Profiles

Fans of great beer in Halifax are no stranger to the name Stillwell. Since 2013 the bar has been pouring the best in local beer, bringing in tasty treats from other parts of the country and beyond, pioneering the modern beer garden concept in HRM, and putting on events that have spoiled our little city for world-class beer. Throughout that time they’ve teamed with local breweries for collaborations and contract brews under the Stillwell brand, including several mixed fermentation beers that have showcased the tastes and interests of Christopher Reynolds, one of the three primary owners of the bar. Back in spring of this year word got out that Chris had decided to take another leap of faith and start Stillwell Brewing in the spirit of some of his own personal favorite breweries. Although we’ve already seen the release of Stilly Pils, a hoppy, rugged and eminently drinkable brew that was a highlight of the late summer season at the Stillwell Beer Garden, we are quickly approaching the first bottle releases from the brewery, the culmination of many months of fermenting, aging and blending, bottling, and aging some more. We caught up with Chris to find out more about who and what his inspirations are, why he (finally!) decided to start the brewery, and what we’re likely to see from Stillwell Brewing in the coming weeks, months and years.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is the team involved in your brewery?
The brewery is mainly a project of mine (Chris), borne out of a desire to create the sorts of beers that I a) really love to drink and b) aren’t available locally. Namely, mixed-fermented, bone-dry beers. De La Senne, Oxbow, Jester King, etc. I am the main brewer, recipe maker, yeast steward and squeegee operator.

I made the first 10 batches with brewer Kyle Jeppesen, but unfortunately he’s had to take a job abroad, kind of an offer he couldn’t refuse. He was very bummed leave SBC, but given the experimental nature of the brewery, it was not (and may never be) in a position to pay anyone a salary, myself included.

Nikki Lockington, my lady, is also a daily contributor to the brewery. She helps me to plan beers and label designs, and takes care of a lot of logistics in terms of materials, and (eventually) sales.

I would say that the staff at Stillwell are officially and unofficially involved, too. Sam Fraser made our logo (from her tap wall handwriting, a ubiquitous feature of the bar), and Graeme, our chef, made a joke suggestion for a beer, which will be one of our first releases (“Sport”). Everyone kind of weighs in and offers support and feedback.

How did you get into the world of beer?
Being lucky enough to drink great stuff around people passionate about great stuff. Bar Volo was a real influence, as were a lot of the great beer books out there (Beaumont, Pashley, etc.), and finally and most importantly, traveling. We opened Stillwell in 2013 and beer has been my full time life ever since.

What made you decide to take the step of opening a brewery?
I’ve always enjoyed making beer. Homebrewing, as you would probably agree, is a wonderfully meditative process, and is something that makes me use a different part of my brain (and body – it is a workout). Personally, I find I’m happiest when I’m making or creating something, and unfortunately making bars and restaurants all the time, though I’ve certainly tried, is incredibly difficult and risky. Brewing a beer, as risky and big a process as it is at the commercial level, allows me a creative outlet. For several years, brewing my beers in other people’s breweries fully scratched the itch, but eventually I found that the beers suffered a little by not being fully in my control (and, mostly, on my timeline). I always said I would never open a brewery, but listening to an episode of The Sour Hour featuring Troy Casey of Colorado’s Casey Brewing and Blending, I realized that his set-up is actually attainable and manageable by me. Basically, a lot of oak, bottles and time, and some years of experience with yeasts and recipes, and it finally clicked that I could – and should – take the leap. In business and in life, if something is a foregone conclusion, like I just know it will work, I have to listen to that and take the leap.

What is the ethos of the brewery?
I’m looking for the brewery to be just like the bar, i.e., a “workshop” that will hopefully sustain us long enough to realize some goals in beer. I want to produce beers of character that are super drinkable, but immediately special. I’m very inspired by the family-sized breweries of Belgium, places like Cantillon and De Dolle. I love that they’re run by a small handful of family and friends, they make what they like, sell what they can, and aren’t bound by a group of stakeholders, production schedules and crazy equipment loans looming over their heads. When I hear someone is opening a brewery, I want to know that they have something to say with their beer, and I believe that I and we do, in this case.

Do you have an approximate opening date?
I would say that we’re technically “open” as of April, i.e., we’ve been brewing in our own space since then. We released Stilly Pils in August, which went great, but I was only able to get around to brewing a new batch in mid-September, which, of course, won’t be ready for months. On November 18 and 19 we will finally have a bottle release at the bar and brewery, and once we have bottles out, with the promise of more to follow, I think it’ll feel a little more real.

Can you tell us about the beers you’ll be offering initially?
Stilly Pils is something we want to make over the long haul, with tweaks along the way. A house beer for our bar and beergarden, we’ll try to have it on as much as possible. It’s my quest to make the ultimate pilsner, which, of course, can never end.

Most of the rest of our beers are and will be blends of barrel aged and/or barrel fermented farmhouse ales. We have bitter things, sours things, funky things, pale things, darker things, complex things, clean things, etc., in various stages of fermentation, and from those we’re blending and bottling.

The very first bottle release will be Stillwell Four, this year’s beer to celebrate the birthday of the bar. It’s a tart and effervescent farmhouse ale aged in a single sauvignon blanc barrel. We’ll be pouring it at our 4th Birthday Party before selling bottles the next day from our warehouse location.

Another of the earlier releases is called Sport, a tart barrel fermented farmhouse ale with sea salt and lime zest added. It’s margarita, gatorade and sour beer all in one, with notes of coconut and vanilla, and is bright as all get-out, with a big, rocky, long lasting head. It’s awesome and almost ready.

