All posts for the month June, 2014



Quidi Vidi Brewery in St. John’s, Newfoundland was the province’s first craft brewery when it originally opened in 1996. Today, it is also Newfoundland’s largest craft brewery, producing about 7,500 hL (750,000 liters) of beer annually. During a recent trip to The Rock, Chris caught up with Justin Fong and Einer Holtet for a tour of the brewery. They were also kind enough to spend time answering our enquiries.

ACBB: Can you give me a brief history of Quidi Vidi Brewery?

Justin Fong: Quidi Vidi was started by Dave Fong and Dave Rees in 1996, in a small fishing village near downtown St. John’s. The old fish plant was converted into the brewery after the cod industry collapsed in the early 90’s.

What size/manufacturer/type of system is your brewhouse?

Our brewhouse was manufactured by DME; it’s a 20-barrel system (620 U.S. gallons, or about 2,325 L).

QV Brewhouse

20 bbl DME Brewhouse

How big is the staff at Quidi Vidi?

We employ about 20 staff members year-round, with some additional staff in the summer months for tours and events.

How are your beers distributed? On tap at restaurant/bars, bottles at the LC or private stores, growlers, etc.?

We deliver everything ourselves in vans. We’re in the bars, restaurants, brewing agents (convenience stores) and the NLC. Our beers are available in 341 ml bottles (2, 6, and 12 packs) and 30 L kegs.

Can you tell me about the core beer you offer? Do you mainly offer a specific genre, or genres, of beer (English, German, American, Belgian)?

We don’t offer a core mix at all. Newfoundland has an interesting beer market, so we try and cater to different segments without pinning ourselves in one role. Newfoundland’s craft beer segment is still in its early stages (about a 2% market share). When you couple that with our relatively small population, you need to do a few different things. Our Iceberg Beer is an American-style Light Lager (4.5% ABV) which is brewed with iceberg water. This is our biggest seller right now and does extremely well with the light drinkers and tourists. Our 1892 Traditional Ale is an Amber Ale that commemorates The Great Fire of 1892 when most of St. John’s burned down. This was our flagship beer in 1996 and is currently our second best seller. Our newest full time brand is our British IPA, which has been selling exceptionally well on taps in the pubs of downtown St. John’s. It’s a very approachable IPA, and was brewed to help expand the variety of beer flavors available in Newfoundland. As the province’s craft beer market develops, we’ve been pushing the boundaries with our seasonal beer. Our Winter Ale combined roasted cocoa nibs, coriander and vanilla beans. We weren’t sure if it was going to be too bold and adventurous, but the sales spoke for themselves. We did two brews and sold out before our spring seasonal, Continental Pilsener, was ready!


The very busy fermentors at Quidi Vidi

Where do you hope to see Quidi Vidi in the next 2-3 years?

We’re at maximum capacity right now, so expansion is on the agenda. Within a couple years you should see some of our brands in other provinces in the country. We’ve had a ton of interest over the last couples years in markets all over the world for our Iceberg Beer. With a new brewery in place and some capacity, you may see us in some markets that wouldn’t be first choice for most Canadian craft brewers.

Do you personally have a favorite beer style? Beer? Brewery?

Hah, the answer to that question changes from week to week. We just got back from the Canadian Brewing Awards in Fredericton and had a chance to taste a bunch of great beer. We were at the King Street Ale House and had a couple of beers from Le Trou du Diable which I really enjoyed. A friend of mind was in town about a month ago and brought a nice selection from the U.S.; Heady Topper from The Alchemist definitely stood out.

Is there something specific that got you into the world of craft beer?

For the love of beer, hah. The start is a bit before my time but here’s a quick story on one of the owners and founders, Dave Fong. Dave was from a town called Carboneer about 1 & 1/2 hours outside of St. John’s. While he was studying engineering at Memorial University in St. John’s, he was living in the campus residence. Dave and his friend had a deal worked out with the janitor and were secretly brewing beer in the janitor’s closet. They went back home to Carboneer one weekend and left the janitor in charge of everything. He ended up drinking a ton of the beer and getting hammered on campus. The Memorial campus police picked him up and he ratted on Dave and his friend which led to them getting kicked out of residence! So, I guess you could say they had a deep commitment to beer from a young age.


