Profiles

MacDougall Settlement is a small village located north of Moncton, New Brunswick, about a 30-minute drive away. There, on a 7th generation farm, lies Valonray Farmhouse Brewery. Owned by Philippe Fontaine, this is yet another small craft brewery opening with big dreams… but Valonray’s plans differ significantly from other breweries in the province. As they plan to have beer available to the public in the near future, we thought it was finally time to chat with Phillipe and get some details on what we can expect from Valonray in the coming months…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Philippe (Phil) Fontaine and I’m the owner and brewer at Valonray Farmhouse Brewery. After graduating from university with a degree in electrical engineering, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces as an Engineering Officer and served in this role for almost 10 years. Since last summer, my wife Allison and I have moved back to south-eastern NB, cleared an overgrown area, and built our farmhouse brewery from scratch next to a planned cherry orchard and hop yard that is still in the works.

How did you get into the world of beer?
While posted at CFB Gagetown in 2012, I became interested in craft beer by being exposed to Fredericton’s vibrant craft beer community and watching the number of breweries explode. Shortly after, I started homebrewing and the hobby quickly became a passion.

Soon after, I was brewing an all grain batch once a week (or more) and reading as many books on the subject as I could find. I went from mostly brewing IPAs to eventually becoming more interested in the myriad Belgian-styles, and started to focus my reading more towards them. Some of the books that had an impact on my brewing style were Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski, Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow and more recently, American Sour Beers by Michael Tonsmeire. I probably read these books 15 times, trying to hone the brewing techniques and recipe development of these types of ales.

What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
By reading these books, I discovered a facet of the American craft-brewing movement that was lacking in the Canadian one, that of making traditional Belgian-style sour ales and wild fermentations in general, such as the examples of Jolly Pumpkin, The Bruery or New Belgium. When I started the business plan these types of breweries were non-existent in Atlantic Canada and they are still are quite underrepresented to this day.

Being originally from just outside of Moncton, I wanted to settle back on the family farm and I knew there was an opportunity to open a brewery in the area, being the largest population centre in New Brunswick and only having one micro-brewery and a handful of very small nano-breweries.

What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
Our key philosophy is sourcing the raw materials as locally as possible. We are making Belgian Style ales, but all of our ingredients are sourced locally, when it’s possible. All of our malted grain comes from Horton Ridge Malt and Grain from grains grown in the Maritimes. The unmalted grain found in some of our ales comes from a farm 10 km down the road. We currently have 50 beehives on the property, and plan on growing all of our own hops within the next 5 years, as well as having a fruit orchard used for making barrel-aged fruit sour ales. Within the next year, we will release a beer that will be 100% Canadian, including the “Belgian-style” yeast. We believe beer is an agricultural product and this state of mind has a profound impact on how we operate.

Valonray Bottles and Horton Ridge Malt

Valonray Bottles and Horton Ridge Malt

Can you tell us about the beers you plan on offering initially?
We aimed for simpler recipes as an initial release. We did not want to overcomplicate things on a new system, and the beers we really want to make take longer and more tanks on hand to make. Our initial line-up of beers are all open-fermented and bottle-refermented, but they only contain various Saccharomyces strains. We have a Tripel, a Single, a Blonde ale, Pale ale and a Saison. The Tripel and Single have a similar recipe, but the results are quite different because of higher amount of simple sugars in the Tripel. The Blonde is actually closer to a Belgian Golden Strong, but with lower alcohol. The Pale ale was designed to be slightly more malt-forward to highlight our use of craft malts. The Saison is definitely our flagship, and various iterations of this recipe will be released in the future. Our five initial beers will be modified within the next year, as we plan to switch to an all-Brettanomyces production. Our first Brett-inoculated batch was brewed this week, with probable release in September.

The planned Brett lineup will look similar to the current clean beers, but we also want to offer a Saison brewed with wild Ontario yeast and Brett, a Witbier, as well as a Norwegian Kveik style ale.

We are slowly starting production of our sour beer and will eventually offer an Oud Bruin style ale, a Flanders Red style and a Lambic style (including Kriek and Framboise). The Oud Bruin is scheduled for production in 2 weeks and should be ready in a little over a year.

For a seasonal, we have a Bourbon Barrel-aged Tripel planned for the fall.

What are your plans for distribution?
Our beer will be sold solely in 750 mL bottles in our on-site sales room and in select ANBL locations and restaurants. We plan on rolling out some sort of growler program by the summer. It’s a bit of a technical challenge, as we only do bottle-refermentation. What we have planned would be in essence a bottle exchange program, to be re-used for refermentation.

Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to sell your beers?
We do not have any initial accounts firmly in place at the moment. Our focus has been to get our sales room approved and to get our beers listed for sale in ANBL locations.

Valonray Hop Trial

Valonray Hop Trial

Have you had any assistance from other brewers in Atlantic Canada?
We gathered input from other homebrewers and talked to multiple brewery owners, but had to develop most of our systems and procedures ourselves, as we were definitely going off the beaten path with our fermentation techniques. No breweries in eastern Canada use our methods, so I gathered as much info I could from interviews and articles from the American breweries.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
We are hoping to have a sour program established within this time frame and a cherry orchard and hop yard established on the brewery grounds.

Do you have an approximate opening date?
We should have the direct sales room open, and our bottles on ANBL shelves, within 2 weeks. All the approvals are in place and we are just waiting on the paperwork to be finalized.

Valonray Brewhouse from Colorado Systems

Valonray Brewhouse from Colorado Systems

What size/manufacturer/type of system are you be brewing on? Expected output (monthly, yearly, etc)?
We brew on a 1 BBL (~120 L) Colorado Brewing Systems dual pot system. We do double batches (2 BBL) on our brew days. Our current monthly output is 800 L, and the projected monthly output is 3000 L once we start working at the brewery full time.

Our techniques are quite unique in these parts, as we do open vat fermentation in a warm room at high temperature; we will eventually inoculate all our ales with Brett (some with bacteria). All our beers will be aged in barrels or in stainless wine tanks for a minimum of 4 months, and all our beers are bottle refermented in 750 mL bottles.

Valonray Fermentation Tanks

Valonray Fermentation Tanks

Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
I enjoy beers that use phenolic/estery yeasts, as well as sour beers, New England IPAs, and occasional British style ales.

How about a favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
I enjoy experimenting with adjuncts (raw oats, buckwheat, rye, different sugars, etc.).

Congratulations to Phillipe on all of his hard work coming to fruition! We look forward to sampling Valonray’s first beers, soon. Follow them along on Facebook and Twitter for updates on when their beers are available, and of course we’ll be sure to mention these details in our weekly Friday Wrap-Up.

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!