Possibly released on the same day will be Gosh, a tart red wine barrel aged farmhouse ale heavily dry-hopped with Mosaic. There’s a lovely fruit-meets-dankness of the hops on the nose, with tons of fruit character also showing through from the fermentation. The beer is very sparkly and, near the finish, the grapey, red wine character starts to show itself, and really comes out in the tannic, grippy finish. You immediately want another sip.

In mid-September I brewed a beer which, other than Stilly Pils, might be our first beer that won’t see oak. It’s my quest for Taras Boulba, or even young Stillwell 3. Hops and restrained fermentation character. It may see kegs, but I’m not sure yet.

Everything is a one-off until it’s not!

What are your plans for distribution (aka, how can people try your beer)?
A lot of this will be decided by the reception. If the beers are good and people buy them, then we’ll have a better idea of how this could look. I’ll say we’re making pretty niche beers and we’re not planning to get into the licensee keg game at all. We will likely have to export to sell all of our bottles, and we’ve been speaking to some agents in provinces abroad. We’re predominantly packaging bottles and most kegs will be just for Stillwell and the Beergarden, locally. We will never do growlers. Bottles will be available via our bottle release days (i.e., out of the brewery on certain afternoons), and very possibly available to-go from Stillwell (working on that licensing). We might look at figuring out a separate-from-Stillwell tasting room in a year or three, if that ever makes sense. I have some ideas!

Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers?
We don’t, but there are some restaurants in the city who I think may carry our beers, mostly pals. We won’t really be on tap anywhere.

Have you had any assistance from other breweries or people along the way?
100%. I owe a debt to North Brewing for hosting a whole slew of contract and collab brews, to Boxing Rock, Big Spruce & Bar Volo for making collabs with me in the early days, and to Propeller for renting me the space on Gottingen to work. Greg Nash from Unfiltered lent me some stuff yesterday. It’s true that we have a very collaborative and friendly industry. In terms of knowledge, there have been many brewers, especially in the U.S. and Belgium who’ve been willing to have a chat and throw me an opinion or two.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
I’d love to see us have a solid reputation for great farmhouse-style beer. We kind of have that already, so I guess I just hope we don’t frig that up! I’d like to create a job or two. I’d like to attend some cool festivals. I’d like to be happy drinking our beer!

What type of system are you brewing on, and what is your expected output?
We’re brewing on a very old, very manual 15bbl, two-vessel steam-powered brewhouse. The same kit Propeller brews their one-offs on. We have no expectation of yearly or monthly output.

Care to share some info on your homebrewing history?
Sure – I first started with kits in Toronto in 2010ish, then moved to Halifax and started really playing with mixed fermentations. I won something in a Brewnosers home brew competition, which was a real honour. I pretty quickly moved from homebrewing to collab brewing commercially — having a bar to buy the beer is pretty helpful when convincing a brewery to do a collab, and luckily they were all great. Definitely learned lots doing this — anytime one co-brews either at home or in a brewery one learns something, of course.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery whose beers you particularly enjoy drinking?
I like dry beers for the most part. I like hoppy beers and bitter beers. I like drinkability in beer most. Give me De La Senne Taras Boulba, Birrificio Italiano Tipopils and Mahr’s Brau Ungespundet and I’m a very happy man. Granite Ringwood. A good cask bitter or mild. A vintage barleywine. A geuze – any will do. Saisons from the classics to Quebec.

How about favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
Yeast first, then hops. I like Noble hops primarily, or their hybrid descendants. Saison & Pils.

How can folks keep up to date with the latest news and brews?
@stillwellbrewing on Instagram

A big thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer our many questions and hopefully give the uninitiated a good idea of what he’s got planned for Stillwell Brewing. If you like the sounds of what you read here, you should probably mark your calendar for later this month when the first bottled beer, Stillwell Four, becomes available, first for pours during the Stillwell (bar, not brewery) fourth birthday party on the 18th, and then the next day for retail sales at their warehouse location on Gottingen Street (entrance at the rear parking lot of Propeller Brewing). We’re looking forward to sampling not only this release, but the releases of the others Chris mentioned above, as well as those he hasn’t brewed or even dreamt up yet.

 

After several years of brewing at home in his basement for friends and family, avid homebrewer Keith Forbes is now brewing at home in his basement… but for a wider audience, as the commercial brewery Ol’ Biddy’s Brew House. Forbes released the first of his beers this past Friday, with the inaugural batch of his Funktown American Pale Ale delivered to Freeman’s Pizza Sackville, Bishop’s Cellar (for growler fills), and the Good Robot taproom, where he had previously done a Guest Tap Takeover. We traded emails with Forbes in between brewdays and cleaning kegs to learn more about him, his brewing history, his beers, and the future of OBBH.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Open with a hard question will ya? I’m 34, live in Sackville Nova Scotia, have been married to an amazing wife for 8 years and have 3 great kids. I work full time in IT/Telecom; have been brewing for quite a while, have competed against some of the best brewers (now friends) in the province and have a passion for craft beer. I’m fun, easy to get along with, but have been known to be a sarcastic arsehole all at the same time. But I am who I am. My wife is 37, and has lived in Sackville her whole life. She works in Payroll and has tolerated my passion for quite some time. She’s the better half of this duo and we wouldn’t be in this position to launch Ol’ Biddy’s Brew House without her support.