Quidi Vidi Village

A view of Quidi Vidi Village from the brewery

We then spoke with Quidi Vidi Brewmaster Einer Holtet on his history and vision in the brewing business…

Did you start out as a homebrewer? Care to share some info on your homebrewing history?

I started out as what I like to call a “Home Based Craft Brewer”.  There are still a lot of people who attach a negative connotation to the word “homebrew”, especially here in Newfoundland, so I like to make that little distinction. My “homebrew” has consisted of fine, hand-crafted beer from the outset, none of that old-time bathtub swill that some (particularly the older generations) recall as homebrew. There are a lot of people making great homebrewed beers nowadays, and to a great extent this has fueled the North American Craft Brewing revolution over the past 20+ years.

I remember as a teenager helping my Dad with a couple batches of homebrew, and though I didn’t get a chance to indulge in the final product (MUCH!), it did generate a spark of interest. Then after a senior class trip to Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia I gained an appreciation for great, flavourful beer. I knew my dad still had his home brewing equipment, and wasn’t using it, so I pilfered it from his basement and set up shop in my little bachelor suite.  I bought a “middle of the road” beer ingredient kit to start with, but I just couldn’t leave it at that. I bought a couple pounds of specialty malts and some fresh whole hops to bolster the flavour of the kit.  I brewed that first batch of ale in my little bachelor apartment kitchen, had stunning results, and never looked back. That was the last beer ingredient kit I ever bought – from thereon I started formulating all my recipes from scratch.

What made you decide to take the step into brewing professionally?

When I first started homebrewing, there was not a whole lot of information online regarding home brewing, so I started collecting and reading every book on brewing I could get my hands on.  I amassed a considerable library, and a considerable amount of brewing knowledge over a few short years. I tried brewing many different styles, many different brewing techniques, and experimented with many different ingredients. I even tried malting my own grains, and to this day still grow my own hops.  Craft brewing grew to be my “passionate hobby”, while I worked away in the Engineering field, always with the fantasy of some day brewing professionally.  Finally after about 16 years of brewing at home I decided that the only way for me to advance in my brewing was to go ahead and take some professional brewing courses, whether I ended up with the opportunity to “go pro” or not, I just wanted it for myself.  So, I enrolled in the brewing program at the Siebel Institute in Chicago. By the time I was finished my coursework at Siebel, I had decided that I was going to leave my Engineering career and pursue brewing as a profession.  I ended up getting hired on here at Quidi Vidi Brewery five years ago, and after a couple years of slugging away doing any and all labour-intensive/menial jobs in the brewery, I finally landed in the brewhouse and was given the opportunity I had been waiting for.  In the past 2-1/2 years I have produced five new brands for the brewery, all of which have been very successful. I am proud to say I’ve taken my “passionate hobby” of 20+ years and turned it into a “passionate career”.

Do you have a specific ingredient in brewing that you like to brew with? E.g. a specific malt and/or hop variety?

I have always loved my malty ales. Among my favourite ingredients are the “high kilned” malts such as Vienna and Munich, and caramelized malts such as Crystal. I love the robust flavours and colors they add to beer, and I can’t stop munching them by the handful as I’m adding them to the mill!

From what/where/whom have you learned the most in respect to brewing?

I can’t say I learned a lot about brewing from my father, but I guess I should thank him for providing that initial spark of interest back when we brewed together. In the 80’s!

Obligatory iceberg shot, spotted near Cape Spear, NL

Obligatory iceberg shot, spotted by Chris near Cape Spear, NL

Thanks again to Justin and Einer for spending time with us. We had the opportunity to see them in Fredericton for the 2014 Canadian Brewing Awards, where they took home Silver for their Premium Lager (North American Style Lager) and Bronze for their Iceberg Beer (North American Style Premium Lager). Congratulations! And the next time you’re in St John’s, be sure to drop by Friday evening for their immensely popular Kitchen Parties: live music and great beer and food, right at the source!

