The town of Hanwell, New Brunswick, is just a few minutes southwest of the province’s capital city, Fredericton. A small community of fewer than 5000 residents, with many working in town, in Fredericton, or in other nearby communities, it can now also boast that it is home to the province’s newest brewery, Niche Brewing. Founded by two award-winning longtime homebrewers, Rob Coombs and Shawn Meek, Niche aims to expand the palate of the local community and the province at large. The brewery itself is located on Millennium Drive, but there is currently no retail location for growlers or pints; they’re opting instead to sell kegs direct to licensees for the time being. We managed to chat with Rob and Shawn to learn more about how they got into beer, their brewery’s ethos, and plans for the future of Niche Brewing.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Shawn – I’m originally from PEI, and moved to New Brunswick after meeting Jill (now my wife) when I moved to Ottawa after graduating from pharmacy school. I’ve been living in Fredericton and working here as a pharmacist since the summer of 2005. We have a 5-year-old daughter, love to travel, and love beer (Jill and I, not Zoe… yet).

Rob – I was born and grew up in Labrador City. I moved to New Brunswick for school and was planning to relocate afterwards but work kept me in Saint John as an X-Ray technologist. I met my wife there and we moved to Fredericton nearly 10 years ago where I’ve been working as an MRI Technologist ever since. We have two young boys, Cameron and Oliver, ages 5 and 2, respectively. They share our love of travel and tolerate my love of photography.

Niche's Sign, courtesy of Zoe Meek

Niche’s Sign, courtesy of Zoe Meek

How did you get into the world of beer?
Shawn – I was never a beer person until a trip to Belgium in the winter of 2009. I had no idea that beer was available in so many styles, and when I returned home… I wasn’t able to find many of them. Keep in mind this is over 8 years ago, long before there were many breweries in the area. I started reading about beer online, and quickly discovered that it was possible to brew these styles at home. Rather than just jumping into the hobby of homebrewing, I bought John Palmer’s How to Brew and did a lot of reading; eventually, I bought a simple homebrewing setup and brewed my first batch on November 29th, 2009 (yep, I still remember the date). Like a lot of people, I was immediately hooked, and have been brewing regularly since then (I think I’m at 155 or so brews now). My love of beer and brewing lead to me writing a homebrewing blog in 2011, and a couple of years later I started co-writing the Atlantic Canada Beer Blog.

Rob – About six years ago I was introduced to quality craft beer by a friend on a trip to Portland, Maine. He told me about Dogfish Head and Stone and my love for beer grew from there. When I returned from that trip I did some research online about those breweries and found that Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione had a mini-series on Discovery called Brew Masters. Sam’s explanation of the brewing process conveyed the simplicity of making beer and also his passion about the creative and intuitive aspects of the process. I found this very inspiring, so much so that I started home brewing that same week. A couple of years later I joined the NBCBA which was a great resource for the practical aspects of brewing as well as feedback on beers I had brewed. That club helped me progress and I eventually started a homebrew blog a couple of years ago. This gave me an excuse to brew more interesting beer such as 100% Brett, mixed fermentations, sours and New England styles which I could subsequently post about.

What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
We met about four years ago – our kids were going to the same daycare – and got into your typical homebrewing relationship soon after that: sharing recipes and ideas, trading homebrew, etc. Looking back, it’s really hard to actually pinpoint when we started discussing opening a brewery, but it was about a year ago that the idea was sparked. Neither of us were looking to open a brewery for any reason other than because we love to brew. It wasn’t because friends were saying they loved our beer, it wasn’t because the beer scene has improved so much the last few years… it’s because we’re both passionate about beer, about brewing it, and sharing this passion with others.

What is the culture of the brewery?
Really, this can be found in our brewery name, as well as our tagline “Find Your Niche” (which, as intended, can be interpreted in two ways!). The idea behind starting this brewery stems from a belief we share regarding finding a passion that speaks to you and fully immersing yourself in it. We believe this can apply to everyone within their own context and interests. Find something that you love to do more than anything and focus on applying your own creative character to it. It’s also important not to take any hobby, job, or even yourself too seriously, and to have fun in what you do! Even when it involves writing business plans, securing loans, and dealing with the 1001 things that will inevitably go wrong when opening a business. Wait, where were we going with this again?

Niche Single Origin Coffee Sweet Stout

Niche Single Origin Coffee Sweet Stout

Can you tell us about the beers you are offering initially?
We have three flagship beers that we’re launching with, and will keep these in rotation if demand (and ingredient availability) allows. All three of these beers have been homebrewed by both of us, and tweaked over many attempts for each:

Single Origin – a Coffee Sweet Stout, we took a Sweet Stout recipe that we’ve liked in the past (featuring lots of roast character, with a healthy amount of lactose added to boost the mouthfeel and provide a bit of residual sweetness), and added local coffee. The coffee presence is pretty apparent, and those who aren’t big on Stouts shouldn’t shy away from giving it a try.

Something Different – a “Brett Table Beer”, this one is a pale-coloured, low-alcohol brew hopped lightly with Hallertau Blanc and fermented with Amalgamation (a blend of six Brettanomyces strains); dry-hopped with Amarillo, we wanted to showcase Brett in an easy-drinking package, complemented by some light hop character.

Orange Creamsicle IPA – a Milkshake IPA featuring the addition of lactose, vanilla bean, orange zest, and hopped with plenty of CitraEl Dorado, and Ekuanot. Probably pretty obvious what flavour/aroma characteristics we’re going for here, and I guess the name gives it a way a bit as well! This is a beer we started brewing over a year ago, and have played with it a little bit to get it where we really wanted.

We’ll definitely be experimenting with one-offs (while at the same time focusing on keeping the flagships in rotation), and have a Grisette hopped with Hallertau Blanc and Nelson Sauvin; that one should be available very soon.

What are your plans for distribution?
We’ll definitely be keg sales to licensees only… at least for a while. Growlers or packaged beer may come in the future, but we’re in no hurry.

The Niche Brewhouse, from Stout Tanks

The Niche Brewhouse, from Stout Tanks

Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers?
We have at least two locations in Fredericton who have agreed to serve our beer – the James Joyce and King Street Ale House – as well as Moncton’s Tide & Boar and Saint John’s Cask and Kettle. We hope to be at least occasionally on tap at other great beer bars/restaurants in Saint John, Halifax, and Charlottetown at some point!

Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada?
We’ve had lots of help from plenty of people in the brewing industry, and we’re extremely grateful to all of them. During the months of business plan writing, equipment selection, dealings with licensing, etc., we had lots of help from Shane at Hammond River, Marc at Flying Boats, and Scott at Think Brewing. When we announced the brewery in late September, several people were quick to provide support, advice, and equipment when needed, including Jeremy at 2 Crows, Mark McGraw at Loyalist City, Paul at Maybee Brewing, and Dan and Jake at TrailWay. Ken at Beer Tech has been beyond generous with helping us get our CO2 and kegging equipment set up, and Chris McDonald (of some blog, forget which) has been more than a lifesaver with too many things to mention, least of all muling equipment from Halifax on his work trips to New Brunswick (which didn’t necessarily include Fredericton!), as well as setting up/building various pieces of brewery equipment.

Do you have  favourite beer styles you enjoy drinking?
Shawn – I enjoy a wide range of beer styles, but tend to focus most on hoppy ones, as well as funky, sour beers. I love a well-brewed Saison, and really do have a soft spot in my heart for a lot of other Belgian styles (since they’re kind of what got me here to begin with).

Rob – Like most beer geeks I enjoy a variety of styles. I love the current NE hoppy beer available from breweries like Bissell Brothers. Mixed fermentation beers really interest me, as well as those time-honoured Flanders and spontaneous sour styles. Finally, I enjoy some styles that tend to be harder to find, such as Grisette and Gose.

Niche fermenters and brite tank

Niche fermenters and brite tank

How about a favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
We’re both very like-minded when it comes to brewing (luckily). We love hops. We love Brett. We love brewing sour beers, whether it be kettle sours with a fast turnover, or barrel-aged brews that take 1-2 years (or more) to be ready. We recognize that those aged beers will be difficult to brew on our system, but we hope to get access to at least a few vessels in the near future to make this a reality, so that we can get started on at least a couple Flanders Reds, Oud Bruins, etc.

Tell us about the brewery: What type of system are you be brewing on?
We have a 2 BBL (240 L) brewhouse from Stout Tanks and Kettles: three vessel system (HLT, mash tun, and boil kettle), with four 2 BBL fermenters and a brite tank. Since both of us are keeping our day jobs, full-time, we can’t say for sure what our output will be, especially launching during the slow beer season; probably somewhere in the 1000-1200 L range monthly to start.

Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next few years?
It’s probably safe to say we really aren’t sure where we’ll be… hopefully still open and brewing beer that people really enjoy. At some point we’ll obviously have to sit back and take stock about where we are and where we ultimately want to go; for right now, we want to focus on brewing good beer and continually improving in that regard.

Congratulations to Rob and Shawn on their launch, and having their first beer out in the wild! Single Origin is available now at Moncton’s Tide & Boar, Saint John’s Cask and Kettle, and Fredericton’s James Joyce Pub. Keep on eye on Niche’s social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest news on their releases, with the Grisette expected in the first week of January.

Niche kegs waiting to be filled

Niche kegs waiting to be filled

Here we are at the last Friday Wrap-up of 2017; time flies when you’re drinking beer and taking names. The past 52 weeks have seen our regional scene continue to develop and evolve, with a couple breweries closing up shop, many more than that opening across all 4 provinces, and tons and tons of new beers released, from easy-drinking, lightly-hopped, low-ABV session beers, to intensely complex barrel- and foedre-aged mixed fermentations occasionally featuring fruit, and everything in between. We’ve attended some incredible events at our favourite venues, stood in line for beer releases and even had the chance to read a book about beer in our little corner of the world. And it looks like 2018 is going to bring even more of the same. Halifax will host the Canadian Beer Awards in May, we know of several more breweries in the works with plans to open in the coming year, and we’ve no doubt the regions brewers will continue to up the ante in terms of quality and innovation. Thanks to everyone who continues to read our weekly scrawl (as unwieldy as it sometimes gets when there’s 4,000 words to get through) and we’ll be sure to toast you all with some of our favourite local beers on New Years Eve.

• We’ve mentioned Hanwell, NB’s, Niche Brewing previously, and we can now announce that their beer is available to the public! Their Single Origin is a Coffee Sweet Stout, and hit the taps at a few spots across the province for the first time last night. This 5.0% ABV Stout features lactose in the recipe for a light sweetness (lactose is not fermentable by most yeasts) to enhance the roast and chocolate character of the malt as well as mouthfeel, with an addition of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans from Fredericton’s Jonnie Java Roasters after primary fermentation was complete, to lock in the coffee flavour and aroma. The beer is now available at Fredericton’s James Joyce Irish Pub and Saint John’s Cask and Kettle, with Moncton’s Tide & Boar looking to tap it at any moment. Keep an eye on Niche’s social media for the latest buzz on the beer, and we’ll have a full profile with the gang behind Niche in the next day or two. Congratulations Rob and Shawn!

• A little while ago, Propeller released the latest of their Gottingen Small Batch beers, Hazelnut Oatmeal Stout. This 5.5% ABV stout was brewed with flaked oats, chocolate malt, and roasted barley, and features hazelnuts added to the recipe as well. Chocolate, roast, and nut flavours and aromas punctuate the underlying creamy semi-sweet beer. It is available in growler fills at both Propeller locations, and by the pint at the Gottingen Street taproom, and at a few spots across HRM. And keep an eye open for cans of their Double IPA and Extra Special Bitter on the shelves of an NSLC near you!

• Capping off the Second Anniversary celebration of their sibling beer spot Battery Park, North Brewing released the 2017 edition of Saison de Pinot yesterday. The 7.1% ABV beer/wine hybrid features a Saison as the beer base, with 220 litres of Benjamin Bridge‘s own Pinot Meunier grape must added in secondary. This year’s grape harvest lends a more notable tart acidity to the must, which does translate to the final product. Fermented using two different Sacc. yeasts (Cerevesiae and Boulardii), the finished beer was lightly dry hopped with Hallertau Blanc, and has been bottle conditioning for the past 8 weeks, and is a perfect candidate for further aging in a cellar, to enjoy the flavours and aromas that develop over time. We suggest buying a pair (or more) and enjoying one now, and another in several months when the hops will have faded (maybe even wait until BP’s Third Anniversary!).

