Nova Scotia Craft Beer

All posts tagged Nova Scotia Craft Beer

serpent brewing logo

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.

Serpent Bottles

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.

Serpent Brewhouse

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.

Serpent Delivery Orders

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!

Topside Logo

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.

Topside Growler

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.

Topside Tap List

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.

Topside Tanks and Hoses

Now for the beer nerds… tell us about your brewing system?
We are limited to a half barrel system we put together using Blichmann Engineering kettle and mash tun, and Spike Brewing fermenters. We will be kicking out about 500 litres per month initially, and plan to double that by month three.

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.

Topside Fermenters

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.