For the first time, the community of Spryfield has a brewery of their own. Serpent Brewing has moved into their space at the Spryfield Shopping Centre. While owner and brewer Glen O’Keefe and crew are putting the finishing touches on their retail and taproom space, the first of their Belgian-inspired beers are now available for pickup and local delivery. We caught up with Glen to learn more about his journey into brewing, Serpent Brewing’s history, and their plans for their location.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Port Saunders, Newfoundland, and spent my teen years in Corner Brook. I showed up in Halifax with the prog rock band Oceanic and stayed for the beer. [ed note: Listening to Trappist in the background while writing this up was pretty freaking rad, check it out]
How did you get into the world of beer?
Music was my first passion, homebrewing was something I took up in my attempt to have a hobby that didn’t completely consume my life. I don’t do hobbies anymore.
What made you decide to take the steps into opening a brewery?
After sharpening up my homebrew skills for a few years, I began serving some of my efforts at weddings and even our band’s album release. Seeing a large group of people enjoying my beer really did it for me in a similar way to performing in our band… I was looking for an out from construction as that was getting tired, and commercial brewing is easy right?
What is the culture or ethos of the brewery?
Our logo represents the beautiful harmony that’s found in harnessing of the chaotic nature of Belgian brewing: once you put that yeast in, you step away and go back to being a janitor – they are now in control. There’s something about that alchemical process that inspires all of us when it comes to brewing and that’s what the brewery is based around.
Tell us about Serpent’s initial releases!
To start, we are offering up three of our flagship beers that we will be doing in our greatest volumes.
- White Mountain is a 5.5% Witbier or wheat beer. It’s truly an explosion of orange peel flavor and aroma with the subtle hint of coriander at the back.
- Patey’s Bier is our 4.6% Belgian single, my grandfather Theo Patey often home brewed as did many people from my hometown, so renaming the patersbier somehow had to be done. Our Belgian single is a pretty standard easy drinking ale, the Miller Lite of Belgium if you will. Brewed with yeast from the Westmalle trappist monastery, however brewed with a desire for drinkability on the Canadian side.
- Eden is for our beer hop lovers, a beautiful 6.0% Belgian IPA brewed with half spicy hops from over there and citrusy hops from here. A Belgian tuxedo over an American dress. Although it’s got Belgian in the name, this beer drinks mostly like a regular NEIPA with a subtle spice hint on the back.
How can folks try your beer?
We will begin distribution to local bars/restaurants shortly, but in the meantime, 500 mL bottles are available now for curbside pickup and delivery at our space. Ordering details are on our website. Once our 60-seat taproom is open, we will operate under the standard hospitality license which allows us to serve our own product at our location (pints, flights, and growlers). We will also have a cider license and plan to do some mead.
Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada (or elsewhere)?
Steve Crane from The Church Brewing has been like a brewing brother to me and acted officially as my mentor. Mike Gillespie from New Scotland seems to always there to answer an email, Keith Forbes from Ol’ Biddy’s Brewhouse has been very helpful. The Brewnosers homebrew club of course is where I’ve learned so much.
Where do you hope to see Serpent Brewing in the next few years?
If I can get beer flowing back to NL, establish Belgian beers as the drinkable and approachable beers that people are missing out on, and develop an extensive barrel program I would be pretty happy.
Let’s get nerdy! Let’s talk about your brewery equipment.
The 3 vessel brewhouse is a 600 litre (5 BBL) capacity system from Tiantai. With it, I expect to be able to pump out 500 hl annually.
Care to share some info on your brewing history?
I started brewing in Spryfield 10 years ago, my first batch was a Leffe clone. I dabbled mostly in IPAs and malty German beers before getting back into trying to master Belgian styles. No commercial brewing experience up until opening my own place. I’ve placed in a competition here and there and won my category at the Stillwell Open.
Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Belgians of course, but ultimately the customer will dictate where we head with beer styles. I love to brew everything and am very experimental by nature, so people should expect a wide variety of beers pretty continuously. Even a pumpkin spiced Tripel at some point.
How about favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
The Belgian Single has to be my favourite, it’s so simple but it’s such a fine line between a work of art and a terrible homebrew. It’s really a yeast derived beer which is where my heart is.
Thanks very much to Glen for the insight into Serpent Brewing! Keep an eye on their Facebook and Instagram pages for news of the next releases and taproom opening. In the meantime, you can pop by their spot to grab some beer Monday to Friday, 12 – 2 and 4 – 6 PM. Located behind Canadian Tire, the easiest way to access their location is off Sussex Street just below Herring Cove Road. Online ordering is also available, for either pickup (a notice will be sent once ready) or local delivery (Tuesday and Thursday). Congratulations on the launch!