• Halifax’s Good Robot Brewing has announced that they are holding their first homebrew competition in Spring 2018. GRBC is already well-known known for encouraging those sometimes passed over or left behind by the modern brewing scene with their CommuniBrews and Goodwill Bot events, and this competition is no different. Female Brewsters are credited with promoting and keeping alive the art and science of brewing, before often being barred from activities involving the production of alcohol. To celebrate the earlier times, they are presenting the The Good Robot FemmeBrew Competition. Open to all women, and female-presenting, non-professional brewers, entrants are encouraged to dig into the past with “pre-prohibition” style recipes, choosing beer styles from before the industrialization of brewing. No “can and kilo” kits, please, an original recipe is the way to go (but modern ingredients such as malt extract are OK to enhance the beer!). There is no fee to enter, and you are asked to register online by Feb 1, with your entries (four 341ml bottles preferred) due March 1 at the Good Robot Retail Shop (aka Beer Later). This is a BJCP-registered competition, and entrants will receive feedback on their entries. For those women previously interested in the hobby, this may be just the nudge needed to try their hand at recipe development and brewing! Winners will be announced at Good Robot’s FemmeBot celebration on March 7th, and there are plenty of prizes up for grabs. If you have any more questions, please contact Kelly C for more details.

• And in new beer news at GRBC, the latest iteration of their Damn Fine Coffee and Cherry Pie is on tap for growlers and pints now. Version 4.0 is a step in another direction for this Coffee Pale Ale, featuring the use of Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee, prepped by the fine folks at Low Point (whoa, twice in one post??). This varietal has notes of honey and citrus, with a floral nose, helping to bring the beer closer to that eponymous “Cherry Pie” flavour, according to the brewery. To launch this latest batch, they are holding a bit of a contest, where a single cherry is hidden somewhere in the taproom every day this week: if you can spot it, you’ll win yourself a gift card for a free beer.

• Somerset’s Bad Apple Brewhouse has released a handful of their full time and seasonal offerings in cans recently, thanks to the Craft Coast Canning mobile unit. Now available in the handy format at the brewery (open 1-6PM daily), are: Alternate Ending, a 5.0% ABV Altbier; Black and Tackle, their 9.0% ABV Russian Imperial Stout; a 6.0% ABV Hard Apple Cider, made from local apples; Honey Wagon, a 5.0% ABV American Wheat; and Mosaic, their flagship 8.0% Double IPA. Many of these will also be available in Halifax at Bishop’s Cellar very soon.

• One of the newest breweries in Nova Scotia, in one of the oldest European settlements in the country, Annapolis Brewing Company, has some big plans coming for 2018. First, they’ve already got a production expansion in the works, with four new 5 BBL (roughly 6 hL) unitanks on their way to the brewery now to meet increased demand as the year goes on. They’re also currently looking for a location to build a new building to house the brewery, which will be even shorter on space with the new tanks. The team is also working on developing a Craft Beer Farmers Market concept for the new year, the first of its kind in the Province. It will see breweries and perhaps craft distilleries set up on the Annapolis Royal Farmers Market grounds on Sundays from May 13th to October 14th from 10 AM to 2 PM and provide a one stop shop for patrons in the area to buy beer. Tables will cost $20 per week and any breweries that are interested can reach out to paul@annapolisbrewing.com. Look for more information about the market to be publicized throughout the winter as they prepare for their first Craft Beer Farmers Market in Spring!

• In new beer news, Annapolis have a brew in the works that’s passed out of the testing phase and is scheduled to enter production in 2018. Goodwill Amber is a red-hued beer that strikes a fine balance between malty and hoppy. Vienna malt is featured on the grist side for a bready and toasty character and it’s been hopped with classic American varieties Willamette and Cascade with modern Amarillo completing the picture. Look for it to land on tap at 5.3% ABV and 36 IBU in early 2018. Also in the pipeline, although the recipes haven’t been finalized quite yet, are a Vanilla Coffee Stout and a Hefeweizen.

• On the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Chester Basin’s Tanner & Co. Brewing has a few new beers on the go these days. Up first is a small batch of their Hefeweizen, this time a little lighter at 4.6% ABV with lots of clove presence and some banana and bready notes. Next up and available is their Milk Stout, a big one at 7.7% ABV with a full mouthfeel and creamy texture. Described as “very filling,” It features aromas of coffee, vanilla and chocolate, with prominent espresso, vanilla, and even a bit of cigar character on the palate. And still available is their Saison, at 6.8% ABV, dry, and with prominent notes of lemon and black pepper. The brewery is considering keeping it in production throughout the year.

What’s going on this weekend???

• Sunday is New Year’s Eve, so expect plenty of extra drinking going on…. just about everywhere. Meanwhile, if you’re in Mahone Bay, drop by Saltbox Brewing for live music from the Eclectic Garage Band. The brewery will also be launching two new ciders on NYE, one made with Russet apples, and the second (being released at midnight) with Burgundy apples.

Hammond River Brewing in Rothesay is also ringing in the New Year with a Beer Dinner, pairing six courses of food with with six of HR’s own creations (plus a pint of your choosing to start the evening). Brewmaster Shane Steeves and Executive Chef Colin McCarten will be on hand to chat about each course and pairing. With only 30 tickets available, it is sure to be an intimate event. The fun kicks off at 6PM, and you can grab your ticket at the Hammond River taproom, or call ahead to reserve yours today. Check Facebook for the full menu.

• With New Year’s Day comes several Levee Day events in Atlantic Canada, which always amounts to several hours, or even up to a full day of drinking, eating, and celebrating… what better way to bring in the New Year? In PEI, both the PEI Brewing Co. and Upstreet are holding their own activities on Monday, January 1st. PEIBC will be serving up beer and live music from noon-2 pm, and has their PEIBC Levee Bus picking up and dropping off at several locations (check their FB page for exact times and where to be). Over at Upstreet, they’re re-releasing Top Stamp, their crowd-favourite Amber Lager, while celebrating Levee Day with their 2018 Kick-Off, a full day of live music, brewery tours, staff-priced pints, brunch, and beer cocktails. They open at 10 am, with music starting at noon.

• Not to be outdone over in Halifax, Stillwell is holding their own Levee Day Celebration, starting at noon. With special beers pouring all day – including the second release of Stilly Pils, as well as Lambic by the glass – expect a special menu featuring new tasty treats to pair with whatever you have in your glass.

Happy New Year! Have a safe and beer-filled evening on Sunday. Before we go, a couple last things…

Ol’ Biddy’s has released their newest American IPA that we reported on two weeks ago; look for Saturday Night Fever (6% ABV) at Stillwell, Battery Park, and the Mount Uniacke Pub.
– The latest iteration of TrailWay‘s ever-changing Kettle Sour, El Generico (3.8% ABV), is available as of today. This one was brewed with orange juice concentrate, lactose and vanilla, and was conditioned on fresh orange zest; slightly acidic and reminiscent of an Orange Creamsicle, it’s available in cans and on tap at the brewery.

It’s the last Friday before Christmas, and that means the last chance for gift ideas for the special someone on your list (and you!). We’ve got a new brewery, plenty of new beers, and promises of beers to come in the new year to get you in the giving (and drinking) mood. So grab a beer, put down the wrapping paper, and check it out!

Off Track Brewing is opening today in Bedford, Nova Scotia. Located at 275 Rocky Lake Drive, the brewery opens today at 3 PM for pints, 4 oz samples, flights and growler and grunter fills. Visitors can get a taste of a handful of the beers made right on site, including their Alias Pale Ale, Good Grief Charlie Brown Brown Ale, Damn Skippy Peanut Butter Stout, Crash Course IPA, and Hoover a Dip IPA. They’ve also announced that they will be open on both Christmas Day (12 – 5 PM) and Boxing Day (12 – 9 PM) for beer emergencies. In fact, the only days they’re closed for the rest of the year are Wednesday the 27th and New Year’s Day. Check this Facebook post for their hours on any of the other days and  consider heading on down to sample the wares from HRM’s newest brewery. Congratulations to Allan, Matt, and Jon!

• Moncton’s Bore City has dipped their collective toe into the world of hazy, juicy, tropical IPAs with one of their own. There’s a NEW England? is a New England (or North East, depending on who you ask) IPA, hopped with Azacca and Ekuanot/Equinox. No filtering here, folks, as that would strip out lots of those flavours. So embrace the haze and find this 7.5% ABV beer on tap around town and quite possibly at the James Joyce in Fredericton, as part of their rotating line-up of all-NB beers.

• Halifax’s RockBottom Brewpub is saying “Merry Christmas” to its customers with two new beers on tap this week. First up is Nitro ESB, a 5.6% ABV English Special Bitter hopped with East Kent Goldings and Fuggles. With “sweet toffee notes derived from dark Crystal malts”, and a firm bitterness (at 40 IBUs) to balance, it was carbonated with nitrogen to give a creamier mouthfeel. Next is Japanese Rice Lager, brewed with equal parts malted barley and rice. Thanks to the high amount of adjunct in this beer, it has a very light body, with “a malty sweet, yet slightly tart, fruit finish”. It was lagered at cold temps for over six weeks, and comes in at 4.5% ABV and 10 IBUs.

TrailWay is bringing back their annual holiday brew, Christmas Rascal, which will be released at the brewery today at noon. The recipe has changed since last year, with this Imperial Milk Stout being conditioned on lots of cacao nibs, vanilla, and a “blend of spices”. Expect a creamy and full mouthfeel, plenty of chocolate character, and a background of vanilla and spice. It’s a big one at 8.5% ABV; cans and pints at the brewery, with a few lucky spots around Fredericton pouring it on tap as well. And please keep in mind that 50% of all pint revenues today will be donated to the Fredericton, so do your part to help out and drop by for a beer or three. And if you bring an item for their food drive, you’ll be entered into a draw to win a TW merch package.

• Moncton’s Tide and Boar Gastropub is holding a double-banger of a day today. At 11AM, they will be hosting another one of their Growler Fill Days, featuring a return of their Peach Shake Ale (Peach Milkshake IPA, with peaches, vanilla beans, lactose, and plenty of hops), Young Blood IPA (Hazy yet crisp, with notes of citrus and grass), and the brand new 7.2% ABV Destroyer IPA (featuring Enigma and Mosaic hops, for a meld of tropical, fruit, and dank notes). With 3 kegs of each beer available, they should last until lunch, but there’s no guarantee! And from 1-5PM, their holiday tradition of Free Oysters continues. With the purchase of any drink, you’ll be served a tasty trio of oysters to toast the season. Be sure to drop by!

• The Annapolis Cider Company is releasing Wine and Strawberry, the latest in their one-off Something Different series, today at the cidery. This one is an unfiltered, sparkling blend, bringing together dry cider, red wine, and strawberry juice. The hand-picked apples were juiced and cool-fermented before being combined with red wine from local Leon Millot grapes. Cryo-extracted juice from local strawberries was then added to this blend, resulting in a 5.9% ABV “aromatic, medium-bodied cider with soft tannins and bright notes of fresh juicy strawberries”. Every fill of this one will see $0.50 donated to the Wolfville and Area Food Bank.

• Today, Saint John’s Big Tide is launching a special beer with a party at the brewpub at 8 pm. Darlings Island American Lager was brewed with a grist of Pilsner and Munich malt; the beer was hopped with Saaz from local hop suppliers Darlings Island Farm. The 5.4% ABV, 43 IBUs beer was brewed a couple of months ago, in order to give it the time to lager (cold-condition) before its release. Speaking of its release, the Release Party will happen tonight, as mentioned; your $25 ticket gets you entry and a pint of the beer, with all proceeds going to Broken Earth (a medical relief mission in Haiti). It’s a great cause, so if you’re in the area and looking to get away from the craziness that is shopping during Christmas, head down to Big Tide! You can reserve your ticket by calling 506-214-3311.

