The Halifax beer scene exploded over the last three years, yet every time a new one is announced we get excited. Such was the case last June when 2 Crows Brewing announced it would open on Brunswick Street in fall 2016.
“Yeah,” laughs co-owner and head brewer Jeremy Taylor a week after opening in January. “It took a little bit longer than expected.” It was worth the wait.
2 Crows’ taproom is one of the city’s most visually engaging watering holes. The two-storey ceiling and ample windows makes the small taproom feel much larger than its 25–30 person capacity.
Counter seating separates the drinking area from the brew floor, so patrons have a front row seat to watch Taylor work. “I really wanted to tap room to be open to the brewery,” he says. “I can chat with people and ask if they like it and what they want to see next.”
Taylor’s beers are a modern take on Old-World Belgian-influences. “I try not to brew classic styles classically,” he says. “I like to keep a little bit of a twist. I want to keep it interesting for me and for the customers.”
His interest in brewing off-beat beers sealed the deal when a mutual friend introduced him to future business partners, Mark and Kelly Huizink.
Mark was working as an accountant when his cousin asked him to review a business plan for a small brewery in Austria. “I started playing around with it, and said to myself if this were in Halifax what would be different?” says Mark. “It came to the point where [Kelly and I] thought it was feasible, and would be fun to do.”
“It really was a stars align kind of situation,” says Mark of meeting Taylor. A mutual friend introduced the three when the Huizink’s put out feelers for a head brewer. He was working at Bridge Brewing in Vancouver at the time, but planning a move to Halifax with his Dartmouth-borne wife.
Plus says Kelly, “One of the best parts of going into business, knowing we’d be working together intimately, was that we actually really liked him right away.”
Kelly, who manages the tap room, came up with the name, based on the British nursery rhyme that starts “One crow sadness, two crows joy.” She says she’s somewhat superstitious, so she sees the first crow she’s always on the lookout for the second. And what is selling beer if not selling liquid joy.
2 Crows opening day on January 28 was busy even before they opened officially. “We didn’t lock the doors when we came in, so a bit before we planned to open a few people walked in and sat down,” says Taylor. And it stayed busy all day.
If you can find a seat at the taproom, grabbing a flight (or two) is the best way to get to know Halifax’s newest brewery.
The three core brands are always on tap. Polyanna, a wild Northeast IPA, is tropical, sweet and floral. The Liesse table beer (my favourite) is a crushable thirst quencher that’s bright with citrus hop aroma and flavor. Rounding out the regulars is Pecadillo, an oat pilsner, which starts spicy and ends bitter. But Taylor doesn’t want punters to get too comfortable; he’s got plenty of surprises coming.
The former scientist turned brewer currently has a few experiments on the go in his pilot system.“My science background plays a big roll in how I brew,” he says. “I love looking at the yeast under the microscope and blending different yeasts.”
On tap now is Neon Nights, a strong brett beer conditioned on burnt citrus. It weighs in at 8.5% ABV, and brings the funk while staying bright and juicy. It’s in limited supply so don’t wait. If you’re lucky enough to be headed for Fredericton Craft Beer Festival this weekend, a couple of kegs are headed there too.
In the coming months, 2 Crow will release other test batches including a brett saison made with malted sunflower seeds, and an Imperial Stout inspired by Finnish baking that features salt, licorice, and cardamom flavours. Watch for them at the brewery, Battery Park Beer Bar, and Stillwell.