The husband and wife team of Jeremy and Melanie White are currently working on opening up Nova Scotia’s first certified organic on-farm brewery, Big Spruce Brewing, at 64 Yankee Line Road, Nyanza, Cape Breton. I recently exchanged emails with Jeremy to complete the following Q & A:
Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger (ACBB): How did you decide to open your own brewery?
Jeremy White (JW): A lot of reasons. I have been a home brewer for years, and have wanted to scale my production up to a commercial level for a long time. We also feel there is a lot of opportunity in the craft beer market in Nova Scotia. NSLC reports 25%+ year on year growth for the purchase of beer that categorizes as craft brewed. There are few businesses in the world that have this kind of growth potential in them. We also see some niche market voids for certain beer types, and hope our year round selections and many farm fresh seasonals will fill some market spots. We have started this venture on the simple belief that beer can be a lot better by using the freshest, highest quality ingredients – like hops from our certified organic hop yard. We are entering year 3 of growing 11 varietals of hops here on our 75 acre farm: Goldings, Cascade, Zeus, Fuggle, Nugget, Willamette, Challenger, Chinook, Galena, Mt Hood and Centennial. It was a logical progression for us to start the brewery.
ACBB: Do you have a background in homebrewing?
JW: I’ve been home brewing for 15+ years. The number of different batches is too many to count. Melanie comes from a catering background before we bought our farm here, and we have built a second floor restaurant over the brewery with a view of Lake Bras D’Or, where Melanie will be holding brewery dinners, by reservation only, a couple of times a week in the summer (starting 2013).
ACBB: What styles are you planning on brewing?
JW: We plan to brew two beers year round – an oatmeal stout, and a pale ale. We want to also brew seasonals, and plan to make sure that our approach to sales suits a brew schedule that permits the brewing of one off specials and yearly seasonal beers.
ACBB: Did you have any assistance from any other breweries in setting up your operation?
JW: We got a lot of help from Crannóg Ales in Sorrento, BC. We have visited Crannóg on two occasions, and I have brewed there with the owners, Brian and Rebecca. A lot of what we are trying to do with our operation mirrors what we learned and grew to appreciate from Crannóg’s dedication to great beer and a sustainable approach to their business. We also have a brewing consultant on board with our start up – Shirley Warne, who currently brews in Osoyoos, BC, and previously brewed at Amsterdam in Toronto, Garrison in Nova Scotia, and Steamworks in Vancouver. Shirley also helped Crannóg get off the ground successfully. In the Maritimes, Sean Dunbar and the folks at Picaroons have always been willing to help. Everyone we have spoken to about.
ACBB: You are planning on selling kegs (50L and 20L) and growlers when you open. Do you have any long term plans to start bottling or canning your beers?
JW: We will never bottle or can. The fact that we are a farm based facility makes it impossible, due to the wastewater creation from a bottling line. We also want to self distribute our beer. Too often have I personally purchased craft beer from the NSLC only to find it is skunky due to improper storage. Why do they only put the pasteurized beer in the fridge??? We want to make certain that 100% of our beer arrives at our customers’ doors as fresh as can be.
ACBB: Do you have any accounts lined up to by your beer?
JW: We have been brewing our intended recipes on my small pilot system for months now, and we’ve done samplings with many restaurants/bars in Halifax, Antigonish, Sydney and around Cape Breton. The response has been great, and many have agreed to carry our beer once we start production.
ACBB: Tell me about your hop farm operations.
JW: We had a great harvest this year. Hop production was down greatly across the Maritimes in 2012 because the summer was so dry, but we invested in irrigation this year, and as a result averaged over a full pound of wet hops per plant. We dry our hops in an oast on farm, and vacuum seal/freeze them. They will be used in the first batches of beer from the brewery. In 2013, we will be expanding the hop production to just about an acre of planted yard.
ACBB: Are you using any Atlantic Canadian supplies or equipment in your brewery?
JW: DME Brewing of PEI is supplying our brew system. They are on Facebook if you want to check them out.
ACBB: What are your favorite beers?
JW: We enjoy any well crafted beer. Impossible to choose just a few!
To follow the progress of the new brewery follow them on Facebook.