• Rose Valley, PEI’s BarNone Brewery has a new beer available this week, Warmer Winter. This 8.2% ABV Brown Ale was brewed with Bryan Carver of DME Brewing Solutions, who boldly loaded up the mash tun with Ginger Snaps, giving it, we imagine, a spicy ginger character to complement an otherwise malt-forward beer. You’ll find a limited supply of bottles available at the brewery as well as at the Charlottetown Farmers Market tomorrow.

• A reminder that Port Rexton Brewing‘s Pop-up Shop at 286 Torbay Road is open again this weekend (4-8PM today, 12-6PM tomorrow). Growlers of Mr. Wheaty Pants are available, as well as cans of Chasing Sun NEIPA and T-Rex Porter. And for those in the area, or would like a bit of a drive, their taproom in Port Rexton will be open tomorrow 2-10PM for Tibb’s Eve, for merchandise, pints, and growler fills, as well as cans of Baycation BlondeChasing SunHorse Chops IPA, and T-Rex Porter.

• And speaking of that T-Rex Porter, it’s the base of a very special holiday beer released today. A couple months back, they put some of that beer in French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon barrels to condition along with some locally foraged partridgeberries. The result, which they’re calling Nor’ Easter is 6.5% ABV and 19 IBU and it’s available now in 500 mL bottles at the Port Rexton taproom as well as at their retail outlet in St. John’s. In the interest of letting as many people as possible try this special brew, there’s a 2 bottle limit per-person. So if you’re in Newfoundland and you’ve got a beer lover in your life, we’re guessing this would make a pretty stellar stocking stuffer. Or hey, if you’re the beer lover in your life, maybe skip the stocking and go straight to the enjoyment part.

• At Lunn’s Mill in Lawrencetown, NS, they’ve got a new beer courtesy of their assistant brewer, Peter, who took the lead on all aspects of this new brew. As fans of hoppy amber styles (think MBC Zöe and Trailway Good Aura),  they’ve been wanting to try their hand at making one for some time. Today’s release, Clever Girl is that beer, based on a grist of Maris Otter pale malt, with honey and chocolate malts for sweet and roasty character. For hops, Amarillo and Centennial were used, both known for bringing grapefruit and other citrus presence along with some floral notes (Centennial) and melon and stone fruit (Amarillo). The batch was double-dry-hopped to encourage a smooth hop character; it finished at 5.5% ABV and 40 IBU so it should be an easy drinker, with a well-defined malt backbone balanced against a bright and prominent hop presence. Available on tap at the brewery now for fills and pints.

• And, moving from the Valley to the South Shore of NS, Heritage Brewing in Yarmouth has a brand new collaboration beer hitting the taps, this one done with their downtown neighbours Sip Café. Starting with a porter base, they added fresh-brewed coffee from the gang at Sip along with chocolate soaked in Vanilla Bean Vodka from Annapolis Royal’s Still Fired Distilleries. The result is a smooth beer weighing in at 7% ABV, with plenty of coffee, chocolate and vanilla flavour. Only 180 L was made, however, and some of that has been set aside for Sip Café’s own taps, so if it sounds like your cuppa tea, or, maybe more accurately, cuppa joe, they’ve got a limited amount for growler fills and tasters at the brewery. Otherwise you’ll be waiting for it to appear at Sip, when you might just see a contest to give this brew a name.

2 Crows received a special care package in the mail this week, just in time for a special collaboration beer that they brewed up yesterday! A picture on their Facebook page gave a glimpse of several delicious-sounding yeast and bugs from Escarpment Labs, including a “Lacto Cocktail” and a “Fruit Bomb Saison Blend” (one with Saccharomyces, and one with Brettanomyces). Escarpment has officially teamed up with 2C for this beer, which while we can’t share all of the details yet, we can tell you that it’ll be funky, sour, and fermented in one of their Calvados oak foedres (now empty thanks to the packaging and release of Never Again, which we mentioned last week). As always, we’ll keep you up to date on the progress of this new beer!

Before we sign off today, remember that most (but not all) breweries and taprooms will be closed Christmas Day, and many are adjusting their hours on the 24th and 26th as well. Check social media or call first to avoid disappointment!

Boxing Rock has brought back their Russian Imperial Stout, U-889. Featuring coffee from the Valley’s Just Us! Roaster, and whole Madagacar Bourbon vanilla beans, this 8.89% ABV beer is the perfect pairing for cool nights in front of the fire, or food with friends. Co-owner and -brewer Emily Tipton decided to go the extra mile and cook with it, detailing her recipe and results on their blog. Grab bottles at the brewery, their tables at the Halifax Seaport and Dartmouth Alderney Landing Farmers Markets tomorrow, and at the private stores in HRM.
– Next Thursday, Dec 28, Good Robot will be releasing yet another iteration of their Damn Fine Coffee and Cherry Pie Pale Ale (5.5% ABV), this time featuring organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (I’m going to trust their spelling of that) coffee beans from Java Blend Coffee Roasters, cold-brewed by Low Point Coffee Co. And a heads up that, due to staff demand, their taproom and brewery will be open regular store hours over the holidays.
– After a little adventure in canning line malfunction last Friday (too many hops!) Unfiltered had a fridge full of cans (Hoppy FingersFlat Black JesusExile on North Street, and DOA) to start the day on Tuesday, but it’s surely been dented if not decimated over the last three days. Also in the fridge are bottles of their Commissar Russian Imperial Stout. They’ve got store hours from 12-8 PM today, from noon tomorrow (until 8 PM, we suspect), and not again until December 29th, so if you want Unfiltered cans to be part of your Christmas week you’d best be getting on that by tomorrow!

Good afternoon, Atlantic Canada beer lovers! Now that Christmas is just about here (yes, you can officially start to panic now), we thought we should work hard to ignore our pre-Christmas responsibilities and publish another Friday Wrap-Up, to distract you from your shopping, cooking, wrapping, etc. Hey, it’s just the kind of guys we are!

Tatamagouche Brewing has a beauty of a beer available as of yesterday, an “American Brett Ale” named Feronia. Comprised of a fairly-simple grist of mainly 2-row, with some Wheat malt and Spelt, and a touch of Acid malt, it was lightly hopped to 20 IBUs with Huell Melon. Fermented with a blend of three Brettanomyces strains to “really drive the dark/red fruits, as well as some classic funk”, the beer was aged in secondary on plums before being bottle-conditioned for six months. Available now at the brewery in 750 mL cork-and-cage bottles, as well as on tap, those of you in the HRM can expect a small amount of bottles to also be available at the private stores. A few kegs will likely make their way to better beer establishments in Halifax sometime next week.

• Moncton’s Tide & Boar has announced their very first bottle release, which will be taking place today at 5 pm. Named simply Barrel Aged Sour, the beer was soured with Lactobacillus, and then aged for three months in a Napa Valley Pinot Noir French oak barrel. After this, it was racked on top of 30 lbs of New Brunswick-grown raspberries, fermented with Brettanomyces, and bottle-conditioned. Only 200 bottles were packaged, and 100 of these will be sold today at the Bottle Release Party from 5-7 pm, depending on how quickly they sell. We’ll keep you updated on when the remaining 100 bottles are sold… if they are at all!

• Let’s stay in Moncton, shall we? Bore City released their first hoppy beer in some time last week, and judging from some early buzz, it’s a good one! Causeway is a 6.5% ABV, ~40 IBUs American IPA that features large amounts of late addition hops – Mosaic and Vic Secret – as well as plenty of both in the dry-hop. Complemented nicely by a malt bill that includes Flaked Oats and Flaked Barley, as well as some Vienna and Honey malt, expect a huge floral, fruity, and citrusy aroma, followed by equally as much in the flavour. It’s circulating among their regular tap accounts, but it’s going fast. But don’t worry! They plan on making this a regular addition to their line-up, so more will be brewed in the near future.

• After launching their brewery last month with their first two core beers, Montague PEI’s Copper Bottom Brewing has just released their first seasonal. Nostalgically named Charlie Brown Ale (nostalgic for us, anyway!), it’s a Brown Ale brewed along the English-style lines, showcasing a “rich malty aroma, and smooth chocolate and nutty qualities”. As a good English-style beer should be, it’s quite drinkable at just 4.5% ABV and 15 IBUs, and is meant to be enjoyed in quantity during these colder evenings (and afternoons). You can find it on tap at the brewery in Montague, and at CB tap accounts across the Island.

• Elsewhere on the Island, Upstreet is launching the first in yet another new series of one-off beers. The Flipside Series was created to introduce “fresh new flavours,  ingredients, and beer styles” to consumers, with all beers in this series being packed in the standard 500 mL Upstreet bottles. Their first stab in this series is Amber Saison, a Belgian-inspired beer that provides a “dry finish with a subtle vinous character”. With PEI Vienna malt in the grist, and UK Archer and French Triskel hops to just 20 IBUs, this 5.5% ABV Saison was fermented with a Belgian yeast to give the required phenolics and esters in the style. Grab your bottles today at the brewery or PEILCC stores.

• Today, TrailWay is releasing Malibu, their first dark-coloured beer in months. An Imperial Milk Stout, it was brewed to be “extremely chocolate-forward” before being conditioned on hefty amounts of toasted coconut and pure vanilla extract. With some lactose powder added to increase sweetness and mouthfeel, the resulting beer is “like drinking a liquid macaroon”, with lots of coconut and chocolate notes, as well as a complementary background of vanilla. Coming in at a whopping 9% ABV, you’ll want to take it easy with this one. As always with their one-offs, you can grab it in cans at the brewery only; it will also be on tap there and at select accounts in Fredericton.

• Down in Yarmouth, Heritage Brewing is helping residents stay warm with the release of their Steamship Belgian Quad this weekend. A full-bodied, 9% ABV Belgian Strong Dark Ale, it’s “malty and slightly sweet, with notes of raisin, cherries, plums and prunes”. The Belgian yeast strain was responsible for the fruity esters and spicy phenolics in the beer, and the high ABV provides a slight alcohol warmth on the way to your eager stomach… perfect for winter (yes, it’s not officially here yet, but who cares about the exact date). Look for this new brew at the brewery this weekend for growler fills.

Annapolis Cider Company is bringing back Muscat Infusion, one of their popular ciders in their Something Different series. Originally released last March, it’s being sold in a convenient size for crowd sharing… Magnums! A 7.1% ABV sparkling cider infused with Nova Scotia Muscat grapes (which were added during fermentation to extract colour, tannins, and aroma), it was finished with a “touch” of fresh-pressed apple juice. Rose-coloured, with “distinct tropical and floral notes”, the 1.5 L bottles are available at the cidery for a very limited time.

• Further into the valley in Lawrencetown, Lunn’s Mill has a treat for its fans around the region: they are testing out a new package to get their beer to you, cans! Available now is a very limited run of 12-packs for the holidays featuring 10 different beers, available now at the brewery. This is an awesome opportunity for one of Nova Scotia’s most local breweries to see some of their beer travelling beyond the Valley and the Province for others to enjoy. As of publishing, they are down to their last dozen cases, so don’t delay in grabbing yours today! And due to its popularity, we can guarantee that they’ll be releasing more canned product in the near future.

• The fine folks at 2 Crows Brewing on Brunswick Street in Halifax have a couple things on the go for us to share. Earlier this week saw another batch go on tap from their brewery assistant Nick Ogden, this one an Imperial Witbier called Wite Nite. Taking a lighter style known for easy summer drinking and pumping it up to 8.7% ABV for a December release takes something. And while we’re not exactly sure what that something is, we’re positive that Nick has it. Keg conditioned, it features aromas of sweet orange and grapefruit with some hints of pineapple. The palate sees citrus and apricot with a wine-like character lending an “overall lusciousness”. This one is available only by the glass in the tasting room.

• And this coming Wednesday will see the last canned release of 2017 for 2 Crows (how many were there? LOTS) with the arrival of Never Again. Named for brewmaster Jeremy Taylor’s feelings after he boldly purchased 400 pounds of peaches at a really good price before pitting them and then jamming them into one of his Calvados foedres, this is a Brett Pale Ale at 5.5% ABV and 23 IBU. Fermented on the Amalgamation blend of Brettanomyces strains, it started with a grist of malted barley, spelt, oats (surprise!) and wheat, to which Belma and Simcoe hops were added in the boil. After it came out of the wood, it was dry-hopped with Citra, Hallertauer Blanc and Huell Melon before being keg conditioned with Champagne yeast. Rife with oaky tannins, funk, and peach character, it still manages to be delicate. Look for it at the brewery next week and then, very possibly, at finer private liquor stores in Halifax.