How did you get into the wonderful world of beer?
I started into the world of beer to save a few $$$ (that did not happen) as we just moved into a house; had 2 kids with a 3rd on the way. The first 6 months, it was Festabrew kits (ed: pre-made wort, just need to pitch yeast) which led into a couple Best Case kits (partial extract and steeped grains), after that found the Brewnosers and decided I could create my own beers. I brewed 2 extract batches before picking up a fellow brewer’s Brew in a Bag setup. After that, I was making some good beer. A year after that, I was entering competitions, receiving feedback and dialing in my product.

What made you decide to take the leap into going commercial?
My passion for great beer and wanting to share my product with everyone is the main reason. I love sharing my beer. Anyone who knows me will agree that if you show up, you’re likely having a beer or leaving with some! I believe the turning point was after the Forbes 500 tap takeover at Good Robot; it was a moment that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It was an event that let me briefly follow my dream. With Brightwood Brewery launching on a small scale I knew it was feasible and I started the process early this year to follow our dream.

Tell us about Ol’ Biddy’s: Where did the name come from?
Ol’ Biddy’s Brew House wasn’t the original name; as much as I love this brand there was a ton of disappointment in having to start over. As for the original name there is a story, but another brewery registered their name in the province and our original was rejected as the names were too similar.
As for Ol’ Biddy’s, we were around 3 weeks on brainstorming to come up with a new brand. We wanted to have a fun brand, be a bit sarcastic, stand out from the crowd and just make and share some great beers. For those who know us, my wife and I are like an old married couple… we should be very entertaining when we actually are an old married couple! She’s my Ol’ Biddy, and now that we are at this point, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is the ethos of the brewery?
We definitely believe in sharing and giving back where we can, and look forward to having fellow Brewnosers and friends in the brewery to give them an avenue to release some beers to the public, where it’s at beer events, a release at Stillwell, Battery Park, or one of our regular accounts.

Can you tell us about your lineup of beers?
We plan on having 3 mainstay beers that will be available more often than not. In addition, I have a list an arm long of beers that we plan to release as seasonals. As well, as a thank you to the Brewnosers, I would like to offer up the nano brewery for one-off releases to other members; let them experience the fun and excitement of having a beer commercially released. But back on track…these are the three core beers, I’m sure the ACBB Team is well-versed with these! (ed: Chris and Aaron have enjoyed many of Forbes’ beers during monthly Brewnosers meetings and social events)

Funktown APA: Crisp and Clean, hop-forward American Pale Ale. Heavy on the hops, but clean on the finish. This beer took Gold Medal in the 2015 Brewnosers National Homebrew Competition, and was released during my Good Robot Tap Takeover in November 2016. Future ideas for Funktown include the addition of pineapple, grapefruit, or blood orange.

Disco Inferno Red IPA: Fellow homebrewer Mike Orr and I created this recipe, and has been a favorite amongst many. Malt meets Hops. Well balanced, malt-forward, with chocolate and caramel notes and a citrus hop-focused finish. This beer won People’s Choice this year at the New Brunswick Big Strange Brew.

Even Gooder Coffee Brown: A well-balanced complex Brown Ale with a dense coffee aroma and flavor that finishes crisp, clean and leaving you wanting more. Once described as the “Cocaine and Hookers of Beers” (can I say that?). Knowing who said it, this was meant as the highest of compliments.

We also plan to offer two or three seasonal beers shortly after launch. Likely one of the best beers I’ve ever brewed previously was Moose Milk, my infamous Vanilla Bourbon Chocolate Milk Stout – rich, silky, and creamy with hints of vanilla and bourbon. It’s like chocolate milk for adults! You must try it; it won’t last. It might be going by a new name upon release…
The Orange American Bastard (#Trump) is a beer my nephew and I designed especially for him. Primarily Wheat-forward, with bitter orange peel, coriander and Cascade hops. Fermented with a clean American Ale yeast, it is a true bastard of the Wit Style of beer. It was originally designed as a one-off recipe, however, it has become a mainstay during the summer months.
Being so small, and concentrating on draft rather than packaged beer, I love offering a wide variety of beers I’ve brewed previously. Here are few other beers I look forward to sharing with the public:

Hops
  • Gail’s Revenge IPA
  • Hoppily Ever After DIPA
  • Intergalactic APA
  • Problem Child Amber (Brewed for release with Peter Lionais of Tidehouse Brewing)
Malts
  • Even Gooder Nut Brown (Released at Good Robot during the Tap Takeover)
  • Ol’ Biddy’s Irish Red
  • Alternate Ending Altbier (Brewed for release with Jeff Saunders at Bad Apple Brewhouse)
  • Tall Dark & Handsome Robust Porter (Bronze Medal Winner at 2015 Garrison Home Brew-Off)
  • Engine 41 Smoked Porter (Released at Good Robot)
  • Tilted Kilt Wee Heavy (Collaboration brew with Mike Orr; Gold Medal Winner at the Hammond River Brewing Competition.
  • The Good Boy Dark English Mild (Released at Good Robot)
  • The Cookie Jar White Stout (Released at Good Robot)
Wheats, Light Ales & Sours
  • Lawn & Order Wheat Ale.
  • Alternate Releases: Blueberry; Apricot and Blood Orange
  • Liquid Gold (Silver Medal Winner at the 2016 Big Spruce Brewing Comp)
  • Orange Grove Wheat
  • Sackvegas Sour
What are your plans for distribution?
We are still waiting to see what I can do in terms of distribution; being zoned R1 is tricky. The initial focus will be having a few select tap accounts and then see how sales are. We may provide growler sales in the future, but are waiting to hear on zoning. Worst case scenario, I’ll have the potential to be setup at Farmers markets.