Happy Friday, craft beer fans! Looks like there’s lots going on in the beer scene in Atlantic Canada again this week…

• A couple of weeks ago, we alluded to a new beer being released by BarNone Brewing, and we now have some more details. An American Pale Ale, the beer was brewed in collaboration with Bicycle Craft Brewery, a new brewery opening soon in Ottawa. Owned by husband and wife team Fariborz and Laura Behzadi, they came in contact with BarNone brewer/co-owner Don Campbell when they ordered their brewhouse through DME, which constructed a similar setup to what BarNone brews on. When Don invited Fariborz and Laura to do a test brew on his system, so they’d be familiar with the setup, Fariborz designed a recipe and sent it Don’s way. A few minor changes were made due to ingredient availability, and then the three met at BarNone to brew the beer. Broke Spoke Pale Ale was born! A Pale Ale with a “good amount of malt backbone, so that it balances the hop bittermess”, the beer still has a good amount of hop flavors and aromas coming through. Broke Spoke made its debut last night at BarNone’s weekly growler night; it may pop up on tap at bars/restaurants across the Island in the near future.

• Tickets are now on sale for this month’s Beer Dinner (Tuesday, June 24th at 6:00 pm) at the Rockbottom Brewpub in Halifax. There are only 30 spots available; each ticket sells for $35, which includes three courses paired with beer. This month’s dinner consists of a pork belly slider paired with their Intergalactic SMaSH’d Lager, beer-marinated, grilled Cornish hen (with newly-tapped Hali-Lager), and a black pepper & strawberry shortcake (Jacktar Stout). You can reserve tickets by calling the brewpub (902-423-2938); act quickly, they usually sell out fast.

• While on the topic of Rockbottom, if you haven’t had a chance to try Wreckoning RIS – their Russian Imperial Stout that recently won Atlantic Canada’s only gold medal at the 2014 Canadian Brewing Awards – or just want to try it again, they will be pouring the beer next Wednesday, June 11th at 4:00 pm. Get in and get some while you can!

• Also, if you’re anxious to start having lunch at the Rockbottom again (or starting your pub crawl a little earlier), they’ve announced that they’re now open on weekdays starting at noon, with a good possibility of opening at noon on weekends as well, later in the month.

• The 2nd Annual Fredericton Beer Run is being held this summer on Monday, August 4th (New Brunswick Day). Like last year, the event involves a run along Fredericton trails starting at noon, followed by lots of beer! Registration begins at 11 am; participants can choose to run either a 6 or 12 km route. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online; they include a custom-designed running bib and beer stein, water stops, and 14 beer tickets. Each beer ticket is good for a 4 oz sample of beer or cider, with at least 20 different beers/ciders available to sample; this part of the event will be held at the Delta Fredericton). New Brunswick breweries Big Axe, Grimross, Moosehead, Pump House, Railcar, Red Rover, and Shiretown will be pouring; Unibroue and McClelland Premium Imports will also have some beers to sample.

• We hope you’ve purchased your tickets to Picaroons‘ 2nd Annual Brewer’s Bash on Saturday, July 12th in Fredericton, because they’re now officially sold out! Even with an extra 500 tickets being sold this year, they still went very quickly. They’ve also announced the three musical acts that will be playing throughout the day-long event: Zeus, Cyndi Cain, and The Chronos Band. We’ll keep you posted on the breweries that will be attending as the Bash gets closer. And a reminder: they’re still looking for volunteers if you’d like to attend – 4 hours of helping out will allow you 8 free hours to enjoy the festival, so send them an email if you’re interested!

• And speaking of Picaroons, they’ve picked the winning cat for their Melonhead bottle label… the lucky kitty is Ruby, who was entered in the contest by her owner, Madison Sagle. Melonhead is now on tap at the Brewtique, and should be popping up at restaurants and bars in the area, as well as in bottles, over the next couple of weeks.

• The new Imperial IPA from Hammond River, Too Hop to Handle, that we mentioned last month has been kegged and is awaiting ANBL approval, which means it should be on tap in Saint John soon. Brewed almost exclusively with the Zythos hop, we’re looking forward to a fruity and piney hop bomb!