Good Robot has another new Alpha Brew hitting taps next Thursday, Yas Queen Chocolate Porter. Brewed with a hefty grist of Maris Otter, Flaked Oats, Flaked Barley, Coffee malt, Vienna, and Chocolate malt, the beer had several additional ingredients thrown in, including dark cocoa powder in the mash, lactose, carob powder and ground cacao nibs in the boil, and chocolate extract into the brite tank before packaging. Hopped with Belma to 25 IBUs, it weighs in at 6.1% ABV. In terms of tasting notes, we’re going to go out on a limb and say notes of…. chocolate? And next Tuesday’s Beta Brew will be Make My Day IPA, a “light, super fruity” beer bittered with Magnum, and hopped with Dr. Rudi and Zythos late in the boil, and dry-hopped with more Zythos and some Mosaic. Fermented with the East Coast Ale yeast strain, it comes in at a very reasonable 4.5% ABV and 44 IBUs.

• There’s a new beer in the fermentor at Ol’ Biddy’s Brewhouse, a brand new, currently unnamed American IPA. Brewed with Pale malt, Wheat malt, Crystal 30 L, Carapils, and Dextrose, it features late additions of Amarillo and Centennial hops, and will be dry-hopped with more Centennial. The expected stats on this light golden-coloured brew are 6% ABV and 43 IBUs, with floral, orange, and grapefruit flavours. We’ll keep you updated on when it’s released over the next couple of weeks.

• Also still in the fermentor, but available in kegs as of Monday, is Ol’ Biddy’s first collaboration brew, done with Todd Beal. Using a recipe that was developed before the brewery opened its doors as a guide, Keith and Todd brewed Call Your Bluff a light, dry pale ale named for Todd’s favourite hiking location, the Bluff Wilderness Hiking Trail. This one comes in at 4.7% ABV and, although the calculated IBUs are 28, the perceived bitterness should be a little higher owing to the use of light malts and the overall dryness of the beer. Well-hopped with Amarillo for an orange, floral and pungent grapefruit hop presence, you’ll find it at Battery Park next week and potentially some other tap accounts. Keith has also advised us to be on the lookout for his Funktown Pale Ale to pop up around the city, as it is becoming the brewery’s mainstay.

• Halifax’s Garrison Brewing isn’t slowing down for the holidays at all, as they’ve got three beers to tell us about this week. First is the return of their seasonal Spruce Beer, an attempt at recreating North America’s oldest beer style using spruce and fir tips harvested from Meander River Farm along with Crosby’s Blackstrap Molasses. It weighs in at a husky 7.5% ABV and solid 35 IBU and will be available at the brewery and Liquid Assets at the Halifax Airport with some delivery to Newfoundland expected as well. If you’re a fan of this beer don’t delay, though, as they’ve made a smaller batch than in previous years.

• Next up is the return of a big ol’ beer originally released in January of this year. Wintervention is an Imperial Chocolate Stout built on a base of Maritime pale malt with chocolate and Munich for character. Hopped to 60 IBUs with Millennium, it’s been sitting in Bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace for the past 11 months and is now bottled and ready to go. Flavours of bourbon, cocoa, cherry, vanilla and coffee present themselves in this sipper, which is sure to be warming against the coming cold at 11.5% ABV. Look for this one at the brewery starting today as well, although not until 3 PM.

• And lastly is another beer seen only briefly before before being given some time to develop. Back in September Garrison brewed a special collaboration beer with Sawdust City Brewing out of Gravenhurst, ON, to commemorate the announcement of Halifax as the host city for the 2018 Canadian Brewing Awards. That beer is called Leroy and it is an Imperial Brown Ale tipping the scales at 10% ABV and 41 IBU. After 3 months of conditioning it’s ready for general consumption, with its creamy head, smooth aroma, and flavours of molasses bread and milk chocolate. Like the other two you’ll find it at the brewery starting today in 650 mL bombers.

Uncle Leo’s is releasing their first ever barrel-aged beer, a Smoked Porter aged in a whiskey barrel from Cape Breton’s Glenora DistillerySmoke’n Oakum is 9.2% ABV, and named in tribute of the Phantom Ship of the Northumberland Straight. It features big notes from the dark and smoked malts in the beer, as well as the vanilla and caramel notes from the whiskey and oak. This beer is in short supply (only one barrel’s worth!), so drop by the brewery tomorrow to grab your allotment!

• Saint John’s Loyalist City has taken over the taps at the Wellington Row ANBL’s Growler Bar, with a wide variety of beers flowing: their Backslide IPA, Three Sisters American Pale Ale, their latest Hop Series: Wai-tiPink Dwarf Tart Cherry Kettle Sour, Red Tart (a raspberry kettle sour, in extremely low quantity), and the latest release of their Black 47 Stout, featuring hops from local grower Darlings Island Farm. Mark and Dave from LCBC will be on hand this evening to fill growlers and chat, while also raising money for Romero House, who provide hot meals and other food assistance, clothing bank, and guidance for those in need.

• And last, but certainly not least, are two new releases from harbour hopping North Brewing Company. Yesterday saw the release of their latest Finite Series of beers (those that take a little longer and are in finite supply). Baldrsbräu is a 5.5% ABV bottle-conditioned Saison, made with hay and chamomile. The melding of the malt, light hopping, adjuncts and yeast result in a refreshing beer with notes of flower and herb. Bottles are available at both the Halifax and Dartmouth North locations. Releasing tomorrow at noon (also at both North shops) is a special Barrel-Aged version of Saison de Pinot. The original Saison de Pinot featured pinot noir must from Benjamin Bridge‘s own estate-grown grapes. Taking the wine influence to the next level, 220 litres of SdP was aged in a red wine barrel from Benjamin Bridge, and has now been bottle-conditioned for our enjoyment. Released in honour of Battery Park‘s Second Anniversary, fewer than 300 bottles are available, so don’t delay in picking up one (or two, one for enjoying now, one for aging). Or drop by Battery Park tomorrow to try bottle pours of this release alongside last year’s un-oaked batch!

Don’t sleep on the events and openings we’ve got on the go!

• As mentioned above, Dartmouth’s Battery Park is celebrating their 2nd Anniversary tomorrow. From 11:30 til late, there will be a dozen-plus beers available from North on tap and by the bottle. In addition to the three mentioned above, previous Finite Series releases Ask & Embla and Oh My Darlin’ will be pouring, the North x Stillwell collab GoseBarrel-Aged Milk Stout, and many more.

• Life got in the way, so we didn’t manage to publish the promised Profile of Tusket Falls Brewing, but don’t let that keep you from visiting them during their launch weekend. Tomorrow from noon, they’ll have samples, flights, and pints of their Golden Ale, Stout, Red IPA and Smoked Ale. And going forward, the brewery and tap room will be open from 12 – 10pm daily, except 12 – 6pm Sundays.

• There’s still a few tickets left for Fredericton’s Christmas Brewery Tour 3.0, happening tomorrow from 11:30 am – 4 pm. Your ticket ($65 each) includes transportation to three local breweries (Maybee, Grimross, and TrailWay), a minimum of four 4 oz samples at each stop, and a final stop at the King Street Ale House for a pint of Foghorn beer (head brewer Esty will also be on hand to chat beer). The bus for this tour will be leaving Maybee Brewing at 11:30 am sharp, with everything wrapping up at KSAH. Tickets are available through the event link above.

• Due to extremely fast sales for next year’s Fredericton Craft Beer Festival (Saturday, March 10th), organizers have decided to tack on Newbie Night for Friday, March 9th. This three hour event (6-9 pm) will feature 10-12 breweries that are new to the region; while the list of those participating has not been solidified quite yet, with all of the new breweries opening in Atlantic Canada, filling it up won’t be a difficult job! This event will be more low-key than the two FCBF sessions the next day, with only 200-300 tickets being sold. It will still take place at the Fredericton Convention Centre downtown, and your $62.20 ticket includes a keeper glass and unlimited samples. Whether you missed out on evening tickets for Saturday, or already have FCBF tickets and really want to fill up your weekend with beer, Newbie Night is the perfect solution! Tickets are available now through the link above.

A few more things to leave you with this week…

Picaroons has their tenth iteration of Pivot now available; this time around, the 8% ABV, 80 IBUs DIPA was hopped with Amarillo and Sorachi Ace. To celebrate the season, they’ve also thrown in some spruce tips into the boil, making it what they’re calling an “Imperial Christmas Tree IPA”. Available at all Picaroons locations, and in bottles at select ANBL stores.
– Twillingate’s Split Rock Brewing has a brand new beer pouring today. Santa’s Little Helper is a 10.8% Barleywine, focusing on a big malt backbone with some balancing bitterness to keep it from being too sweet. Light warming with notes of caramel and fruit cake, this small batch is only available at the Stage Head Pub, the brewery’s taproom.
– Good news for hop fans in Halifax, Unfiltered Brewing has done another canning run. Look for Exile on North StreetFlat Black Jesus, and DOA as early as this afternoon. Available at the retail location on Fridays and Saturdays and Bishop’s Cellar all week as long as stock lasts.
– Speaking of Bishop’s Cellar, although you might know that they do a bang up job of supporting the local scene and providing shelf and tap space for an extremely wide selection of beers from our region, you might not be aware that they’re also known for bringing in special treats from other environs, many of which are pretty hard to come by. This week some highlights include extremely limited quantities of Bellwoods Barn Owl Brett IPA with Apricots (foedre-aged for a year), and Oria Guava Sour Saison and Sour Cherry from Burdock, along with selections from Quebec superstars Brasserie Dunham and Danish masterminds Evil Twin.

 

We’re now one week into December with holiday decorations up and Christmas music pretty much everywhere. Thankfully the region’s brewers are doing their part to help us ease the stress of the holiday season by continuing to pump out new beers and bring back some seasonally appropriate seasonals. So without further ado, here’s what going on in Atlantic Canada beer news!

Tusket Falls Brewing Company will be opening their doors next Saturday, December 16th. Located at 20 Slocomb Crescent in Tusket (mere seconds off the 103 Highway), their taps will be full with 4 of their core beers, available in flights and pints for enjoyment onsite, as well as to takeaway in growlers (and maybe even cans if everything comes together in time). We will have a full profile with the TFBC crew early next week, with all of the important information on their brewery, beers, and plans for the future.

Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown is launching a new family of beer this week called Million Acres. Named in acknowledgment of PEI’s nickname as a “Million Acre Farm”, this line is definitely a departure from their Upstreet beers, often featuring mixed yeast/bacterial fermentation, primary fermentation and aging in barrels, hyper-local fruit and other ingredients, that can only be achieved on a small scale. The first MA release is Twice Hopped Sour with Centennial and Chinook, the first beer brewed with PEI-grown barley (specifically, 2-row malt) from Spring Valley Farms in Kensington. Kettle-soured with a Lactobacillus culture started from a handful of the Spring Valley Farms grain, the beer was kettle-hopped and dry-hopped (at double the rate of any previous dry-hopped beer at Upstreet) with Centennial and Chinook from New Brunswick hop growers Moose Mountain and Southan Farms. Packaged in 750 mL corked bottles, the resulting beer is “pleasant and punchy in aroma, with a quenching and complex tartness”. The beer is officially being released today: you can pick up bottles at Upstreet, and there will be a limited amount on draft popping up here and there; bottles should be making their way to New Brunswick sometime next month.

• Just a stone’s throw from Upstreet’s Allen Street location is Charlottetown’s Atlantic Superstore at 465 University Avenue. While not normally beer-news-worthy, it is the site of a brand new retail location for PEI Brewing/Gahan House, opening today/this week (after a slight delay from its planned Wednesday opening). Visitors to “The Beer Store” will be able to purchase all of Gahan’s core brands, as well as a selection of seasonals, including Shortest Day. Bottles, cans, and growler fills of the brews will be available. While the Superstore is a 24/7 operation, the Gahan shop opens at 11AM daily, and operates until 7 or 8 (hours are still being determined). And speaking of PEIBC’s retail location, their “Beer Station” on Milky Way (adjacent to the Cows Ice Cream factory) has recently adjusted to winter hours, meaning it will be open 12-7PM Thursday through Saturday. Their selection will be similar to that of the Beer Store.

