarily on serving the 25-seat taproom. Locals can expect to try beers that they may not have tried before, as Carver plans to focus on styles that may not be easily-accessible to the area. We will have much more with Carver on Village Green as the project progresses.

We’ve got a few events to tell you about this week, definitely worth leaving the March Madness behind for a few hours, we reckon!

We mentioned it a few weeks ago, but here’s your reminder that this year’s Péché Day will be happening tomorrow and folks in our region are lucky enough to have two options available: Stillwell in Halifax and Tide & Boar in Moncton. Péché Day celebrates Péché Mortel, a Imperial Coffee Stout from Dieu du Ciel! that continues to be one of the finest beers in the country year after year. There will be seven variants on offer this year, all boasting an ABV of 9.5%:

  • Péché Mortel – the original
  • Péché Mortel Bourbon 2018 and 2019 – two different vintages aged in bourbon barrels
  • Péché Mortel Cerise – brewed with cherries
  • Péché Mortel Coconut – matured on toasted coconut
  • Péché Mortel Islay 2019 – aged in Islay Scotch barrels
  • Péché Mortel Moka – brewed with cacao

If you’re at all a fan of big, dark boozy beers, especially those featuring wood aging or other additions, you might want to find a way to check it out. You might also want to strongly consider 5 oz tasting glasses if you want to run to try them all!!

Last week we gave you the full rundown on the Flavabot: Rake ‘n Scrape event being thrown down on Sunday by the Lime Stone Group at Good Robot in Halifax, but we thought it prudent to give you a little reminder that there will be four brand new beers available, all with a Caribbean influence:

  • Rake ‘n Scrape – 6.9% ABV Tropical IIPA with mangoes & pomegranate, 70 IBU
  • Blackbeard’s Amber Ale – 4.5% ABV, Blackberry Amber Ale, 30 IBU
  • Pineapples & Coconut … Bro – 5.6% ABV, Pina colada Wheat Ale, 27 IBU
  • Passion Bliss – 5.5% ABV, Passion fruit Pale Ale, 50 IBU

Brunch starts at 10 AM but the party goes ALL DAY. That said, only the Rake ‘n Scrape is a full-size Alpha batch, so if you want to increase your chances of tasting the other three best get there early.

Digby’s Roof Hound Brewing is celebrating the release of a brand new beer Sunday, a collaboration with the Hopped Up Gaming East (HUGE) podcast. Button Masher is a 7.0% Cherry IPA, featuring loads of Citra hops for a hazy, aromatic and bitter IPA, that was then “juiced up” with black cherries. Keeping with the mutual love of video games and beer, the teammates will be launching the beer at the Board Room Cafe on Barrington Street in Halifax. From 7 – 9 PM, there will be Video Game Trivia, with the beer pouring all evening. Drop by to grab the first pints and take part in the fun, and then look for it on tap around Halifax, with bottles of Button Masher coming next week.

Next Saturday, March 30, White Hills Resort in Clarenville, NL, will be celebrating BrewSKI 2019! With Beer Yoga kicking off the day at 10 AM, to a fun ski & snowboard race at 12 PM, to the BrewSKI Craft Beer Fest starting at 7 PM, there is a whole day of fun to be had on the ski hills. The evening’s festival will feature beer from 8 Newfoundland breweries and cideries: Baccalieu Trail Brewing Co (Conception Bay), Bootleg Brewery (Corner Brook), Landwash Brewery (Mt Pearl), Port Rexton Brewing Co (Port Rexton), Quidi Vidi Brewery (Quidi Vidi), Split Rock Brewery (Twillingate), YellowBelly Brewery (St. John’s), plus the Newfoundland Cider Company (Milton). There will be live music by 3 Shades of Grey and The Dimaggios, and food from Oh My Cheeses. Tickets for the day’s events are available now, grab them and find your best retro snowsuit to fit right in with the crowd.

Just a few more notes to pass along this week!

We mentioned it briefly in yesterday’s post with His Excellency Pavel Hrnčíř, the Czech Republic’s Ambassador to Canada, but wanted to remind you that the 902 BrewCast has dropped their March Tasting Episode today, and it covers all things Fredericton Craft Beer Festival. In addition to that interview, they spoke with Geaghan Brothers, Holy Whale, and O’Creek Brewing. Listen in!

Mount Pearl’s Landwash Brewery has brought back their Brackish, a 4.8% ABV Sour Ale that features Newfoundland Sea Salt, their take on a German Gose. With draught, growlers, and cans available at the brewery now, we suggest popping by to grab some. And to celebrate its return, the folks at Landwash have a couple of fun things on the go. They actually brewed a second full-sized batch, and added mango puree to it, and so Mango Brackish is pouring (and available to go in growlers) at the brewery now. And, also, too, they’ve cask conditioned 20 litres of the unfruited Brackish, and swapped out the standard sea salt for Newfoundland Salt Company’s Juniper Smoked Salt, for a floral and herbal cousin of the original. This one is in short supply (and we’re not even positive it’s still available!), so if that sounds like something you’d like, be sure to pop by the brewery today when they open at 4 PM.