PEI Brewing Co. has a new beer on tap exclusively at the brewery at 96 Kensington Road in Charlottetown. While currently unnamed, the beer is a Light Lager (4% ABV) that has a low bitterness (8 IBUs) from Kohatu, a New Zealand hop variety.  The beer was then “highly dry-hopped” with another NZ variety, Motueka, giving the beer a “tropical and piney” aroma, according to the brewery. Sounds like an interesting cross between a Light Lager and IPA… better get to the brewery to give it a try!

North Brewing in Halifax has released a new seasonal, their Summer Saison. Changed slightly from their standard Saison, it features coriander and orange peel in the beer, to enhance the already vibrant and spritzy character of the base beer. Both ingredients shine through in the aroma as well, complemented by the hop characteristic and yeast spiciness. It weighs in at 5.5%ABV, and is available at the brewery and Alderney Landing Market (Saturday only) in growlers, and on tap around Halifax and Dartmouth, and in Lunenburg at The Grand Banker. When the weather turns colder (let’s hope that’s 6 months from now!), they have plans of switching up the recipe to a Winter Saison, featuring ginger and black pepper.

• In more new beer news, Shiretown just announced today that they have a new beer available for growler fills at the brewery. All we know right now is that it’s an IPA, and is called Hops on for Nowhere. We’ll have more info on this beer for you next week!

• If you’re living in the Sackville area, and are into craft cider, good news! Red Rover Brewing now has their Summer Brew on tap at Ducky’s Bar. Summer is a dry cider, described by Red Rover as a sharp, tangy thirst-quencher; it comes in at 7% ABV. Look for Red Rover’s other two regular releases, Spring Brew and Fall Brew, to follow after the Summer keg has kicked.

• Ducky’s also announced yesterday that they have the new Big Axe summer seasonal, Simon Saaz Summer Ale, on tap. Check out last week’s post for more info on this beer. To follow, they’ll be tapping another Big Axe seasonal, White Birch Porter. A 6.5% ABV Porter brewed with pure white birch sap, owner/brewer Peter Cole describes the beer as dark brown in color, and medium-bodied. Slightly smoky, with an aroma of “dark roasted nuts, rye bread and chocolate”, the bitterness of the birch sap “complements the noble hops nicely”.

Yellowbelly Brewpub is releasing a new brew this weekend. Downtown Brown is an American-style Brown Ale, weighing in at 6.2% ABV and 40 IBUs. The grain bill consists of Canadian Pale, English Maris Otter, Canadian Munich, Scottish Carastan and Scottish Black Malt… a truly international bunch! The beer is hopped in the boil with Nugget and Galena, and then dry-hopped with Chinook and Ahtanum, and then with Topaz. A great blending of the chocolate, caramel, and roast from the grain, spice, herbal, pine and tropical fruit from the hops, will make this a great brew.

• A reminder that the 2014 Newfoundland Liquor Commission Beer Expo is happening at the St. John’s Convention Centre this weekend. Box Office tickets are sold out, however there are lots available online as people’s plans change. For those unable to attend, or want to grab some of their favourites after the fest, check out this thread on the Beerthief forum for a list of special Festival beers that will be showing up at your local NLC this weekend. Cheers!

• If you can’t be on The Rock this weekend, then be sure to make it out to one of the local bars in your area. If you’re in the Annapolis Valley, be sure to drop by the Library Pub in Wolfville tonight, and the Spitfire Arms in Windsor tomorrow, to help celebrate the launch of Schoolhouse Brewery. In Halifax? Drop by Stillwell at noon Saturday to grab a pint of Meander River‘s Lunchbox Pale Ale. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to grab some from the source in Ashdale, it’s definitely worth picking up!

• Garrison Brewing is hiring: a full-time, permanent Brewery Sales Rep and a Seasonal Events & Sales Rep (full-time until September, possible part-time after), send off your resumes today! And even though the noon First Sips (aka Early Bird) tickets for their Cask Takeover June 21 at Stillwell are sold out, there will be lots of beer still flowing once the doors re-open at 2pm that afternoon, so be sure to drop by. We’ll have some more details on the casks available this coming week, but we got word of another one: their popular Peanut Butter & Jelly blend (Nut Brown and Raspberry Wheat), with raspberries from Noggins Corner right in the cask.