• In PEIBC beer news, their winter seasonal Ice Boat is available again this year after a hiatus in 2016. With a Stout as the base, the beer spent several months of aging in fresh Tennessee Whiskey barrels to impart vanilla, caramel, and spirit notes, while allowing the roast malt character to shine through. Bottles of the 6.9% ABV beer are available at the Taproom currently, and at select PEILCC locations shortly. And the brewery is continuing their holiday-themed Growler releases today, with The Christmas Growler Countdown. Releasing today at 4PM at the PEIBC Taproom, each week features either a new beer, or a small batch seasonal take on a current favourite. Last week’s Beach Chair Cran-gerine sold out in one day, and we expect the same from this week’s offering, Candy Cane Red, which is their Island Red with a blend of spearmint and peppermint added. Remember these are in growlers only, so pop by after work to grab it for the weekend’s festivities.

• One of Nova Scotia’s newest breweries, Tanner Brewing has a bunch of news for us this week, catching us up with what they’ve been doing down in Chester Basin. First off, although they have previously told us of their plans to use their own grapes in some of their beers in the future, focus this year has been getting the brewery up and running and not so much on the vineyards. In the spirit of exploring grape flavor profiles in beer without actually using grapes, brewer Dan Tanner is doing up some batches where he focuses on assembling a recipe reminiscent of a particular grape variety. The first one of these batches will be a dry Saison that reflects Nova Scotia Muscat grapes, with their grapefruit, orange, rose and pine notes. Look for this one to be ready and available in the coming weeks and for more beers in this vein to appear over the next year.

• Already pouring at the brewery is Tanner’s Roggenbier, a German style featuring rye malt for a spiciness to contrast an otherwise malt-balanced beer and also the phenolic, clove-like characteristics of the Weizen yeast used to ferment it. We’re told it’s not the clearest beer ever made, but if you can get past its somewhat murky appearance it’s a tasty brew. And coming soon are a couple more news brews, the first a Spiced Weizen (wheat) beer reminiscent of a Hefeweizen, but given more of a winter flair through the use of spices, including allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to complement the clove phenols from the yeast. And also coming is a Sticke Alt, a hoppier and maltier brew than a standard Altbier, that boasts a clean malt character and a stiff bitterness at 50 IBU, finished with a dry hop of noble Tettnang. Lastly, a couple notes on beers that will be available outside the brewery. The Belgian Blonde Ale is being released this week; at 6.3% and 30 IBU, it has to this point been one of their most popular pilot brews. And their Pale Ale will be sent out in kegs next week. Described as, “English Pale meets American Pale,” the first run came in a little higher than the pilot batches at 6% ABV due to efficiency differences on the larger system, but it still shows a happy marriage of English malts with citrusy Amercian hops. Look for it and the Belgian Blonde at tap accounts with some reserved for sale at the brewery.

Backstage Brewing has released Black Dog, a Coffee Stout brewed in collaboration with Stellarton’s local coffee shop, King of Cups. Hopped with Chinook, the addition of espresso from Nova Coffee gives the beer notes of “coffee, chocolate, roast, with a clean finish”, according to the brewery. Coming in at 5% ABV, it’s available at the brewery now, and will likely show up on tap at a few select accounts in the province.

Bulwark Cider from New Ross, NS, has two charitable drives going on now: From now until December 21st, every bottle of People’s Cider 2016 sold will trigger a 10% donation to Feed Nova Scotia. That means for every bottle you buy, FNS can supply a meal for a person in need. Pick up yours today at the ciderhouse, or private stores in HRM. Extending their good deeds to our animal companions, Bulwark has released bottles of their Oak-aged Cider to support the Nova Scotia SPCA. Featuring 12 unique labels, each featuring an adoptable cat or dog, chosen to raise awareness of the many animals available for adoption in the provinces shelters. The 7.5% ABV cider inside is Bulwark’s signature five-apple blend and spent 6 months in American oak barrels. From Bulwark, “The result is a smooth and clean cider with all the best qualities of oak: earthy with warm notes of pear, vanilla and cloves.” Bottles (and cases of bottles featuring all 12 distinct labels) are available at private stores, as well as the NSLC, and a portion of sales is going towards the NSSPCA.

• With Christmas fast approaching, beer lovers in St. John’s can rejoice with the realization that this year’s iteration of Mummer’s Brew from YellowBelly will soon be flowing at the brewpub. The 2017 version is being billed as a “Blackcurrant Milk Stout” reminiscent of a Midnight cocktail (combination of a port and Stout), according to the brewery. Featuring a complex grist of Pale malt, Flaked Oats, Roasted Barley, Pale Chocolate malt, and Carastan, there were, of course, several other ingredients. The extras include apple cider concentrate, lactose powder, and black currants, and the beer was hopped to 35 IBUs with Bramling Cross, Cluster, and Nugget. You should be able to find it at the brewery by early next week; expect aromas of roast, chocolate, and “slight smoke augmented by the currants”, with the tartness of said currants blending with a roasty, malty sweetness from the use of specialty malts. Bottles of this 6.5% ABV brew should be available shortly after its release on tap. Be sure to grab some before or after tomorrow’s Mummer’s Parade!

• Friday in Fredericton usually means another new beer release from TrailWay, and today is no exception, with the launch of Emerald occurring at noon. The brewery’s take on the New Zealand Pilsner – a mid-strength, well-attenuated-but-not-extremely-dry, drinkable Pilsner featuring NZ hop varieties – Emerald features a grist of “complex Pale malts” and was hopped with Motueka and Wakatu. Conditioned on lime zest, the beer has an “upfront juicy-candied-lime character, with a tropical fruit element”, making it “reminiscent of a key lime pie”. Very drinkable as per the style at 5% ABV, as usual cans will be for sale at the brewery only, as well as pints and growlers (with a few accounts in Fredericton getting a keg or two as well).

• If you’re in Halifax, we naturally assume that you’ll be heading to the book launch for East Coast Crafted at Stillwell on Saturday (more on that in the events section below); if you didn’t need another reason to head that way, here’s another – the fourth in as many weeks new beer launch from Stillwell Brewing will take place on Saturday as well! SAAZBIER is a blend of two hoppy Saisons fermented in white wine barrels over the summer (making SAAZBIER SB’s first beer fermented entirely in oak). Both beers used in the blend were hopped mostly with Sterling, with some Magnum and Tettnang joining the party. After aging, they were both dry-hopped with a healthy dose of – you guessed it – Saaz hops. The beer was then bottled and conditioned for several more months before its release, where it will finally be ready for your eager mouth (or pie-hole, whichever you prefer). Described by the brewery as “bitter, aromatic, and lightly tart”, and “very aromatic with the yeast and hop aromas”, think of this one as similar to Stillwell 3, but barrel aged. Like the recent releases you’ll be able to buy it by the bottle at the brewery on Sunday. Luckily, they have more bottles of this release than their previous beers, but it’s still a good idea to get there on Sunday to pick your bottles up!

• With the Tidehouse Tap Takeover tomorrow evening at Tom’s Little Havana to celebrate the brewery’s One Year Anniversary, of course one of the eight taps would include a new beer! The brewery got experimental and created Idea of Nord, a “Norwegian Farmhouse Ale”. Brewed with a grist of all-Vienna malt, and hopped with Northern Brewer, they followed the Norwegian tradition of steeping all of their brewing water with juniper boughs. Fermented with the Yeast Bay’s Sigmund’s Voss Kveik strain, the beer has some spicy, herbal flavours, as well as a “pronounced orange flavour” that is common with that particular yeast strain. The rest of the lineup of the Tap Takeover is also now available through the event’s Facebook page, so take a gander and plan your attack!

• Yesterday’s Big Spruce Tap Takeover at Battery Park was a massive success, featuring 15 taps and one cask, with a mix of old favourites, seasonals, new releases, and teases of what’s to come. Their popular Blood Donair made its return, a 7.1% ABV Stout that featured several kilos of donair meat in the brew, and then aged on raspberries. Not related, except by name, is a new small release of Blood Juniper, a 6.0% ABV IPA featuring Blood Orange and Juniper for an extra citrus and piney kick. A small batch Experimental Sour Brett Saison also made its debut yesterday, and details are currently murky as to when it will see wider release. The latest batch of their tribute beer, Coadeword: Snowmageddon Winter Warmer, was pouring from a cask through a handpump, and will be released soon, and a tease of 2018’s Ra Ra Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout was available on nitro as well. Look for several of these to be available today at opening in case you missed out, and in wider release in the coming weeks.

• Alma’s Holy Whale and Buddha Bear Cafe have launched their latest beer, a kellerbier. Keller Whale is 5.3% ABV brew that has been conditioning for quite a while (keller is “cellar” is German), smoothing out any harsh character and dropping clear without the use of filtering. Drop by their spot for a taste today, with $0.50 of each pint being donated to The Fundy Biosphere Reserve.

• Pre-ordering on Red Rover’s website is available today for a line of cider/spirit collaboration with Distillerie Fils du RoyThe Spirits of Christmas. Available for the next three Saturdays, Past, Present, and Future, are ciders and spirit blends from these two craft alcohol producers. Check out their brand new online store for more details!

Another round of events coming up in the region!

Tomorrow is the launch of East Coast Crafted book at Stillwell, and there will be a full complement of fun to be had! A fully Atlantic Canadian tap list with many breweries pouring for the first time outside of their home province, and many of the brewers and other folks (*cough* *cough* even us) interviewed for the book will be on hand to chat beer, sign babies and kiss books. There are no tickets necessary for entry, but buying the book there will get you your first drink and snack for free! And the first ten folks to take advantage deal will receive a bonus branded glass, t-shirt, and coaster. Check the full taplist and other details here, it all kicks off at noon. See you there!

• Tickets for next summer’s Big Axe Craft Beer Festival will go on sale this Sunday, December 10th. Last summer’s inaugural event was a huge success, with plenty of breweries and beer drinkers descending on the town of Nackawic for the outdoor festival. They’re promising next year’s (which will be held on Saturday, July 14th from 4-9 pm) to be even better, as they’ve already confirmed close to double the number of beer and cider vendors at the fest. As well, there are more options for getting to and from the festival next summer, as there are various ticket options that include bus rides from Woodstock, Fredericton and Saint John, and back again after the festival is over. We’ll have more details over the coming months; in the meantime, be sure to grab your tickets ($50 regular admission, $65 for admission + round-trip bus transportation) on Sunday, here.

• Tickets are still available for Winter’s big event in Halifax, the Fifth Craft Beer and Local Food Celebration. Being held ThursdayJanuary 18th at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront, 16 breweries from across Nova Scotia will be paired up with restaurants and food suppliers to bring you an all-inclusive evening taking over several rooms of the hotel, effectively the entire first floor! Take a gander at the brewery and vendor list here, and pick up your tickets today!

• The following weekend will see a special night for the new breweries and cider houses in the Annapolis Valley and South Shore getting together at one of their own. South West Nova Craft Beer Tasting Night will be held at Roof Hound Brewing January 24th. From 6:30, beer from Annapolis Brewing CompanyHeritage BrewingLazy Bear, and Lunn’s Mill will take over the taps for the evening. Your $30 ticket includes an appetizer and your first flight of all ten beers on tap (2 from each in attendance), live music from David Chamberland, and a fun meet and greet with this gaggle of brewers. Grab your tickets at Roof Hound today, or email them to get the ball rolling.

And a few more notes before we let you go:

– Next Tuesday’s release of Good Robot‘s Beta Brew will be Rebel Destiny, a 7.6% ABV Double Black IPA hopped with Enigma and Galaxy. Also, DeWolfe of Wall Street is back on tap at the brewery’s taproom, and they’ve just canned their second round of Extra Big Ass Camacho Lager.
Hell Bay has brought back their Tannen Bomb, a 5% ABV “Honey Blonde Ale” infused with balsam fir, for the holidays. It’s on tap at the brewery now, and will be released in bottles sometime next week.
Horton Ridge Malt and Grain has released their latest beer, Kings & Queens SMaSH. From the brewery: “It is a tale of two counties. The barley was developed and grown in Queens County, PEI by Lester Craig; the Centennial hops were grown in Kings County NS by Fundy Hops. A nice light beer, at 4.2% ABV, it has become popular with our taproom regulars. Available in pints/tasters at the Malt House, and in growlers to go.”