How can folks enjoy your beer currently?
We have already delivered Funktown APA to Bishop’s Cellar, Good Robot, and Freeman’s Sackville. Yesterday (Sunday), Mount Uniacke Pub received our Even Gooder Coffee Brown, and in the next day or two, we’ll be delivering kegs of that and the Chocolate Milk Stout to Battery Park (as well as a pair of the previous spots). Our beer will be dispersed throughout HRM; most areas will only have my beer at one establishment, being a small brewery operation. However, we want to spread the beer out as far as we can to reach the most people. If anyone reading this is interested in taking beer on let us know. We are looking for a few more tap accounts in Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbor, Bedford and Windsor.

Have you had assistance from other breweries or people while you made your way towards opening?
This is a long list and everyone has offered me assistance, guidance or feedback over the years… in the beginning to get started brewing, feedback on beers, friendly razzing in competitions over the years, or just answering questions on the setup process. These are in no order and I apologize if I missed anyone.

  • Erin Forbes (My wife and the inspiration behind our brand)
  • The Brewnosers
  • Jeff Saunders @ Bad Apple Brewhouse (Somerset)
  • Greg Nash @ Unfiltered (North Street)
  • Jimmy Beaman @ Mad Boocha (North Street)
  • Mike Orr
  • Shane Steeves @ Hammond River (Rothesay, NB)
  • 1029 Brewing
  • Brathair Brewing
  • Chris @ ACCB
  • Josh, Doug, Angus and the rest of the Good Robot Team (Robie Street)
  • Jeremy @ Big Spruce (Nyanza)
  • Peter and Shean at Tide House (Salter Street)
  • Dave @ Everwood Ave (Lr. Sackville)
  • Becky @ Sober Island (Sheet Harbour)
  • Jonathan @ Best Case (Burnside)
  • Matt @ Brightwood Brewing (Dartmouth)
  • There are more, but my mind is tired and sorry if I forgot a mention!

With that said, if someone wants to talk brewing, has a question about the process, wants to join us for a pint and just discuss beer we are all ears and encourage it. If you see us, say Hi!

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
I hope to still be having fun with the brewery. Likely in 2 years I’ll have more shiny gear and a few new fermentors. However, I want to keep it small scale for now, keep things exciting, and have friends in to brew. Eventually, I would love to have a tap room in Sackville; have a few main stays and rotate through an abundance of seasonal and one-off beers. Wait and see what the future brings.

Let’s get a bit nerdy for those of us who want to learn more about the beer and brewery specifics:
Tell us about your brewhouse.
I’ve got a fully custom 1 barrel (120 litre) brewery with a pair of fermentors; I built it over the years as funds permitted. There’s nothing standard about this setup, and it’s likely one of the most Frankensteined breweries around. With that said, it’s doesn’t come down to the equipment used, but the quality of beer you can produce.
To start, we anticipate producing 600 litres per month (72 hL per year); in 2 years I’m anticipating growing to 170-200 hL annually. Either way, it’s still small scale; but we are ok with that.

Can you share more about your homebrewing history?
I started 6 or 7 years ago, and found the Brewnosers forums about 5 years ago. I started out with a canned Coopers kit. It was complete garbage, but we drank it anyway. Later, I found Festabrew kits and fermented those for a few months, which is around the time I found the Brewnosers. I moved from bottles to kegs and partial grain kits, and then started producing my own recipes on Jimmy’s old 20 litre setup. From that point, I entered into competitions, where I made some great friends and slowly grew my system over time. Next thing you know, I have a brewery in my basement and I’m looking for a license! Never would have guessed 5 years ago that I’d be at this point.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
It really depends on the day. I love a good hop-forward, low-SRM beer; just something juicy and delicious when done right. As for favorite local breweries or beers, I’d need to say Bad Apple’s Boxcutter IPA and Unfiltered Exile on North St. are at the top of my list.

How about a favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
No real favourite styles to brew; kettle sours are more interesting. But overall the process is the same, you mash, boil, ferment, keg, and then drink. However, my favourite ingredient to brew with (which I think has a lot to do with my beer) is the salts. Most wouldn’t think water additions would make or break a beer; however it’s single-handedly what makes my beer unique. Looking forward, we are looking to get a barrel and do a few barrel aged beers. Not sure where we will put the barrel; but we will find a space!

Massive thanks to Keith for taking time out of a full time job and full time brewing to answer our questions. The Ol’ Biddy’s Brew House website is currently under development, so the best way to keep track of beer availability is through Twitter and Facebook. Congratulations to Keith and Erin on joining the ranks of Nova Scotia breweries!

Alma, New Brunswick, has just joined the growing ranks of other small towns in the province that have their own brewery. Brothers Jeff and Pete Grandy, originally from Prince Edward Island, have opened Holy Whale Brewery in a former church, which is also home to the Buddha Bear Coffee Roaster & Cafe, a cafe/taproom also owned by the Grandys. We’ve exchanged some emails and met with Jeff to find out what Holy Whale has in store for Alma, and the rest of the province…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Pete and I grew up in PEI. My background prior to our beer venture is in business marketing, and Pete’s is in engineering and teaching. Pete lives next door to the brewery – he needed a place to live and it had a great well (and water tested very favourable for our brewing water) and I just moved to Moncton with my wife and little daughter.