SHB Logo Full Color for internet use

Based in Falmouth, Nova Scotia, Schoolhouse Brewery is the passion project of Cameron Hartley and his wife, Jenn. A long-time homebrewer living in an old schoolhouse, Cameron has decided to turn his hobby into a business after years of positive feedback about his beer from friends and family. Between his full-time job as a school teacher, renovating his 150-year old home, and working in the brewery, Cameron even found time to appear on the most recent season of Canada’s Handyman Challenge on HGTV. Cameron was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about Schoolhouse Brewery.

ACBB: How did you get into the world of craft beer?
CH: Homebrewing in an era when everyone thought beer was only supposed to taste like Moosehead.

What steps have you taken so far getting everything up and running?
There’s been so much to do! I’ve put in lots of work on my recipes, registered the brewery name, created a logo, trademarked the name, trademarked the logo, renovated the brewspace to keep things very clean and organized, sourced environmentally-sensitive products for cleaning and sanitizing, changed my ingredients to be either Maritime-grown or organic,  sourced quality merchandise that is in line with our mission, and ordered new fermentors, kettles, and sanke kegs. Of course, there’s also been lots of sampling… my market research group has been very happy.


Do you have any partners in the brewery?
No, I’m currently trying to recruit another part time brewer/partner. The brewery will remain at its current limited capacity until that happens.

What size/type of system will you be brewing on?
Electric kettle from Stout Tanks. Two 200 L fermentors, 150 L batches.

What are your plans for distribution?
Due to limited production, I will have taps at the Spitfire Arms Pub in Windsor and the Library Pub in Wolfville. I do not think my capacity will allow for much bottling, but I am currently seeking approval for a limited amount of growlers.

What beers will you be offering initially? Are you planning on offering a specific style, or styles, of beer? Any seasonals, one-offs, or will you stick mainly with a “flagship lineup”?
Two beers to start: Principal Ale and Chequers Ale. The Principal Ale is an unfiltered, dry-hopped Pale Ale made with Maritime barley and organic specialty malts, 20 IBUs and 5% ABV. The Chequers Ale is a Robust Porter brewed with a generous amount of chocolate malt and Goldings whole leaf hops, 15 IBUs and 4.5% ABV. I also have been experimenting with infusing fresh hops after the boil with success. A Nova Scotia fresh hop beer will eventually make its way into the lineup.


Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada?
Yes, I’d like to give special thanks to Greg Nash at Rockbottom, Randy Lawrence at Sea Level, Mark at Hell Bay, Josh at North Brewing, and Jeremy at Big Spruce.

Where do you hope to see Schoolhouse in the next 2-3 years?
Looking into a new location, bigger production, and a possible partnership with a restaurant/pub.

Do you personally have a favorite beer style? Beer? Brewery?
If I could drink a different beer every day, I would. I like what the craft breweries are doing, how they are running their businesses. For most craft breweries, it is not just about making money but doing it while making positive change. Everyone is doing that in their own way. It makes you feel really satisfied when you drink that beer.

Can you share some of your homebrewing history?
I started in 1994 with homebrew kits. I inherited some all-grain equipment when I returned from teaching overseas in 2005, and in 2008 I registered the name “Schoolhouse Brewery”.

What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
Lots of positive feedback from people drinking my beer. It just became part of “living the dream”.

Do you have a specific ingredient in brewing that you like to brew with?
I like Kent hops because my Great Great Grandfather was a brewer/pub owner in Kent, England. The Chequers Ale is named after his pub; I use a lot of Kent hops in that beer. I find it hard to beat the refreshment of Cascade in pale ales, although they are getting harder to secure.

From what/where/whom have you learned the most in respect to brewing?
A good friend named John Westphal who I inherited some all-grain equipment from. I am still using a mash tun from him, although it has undergone many modifications.

Congratulations to Schoolhouse Brewery, “The Brewery with Class”, on their upcoming launch. Look for their beer on tap at the Library Pub this Friday, June 6th, and at the Spitfire Arms on Saturday, June 7th. Cam will be there to share a pint and share his great story. The beers will be tapped around 6pm each evening. If you are going to be attending the Evolve Music Festival in July, you’ll be able to enjoy their beer there, poured from the Brew Bus Bar!