Wow, it’s December already! Time flies when there’s so much beer news to collect and share across our region! This week’s news is a mix of new and returning beers, some holiday-themed events, and hints of new breweries set to open in the New Year. Crack open that Advent Calendar beer or chocolate, and let’s dive right in.

• We lead off with lots of new beer news from Halifax’s Tidehouse Brewing, who actually sent all this info in days ahead of the post going up (we’re still a bit dizzy with shock)! To start off, they have a new brew on tap at their tiny taproom, a Saison named Sylvan Specter. Featuring some noticeable malt flavours thanks to the use of Munich and Melanoiden malts in the grist on top of a base Pale malt, as well as some Wheat malt to boost the mouthfeel, this 4.9% ABV was hopped with Enigma and Saaz at the end of the boil, for “a blend of earthy, fruity, and herbal components”. Fermented with two Saison strains (Farmhouse Ale and French Saison), expect a very dry beer with some spicy phenolics, in addition to the flavours mentioned above.

• Continuing with the rest of the Tidehouse news, they have brewed three other new beers to celebrate the opening of new restaurant aFrite, which opens tomorrow at 1360 Lower Water St. in Halifax. They are the following, with each designed to pair with specific plates: Bishop’s Porter, a 6.2% ABV “Raspberry American Porter”, the raspberry presence is fairly light to pair with aFrite’s sous vide Side of Beef with Frites and Bernaise sauce; Salter Saison, a 5.4% ABV amber-coloured Saison hopped heavily with Perle and Tettnanger featuring lots of herbal notes, to pair with their Donair Gnocchi; and Morris Ale, a 5.3% ABV American Pale Ale hopped with Citra, with fresh lime zest also added, paired with Fried Cauliflower in curry sauce (featuring cilantro, cumin, ghee, and lemon).

Roof Hound has a new Sour that incorporates a different approach to the souring method, compared to previous releases of theirs in this style. They actually made their own yogurt with a bacteria culture used by a local Nova Scotian family for close to 100 years, according to owner/brewer Les Barr. Built up over several weeks in coconut milk, the resulting coconut yogurt (therefore dairy-free) was added directly to the wort to lower the pH (to just barely above 3). Shredded coconut had also been added to the mash, and the whole thing was fermented with a blend of five yeast strains. Named Dooflicker Tropical Brown Sour, the resulting 5.3% ABV beer hits you “with a jaw-cramping mouth pucker, followed by a good remaining body, and a slight chocolate and coconut finish”.

• The crew at Port Rexton Brewing has had a busy fall, and are ready to unveil several new and returning beers this weekend. At this evening’s 12 Beers of Christmas in St. John’s (more details below), they are debuting Rewind Saison, which is a take on their previously-released Mixed Opportunity mixed-fermentation Saison. The Rewind, however, is fermented solely with Sacchromyces yeast (no Brett here), for a different profile. Light-to-medium in body, with a mild sweetness with herbal notes in the flavour, and fruity esters and spicy phenolics on the nose, the beer ends up at 5.5% ABV. If there’s any left after this evening’s event, it will be available tomorrow at the brewery. Speaking of which, for the next four Saturdays (Dec 2, 9, 16, and Tibb’s Eve), the brewery will be open 2-10PM for all of your sample, pint, and growler needs.

• Also available this weekend at the brewery will be a trio of their beers in cans, following their successful, and sold out, release of Blazing Sun NE-DIPA mid-November. Baycation BlondeT-Rex Porter, and Chasing Sun NEIPA will all be available at opening, and the only spot to grab them is at the brewery.

• And debuting next Thursday, December 7, is a fundraising collaboration in support of the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium. The beer was brewed with the folks from the Aquarium, as well as Motion Bay Brewing Company, opening next year in Petty Harbour, as well as the folks from Jack AxesOceans & Orchards is a truly Axe-perimental brew, as the base beer (grist of 2 Row, Oats, Honey, Vienna and a touch of Crystal 60 malts) features 50 litres of fresh-pressed apple juice courtesy of Newfoundland Cider Company (debuting their ciders in 2018 as well). The resultant 4.5% ABV graf (that is, beer/cider hybrid) features notes of honey and apple, enhanced by the El Dorado and Huell Melon dry hopping. O&O is debuting at the December 7th event at 7PM at Jack Axes on Water Street, for an evening of throwing axes and sipping on this and other beers, all while benefiting the new aquarium in PH. More details are available at the FB Event page.

• Ashdale Nova Scotia’s Meander River has a new cider available this weekend, in celebration of their expanded production space. Two 2,000 litre fermenters, and one brite tank, all dedicated to cider production, have been added to their brewery, so as not to inhibit their brewing pipeline, and increase their cider availability. The fermenters have already been filled, so stay tuned for those releases in the New Year. In the meantime, the latest release is Perry Noel, a 5.5% ABV perry cider, made with 100% Nova Scotia pears from Davison Farm in Falmouth. A light and dry cider (no back sweetening used), aromas of earthiness and tropical fruit are present on the nose. Available at the brewery today for growler fills, kegs have been delivered to bars and restaurants in Hants County and HRM, so keep an eye out as you make your way around the area.

• And you can learn even more about the brewing and cider plans if you listen to the latest episode of the 902 BrewCast, as the gents visited Alan and Brenda Bailey (and Angus) to learn about their farm, brewery, cider production, and plans for the future. The latest episode can be streamed directly at their site, or downloaded for offline enjoyment.

• Like clockwork, our pals at 2 Crows in Halifax have got a bunch of new beers to tickle your tastebuds this week and next, so let’s get you the details post-haste. Released earlier this week is their latest small batch brew, Shoreline. A 4.6% ABV Pale Ale, with a base of 2 Row and Oat malts, and hopped with Azacca and Huell Melon, before fermentation with a blend of a dozen different strains of Brettanomyces yeasts, before dry-hopping with Vic Secret, and a final keg conditioning with champagne yeast. Phew! The resultant beer is dry, funky, and fruity, with notes of guava, tangerine, and pineapple. As with all of these small batch brews (the Attempted Murder Series name still hasn’t caught on), this one is only available by the glass.

• Tomorrow, 2C is unleashing the latest of their full canned releases, brewed by Jeremy Taylor in collaboration with a fellow former-BC brewer, and current Manitoba brewery owner, Miguel Cloutier, of Kilter Brewing. Firmly in the Milkshake IPA territory, Hawaiian Ivory has a slew of light-coloured malts at its base, including Pilsner, Wheat, Oat, and Honey, along with the heavy dose of lactose and vanilla, iconic for the style. Playing up on the milkshake idea, bananas, dried coconut, lime zest, mango and pineapple purée were added in the boil and conditioning tank. The hops chosen are also quite fruity and tropical, with AzaccaCitraHuell Melon, and Simcoe in the boil, with all but Huell Melon also added in a dry hop for another aromatic blast. Hawaiian Ivory will be available from opening at noon tomorrow, by the glass and can, and in a first, Kilter and 2 Crows fans in Manitoba will be able to purchase this collaboration in Winnipeg later this month.

• And in upcoming beer news, 2C’s Linnea Finnish Imperial Stout will be released next Wednesday, December 6th. Brewed in celebration of Finland’s 100th anniversary Independence Day, the beer incorporates popular flavours from Finnish cuisine, including cardamom and salty liquorice. Taylor lived in Finland for a time, and his brother still lives in the country, raising a family. Linnea is named after Taylor’s niece. Using 95% Finnish-grown and -produced malt from Viking Malt (courtesy of local company Nordic Malz), it features Pale, Oats, Crystal, Chocolate Malts and Roast Barley, with molasses, to 9.1% ABV. Moderately hopped to 60 IBU with Columbus, and Golding (and a touch of Centennial for a light, bright, nose), it features additions of sea salt, liquorice root, star anise and cardamom pods. Drop by the brewery Wednesday to celebrate all things Finnish, and grab a pint to celebrate. And it may even be available to those outside of the province thanks to some holiday-themed boxes many folks have started opening today… Kippis!

• And we’re already behind schedule with today’s publishing, so we do not have time to tell you about the details on the next releases, but rest assured you’ll want to keep an eye out for their next canned release mid-month, as well as the beers they have cooked up for their First Anniversary in January.

• This weekend marks the third straight week of new releases from Stillwell Brewing, with the latest, Gosh, dropping first at Stillwell Beer Bar tomorrow, followed by a bottle release at the brewery on Sunday from 12-4. A pale Farmhouse Ale aged in a red wine barrel, Gosh is described as “bone-dry, with a tropical fruit fermentation character and grippy finish”. Dry-hopped with Mosaic to help boost that tropical fruit character, we’re sure this one will sell out as quickly as the last two, so show up early on Sunday!

• There’s two new beers coming out of TrailWay this week, with the first one being a new winter seasonal. Parallel is a “Session Ale” with a grain bill made up of 100% German Pale malt, and hopped entirely with Mosaic. The brewery describes it as “super-balanced”, with the hop-focus not being quite as strong as in many of their other beers. Indeed sessionable at just 4% ABV, expect a “rather subtle tropical fruitiness with a solid, crackery-malt profile”. It’s available on tap now around Fredericton, as well as in cans (both at the brewery and ANBL stores). The next beer, Good Times in the Fridge, is another hop bomb that released today at noon. A pale-coloured American IPA with minimal bitterness, it was hopped with Galaxy and Motueka. At 6% ABV, cans of this one are available at the brewery only.

• Now that Fredericton’s Bogtrotter is back to full-brewing mode, they’re releasing a brand new beer this week. Cranky Crab Coconut Porter is a 5% dark ale brewed with toasted coconut (added in the mash, boil, and secondary) and chocolate nibs. Also featuring hints of vanilla in the flavour (thanks to the addition of pure extract in secondary), it weighs in at 5% ABV and will soon be available on tap at the James Joyce and Cask and Kettle.

Rockbottom Brewpub on Spring Garden Road in Halifax has a new beer available, an American Wheat that was dosed with raspberries they’re calling Witty Pun. With his feet now firmly under him in RB’s cramped brewing quarters, brewer Ian Kean is starting to exert himself on the beer menu more and though it might not seem “seasonal” in November, this beer is certainly accessible, with a solid wheat presence underlying a lovely raspberry aroma and flavour. Clean American yeast yields an otherwise fairly dry finish to this 5.0% ABV beer, which also sports 12 IBU worth of balancing hop bitterness. As of yesterday, it was available for growler fills and pints at the pub.

Good Robot released a new Alpha Brew, Steambot Willie, earlier this week. With a grist made up of Maris Otter, Amber malt, Carapils, Red X, and Rye, it was hopped with Mt. Hood, Perle, and Magnum to 32 IBUs, and dry-hopped with more Perle, and Tettnang. Fermented with a Mexican Lager yeast strain, think of this one as an Ale-Lager hybrid, similar in a way to a California Common. At 5.5% ABV, and described as an “earthy, malty Lager with a bitter finish”, it’s available on tap now at GR, and will likely pop up around the HRM. And for next Tuesday’s Beta Brew release, we have Alien From Next Door, an American Pale Ale brewed by Kelly C. and Lianne Lessard. Brewed with 2-row, Vienna, Red X and Crystal 30, Polaris was used for bittering (to 27 IBUs), with later hop additions including Galaxy and Willamette, and then a dry-hop with more Polaris. And finally, note that cans of GR’s Extra Big ASS Lager and bottles of Barrel-Aged Mississippi Goddamn can now be purchased at the Halifax private liquor stores.

Ol’ Biddy’s Brew House in Lower Sackville continues to round out their line of easy-drinking beers with a light wheat ale they’re calling Orange American Bastard (we’ve no idea what, or who, that name could be referring to). Boasting orange peel, both sweet and bitter varieties, along with coriander, all added late in the boil for a Belgian flair, it was fermented (we think) on an American yeast for a clean ester profile. This 4.7% ABV beer is built on a base of wheat and pale malts with a little bit of Vienna for character. Crisp and clean with a nice mouthfeel, this is, according to brewer Keith Forbes, “a Summer beer heading into Winter.” It’s available now, but only on one of the guest taps at Good Robot on Robie Street in Halifax.