Propeller Brewing has brought back a favourite from the fall, their Galaxy IPA. This 6.5% hoppy, hazy, and juicy IPA feature a ton of the great Aussie hop Galaxy added in the kettle and fermenter, for tropical, citrus, and stonefruit character. Back now on tap and in cans, with four-packs available at the NSLC for the first time next week.

Unfiltered is bringing back their Fist of God DIPA again, a “fruity, tropical, soft, and delicious” 7.5% ABV hop bomb. Available today at the brewery in pints, growlers, and cans. So is their Citra bomb DOA which came back last week. If you love some hops, you know where to go.

In a case of a community doing the right thing, the Town of Wolfville agreed Tuesday to amend their Land Use Bylaws and Municipal Planning Strategy to explicitly allow breweries to operate and sell beer off-site. This is great news for Church Brewing, who continue construction of their on-premise brewery at 329 Main Street in the town, to complement the already thriving restaurant. If struck down, it would have severely handcuffed them from the start, and had the unintended consequence of hurting other craft alcohol producers in the same zone, including Annapolis Cider Company, Bad Apple Brewhouse, and Paddy’s Pub.

Earlier this month, Pavel Hrnčíř, the Czech Republic‘s Ambassador to Canada, visited the Maritimes. During the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival, our own Chris, along with Phil and Tony from the 902 BrewCast, were able to sit down with His Excellency, to learn more about the great history of beer making and enjoyment in Czech Republic, their local farming industry servicing the breweries, and how life in Czech Republic is the same, and different, from Atlantic Canada. They were joined by John Steinsky of Bines & Vines, a new company specializing in the importation of Czech malt and hops, as well as wine, to the region. The five spoke for more than an hour, and part of that discussion is being released as part of 902BC’s March Tasting Episode being released March 22nd, so be sure to listen in when it goes live at midnight!

Ambassador Hrnčíř speaks with fondness as he recounts the story of the Budějovický Budvar, the Original Budweiser, from the Czech town of České Budějovice (known as Budweis in German). Sold in Canada as Czechvar, the beer uses Moravian barley and Saaz hops and water from its own artesian well, for a truly local beer. And the Pilsners that we know and love originated in the Czech town of Plzeň, known to many of us from the famous Pilsner Urquell, believed to be the world’s first pale lager.

As breweries in North America begin to re-embrace “drinkability” as a key part of the equation (hence a recent uptick in soft-malt and -hopped lagers), this is a way of life in the Czech Republic, where going for one beer means “one last beer” at the end of a session! In a sense, what is old is new again.

As a first generation Czech Canadian, Steinsky knows the beer scenes in both countries quite well, and found himself looking for more Czech lagers here in the Maritimes; however, the process of shipping the beer over from Europe can greatly affect the flavour and aroma, as packaging, storing, and shipping beer all takes time. Much like in our region, there is a cooperative of Czech hop growers named Chmelarstvi, cooperative Zatec, which pools and shares resources to service the Czech hop producers. In addition to the immensely popular Saaz hop (which originates there in the town of Žatec), there are dozens of other Czech hops that can be used in lagers and ales in bittering, flavour, and aromatic roles. Hops like dual-purpose Sládek with medium-low alpha acids (bittering) and essential oils (for flavour and aroma); Rubin, with a higher bitterness and herbal and spicy aroma, often featuring 10% alpha acids and 4.0 g of oils per 100 g hop material; and Vital, topping the scale at up to 15.0% alpha acid, for a good boil hop to impart bitterness. Steinsky is also working with Dr. Josh Mayich of Darlings Island Farm in the Kennebecasis Valley to grow Saaz is this region.

Talk of beer tourism came up, which all parties agreed was a great way to be introduced to a new region. Living with his wife in Ottawa, Ambassador Hrnčíř spoke fondly of their biking out to Dominion City Brewing to the East of town, and enjoying a pint in their taproom. Chris recounted his trip to U Flecků, a Prague brewery dating back from 1499, where every night was a party complete with accordion player and a hearty and nice light meal of beef dumplings, potatoes, and sauerkraut. The expansion of breweries into smaller towns is something that both the Czech Republic and Atlantic provinces have in common, after many shut down due to government control or the fact that people were abandoning small towns in favour of jobs in the larger cities. Be sure to book your trip to the Beer Spa today!

For those Atlantic Canadian breweries looking to try their hand at brewing Czech lagers with authentic Czech ingredients, be sure to check out Bines & Vines website for the full list of hops and malts available. They have also teamed up with Czech Brewmasters, a consultant group of brewery owners who assist with recipe and process development to ensure authentic results on this side of the Atlantic.

Grab the 902 BrewCast episode with His Excellency Pavel Hrnčíř and Bines & Vines’ John Steinksy tomorrow morning, which also includes short interviews from the FCBF exhibition floor with Geaghan Brothers, Holy Whale, and O’Creek Brewing. Tune in, we hear there’s some big news coming in this ep!