All posts for the month December, 2017

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 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!