Dad beer gets a bad rep as weak, tasteless, and as carbonated as the bottle of Pepsi that’s been rolling around in the backseat of your father’s station wagon. Whether your dad’s brand is Labatt Blue, Bud Light, or like mine, Coors Light, many craft-beer fans will politely decline when offered one. I do it every Christmas.
Those passed-on Coors and Blues were on my mind as I interviewed brewers for the Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week story in the last issue of Halifax Magazine. The same words kept coming up as I asked what they were brewing and drinking: approachable, accessible, light, highly carbonated.
For example: “My favourite current beer is the Killick lager from Spindrift,” said Good Robot co-owner Josh Counsil. “[Brewmaster Kellye Robertson] only brews lagers and Nova Scotia craft finally has a ‘dad beer,’ which ultimately is what I want when I’m drinking more than six.”
Shortly after I finished writing the story, the Craft Beer Association of Nova Scotia (CBANS) launched its Collaboration Beer. CBANS touted the beer (canned by Nine Locks) as a collaboration of 30 brewers, but one wonders how much input 30+ people can have on a product with only a handful of ingredients.
Local craft-beer aficionados debated whether the Scottish export ale was too safe, too inoffensive a style to showcase the brewing talent and depth of styles here.
Scottish export ale is sweet, smooth and, yes, completely approachable for craft-beer lovers and non-craft beer lovers alike. This one isn’t bad. Plus, it offered an opportunity to get the names of a lot of local breweries, and local producers like Horton Ridge Malt House, in front of beer drinkers.
Does it showcase the best that Nova Scotia offers? No, not really. But I don’t think that was the point. This is the summer of easy-drinking dad beers. And that’s good for our growing industry.
Last year Nova Scotian breweries produced nearly three million litres of beer. That’s almost 1.5 growlers per man, woman, and child in the province. And yet Nova Scotia craft beer only accounts for seven per cent of the province’s beer market.
If this growing industry is going to continue to expand, it needs to cultivate new customers. A lot of local breweries understand this.
“We think [Brew-Deau cream ale] is a good brew to have available as it appeals to a very large audience,” say Scott Parker, co-owner of one of the province’s recent additions, Trider’s Craft Beer in Amherst, N.S. “We hope to get a few non-beer drinkers to try Nova Scotian craft beer that wouldn’t otherwise. This is the perfect brew to do that.”
Lunn’s Mill Beer Company recently opened in Lawrencetown (in the Annapolis Valley). “We have a lot of Bud and Coors drinkers around here,” says co-owner Chantelle Webb. “We’re hoping to convert them with our Charming Molly.” Indeed, the light blonde ale is crisp, slightly sweet and low on hops with only 14 IBUs.
The province’s senior craft breweries are on the dad beer train too.
Garrison Brewing recently re-released Seaport Blonde. It’s an easy drinking, four per cent ABV beer with a low hop profile.
Jeff Green, sales manager at Garrison, gets it. “Craft Beer Week for us is about celebrating all the wonderful flavours and unique styles that Nova Scotian Craft Beer has to offer, but it’s also about showcasing the lighter side of craft beer for those wishing to get into the scene.”
Brewing is an art, and to many a calling, but it’s also a business that directly employees 400-some Nova Scotians. There’s a reason big breweries hold such a massive share of the beer market: that’s what most people want to drink.
If we want continued growth in the Nova Scotia craft beer scene, and more challenging beers for adventurous drinkers, then breweries need to expand to meet a diverse client base.
You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to drink it. But before you turn up your nose at dad beer, it’s important to recognize how these brews can help an industry all beer lovers want to see succeed.
Correction: The print edition of this story contained a fact-checking error in the number of growlers per Nova Scotian. Halifax Magazine apologizes for the error.