As we roll through another mix of strange temperatures and precipitation in the Atlantic Provinces, our local breweries keep trucking along and bringing out the news and brews to serve the people. In more general beer news, one of the classic pairings of Beer and Football will be featured on this Sunday’s Superb Owl! If your chief priority is to get some beer stocked up for the weekend, then your eagle eyes should look no further than some of the new releases and news below.
We’re kicking off this week with some beer-adjacent news and the importance of celebrating African Heritage Month. The PEI-based folks at Upstreet have been working since the fall with the Black Cultural Society of PEI on a collaborative drink to honor and raise funds for the organization. The theme of the month for PEI’s month-long programming of events is Sankofa, a Twi (primary language in Ghana) word, meaning, “to look back into the past to guide the future.” Sankofa Tropic Punch is also the name of the resulting drink collaboration between Upstreet and BCS! This is a 5.5% ABV cocktail which brings in big flavours of banana, grenadine, and passionfruit. 10% of all sales of the cocktail will be donated to the Black Cultural Society. You can grab this sweet and juicy cocktail on tap at the Upstreet Taproom and Craft Beer Corner in Charlottetown. Be sure to check out all the events this month from the BCS of PEI and try to engage in-person or online if possible. And if you’re not on PEI, check out your own provincial or municipal events to celebrate African Heritage Month now or anytime throughout the year.
Keeping up with another collaboration, the Valley folks of Horton Ridge Malt House and Annapolis Brewing Company have teamed up to bring you Valley Helles. This is a Valley-based take on the German style Helles Lager but is made with local barley, of course. This crisp and refreshing lager brings classic notes of bread and crackers and a bit of malt sweetness with a very clean finish. It comes in at 4.3% and 16 IBU and is available in cans and on tap at both breweries.
From the Fundy shores over to the Northumberland Strait of Nova Scotia, Tatamagouche Brewing has a new release to get your hands on. Zin Gin is a grapefruit and rosemary saison that’s been waiting to come out of the barrel for a while! The main brew started out in the kettle where Mistral and Chinook hops were joined by grapefruit peel and fresh rosemary. For fermentation, the wort was inoculated with a blended culture of French saison yeast and some Brettanomyces to bring out more herbal and citrus character. After primary fermentation, the beer went into gin-infused Zinfandel wine barrels for 8 months of maxing and relaxing, while making some botanical flavor friends along the way. After barrel-aging, it was blended with a neutral sour beer and then racked onto a dry hop of Saaz and more grapefruit peel. The beer was then can-conditioned and is available to you now. There is a dry and bitter profile to this one, but the sour component and racking really help balance this one out for a very complex and refreshing brew at 7% ABV. Find this one now in 355ml cans at the brewery or online. (and potentially on tap and in cans around Halifax).
Another new release this week comes from Spryfield’s own Serpent Brewing. Available on Saturday, February 11th, Tanks but No Tanks is a Pale Ale that’s been boosted up with floral, citrus, and pine character while remaining well-balanced with toasty and sweet malt notes. Boasting a generous dry hop of Amarillo, this 4.4% beer is packed with flavour and should be a refreshing and juicy brew as we struggle with “will they or won’t they” Winter. This will be available in cans and on tap directly from the brewery.
Someone’s been busy on Quinpool Road recently and that’s the Garrison brew team on their pilot system at their Oxford taproom. They’ve got not one, not two, but three small batches for you to sample and savor this week. Up first is Nuts about Honey, a peanut butter and honey (natch) ale. Starting with a base of Pilsner, with biscuity Victory and sweet crystal specialty malts, it was was bittered with Bravo and, we believe, saw additions of both peanut butter and honey, yielding a creamy smooth, sweet, and nutty final product at 6.3%. A variation on that theme arrives with the second beer, Nuts About Molasses. This one is 5.2%, and was largely Munich malt in the mash with a bit of Victory for character, Bravo again for bittering. This time to go with the peanut butter there was molasses, which gives some dark fruit, and some spices for clove and nutmeg notes. Lastly, we’ve got what they’re calling a “Red Hot IPA” that they’re calling Caliente. Pilsner, dark Munich, crystal, and chocolate malts come together in this one to provide a platform for hops and spice. Bravo was used here too, for bittering, but the stars of the hop show were Citra, Cascade, Mosaic, and Simcoe. To that very citrusy and no doubt dank base was added habanero, which bring characteristic flavors and, of course, a lingering heat. All three are available only at the Oxford taproom.
Never let it be said that Trailway is unwilling to experiment, even with the tried and true. After the rousing success of their Hu Jon Light variation of their OG Hu Jon Hops IPA, they decided to attempt a yin to that yang and are now releasing Hu Jon Heavy. Boasting the same hop varieties as its smaller siblings, you’ll get the same fresh tropical fruit, sticky pine, and kushy dankness, but with a fuller flavor and body. Probably no need to mention this one hits quite a bit harder as well at 8% ABV. You can grab it now at the brewery, and, we expect, this one will probably see some wider distro; you can also keep your eyes peeled as kegs have been released into the wild as well.
Whether you’re way down in the Southwestern Nova Scotia, or in the HRM, you have the chance to try a new one from Tusket Falls. An American Porter (think English Porter with a higher ABV and more hop character), Original Experience comes in at 6% and brings with it a full body and rich mouthfeel along with a creamy head. Old school c-hop Columbus adds a firm bitterness along with some earthy and citrus character that balance the malty, roasty, nutty, and chocolatey flavors provided by the specialty malts used, namely roasted barley, chocolate malt, Golden Naked Oats, and crystal malts. Grab it now in cans or on tap at either of their locations, in Tusket or on Gottingen Street in Halifax.
