Here we are most of the way through February and it feels a little like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. With both the big sportsball game and everyone’s (least?) favourite Hallmark holiday firmly in the rearview mirror, a three-day weekend coming up for many, it feels like maybe we’re on our way to surviving another winter (unless you’re in Cape Breton, maybe, where they’re probably on the fence about that). Pull up a chair, grab yourself a pint, pat yourself on the back, and read on for all the news we could find in Atlantic Canadian Beer for this week.
We’ll start this week on the South Shore of Nova Scotia where Tanner & Co Brewing in Chester Basin has been quite busy of late. Two weeks ago we told you about their new Best Bitter, made with a new malt (the Maris Otter-esque “The Otter Guys” from the folks at Horton Ridge). Last week it was their new dark and creamy Oatmeal Stout. This week they match those two with a brace of new releases. Up first is Hazy Belgian IPA, which marries the yeast-driven aromas of a Belgian ale with the juicy hop presence and haze of an NEIPA. Coming in at 6.8% ABV, you can safely expect Tanner’s usual care and attention to finding a balance between these two bold characters. This one is 6.8% ABV and 60 IBU and has been canned, but the labels were storm-delayed until yesterday; hopefully it’ll be available later today, but it could be a little later this weekend. On the other end of the spectrum from a hoppy beer intended to be consumed young is their other new release, a dark beer that’s already been hanging around for six months. Tanner’s stalwart Porter has been around for over five years now and features plenty of dark malt character with roasty chocolate and coffee notes balanced against sweeter caramel and malt flavors in a 5.7% package. Last fall, 100 liters or so from a batch of that Porter was fed into a Hungarian oak barrel from Grand Pré Winery that was previously used to age apple brandy. This week that beer came out of the barrel so that it can be enjoyed. What will six months in oak, no doubt with a touch of apple brandy, do to a Porter? The only way to find out is to try it!
That brings us neatly to our last piece of Tanner news, that they will be featured from open ‘til close tomorrow at Battery Park in Dartmouth for a tap takeover. Tanner has one of the broadest oeuvres of any brewery in the region and their full range will be on display. Foch saison fermented on grape skins, German styles, British styles, Belgian styles, and meads will all be represented. This will also be the first opportunity to try the barrel aged Porter (although some will also be canned for release, possibly as early as next week). A full tap list can be found here. Hope to see you there!
Labrador’s Iron Rock Brewing has a returning beer out this week, the annual seasonal they call Banishment. An oat stout that’s been aged in Bourbon barrels, giving the chocolatey notes of the base beer a boost with vanilla and oak, it’s quite smooth, maintaining plenty of body and roast character, and weighing in at 6.0% ABV and 32 IBU. This year’s batch has been crafted in honour of the 2024 running of Cain’s Quest, the world’s longest snowmobile endurance race that covers more than 3,000km around some of the world’s toughest Northern terrain. This year’s race kicks off on March 3rd with 37 teams set to compete. Maybe some of them will relax with a Banishment at the end of it all… we know the spectators will definitely be enjoying a few to keep warm!
Lone Oak of Borden-Carleton, PEI, is coming in hot this week with a brand Double IPA, Elysium. Sneakily debuting at their Battle of the Breweries at Hopyard Beer Bar earlier this month, this 9.1% ABV beast is now available to everyone everywhere all at once. While the yeast is not always the star of the show when it comes to IPAs, it’s definitely worth noting here, as this beer was fermented with the experimental Elysium by yeast darlings Escarpment Labs. Developed in their Guelph facility to promote pineapple aromatics and flavour, that was only enhanced at Lone Oak by their use of Sultana hops as the major addition, to keep the tropical vibes going. On tap and in cans at their four locations across the island (Borden Taproom, Milky Way Brewpub and Cold Beer Store, and Stratford Fox Meadow). If you’re interested in more about Escarpment’s yeast offerings, including Elysium, its new “sister” yeast, Pomona, and how they can help create standout IPAs, check out their latest blog post.
Moncton’s O’Creek Brewing put out a cheeky one earlier this week just in time for Valentine’s Day. HibisKiss is a pale ale low in bitterness at 15 IBU and light on hop character in order to make room for flavors of lemon and hibiscus. Featuring a gorgeous red color, it’s described by the brewery as, “romance in a glass.” But if that’s not your speed and you’re looking for something a little hoppier, check out their Riwaka Loral Hazy Pale Ale. Riwaka is a New Zealand hop variety known for imparting heavy tropical and passion fruit vibes, and Loral is a recently developed American hop that brings citrus and floral character with some peppery spice and some herbal notes. Paired together in a 5%, 25 IBU and very hazy package, we suspect it will be a winner with the hop head crowd. Our best understanding is that both of these beers are draught-only at the taproom, at least for now.
The burgeoning trend towards non-alcoholic options in beer has been progressing nicely for the last couple of years, with some local breweries having strong entries in the segment already. It seems only fitting that the local cideries join the party and recently Halifax’s Chain Yard became the second that we’re aware of. Anytime is a non-alcoholic cider that, like all CY ciders, starts with 100% Nova Scotian apples. All the way down in true NA territory at 0.5% ABV, it’s refreshing and balanced, featuring notes of ripe apple and honey balanced by hints of light citrus and floral overtones. Find it at the tap room for now, but hopefully soon at other places where you find your non-alcoholic options.
