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Catching up with Spindrift Brewing Co.

Brewmaster Kellye Robertson shares what's coming down the tap in 2017 at the city's only all-lager brewery

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Kellye Robertson and the Spindrift Brewing team. Photo: Steve Smith/Visionfire

Last fall, Halifax Magazine chatted with Spindrift Brewing Co.‘s Kellye Robertson. In this special report, Kim Hart Macneill checks in to see what’s changed since then. 

Summer and beer drinking go hand in hand, which means winter is usually downtime for breweries. But not for Spindrift Brewing Co. in Burnside. In late January the brewery was still running at maximum capacity trying to fill enough kegs and cans to meet all of its orders.

“That tells me that we’re doing something right and people are starting to catch on,” says brewmaster Kellye Robertson. “This is usually our take a rest time but that hasn’t really happened. We’re good with that too.”

Spindrift turns two in September, but by then the all-lager brewery will have grown substantially. This month the brewery will start using two new 40-barrel tanks installed in January, and increase its annual capacity from 1,500 hectolitres to 2,600-2,800 hectolitres. To put that in perspective, that’s about 55,000 more growler fills in 2017.

“Last year was definitely building the core brands, and pumping as much life into those and getting them recognized as we could,” says Robertson. It’s certainly working.

NSLC and local speciality liquor stores stock Spindrift’s three core brands (Coastal Lager, Riptide India Pale Lager, and Knotty Buoy Pilsner) and seasonal Abyss Black Lager. Spindrift is filtering into neighbouring provinces through Alcool NB Liquor and Newfoundland Liquor Corporation stores. In November 2016, Riptide won a silver Atlantic Canadian Beer Award for North American Style Specialty Ale.

Robertson is excited about Spindrift’s quick growth, but has bigger goals for 2017. “This year is going to be a lot more creative,” she says.

This month, Spindrift and Halifax’s North Brewing Co. will team up to bottle a one-off beer called Barrel of Cherries Black Lager. The base beer is Abyss, as the name suggests, that was barrel aged on sour cherries for a year. Find it in specialty liquor stores and at the brewery in March.

Robertson stresses how collaborative the Halifax beer scene is. She got the idea to commission North Brewing’s bottling machine for Barrel of Cherries after North Brewing co-owner and brewer Josh Herbin asked to borrow a barrel racking tool.

“Some breweries have gear that others don’t,” she says. “It makes it easier, if you’re not in the position to drop all kinds of cash, if you can find someone to lend you a hand with that kind of stuff. Plus you get the chance to sit around and have a few beers with them too.”

Barrel of Cherries is the precursor to Spindrift’s up-coming seasonal line. “We thought fruit beer is something that’s done here, but we wanted to put our own twist on it,” she says. NSLC will launch the first of Spindrift’s canned, rotating, seasonal beers in April.

First up is a blueberry chai pilsner featuring chai from World Tea House on Argyle Street. Find it in stock from April through June. The beer is based on a cask offering Spindrift brought to several beer festivals last year. “People bugged the crap out of us to put it in a can,” she says.

In early to mid-July, watch for a blood orange IPL. Robertson hasn’t finished the recipe yet, but says to expect a lower ABV than Riptide and a new hop mixture.

Another big move for Spindrift this spring is launching its fourth core beer: Munich Helles. This new offering is a traditional Bavarian-style lager known for being malt forward with a low hop profile. Spindrift’s version will be available at NSLC stores in 355 ml can six packs.

“We’re pegging a lot of passion on that one, so if it goes as well as we anticipate it will that is going to be a front-runner for us, in addition to Knotty Buoy, and it’ll take a lot of the tank space,” she says.

And that’s not all. Robertson has plans for small, draft-only releases to appear throughout the year.

“In 2017 it’s going to be about making the fun stuff and showing our personality a little more to the craft beer people and not just the masses,” she says. “The masses definitely love our core brands, but we have to keep ourselves sharp.”

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