Let’s jump up to Newfoundland for the first time this week, starting with Bannerman who are releasing a new lager, Aces High. Coming in at 4.5%, it’s essentially a light lager, aided by the addition of toasted rice. A Sorachi Ace dry-hop provides notes of peach, lemongrass and tea to keep things interesting. It’s on tap and in cans now at the brewery on Duckworth St., with cans also hitting NLC locations today (Friday) and Bannerman’s other retail spots later this weekend.
You already knew that Moncton’s Tire Shack can bang out the dessert stouts, with their toasted marshmallow stout, Society, being a mainstay in their core offerings. They’re doubling down on those credentials this week with the release of Peanut Butter and Chocolate MIlkshake Stout. This one takes its chocolate notes from substantial quantities of dark malts, sees an addition of over 25 kilos of peanut butter, and also incorporates Lactose for added sweetness and mouthfeel.
But if boffo big sweet stouts aren’t your thing, and you like to play more on the lighter side, or perhaps you’re more of a beer curious cocktail lover, Tire Shack also has you covered for that. Previously done as a pilot batch that was so popular it had to be scaled up and banged out in quantity, Cosmopolitan Sour is what it says on the tin: a beer version of the classic citrus and cranberry cocktail. You’ll find this one and the Society both now available in the tap room for pints and growler fills and also in cans to go.
Staying in the Moncton region of NB, but just down the road in Dieppe, CAVOK has a long-term project coming to light this week. Vega is named for the brightest star in the constellation Lyra (“the Lyre,” of course), a once (14,000 years ago) and future (in another 14,000 years or so) pole star, fifth-brightest star in the night sky, and one corner of the famed Summer Triangle asterism. But enough about the name, what about the beer? A raspberry pale ale that was fermented with Brettanomyces and aged in an oak foedre, at 5.3% you should find it a light and refreshing variation on an aged beer, which are most often bigger beers. You can confirm or deny this by visiting the brewery and grabbing one or more, either on tap or in 750ml bottles to go.
One of the region’s longest-running Homebrew Competitions, the Big Spruce Homebrew Challenge wrapped up this past weekend, as always at the Wooden Monkey in Dartmouth. This year’s event harkened back to the first edition of the competition, with a single wide-open IPA category where anything goes, and if you thought that an open IPA competition in 2023 would see a podium full of hazybois you’d be (⅔) wrong. In third place was Leo Arsenault and Jonathan Gavel of Antigonish with a British IPA, a rarer than hen’s teeth style in this day and age, but a very interesting and satisfying one. In second was Ryan Swinamer of Hammonds Plains, who had the requisite Hazy IPA. And coming in first place was Alex Hunt of Halifax, with another rather rare style (although familiar to longtime Spruceheads), a Cascadian Dark Ale, better known to many as a Black IPA. Congrats to all who placed and indeed, all those who entered, and thanks to Jeremy White, the team at Big Spruce, and the judging crew for putting on another great competition. Look for Alex’s winning beer with be scaled up and brewed for inclusion in the BS 10th Birthday Beer Box for April 1st!
We’ve only got one event for you this week, and it’s a ways away, but the sweet cheap tickets are on sale this weekend only!
No events to announce for this weekend, but we want to share some exciting news about an April event whose tickets are going on sale today. Together We Brew NS will take place on April 1 at Pavillion 22 at the Halifax Seaport. The event is being hosted by CBANS (replacing the Full House event from previous years), and will see over 50 CBANS members proffering their beers and ciders for sampling. Expect more than 250 locally produced beverages, live music, fun & games, and a bunch of different food options. Early bird tickets are available this weekend (only Sunday at midnight), with VIP tickets also available that will earn you extra samples and facetime with the brewery crews. Check out their website for more details on what is sure to be one of the highlights of the craft beer calendar this year.
Looking for a little work in the beer industry? See below.
The gang at Stillwell Brewing is looking for a little hand with their retail, with casual Saturday morning market hours and other retail/taproom hours coming available in the near future. If you love beer and love sharing your love for beer with the public at large, why not get paid for it? You can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
…aaaaand we finish with a couple of quick newsbites you can wash down with your first beer of the weekend.
Fans of Good Robot may have noticed a distinct lack of some of their favorite GR brews in the last little while. The truth is, they’ve been focused on volume lately, what with their big shiny new brewhouse and plenty of orders to fill for their core brands. But this week sees the first of what they’re intending to be a trend in their offerings, the return of Tom Waits Imperial Stout. Still big, still dark, still dangerous. Only on tap at the GR Robie Street taproom.
As mentioned in our intro above, fans of American football know what weekend it is, and unless you’ve got your head in the sand you know Tuesday is also everybody’s most favorite* Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day! Both of these events, tending to occur in the deep of winter, often see breweries offer special products, special deals, or special events and this year is no exception. Check out your favorite brewery’s or bar’s socials and websites and see whether they might be offering a bundle deal like 2 Crows with their AC Light Lager flat of 24 for $50 or a Valentines package like Breton Brewing’s Valentine’s Day Beergram Package, or an event like Bar Stillwell’s Loner’s Valentine. We’ve seen some offerings in these veins from Lake City Cider, Landwash, and Garrison as well. Now is probably also a good time to remind you that the easiest way to find out about these sorts of things is by signing up for your favorite producers’ email list, which will often get you access to early and/or special purchases, occasional discounts, and more (always MOAR!).
* “nobody’s most favorite” and “everybody’s least favorite” are also possible.