Heritage Brewing has a follow-up to their popular Citra Session IPA, meaning if you like hops, you should have no problem with this one! White Sands Milkshake IPA was brewed with a “touch” of lactose and ample amounts of Ekuanot and Citra hops, giving lots of “fruity, citrusy, and tropical” aromas and flavours. Available now, it comes in at 6.7% ABV and 60 IBUs.

• Darmouth’s Nine Locks Brewing has announced that they have a new brewer working alongside Head Brewer Jake Saunders. Connor MacLeod is originally from Bridgewater, and has studied in the Certified Brewmaster course at the prestigious VLB Berlin. Previously working at Garrison Brewing in Halifax, he brings several years of experience of homebrewing and passion to his commercial work, which started in part thanks to his father, who is also a beer fan. Welcome aboard, Connor! And perhaps to celebrate their new arrival, 9L has brought back their Vanilla Porter, a 5.0% ABV porter with a touch of vanilla for a light sweetness and aromatic meld with the chocolate and dark malt character. Available in cans and growler fills at the brewery today!

• Last weekend was the party and announcement for the Sober Island Brewing Foraged Homebrew Competition, at the brewery in Sheet Harbour. From 15 entries, Andrew Deveaux’s entry Raspberry Beer Eh! took top honours. Brewed with 95% malt from Horton Ridge, Deveaux’s beer featured late-season raspberries foraged from his own backyard added to a Wheat Beer base. Congratulations to Deveaux, and we expect to see a full release of the winning beer once raspberries make their return next year. In the meantime, look for SIBC’s Winter Rye to debut this month.

• Last Sunday saw an excellent turnout at the Dartmouth location of the Wooden Monkey for the 5th Annual Big Spruce Homebrew Challenge. As announced back in September, this competition was wide open style-wise, as it was instead entered around the use of the “Pin Cherry #1” yeast strain harvested from the property of Big Spruce in Nyanza, Cape Breton. This yeast was identified to have somewhat of a Belgian character, in the Trappist vein of being somewhat spicy and phenolic, with a medium flocculation and attenuation. As organized by ACBB’s own Chris McDonald, 39 entries fermented on the yeast were evaluated and scored by 12 judges, with the assistance of 4 stewards, over the course of the afternoon, culminating in a Best of Show round where the 9 favorites were slowly winnowed down to a top 3 with an honorable mention. Top prize went to Justin Clarke’s Split Personality a North American Saison that was fermented with both the Big Spruce yeast and a blend of Brettanomyces strains before being aged on wood chips. The variety of beers entered was vast, with classic Belgian, North American and even English styles competing against more outré beers featuring additional ingredients as varied as lime zest and tomatillo, habanero peppers, pineapple and coconut, peach and sage, and applewood tea. There was even a mead entry from local meadmaker Nancy Hartling that was not able to be accepted into the competition but which was tasted at the gala and turned out very nicely. The overall quality, according to the judges, was top notch, especially considering the range of beers and the fact that not a single brewer had previously used the yeast. Congratulations to all those who entered, and especially those who placed, and many thanks to Jeremy and the team at Big Spruce, and all those involved in helping reach the result. Sláinte. We look forward to tasting Justin’s winning entry when a production batch is brewed sometime in the future. And don’t forget the Big Spruce tap takeover at Battery Park this coming Thursday, November 7th!

• The Murphy Hospitality Group – owners of the PEI Brewing Co. / Gahan House – have announced that they will be opening yet another Gahan House Restaurant & Brewery location, this time in downtown Fredericton. They have purchased Vault 29, a restaurant/bar at 426 Queen St., for the new brewpub, which will have a 120-seat dining room, oyster bar, two seasonal patios, and a 5 bbl (600 L) brewhouse onsite. The plan is for the brewpub to open sometime in the spring, making it the fifth Gahan location (Charlottetown, Halifax, Saint John, and soon-to-open Moncton). The full press-release can be read here.

• As we’ve mentioned previously, the ambitious “East Coast Crafted” was released earlier this week, and is available for purchase at book stores across the region, as well as many of the breweries featured in the book. Learning more about the 80+ breweries in our region, authors Christopher Reynolds and Whitney Moran interviews and visited many of these spots to speak face-to-face with those behind the breweries we talk about weekly. The book also features dozens of photographs by Jessica Emin. Don’t forget that the authors will be celebrating the book with a launch December 9th at Stillwell, with beers from all four Atlantic Provinces pouring, where you can meet the authors and many of the brewery folks featured in the book.

Another weekend full of events for you to enjoy across our region:

• As mentioned above, the 12 Beers of Christmas is taking place this evening in St. John’s. At Club One on New Gower, from 7:30PM, attendees will be greeted with a full glass of beer, plus tokens to enjoy samples of the other 11 onsite. In addition to the debut of Port Rexton’s Rewind, Mill Street YYT is debuting their Crooked Cow Latte Stout, and you will be able to enjoy many beers not otherwise available in the province (Big Spruce Cereal Killer, 2Crows Pollyanna, Upstreet Eighty Bob and White Noize, and Maybee Stone House Tripel. Check this page for the full list of what will be pouring. After you’ve tried them all, you can purchase more tokens for samples or full pours of your favourites. Grab your tickets now, dust off your ugly Christmas sweater, and head out for a party!

• Good news, thirsty Cape Bretoners! The 2nd Annual Cape Breton Beer Fest is happening tomorrow, December 2nd, at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in Sydney. VIP tickets are sold out, but there are still some general admission tickets available ($55 + tax, each), which gets you entry into the festival at 7-9:30 pm. A special glass and unlimited beer samples are included, and many local breweries will be on hand to pour their creations, and chat beer! Note that Designated Driver tickets ($15 + tax) are also still available; all tickets can be purchased from the event website above.

Tidehouse Brewing is turning one, and are celebrating in style with a Tap Takeover at Tom’s Little Havana next Saturday, December 9th. All eight taps will be dedicated to Tidehouse, which they’ll be filling with some of their best beers brewed over the past year. The fun starts at 5 pm and will continue until close; stay tuned to their event page for a full taplist release next week.

• Christmas is just around the corner, with Boxing Day of course right behind it; if you’re in the Fredericton area, what better way to celebrate Boxing Day than a Boxing Rock Tap Takeover? Being held on Tuesday, December 26th at the King Street Ale House, there’ll be tons of BR beers pouring, starting at 5 pm. You can just show up and pay by the pint, but if you reserve your spot now for $15, you’ll get a flight of beer and a pound of wings. Sounds like a good deal to us! Tickets can be purchased on the event page.

And a couple more returning favourites this week:

– Following last week’s release of Midnight, their Glenora Distillery Barrel-aged Strong Dark Belgian beer, HRM’s North Brewing has teed up the non-barrel version. Dark Sky is available today in 650 mL bottles at both their Halifax and Dartmouth bottle shops.
– And down the road on Gottingen Street, Propeller has a new cask for us this evening, a version of their Double IPA dry hopped with Idaho 7 and Ekuanot hops. They’ll be cracking into that at 5 PM as usual.
Red Rover has brought back their festive Jingleberry Cider, featuring additions of wild blueberry, cardamom, and nutmeg paired with notes of caramel, you’ll find it at the Ciderhouse and ANBL locations around the province.

Happy Friday, beer lovers! November is quickly winding down, and the stores are getting busier every day; when Christmas gets closer, stress levels tend to rise, and there’s plenty of ways to help relieve that stress. We like to recommend three easy methods to remedy that stress… sit back, open a good beer, and read about beer! You can’t deny that it’s a hell of a lot better than Black Friday shopping! Unfortunately, we have to start off this week’s reading with some sad news…

• Charlo River, New Brunswick’s Shiretown has confirmed that they will be closing their doors at the end of this month, with owner Derek Leslie breaking the news in a Facebook post a few days ago. Shiretown first opened in nearby Dalhousie in 2011, becoming one of the province’s first small commercial breweries. Originally a 1 bbl (120 L) brewery, Shiretown closed down in the summer of 2015, before re-opening a year later with a larger 2 bbl (240 L) brewhouse. Bottles of their beers have been in ANBL stores for some time now, and no doubt there will be some remaining for several weeks for fans of the brewery to pick up. We wish all the best to Derek and the rest of the Shiretown team in the future.

• Today, North will be releasing Reverb, the latest in their Finite Series of one-off beers. This latest brew is a 5.9% ABV, 13 IBUs wine-barrel aged American Wheat Ale; aged in the barrels for 2 months, before undergoing bottle conditioning, the beer has tasting notes of “lemon, grapefruit, peach, light funk and a refreshing effervescence”, according to the brewery. There’s a very limited number of 750 mL bottles available – just 292 – so make sure to drop by either of the North bottle shops to pick up yours, before they’re gone. And while there, note that their Darmouth Dark – a 4.5% ABV Dark Lager – has returned, and is available for growler fills and can purchases.

• If you’re in the Mahone Bay area this weekend, you might as well keep your eyes open for a returning Saltbox brew, and a new iteration on one of their other beers. For the returning brew, their seasonal Balsam Blue is back… billed as a “Specialty Lager”, it’s a celebration of Lunenburg County being labelled as the Balsam Fir Christmas Tree capital of the world (we’re going to take them on their word for that one!). That’s right, real balsam tips were added to this 6.3% ABV beer, along with pureed blueberries, giving it a purplish hue and lots of Balsam on the nose. As for the new take on a previous beer, they’ve taken their Old Foundry stout and aged it in a Bourbon barrel. The result is a higher ABV (7.9% ABV vs. 6.3%), an flavors of bourbon and oak to go along with the roasted, coffee characteristics already in the beer.

• After a hugely successful first-bottle release of Four, their fourth Anniversary beer, last Sunday, Stillwell Brewing is releasing their second beer-in-bottles this weekend… and it sounds equally as delicious! Sport is a “Tart Farmhouse Ale” brewed with sea salt and lime zest. Brewed this past spring, it was moved to oak barrels and matured for several months, before being bottled in early July. At 4.7% ABV it’s very easy-drinking, but still has complex aromas and flavors of “zippy, spicy hops, lime, and barrel notes of coconut and vanilla”. You’ll be able to buy it at Stillwell for on-site consumption starting tomorrow, and then you can hop on down to the brewery on Sunday to buy some bottles to take home. They’re open 12-4 pm, and please keep in mind a limited amount of 30 cases are available, and all of Four sold out before closing last week.

• Up on the Bay of Fundy, Lawrencetown’s Lunn’s Mill has a new beer called Tribute, a tropical session IPA. Featuring two ultra fruity hops in Northern Hemisphere orange bomb Citra and Southern Hemisphere tropical delight Galaxy it’s got a “lively bitterness” and “zingy mouthfeel” coming in at a very quaffable 5.1% ABV but a hefty 73 IBU. It’s on tap at the brewery now for pints and growler fills, and kegs have already gone to Dartmouth’s Battery Park and Halifax’s 2 Crows Brewing, although only time will tell when the beer will be tapped at those locations.

• Over to TrailWay, who will be releasing another new beer today at noon, Dank Williams. Named after Travis Tritt, this is – as you may have guessed from the name, and a few of their previous releases – a hop bomb, featuring a selection of some of their favorite dank hops, as well as some that are also in the fruity and spicy zone of the wheel. Columbus, Enigma, and Summit are the focus here, with all three varieties coming together in a perfectly-hoppy 6% ABV package, an American IPA with “a ton of complexity and character”, according to the brewery. Available at the brewery in cans and growlers, alongside the return of their Red IPA, Good Aura, which is back for the season (currently in cans only).

• Down in Antigonish, Half Cocked Brewing has a new beer, this one an IPA called Bury’d Son. Sitting at 6.4% ABV and 50 IBU, it’s got a light golden color and a fruity citrus aroma. American Azacca and Australian Ella hops were used for first wort hops and early kettle additions, while Topaz, Citra and more Azacca and Ella were added late, giving the beer a sharp, even bitterness and a delicate hop aroma. The latest batch of Horton Ridge 2-row malt served as the base of the grist. This is a limited edition brew, not likely to be made again, so if it sounds like something you’d like, head down to the brewery and get yourself a fill.