How did you get into the world of beer?
After university, I sort of fell into a job that after about 10 years or so, realized it wasn’t for me (takes me a while). I stumbled upon a brewing operation program at both Niagara College in Ontario, and Olds College in Alberta. I applied to Olds and was luckily accepted. After my first of two years, my wife – who was doing her MBA at the time – and I started our business plan. She was able to use it as her final project, so a fair bit of time and discussion was allotted to the plan. At the beginning of my second year, I approached Pete, who was teaching at a college in Malaysia at the time. As an engineer, Pete had experience with manufacturing QA/QC and thought he may be a good addition. After graduation, I also approached Ian Hillier, who is the engine/muscle behind this project. Ian, having experience as a general contractor, being a generally nice guy, and having the patience in dealing with our arguing was key in allowing us to get this thing off the ground. If it wasn’t for Ian, we’d be opening in a year’s time.

Pete and I started by making wine in our high school years. We were very serious about the process, mostly because our older brother was terribly meticulous and was pretty strict in the teaching process. After a year of making wine, we soon had too much product for us to drink and Pete starting selling to others at Colonel Gray High School and Queen Charlotte Junior High (I had nothing to do with this). I eventually got into beer-making in my mid-twenties, and eventually started all-grain brewing a few years after and have been at it since.

What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
We are trying hard to create a space where our customers can relax, and product that they can enjoy. We also hope that our staff enjoys the environment where they work, whether it be in the brewhouse or cafe. Despite being fairly regimented in the brewhouse, we are trying not to take ourselves and what we do in an overly serious way. We’re a taproom/brewery in Alma, NB – not exactly saving the world.

Can you tell us about the beers you’re offering initially? Any seasonals or one-offs in the works? 
Right now, we’re experimenting quite a bit. We just had our soft-opening over the past weekend, which are the following:
– An experimental Irish red (on nitro, 4.2% ABV, 18 IBUs)
– Session IPA (4.1% ABV, 35 IBUs) with flaked oats in the malt bill, bittered with Magnum hops, and Azacca and Mosaic used as late additions, as well as the dry hop.
– American Pale Ale (5.3% ABV, 55 IBUs) bittered with Magnum, and hopped with Amarillo, Cashmere and El Dorado for late/dry hop additions.
Once we have a few more beers tested and have our Brewery Agency Store (BAS) license (for takeaway sales), we’ll likely have our grand opening; we’re hoping mid-December.

What are your plans for distribution? Taproom, keg licensees, bottles/cans, growlers, etc.? Will you be licensed for on-site sales or consumption at the brewery?
We currently operate a cafe featuring 10+ craft beers on tap, with a heavy Maritime focus. We operate the cafe under the name ‘Buddha Bear Coffee Roaster’ and will market the beer under ‘Holy Whale Brewing Co.’ We’ll likely focus on taproom sales; through pints at first, and then eventually crowler fills once we get our BAS.

Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada (or elsewhere)?
A lot of breweries have been great in knowledge sharing — quite a few over the past couple of years.  A couple to note, Jeff and Graham from Tool Shed in Calgary helped out as I was starting my business plan. More recently, advice from Jake and Dan at Trailway, Patrice at Acadie-Broue, Ian Cameron from Bale Breaker in Yakima Valley, and Dave Holowaty from Rebellion in Regina.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
Still existing.

What size/manufacturer/type of system are you be brewing on? Expected output (monthly, yearly, etc)?
We purchased a 10 hectolitre system from a manufacturer in China. A German brewer I met while I was in school at Olds suggested I contact this manufacturer where he had sourced his equipment. My brother Pete, who was in Asia at the time, went to China and inspected the manufacturing warehouse and visited a couple of brewpubs with this equipment in place. Overall, we’re happy with the equipment – a few measurements for our space were off, which caused some initial headaches, but overall we’re pleased after our first few brew days.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
I find Belgian styles and wacky, hop-forward styles the most interesting.  I also have a great deal of respect for any craft brewer who produces a crisp, clean lager.

Do you have a website, Facebook page, Instagram account, and/or Twitter presence?
We’re using our ‘Buddha Bear’ Facebook page as our go-to for info — along with Instagram — @buddhabearcafe

Congrats to Jeff and Pete on their recent launch! Be sure to drop by the Buddha Bear to give their beers – as well as their coffee – a taste. Stay tuned to their social media pages – and this blog, of course – for details on future beers, and their grand opening in December.


The Annapolis Brewing Company opened recently in Annapolis Royal. Local business owners and entrepreneurs Danny McClair and Paul St Laurent have turned their love of craft beer and homebrewing into a professional endeavour. We chatted with Danny and Paul to learn more about their beer and plans for the future.

How did you get into the world of beer?
There is something to be said about holding a local glass of craft beer and smapling the diverse styles that are being produced on a smaller scale.

What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
Like many others, we have been homebrewing for years and our product has been sampled by many. We always get “Where can I get this?”

What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
Brew with 5 ingredients- Water, Barley, Yeast, Hops and LAUGHTER

Can you tell us about the beers you have available?
Our current beer lineup is:
Acadian Honey Brown: 5.4% ABV, 20 IBU
Ceasefire IPA: 6.3% ABV, 50 IBU
Fenwick’s Blonde: 4.8% ABV, 14 IBU
King George Porter: 5.5% ABV, 34 IBU
McCormick’s Blonde: 5.3% ABV, 21 IBU
W & A (Windsor and Annapolis) Railway Rye IPA: 6.7% ABV, 60 IBU (dry hopped with Citra).

