Profiles

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

Ninepenny Logo

 

Ninepenny Brewing will be opening this weekend in Conception Bay South, Newfoundland. The brewery and taproom are located at 75 Conception Bay Highway, with three beers beer flowing from the taps to be enjoyed onsite or to take away in growlers. Amidst the construction, brewing, and cleaning (so much cleaning!) we caught up with Glenn, Keith, Justin, and Dwayne of Ninepenny to learn more about them, their beer, and plans to introduce locally-made beer to the CBS region.

Can you tell us about yourselves?
We are four friends who, after years of homebrewing, decided to make the leap into opening a microbrewery. We had independently wanted to make a go of it, and after deliberating for some time, we came together over the Easter weekend in 2017 to really pull the business plan together as a group of 4. We all have different strengths, backgrounds, and interests, and that’s been lending itself well to the journey so far.
Glenn is an Electrical Engineer who is a long time fan of brewing his own beer, wine, cider and mead. He enjoys the history and tradition behind brewing principles, including finding the perfect pairing for food and drink.
Keith has been working as a Civil Engineering consultant, managing his own team and large projects. He loves outdoor activities and has been involved in the ski patrol since 2009. Keith has been homebrewing for years, starting out by helping his parents with homebrew wines. The art, science, and community around craft brewing was a natural progression.
Justin has worked as a Civil Engineering consultant in Municipal design for the past 5 years. He enjoys the outdoors and traveling to new places to experience local craft beer and food. He also loves working with hands to construct everyday items around the house or at the brewery.
Dwayne has worked as a Mechanical Engineer in food processing equipment design and food processing research for the past 6 years. He’s enjoyed making wine, cider, and beer on a homebrew scale for the past eight years. He has a passion for food science and digging into how every aspect of the production process affects the final product.

Taps

What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
We were all individually very passionate about beer, and for years there was very little variety on offer in Newfoundland. The best way to be able to sample the styles of beer that interested us was to make them ourselves. This sent us down the path of obsessively learning about beer production and styles, and constantly improving our homebrew equipment to build the system of our dreams. As we started to brew with two, then three, then all four of us, we started talking about making the jump to professional brewing. We started reaching out to local breweries, borrowing yeast for brew days, and volunteering and interning at breweries to learn the ropes. Port Rexton Brewing was a huge help in the early stage of constructing a business plan, pushing us to really chase after it, if it was something we were passionate about. Through the whole process, we realized it was a good fit for us. We have pulled some crazy long days in the brewery already, we’ve seen more than a few sunrises, and they never seem as long as they really are. At the end of the day, we hope to be able to continue the trend of elevating the level and availability of craft beer to the communities in NL in the same way we hope to continue to advance our abilities and tastes as brewers.

Where did the name Ninepenny come from?
Ninepenny takes its name from a 19th century slang word for beer, but the name also makes reference to the 9 communities that amalgamated to create Conception Bay South: the home of the brewery. Our goal was to create a name that seems both fresh yet familiar, while also connecting with the European brewing traditions that contributed so much to Newfoundland’s own brewing history.

Keg

What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
We enjoy brewing just about every beer we’ve tried our hand at so far, but one tenet we try to practice in our brewing is to showcase the ingredients in such a way that, while they are balanced they are also able to come through strong and independently. That’s pretty typical of craft beer in general, of course, but we also try to throw some surprises into our recipes, to catch the drinker unawares if they’re expecting a typical example of the style. This has worked so far, since we haven’t named anything on the homebrew scale beer aside from starting at a style, such as “Porter”, and then labeling the first version “1.0”, with subsequent versions getting progressively higher numbers depending on how significant the changes are that get made each iteration of the recipe. If it surprises someone the first time they try it, or gets them to see the style in a different light, or becomes the reason they like that beer, we’ll consider that a job well done.

Can you tell us about the beers you plan on offering initially?
We describe some of our recipes as “North American ingredients brewed in a British style”, so we hope our large scale recipes come out in such a way that keeps to this description. For our initial offerings, we will be showcasing two English styles: a Porter and an English-style Pale Ale, as well as a Belgian inspired White IPA. We already have a few more styles in our fermenters that play on this same theme, but we’ll leave that for discovery in the weeks to come!

What are your plans for distribution? How can folks enjoy your beer?
We are planning to start small and grow naturally in the community. Our plan is to start with up to 8 taps in the tap room, a mix of our own beer and guest taps. We plan to work and collaborate with local breweries to keep regular guest taps from the amazing craft breweries in NL. We will also be offering our own beer to go in growlers, up to four beer available in that format. We will be offering both the 64 ounce Growler and 32 ounce Grunter formats.

Fermenter

Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers?
On launch we will be on guest taps in a few local breweries, such as Landwash Brewery, and will slowly roll out other tap accounts to other Atlantic Canada restaurants/establishments.

Have you had any assistance from other breweries and people in the region?
We wouldn’t have made it this far without help from the local microbrewery community, especially Alicia and Sonja of Port Rexton Brewing who have been helping us since that Easter weekend of 2017, and Chris and Christina from Landwash Brewery who we’ve been speaking to on a nearly daily basis – and they still always take our calls! There are so many others that we couldn’t do justice to everyone here, but suffice to say that we have a very supportive, vibrant craft beer community in Atlantic Canada that have really helped us along the way.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
We believe that focus on the taproom and community is at the heart of our brewery, so that will remain our focus as we work towards events in the brewery and taproom space, and generally encourage a welcoming relaxing environment for the community. We hope to be able to move to small scale canning to be able to expand our offering. We also have plans for expanding the grounds including adding a patio. We are also working hard to partner with local food companies and food trucks to be able to showcase Newfoundland culinary chops along side local craft beer.