One of the other trends that the global beer world has seen in the last while, but that hasn’t had a whole lot of local representation is the “low-carb” offering. Dominated by industrial breweries with equipment that isn’t generally accessible in the craft brewing space, we know of only a couple entries in the category from Canada. Them? Notsomuch with the “craft.” Their parent companies? Notsomuch with the Canadian. Enter Good Robot Brewing, boldly going where very few other craft breweries anywhere have gone. Ultra Light is…ultra…light? A measly three grams of carbs per serving and 4% ABV, but without compromising on flavor, this one is coming out of their state of the art facility in Elmsdale where truly impressive things are possible. You can grab it in 355ml tall cans (the “svelte” ones, natch) at the tap room or order it for home delivery now, or you can wait for it to appear at the NSLC once they’ve got their packaging sorted out.
In addition to the Tanner Tap Takeover at Battery Park tomorrow, there’s some other events coming up shortly.
Eagle-eyed social media savants may have noticed a month or two back some Insta clips featuring the brewers of Tatamagouche Brewing and 2 Crows spending some time with the team at PEI’s Lone Oak (eventually, once everyone had their breakfast and stuff). The result of that collaboration is now ready to share. Taking some cues from an all-world beer, Taras Boulba by Brussels’ Brasserie de la Senne, this beer features the use of three yeast strains: Foggy London by Escarpment Labs, a French Saison blend to finish and dry the beer out, and the White Labs product Metschnikowia reukaufii, a yeast that has evolved to specialize in consuming nectar, but which also provides enhanced aroma and modulated bitterness in malt co-fermentations. Hopped generously with three Alsatian varieties, Aramis, Mistral, and Barbe Rouge, it saw additions in the mash, the kettle, the whirlpool, and a dry hop as well. Finishing at 5.5%, and somewhat hazy, it’s almost certainly a beer without too many analogues in the region. Bière d’Amis hits the taps next Thursday for the first time amidst a tap takeover featuring all three breweries at HopYard in Charlottetown on Thursday, February 22nd. Three beers from each brewery plus the collab will be on offer, and folks from all three will be in attendance as well. This event is the perfect kick-off to what will almost certainly be a fun- and beer-filled weekend for PEI Beer Fest.
Wait, did we say, “PEI Beer Fest?” We sure did! This year’s event will go down at the Delta Prince Edward by Marriott next weekend and will feature three sessions, one on Friday evening, one Saturday afternoon, and one Saturday evening. For general admission, evening sessions are three hours, Saturday afternoon is two and a half but there are VIP tickets available offering a start time 30 minutes earlier and a take-home souvenir glass. There are also, appropriately, Designated Driver tickets available to ensure that folks can plan a team effort in getting home safely. Some twenty-five producers across beer, cider, and ready-to-drink spaces will be represented. There will be live music and local food pairings as well. Tickets are still available for all sessions, although VIP for Saturday evening is now sold out. You can find out more about the fest, the breweries that will be represented, and find links to purchase tickets at the PEI Beer Festival Official Website.
A few more things before we sign off this week. Thanks, as always for reading!
In Big Spruce news, on the heels of the judging of their 11th annual Home Brew Challenge (results next weekend!) is the re-release of last year’s winning beer, Alex Hunt’s Under the Mountain, a cascadian dark ale (aka “Black IPA”) at 6.8% and packed with Chinook, Simcoe, and Centennial hops. Grab it from the source now, and we suspect other places where you find Big Spruce in the coming weeks.
Heading down the 104 we get to Truro, NS, where Truro Brewing Company has their annual collab with Port Rexton Brewing back on the go. Quiet Company is a Bourbon Barrel-aged Barleywine tipping the scales at a hefty 9% and packaged in 650ml bombers, you’ll probably want to take this one on sitting down. Rich and boozy, there’s plenty of malt there to sip quietly, perhaps by a warm fire with the best of friends. Also available by the pint at the tap room.
Continuing down that very same highway, we reach New Brunswick, and then Dieppe in particular, where CAVOK has a new twist on a hazy style this week. Soleil is a New England-style hazy pale ale aged with Brettanomyces in an oak foeder. Hops and brett can go together beautifully in our opinion, and the oak should provide some lovely tannic contrast. Check out this 4.8% ABV number for yourself at the source.
Up in St. John’s, NL, Bannerman has their cold IPA back on tap and in cans. Negative Space is brewed and hopped like an IPA, but fermented and conditioned like a lager, giving a crisp and clean finish beneath a generous hop character. Cascade, Centennial, and Citra, make sure you’re getting your classic West Coast hop character in this 6.0% beer.
!!Attention all Atlantic Canadian Homebrewers!! You are just a couple of weeks out from the deadline for the Fifth Annual Atlantic Homebrew Challenge, your chance at hundreds of dollars in prizes, and seeing your beer being brewed and distributed by Gahan Beer across the region. This year’s beer styles are Best Bitter and Spice, Herb, and Vegetable, so you truly do have time to brew one or both styles in time for judging later in March. Visit the website above for all of the details on styles, rules, and be sure to drop off your beer before March 2nd at your local Gahan pub!
And we’ll finish the week back in Halifax with a bit of a PSA. 2 Crows is recalling cans of one of their anniversary beers, Alright Alright Alright due to some issues with can liners. If you’ve got some on hand you’re advised to empty and dispose of them, but also to reach out to email@example.com to arrange a refund or replacement with an alternative product. Kudos to the 2C gang for doing the right thing for their customers in response to a quality issue.