We are thrilled to help introduce our region’s latest brewery, Topside Brewing! Located in the community of Bedford, Nova Scotia, Topside is headed by the recently-married husband and wife team of Blair and Erin Tobin. Together with their kids and cute-as-heck brewery dogs Charlie and Lincoln, the Tobins have opened the brewery in their house on a smaller scale, ready to serve local drinkers through sales to bars, as well as their soon to launch “Grab a Growler” program. Let’s learn more, shall we?
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
We are Topside Brewing Company. This husband and wife couple, Blair and Erin, started this company in August. It has always been a dream to own their own business, and with his background and education as a brewing tech from the Siebel Institute and her background and education in business, they have the perfect combination for Topside Brewing. While Erin & Blair are the owners and head brewer, this is an entire family operation with all 4 children (ages 6-21) being involved in various aspects including marketing, media, and swag!
How did you get into the world of beer?
We started drinking craft beer quite some time ago, and really enjoyed the robust flavours and variety. This got us interested in exploring the craft beer scene and really tasting and loving the offerings around NS and NB at the time, which was much less than now. We turned into beer geeks, doing brewery tours and exploring the craft beer scene in Ontario and BC. After that, it was an easy transition into homebrewing, which really helped us explore flavour profiles and more importantly, where everything comes from. It quickly became a passion which grew with each brew.
What made you decide to take the steps into opening a brewery?
We both work full time but I am nearing the end of my military career as a RCN Clearance Diver. We knew it was time for a change and a plan to bring us into “retirement”. We always tell our children to find what you’re passionate about and then find a way to make money doing just that. So, we decided to take our own advice. With her degree in business, diploma in hospitality and my studies at Siebel Institute through the World Brewing Academy, I became the beer and she became the business.
What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
We are a small, family owned and operated business. We truly believe in getting back to the craft. Working hard to hand craft our ales and lagers from recipe formulation (I still use pencil and paper) to the way we interact with our customers. We want to create the beer you love and make the beer you didn’t think you would like.
We raise our family on a basis of love, respect, honesty and consideration of our community and we want our business to reflect this. We want our customers to feel part of the Topside family. For anyone to be able to ask questions about brewing and beer and to know how and where their favourite brew comes from.
Speaking of favourite brews, can you tell us about yours?
Absolutely, we have a staple line up (dive roster) of ales:
- 5 Bells is a Session IPA, 4.6% ABV
- Joyce’s Boy is a Hefeweizen, 5.0 % ABV
- On the Bottom is an East Coast IPA, 6.0% ABV
- Lord’s Porter is a Porter, 6.0% ABV
We also plan to have some weird beers in the future for limited release and we have a great Boho Pils in small quantities and only in the fall as our spin on Festbier for October.
Sounds great! How can folks try your beer?
We debuted on the tap here in Bedford at the Birch and Anchor this weekend (and may still be available so you should head there to check it out!), and will hopefully be on tap shortly at some other local pubs in the area.
The first beer to debut was On the Bottom, named after the diving term, when diver will communicate with Topside (aka. the surface crew) when they reach bottom by stating “On the Bottom”. The beer is a hazy East Coast style IPA. Generously hopped with both early and late addition hops, and then dry-hopped with an abundance of Cascade. It has a bitter back end (it weighs in at 84 IBUs) and delightful hop aroma and smooth mouth feel for 6.0% ABV.
In addition to keg sales to licensees, we are debuting our “Grab a Growler” home delivery starting in the Bedford area this week, supporting our neighbours’ quest to quench their thirst. The intent is to soft open within the immediate area until we determine demand and we have our feet under us. Follow us on Instagram for the week’s offerings, and deliveries while be done in Bedford Thursday to Saturday afternoons. Order by noon for same-day delivery, sending us an email is the best way to submit your request, with your name, address, and phone number, and which beers you’d like! We’ll prepare the order and bring it right to your door, totally contact-free!
Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada (or elsewhere)?
Absolutely. We have been very fortunate to have great assistance from both the small business community and the brewing industry here in Atlantic Canada. Peter Cole at Big Axe Brewery in Nackawic, NB has been a great help by answering questions whenever I ask. Small businesses like BeerTech, Jym Line Glassware, Don’s Refrigeration, Stanhope Simpson Insurance and our phenom Graphic Designer Kari Tiffin at Bright by Design have been instrumental in getting through the startup process, which is challenging at best.
Looking forward, where do you see Topside Brewing in the next few years?
We plan to work from our current location in year one and move to a commercial space in year two or three. We want to stay in the Bedford community because we love this area and the people here so much.
Can you tell us about your homebrewing history and education?
Home brewing was always a passion. Making and crafting different beers was fun, and we enjoyed the fruit of our labours. I learned a lot from completing courses at Siebel and the depth of knowledge from the instructors both in the US and Munich Germany is second to none. These are truly Master Brewers/Brew Masters who have honed their craft with decades of experience and education. Learning from them has given me an insight into the complexities of the beer core ingredients, water, malt, hops and yeast. We really want to explore the many flavour profiles
from these core ingredients and use them in various ways to make great beer.
Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Of course, we are beer geeks! I admire breweries like Dogfish Head because of how they started in the 90’s from humble beginnings. Also, Dieu de Ciel! and the phenomenal Péché Mortel is amazing. We enjoy tasting all beer from everyone and learning from their talents and techniques. There are some really great breweries in Atlantic Canada and we are truly fortunate to be able to taste their beers.
How about your favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
I love the challenge of brewing pilsners. There is no place to hide flaws in this beer style and they have history to back them up. My favourite ingredient is yeast. Those great mothers and daughters can make or break the flavour of a beer. If used properly and given the right environment, they will produce some amazing flavour profiles. In my opinion they are often overlooked and live in the shadow of hops and grain but should really have the front row seat.
Congratulations to the Tobin family on the launch of Topside Brewing! Their full website just launched with more details on their growler delivery program available to their neighbours in Bedford, and be sure to check out their Social Media ( Fb / Ig / Tw ) to be in the know for when and where their next kegs will be available in town. And as always, we’ll keep you up to date with their going ons here on the blog.