• The Beta Brews just don’t stop over at Good Robot, with yet another new one being released next Tuesday (and note that Beta Brews can now be filled up in the 0.89 L growler), Chicka Cherry Kölsch. Brewed by Kelly and Georgie, it has a simple grist of Pilsner malt and a bit of Vienna, and was hopped lightly to 19 IBUs with Tettnang. Fermented with a Kölsch yeast, cherry juice was added in secondary, resulting in a clean-tasting beer with a “tart black cherry flavour”. Pretty sessionable at 4.9% ABV.

• It appears that YellowBelly has no intentions of slowing down in the one-off beer department, as there’s yet another new one newly on tap at the brewpub this week. I’se da’ Rye is a Rye Pale Ale brewed with Pale malt, Rye malt, Rye flakes, and CaraVienne. Bittered with Cluster and El Dorado 40-45 IBUs, it was then dry-hopped with more El Dorado, as well as some Citra. Coming in at 5.5% ABV, expect notes of “candy, watermelon, pear, lychee, and red berry, with a bitter finish”, according to YB. You can pick it up in growlers and pints at the brewpub, and bottles should be for sale early next week.

Holy Whale Brewing in Alma, New Brunswick got some wonderful news recently, as they were notified that were successful in their bid for a grant to open a café in a customized shipping container along the Petitcodiac River in Riverview, NB. Competing against four other plans from local businesses, they were selected on the basis of the business concept, plans for the future and business experience. The funding comes from a grant provided by the provincial government to the municipality to help commemorate Canada’s 150th Birthday. Although licensing and permitting is expected to take some time, they’re hoping to be operational as early as late January, serving a full lineup of Buddha Bear coffee, a local-based menu and Holy Whale beer from a take-out window facing the boardwalk. And for those folks who can’t wait that long for their Holy Whale fix, we can report that HW is now licensed to sell growlers and crowlers from their brewery and taproom, at the Eastern entrance to Fundy National Park, and that should mean kegs will be making their way to licensees in the province soon.

• Amherst’s Trider’s Craft Beer recently took a previous 10 gallon pilot brew and scaled it up to a full-sized batch. Featuring a grist of largely pale ale malt, with some crystal to give it color and 10% Canadian Rye for spiciness, Commander Rye-Ker Imperial Rye IPA was heavily hopped with Amarillo at a rate of 2 lbs or so every 15 minutes through a 75-minute boil. Three quarters of the way through fermentation even more Amarillo was added as a dry hop. Clean American ale yeast ensured a neutral yeast character to show off the malt and, especially, the hops. Although it’s pushing the 8% ABV mark and sporting a hefty estimated IBU range of 80-100, it’s a sneaky one that’s likely to creep up on you. It’s available at the brewery for fills for sure, but given that it’s a full-size batch you might reasonably expect it to show up at tap accounts and who knows, possibly other packaging formats.

• Teensy-tiny Tidehouse in downtown Hal-town has another new beer for us this week, this time a Hopfenweisse called Cloud Shadow. Coming in at a very sessionable 4.6% ABV, it’s based on a grist of half wheat male and half pale malt. Fruity and citrusy Mandarina Bavaria hops from Germany were paired with earthy, floral and also citrusy Ahtanum hops from the USA to provide notes of mandarin orange and a lemony, tart finish. You’ll find it at the Tiny Tasty Beverage Room on Salter Street for fills and 4oz pours. And stay tuned for news of Tidehouse’s 1st Birthday Celebration coming up in December!

Garrison in Halifax is looking for everyone to pucker up this week, releasing two new draught-only sours. First is Holy Gose, a thirst-quenching brew with light fruit flavors of apple, peach and orange zest paired with a light saltiness typical of the style. Built on a base of Pilsner and wheat malts, and eschewing hops entirely, additions of orange zest and sea salt finished this brew. It weighs in at a fairly light 5.4% ABV. And joining it on the board is La Menta, a beer brewed with mint (“menta” is Spanish for “mint”) provided by local home brewer and beer judge Tim Fletcher. Similar in concept to the Saison Froide made by brewmaster Daniel Girard a few years ago, the mint provides a “cooling” character intended to be refreshing. Using the same grist as the the Holy Gose, there’s no hops in this one either, but the aforementioned mint along with apple and lime juices provide flavour notes to pair with the acidity of this 5.2% ABV sour. As mentioned, these are draught-only releases that you can find now at the brewery or by times at Garrison tap accounts. If you’re super duper keen, you can specifically seek it out using their website’s On Tap feature.

• Bridgewater’s FirkinStein Brewing has a pair of new/returning beer that you will want to check out this weekend, plus a heads up on one coming next week. Returning from a summer off, Set Sail Pale Ale is back in the rotation. At 6.0% ABV, this light-bodied beer receives a heavy dose of hops, but very little in the kettle. The resultant beer has tons of citrus aroma and hop flavour, but very low bitterness. A brand new debut is a pepper beer, Hot as Firk (which is what you’ll be exclaiming after you drink a pint of it, we imagine!). Featuring multiple peppers, including Thai Bird’s Eye, Cayenne, and the infamous Carolina Reaper, this beer is a must-try for chili-heads. No waiver needed to sign before you try it, but best to have one of their other beers nearby in case you need some relief. HaF is only available at their King Street location. And keep an eye out for their as-of-yet-unnamed Black IPA, debuting next week. Weighing in at 7.0% ABV, it features lots of hops, with CascaseChinook, and Simcoe coming through with citrus and pine notes, melding with the light roast character of the dark roasted malts. Keep an eye on their social media for the release date!

2 Crows Brewing in Halifax, who recently released a delightful little number known as Amateur Hour that you should totally drink, released another new beer from their pilot system on Tuesday of this week. The brainchild of their tasting room’s Graeme, it’s his take on the Dutch Bokbier (differentiated from a German Bock by the use of ale yeast instead of lager yeast) but with a twist. Leveraging hearty Munich as a base malt, to which was added Pilsner, Caravienne, along with small amounts of Wheat and Flaked Oats and some Chocolate malt for color, this beer was hopped with Magnum for bittering and Sterling later in the boil. But the real twist is the use of 2 Crows’ house strain of Brettanomyces for the fermentation, which is likely to balance what would otherwise be a fairly prominent maltiness. If you’re lucky enough to try it, look for notes of toffee, caramel and plum complementing a residual sweetness and finished by the Brett. It’s a hefty 8.2% ABV and 35 IBU. Proost!

• In Yarmouth, Heritage brewing has a new beer available as of last night. Freezing Spray is an IPA that packs a solid hop flavour and aroma thanks to a blend of Chinook, Citra and Equanot hops. At 6.5% ABV and 60 IBU this is right in the sweet spot for IPAs. And we’re told the batch is already half sold, so you best be moving quickly if you want a taste. Available at the brewery as well as select tap accounts in the region, including the Good Robot taproom as of last night.

• After going on hiatus for the summer, Dartmouth’s Spindrift Brewing has brought back their popular Seventh Wave Series this week. Smaller batches, brewed on their 50l pilot system, give the brew crew a chance at testing out new recipes that may make it onto the big system, try out new ingredients, or just play around with ideas they have. We’re not sure which category the latest brew falls into, but this week’s release is Altbier, an ale from Germany, traditionally known for their lagers, that tends to undergo a long conditioning (lagering) period after primary fermentation. Copper in colour, and usually well-hopped, details are light on Spindrift’s release. That means you’ll have to go and try it for yourself! With the small volume available, we expect Altbier to sell out before they close at 6pm today.

• Our favourite beer podcast buds at 902 BrewCast are celebrating their First Anniversary today, with the release of their November tasting episode. They threw caution to wind and decided to embark on a Garrison Ol’ Fogburner Barleywine vertical. Joined by our very own acbbchris, and fellow frequent shout-out receivers Damian and Duncan, the six drank all years of OFB from 2009-2016 (except for 2014, as there was no release that year). The discussion also turned to how the beer scene has changed since 2009 (and even since 902BC launched in 2016), favourite beers, trends to expect in the future, and everything in between. Tune in, and let them know if you agree if Barleywine Is Life.

Lots of events on the go this weekend, including two brewery anniversary parties!

• We’ll keep it brief since we mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating: tickets for the next Fredericton Craft Beer Festival went on sale today at 11 am. If you forgot to get VIP tickets, you’re likely already out of luck, but remember there’s two sessions (afternoon and evening), and lots of fun to be had! Grab your tickets here.

• In Port Williams, The Port Pub and Sea Level are celebrating their 10th Anniversary tomorrow, November 25th, with a party and new beer release! Kicking off at 10AM with Ice Carving Demonstrations, food and beer discounts, music all day and night, and hourly giveaways from 5PM until close, it will be one heck of a good time! And kicking it up a notch will be the release of The Devils Backbone, the first barrel-aged beer from Sea Level (from our memory). This 8.5% ABV Baltic Porter was fermented in a pair of Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels for nine months, before conditioning and packaging. Available on tap at the Port and in bottles at the brewery to take away, this limited edition beer is sure to be a special gift for the beer lover who has *almost* everything (hint hint blog wives). Congratulations Sea Level and Port Pub!

Foghorn is celebrating one year in business with their Fog the Parade 1st Anniversary Party tomorrow. The party will be held all day, and includes open mic from 3-6 pm (sing a song and they buy you a beer!); live music not-sung-by-you; beer snacks, cake, and other treats; and, of course, lots of beer! In addition, with every pint or growler purchase during the day, you can enter a contest to win 52 growler vouchers for 2018!

Sober Island is celebrating their line of Foraged Beers with a joint event this Sunday. The judging has already been done, but the winners will be announced for their Foraged Homebrew Competition. Featuring entries from across the province (and even an entry flown in from Calgary), the top beers will be celebrated (and maybe even poured), at the Henley House in Sheet Harbour, from 1PM. Joining the finalists will be their Chanterelle Mild Ale (now in short supply, so if you were hoping to try it, time is running out), and the debut of their Juniper IPA. At 7.0% ABV and 58 IBU, the beer features local whole leaf hops from Wicked Hops in Stewiacke, to the tune of CascadeCentennialChinook, and Magnum. But the star of the beer may be the Juniper berries, with 1.5 kg macerated and added late in the boil, with another kilogram added during conditioning. All of the beers will be available in “Foraged Flights”, along with a small menu of foraged food items. After its debut, keep an eye out for cans and kegs of Juniper across the province.

Big Spruce will be taking over the taps at Battery Park December 7th, featuring more than 15 different beers, with plenty of food and cheer to go around. The taplist has not yet been released (but should be added to this event as it is), but we’re sure there will be a good mix of new and cellared beers, and maybe even a new release or two. And prepare yourself, as Bis Spruce is offering a delivery service for those fans unable to make it up to Nyanza to grab their wares. Scheduled to hit HRM December 16th, flats of cans can be ordered in advance, with any combination of Kitchen Party Pale Ale, Cereal Killer Oatmeal Stout, Tim’s Dirty American IPA, Bitter Get’er India Black IPA, Tag! You’re It! NEIPA, and One Hundred – Cape Breton Wild Ale. A minimum of one flat is required, and it is attractivel priced at only $98.40 (all in). Bottles of two of their barrel-aged brews are also up for grabs, Ra Ra Rasputin Whisky Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout, and Complexified Bourbon Barrel Aged Baltic Porter (both $16 all in). Get your orders in before the 15th to avoid disappointment! Keep an eye out on this page for any updates.

And before you go…

Picaroons has released PIVOT #9 (8% ABV), the latest in their Imperial IPA series, with this one showcasing Zythos, as well as “some home-grown Moose Mountain hops”. Available in bottles and on tap, also note that their long-running Yippee IPA is now available in cans, for the first time.
Propeller fans will be ecstatic to hear that their big, dark, and tasty Russian Imperial Stout (8% ABV, 60 IBUs) is back; you can find it pretty much all bottle stores in Halifax, at the brewery, and on tap.
– Fredericton’s Sunset Heights Meadery has some of their holiday meads arriving at ANBL stores, with Queen’s Nectar, Scuttlebutt, Latifah, Punky Pie, and Cinfully Yours – a chocolate cinnamon mead – making the list. Some of these are in quite-limited supply, so be sure to check with your nearby ANBL to make sure they have some in stock.