What are your plans for distribution?
Our current model is growler and keg sales. We do not have a retail location at the moment, but people can reach out to us via social media to request their favourites. We will have a table at the Annapolis Royal Farmers and Traders Market in the future, too.

Where can folks grab a pint of your beer?
We are on tap at Ye Ole Town Pub in Annapolis Royal and Horton Ridge Malt and Grain in Hortonville, NS.

Have you had any assistance from other breweries in Atlantic Canada?
Craft brewers in Nova Scotia are like family and are always happy to assist. The crews at Lunn’s Mill and Bad Apple Brewhouse have been a great help out of the gates.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
We plan to be on a 5 BBL system in early 2018 with plans to expand to a new building by the end of 2019. That location with have a taproom so visitors can enjoy our beer right on-site.

Can you tell us about your brewhouse system?
We currently brew on a 1 BBL (120 litre) system from Spike Brewing, with 600 litres of fermentation capacity. We will be expanding the brewhouse to a 5 BBL (600 litre) system by Spring, with 1800 litres of capacity.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Our favorite style is IPA. This beer style provides for so many varitations in colour, hops and taste.

How about favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
We like them all!

How can folks connect with you online?
Website: http://www.annapolisbrewing.com/
Twitter: @AnnapolisBrewCo
Facebook: @AnnapolisBrewing

Anything else you’d like to share?
We are excited to join the Nova Scotia family of craft brewers. Cheers!

Thanks to Danny and Paul for getting us up to speed with their operations in Annapolis Royal. Grab a pint of their Ceasefire IPA or W & A Rye IPA at Ye Olde Town Pub and Horton Ridge now, and we’ll keep you up to speed with their expansion in the spring. Welcome to the NS Craft Beer family, Annapolis Brewing!

Tanner_Logo

Tanner & Co Brewing Company of Chester Basin, NS, is set to open its doors this weekend. Owner and brewer Dan Tanner came to enjoy beer through the culinary field and while training as a Sommelier, a different route than many others. Chester Basin is located 70km West of Halifax on the 103, near the Eastern edge of the South Shore. We traded emails with Tanner to learn more about his background, and plans for Tanner & Co Brewing.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a veteran of the restaurant industry & have been involved in it for 17 years. I started as a server & then moved in to management at beautiful White Point Beach Resort. I originally studied wine, becoming one of the first graduates of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers Atlantic Chapter program. A few years later I completed the NSCC Culinary Arts program. Brewing fit perfectly with the two, as I learned how to taste from my wine studies & how to cook from culinary education.
We thought long and hard about a name for the brewery & decided to honour my family name. Tanners were among the first settlers of Lunenburg County in the mid 1700’s. I am proud to name my brewery after such a long history of hard workers, comprised mainly of fishermen and farmers.

How did you get into the world of beer?
My beer knowledge was limited until a session on beer during the Sommelier program opened my eyes to the many different styles available around the globe. I learn by doing & while I love wine, I was drawn to beer because it was something I could make with greater control. If you have a bad year producing wine, you have to wait for the next year to try again. With brewing, I have greater control on the ingredients used as well as the final outcome. And if I’m not happy with what I’ve made, I can start over the next day, and not have to wait for another season.

Tanner’s home vineyard, look for grape must to be used in some of the beers

Care to share some info on your homebrewing history?
I’ve been a homebrewer for over 5 years. Did about two batches of extract kits before making the jump to all grain. For the last two years I’ve been doing double batches just about weekly. All that extra beer is a great way to make friends!

What made you decide to take the leap into opening a brewery?
Five years ago I floated the idea to friends who thought I was crazy. They’re probably right, but after that much time & still wanting to do so, I decided to go ahead. You only live once. I’m starting with a 3BBL (350 litre) brewhouse, with two fermenters & one brite tank.

The Brewhouse

The Brewhouse

Can you tell us about the beers you’ll be brewing?
I have a lightly hopped pale ale that I’m happy with. It’ll likely show up in the rotation more often than others. Otherwise, with the smaller system we have to brew on, we’ll be experimenting lots for the first year or so. I have traditional German styles Roggenbier (Rye Beer) & Dampfbier (Steam Beer) that will also show up along with our vintage beers produced with grapes from our onsite vineyard. I had an awesome Cabernet Franc Milk Stout produced last year with our grapes. The juice went to making a small batch of wine & the skins, stalks & pulp (must) went in to the beer.
This weekend will see the release of six small batches I’ve brewed. An American Pale Ale, Belgian Blonde, Imperial Milk Stout with Masala Chai from the The Tea Brewery in Mahone Bay, a Lemon Lavender Saison, as well as the Dampfbier and Roggenbier.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking (or brewing)?
Picking a favourite beer is like picking a favourite child (I assume anyway). I enjoy trying any beer I can get my hands on, to taste, evaluate & try to dissect what the brewer was going for.

How can folks enjoy your beer?
We will be concentrating on mostly selling kegs to licensees, with some growler sales in some of the local Farmers’ Markets. For this weekend’s soft launch, growlers will be for sale at the brewery itself.

Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers?
We’ve been waiting until we are in the production phase to knock on doors. Saltbox Brewing was the first to offer to put us in their guest tap rotation, so once production is in full swing, our beer will be available there. Another great show of support from a local brewery! Plus we have several more breweries, restaurants and bars on the short list for kegs shortly.

Coming Soon!