Brewhouse

Tell us about your brewhouse and equipment.
Back when we started on this journey, the brewery all started from a basic all-grain homebrew setup in Justin’s garage, and gradually was built up to the point where it had pumps, electronic pH meters, and in-line oxygen injection points for the wort. This homebrew setup gave us a great deal of familiarity with the process of making beer, but the appreciation of the commercial scale really came together when visiting and assisting at other craft breweries such as Port Rexton Brewing.

Nowadays, we are using a 1800 litre (15 BBL) system DME Brewing Solutions. We have been concentrating on single batches, but have the capacity to move to 35 hL double batches as necessary.

 

Congratulations to the Ninepenny crew on their opening! They will be open Saturday, February 23rd at 2 PM, at 75 Conception Bay Highway in Conception Bay South. During their soft launch period, they are open Thursdays and Fridays 4 – 10 PM, Saturdays 2 – 10 PM, and Sundays 12 – 6 PM. Keep an eye on their social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for the latest news and releases.

Hill Top Hops Brewhouse is a small batch brewery located in Brooklyn, Nova Scotia. Owned by John and Adrienne Peters, the brewery arose out of their love for the local brewing community, which they got into through hop farming for the past 3 seasons. They will be celebrating their Grand Opening this Saturday, January 19th, from noon. We caught up with Adrienne to learn more about their hop farm and brewery, beers they have available, and plans for the future.

Can you tell us about yourselves?
We are John and Adrienne Peters we live in Avondale, Hants County. We have three young children and are passionate about living and thriving in our community. We own a hop yard in Scotch Village, 15 min away from our home, called Hill Top Hops. And we’ve recently opened Hill Top Hops Brewhouse in the Brooklyn area, adjacent to the Tidal Bore Farm Market, about 5 minutes from where we live.

How did the hop farm come to be?
John definitely has a green thumb and really enjoys being outside and gardening. By trade he is a Pipefitter with UA Local 56, but knew he always wanted to farm, and enjoyed brewing beer at home. As the opportunities presented themselves, he decided to make his two passions a reality. John loved the idea of starting some “farming” and growing hops seemed like something different. Not a lot of people were doing it, our family has land we had access to, so we thought why not! Soon after that came talk of craft beer and experimenting, and that’s what brought us to where we are today. Since starting the hop farm, John has had some great collaborations with the guys at Alexander Keith’s Historic Brewery, including an exclusive ale, and selling them hops for their Annapolis beers (Hants County Hop On Harvest Ale in 2016 and Annapolis Hop Field Pale Ale in 2017). He had been brewing at home as a hobby for years prior to opening the brewhouse.

Can you tell us about the Hill Top Hops ethos?
Hill Top Hops Brewhouse has a rustic, warm and inviting atmosphere. We are a very hands on business, doing all our work ourselves with the help of our friends and family. We’re especially grateful to John’s dad, Fred, he’s been very helpful with renovations and put in a lot of time with John. Our mission is to have many great memories made there. We use only local NS hops, the majority of which are our own. Today we grow AlphAroma, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Columbus. When we want to use a hop that we don’t grow, we will look to our friends in the hop growing industry for those varietals. We have purchased hops from Levy’s Country Acreage, and from our good friends at Wicked Hops in Stewiacke. We brew on a 220 litre (2 BBL) brewhouse.

Which beers will you have available for Saturday?
The beer that we have on tap for our Grand Opening are:
Avondale Cream Ale – Lightly hopped with our Cascade hops. A smooth drinking beer. 4.6%
The Tidal Bore Blond – A blend of our hops including Columbus, Chinook & Cascade. 5.3%
Hants County Proud Pale Ale – A medley of our Columbus, Centennial and Chinook dry hops.
Cashmere Pilsner – A crisp and citrusy 5% beer. Brewed with Cashmere hops from Levy’s farm.
Hop Storm IPA – Six kinds of hops in 5 additions, all from our farm. A strong and delicious 6.6%
Red Tale – A Red Ale, has Galena, Columbus and lots of Centennial hops from our hop yard and is a 6% beer.
We will be offering other great specialty beers throughout the year.

We are licensed for on-site sales, we have a hospitality room and retail permit. We sell 1L and 500ml refillable growlers, and will offer keg sales in the very near future. We exchange our own growlers, and will fill other breweries’ growlers.

Can you tell us about your plans for the future?
Our vision is to expand and build a brewery at the hop farm in Scotch Village, provide hopyard tours, tidal bore viewing and more, as well as keep our current location running.

Any parting words?
We are excited to be part of the craft beer world, so far it has been an inviting one.

Congratulations to Hill Top Hops on their Grand Opening this weekend! Drop by their location at 7232 Highway 14 from noon Saturday, January 19th, to enjoy their six beers onsite or to go in growlers. Going forward, the brewery taproom is open Wednesday and Thursday 12 – 8 PM, Friday 12 – 10 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 10 PM, and Sunday 12 – 6 PM. Keep an eye on their social media (Fb / IG / Tw) for updates on opening hours, new releases. Congratulations to the Peters family on the opening!