Have you had any assistance from other breweries or folks in Atlantic Canada?
Jeff Saunders from Bad Apple Brewhouse has been a huge help. No matter how dumb the question he has always answered questions and offered advice. Happy to have such a great brewer answer my calls and emails. And since learning about us, the great folks at Saltbox Brewing in Mahone Bay have been proactive in offering assistance, as they recently went through many of the steps and faced the same hurdles to open.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
That’s a great question. I love brewing beer & hope that people enjoy it. I’m happy staying small. I love my day job as well, so just happy getting the chance to live out my passion & experiment in small batches.

Thanks very much to Dan for letting us know about the brewery. You can grab your first tastes of Tanner & Co this weekend at the brewery on Angus Hiltz Rd from 12-6PM Saturday and again Sunday (if there’s anything left!). Currently, only retail sales (0.75l flip top and 1.89l growlers) are possible at the brewery, though a taproom may be coming in the future. Keep an eye on the T&C Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest news and releases.

Stellarton’s A.J. Leadbetter is no stranger to small business. His father owned and operated a painting business in Stellarton for 60-some-odd years, after which AJ ran the family shop himself until a fire severely damaged the storefront in 2015. Meanwhile, he also expressed a love for music, playing guitar in bands around Pictou County for the better part of the last decade. After discovering craft beer and developing a home brewing hobby, AJ spent some time working at Uncle Leo’s in Lyon’s Brook, where he gained an appreciation for the processes and work involved in a production brewery. Now, he’s blending his entrepreneurial spirit and musical bent along with his love of beer and an intensely DIY approach to bring a second brewery to the PC, this one “in town” on Bridge Avenue in Stellarton in the building that formerly housed his family’s paint shop. Backstage Brewing Co. is built around the idea of bringing folks backstage, to see the show behind the show. AJ has been busily building his brewery over the last several months, and is poised to start selling beer in September. We reached out to ask him our usual gamut of questions and get the story behind Backstage Brewing.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into the world of beer?
I started home brewing a few years ago after my friend Seth got me into it. Started out brewing a few kit beers before getting bored and wanting to get in deep. I’m a bit of a foodie so that desire to create food led to wanting to create beers.

What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
Prior to getting into brewing beer we used to do chicken wing parties. Then we introduced my beer to these parties and the reception to them was great. It was that support that sparked the fire to get going on a microbrewery.

Can you tell us about the beers you plan on offering initially?
We have 4-5 that will be in our core line-up. Daydreamer is a pale ale that comes in at 4.8% and 21 IBU. Hangover Helper is an American Pale, 5.3% and 40 IBU; light-bodied and packed with flavor. Headliner is big juicy IPA. It’s 6.3% and 60 IBU. Gemini is a DIPA. 8% and 100+ IBU. It’s big! It’s bitter! And surprisingly easy to drink! Nunmoar Black IPA is 6.6% and 75 IBU. Roasted, Hoppy, and Black. How much more black can it be? None.

What are your plans for distribution? Plans for tap accounts, bottles, growlers, etc.? Will you be licensed for on-site sales or consumption at the brewery?
Right now, our plan is to sell the majority of the beer out of the brewery: we’ll be offering growler fills of our beers, and operating a taproom, located in the same building as the brewery. Once all our permits are in place, we will have 12 taps of Nova Scotia craft beer, with 4-5 taps reserved for Backstage Brews.

Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers?
We don’t have any local tap accounts lined up but have had interest in Halifax.

Do you have an approximate launch date?
Our tanks are installed and we’ve been working on filling them. That will hopefully have us selling our products for early September, when we’re hoping to do a soft launch.

Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada (or elsewhere)?
Yes, I’ve been working for Uncle Leo’s since November 2016. What started as hanging out at the brewery turned into a full time job. Karl and Rebecca have been very good to me. The experience/knowledge I’ve gathered while working in a commercial brewery is kind of priceless. We purchased our brew house from Peter at North Brewing. Peter and Josh have been great. The craft beer community in Nova Scotia is very helpful.

In terms of putting the brewery and business together, my wife Beth’s parents, Wayne and Lynn, have been instrumental. Wayne is our head of construction and Lynn is our bookkeeper.

What type of system are you be brewing on?
It’s a 2.5bbl Psychobrew system. We are hoping to produce 250-300bbl this year.

Care to share some info on your homebrewing history?
It’s the classic “homebrewer turned pro brewer” story. I homebrewed and people enjoyed the finished beers. Beth has been my biggest supporter and really pushed me to make this happen.

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Honestly, I love big hoppy beers. West coast-style IPAs being my favorite. I never seem to grow tired of them.

Do you have a website, Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter page?
We have no website at this point, we have a Facebook page here, that just went live in the last couple weeks. We also have an instagram account, @backstagebrewingco

We’ve been totally focused on making the brewery happen. The social media presence will come. Beer first.

Anything else you’d like to share? We’d love pass it along.
We look forward to getting our beers out there for people to enjoy. Thanks for the support so far!

Thanks to AJ for taking the time to answer our questions about Backstage Brewing and letting us know what he’s got in the works. We’ll be keeping our collective ear to the ground for an official opening announcement and we’ll share it with you as soon as we know. Meanwhile, the best way to follow AJ’s progress is on Instagram where you can see the hard work, creativity and skill that’s going into his brewery and taproom. You’ll also have a chance to hear a more extensive interview with AJ by the gang from 902 BrewCast, currently scheduled to drop on September 19th.

Rothesay’s newest brewery, Long Bay Brewery, launched with a soft opening in late June. Owned by husband and wife team Sean Doyle and Julie Young, the brewery has spent the summer filling growlers of their two flagship beers for locals and tourists passing through. We recently chatted with Sean, who is also the brewer, to find out a little more about what makes Long Bay tick, and what they have planned for thirsty New Brunswickers in the coming months…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
We both grew up in the area and are here to stay. We spend most of our free time chasing our three sons around, tending our large vegetable garden, and taking care of our chickens.

How did you get into the world of beer?
When craft beer first started to become available it was tough to come by, and we didn’t necessarily have the money to spend on it either, so we had to take matters into our own hands. After a few years goofing around with brewing kits, I built an electric all grain system at our house to really dial in a few recipes. I spent a big part of my career as a biologist, so I really connected well with brewing and became deeply interested in the biology and chemistry involved in making good beer. With my love for the craft, and Julie’s experience in customer service, we decided to make the jump.

What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
Our culture here is all about making the best beer we can, by using high end ingredients. I know this sounds like your same old story, but we take it to great lengths. For instance, we only use liquid cultures of yeast, we choose to use specialized imported grain by the bag instead of solely 2-row, and we use really high quality hops from a local supplier that are spot-on. This mindset certainly isn’t cheap, but when I was home brewing I decided pretty early on that if I was going to put in 10+ hours brewing a batch, I wasn’t going to do it without the best ingredients I could get. We definitely brought that same ethos with us here to the brewery.

Long Bay Brewery, 82 Marr Rd, Rothesay, NB

Can you tell us about the beers you’ve launched with? Any plans for seasonals or one-offs in the works?
At first we are offering two core beers:

Bantam APA – This is a recipe we had brewed at home for years. It’s a 5.5% ABV Pale Ale that has huge hop aroma, but is quite low in bitterness (40 IBUs). It’s a very approachable, dry beer that we always had on hand at home in both the winter and summer months, and it became a staple style for us. We use Cascade and Centennial hops supplied by Darlings Island Farm, where the owner (Josh Mayich) pelletizes them under low temperatures before packaging, which really preserves the hop oil and makes for a really unique aroma in the final beer. We also use Citra, which is an amazing hop for any hop forward ale, in our opinion.

Chalice Belgian Ale – This beer is a super dry, deceivingly strong beer that was also a popular beer for us at home. To me, yeast selection is just as important to a Belgian beer as hop selection is to make an IPA, so it took years for me to find the right strain. So, to make this beer exactly the way I liked in bigger batches, I had to send my house Belgian yeast strain to Escarpment Labs to be grown up to commercial sizes. It’s a 6.5% ABV Belgian Blond ale, with all of the aromatic characters you would expect from a Belgian beer. It has been really well received with our customers so far, so we will definitely keep this in the core lineup.

We have a 7% ABV IPA and a Berliner Weisse in the works as well, and I hope to have them ready in the next month or so.

How can people enjoy your beer?
Our big push is to get our beer in bottles in ANBL stores. We bought a small bottler from the folks at Boxing Rock, and are working at getting it up and running. We also plan to have a few pubs in the Saint John area as well soon, but for now, we are selling growlers only at the brewery and don’t have seating for consumption on-site.

Growlers are available at the brewery now, with bottles and kegs available soon

What are the days/hours of the retail location?
We are open Wednesday and Thursday 3pm-8pm, and Friday and Saturday 12pm-8pm. We are closed Sunday-Tuesday for brewing operations.

Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers on tap?
We have had a few conversations with pubs, but don’t want to go too far until we get a few more batches on. We will be reaching out to accounts here soon.

Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada (or elsewhere)?
We have had a bunch of help from Henry at Boxing Rock. He is really good technically and was a great guy to ask tough questions about steam boiler setup and brewing equipment in general. Another person that helped was Esty (Andrew Estabrooks) from Foghorn Brewing just down the road from us. That guy has a ton of brewing experience and was a huge help with hiccups in scaling up to big brewing gear. This industry is great for support from other brewers and we are definitely going to be the same way when any other brewery needs help.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
In the next 2-3 years I would like to see us stay right in the we are, but with a few more tanks and a few more recipes dialed in nicely and available in bottles. Really the big thing is I hope the smoke clears a bit so we can get time to experiment a bit with things like Brettanomyces cultures, and make a few solid funky wild beers while keeping the core beers rolling.

For us beer nerds:

What size/manufacturer/type of system are you brewing on? Expected output (monthly, yearly, etc)?
We have a 15 bbl (~1750 L) steam-powered DME brewhouse with 30 bbl (~3500 L) fermentors. We wanted the ability to put out a large volume of beer if demand increases so we went as big as we could. Based on advice from other brewers this was the best way to go.

Long Bay’s 15 BBL brewhouse, from Charlottetown’s DME

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
My wife and I are really into sour and wild beers. The most enjoyable beers I’ve ever made were ones that sat tucked away for a year with Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces in a keg. I know it’s going to be tough to pull anything off like that on big gear since we can’t tie up tanks very long, but eventually we will find a way.

How about a favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
Not sure if you would consider yeast an ingredient (Ed: sure we would!), but to me it is by far the most important and interesting addition to any beer. I have brewed with a huge number of the yeast strains available to brewers and feel like it’s the differences between strains and how to use them that makes brewing interesting.

Thanks to Sean for answering our questions, and best wishes to he and Julie on Long Bay’s endeavors! Be sure to stop by the brewery at 82 Marr Rd in Rothesay for a couple of growler fills at the times mentioned above, and keep your eyes open for their Bantam APA and Chalice Belgian Ale in bottles in the coming weeks. Follow along with the new releases and licensee sales on their social media pages too: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Congratulations!