As soon as the snow starts melting, I dig around in the basement for lawn chairs. Most years, I haul them out too soon. I love a springtime backyard beer, but you’ll enjoy these new brews no matter what the weather does.

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Two by Four (Double IPA)
Lunn’s Mill Beer Co.
Lawrencetown, N.S.
8.5%

This small Annapolis Valley brewery celebrated its first anniversary last month. Brewer and co-owner Mark Reid says the taproom is going strong, attracting an array of locals who didn’t originally see themselves as craft-beer drinkers. (Plus day trippers coming from Halifax for growler fills). The small brewery also brewed its 100th batch last month. The beer in question is named for its imperial strength, and four hops (Mandarina Bavaria, Azacca, Huell Melon, and Ekuanot). Think big beer packing a suitcase of juicy, citrusy flavours.

Surf and Turf (Scotch Ale) 
Meander River Farm and Brewery
Ashdale, N.S.
6.2% 

Meander River started brewing this beer for Dining on the Ocean Floor. The annual summer event gives diners information about wild edibles, pairing local food and drink, all on the floor of the Bay of Fundy at Burntcoat Head Park. The 2018 events are already sold out and the waiting list is maxed, but you can grab a bottle to sip on as the tide rolls in. The locally foraged seaweed adds a hint of salt, but mostly body to this sweet, caramel-flavoured beer with a hint of smoke from the peat. Watch for it at the brewery and at Bishop’s in April.

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Mean Joe Bean (Blond Coffee Ale) 
Trider’s Craft Beer
Amherst, N.S.
4.2%

“It’s just a mean-drinking beer,” says Joe Potter, Trider’s co-owner and brewer. Potter is a big fan of combining beer and coffee, but he grew tired of seeing the same handful of dark styles. He added Morning Mantra coffee beans from Lunenburg roaster Laughing Whale to a blond ale. This isn’t Trider’s Yellow Beer’d repurposed, but a new brew featuring wheat to give the ale enough body to support the coffee. The result is aromatic, crisp, and low on hops. It pairs well with bacon.

Firk’s Root (Pale Ale)
FirkinStein Brewing
Bridgewater, N.S.
6%

Anyone who says pale ales are boring hasn’t tried this returning ginger-infused ale. Subtle ginger offers a pleasant slow burn, adding refreshing depth to this beer. “It’s kind of mild for a FirkenStein, at 6%,” co-owner and co-brewer Devin Fraser laughs. (The brewery’s core line up tends to be boozier: in the 7% and 8% range.) You’ll only find this one at the brewery, but FirkenStein has a lot to make it worth the trip. Every Friday and Saturday the taproom hosts live music. There’s no food service yet, but says Fraser, “Right across the street there is a ’50s diner, burger and shake place, and you can text them to bring food over.”

Beth’s Blackout (Oyster Stout)
Sober Island Brewing
Sober Island, N.S.
6.1%

This beer isn’t new, but it does have news. Sober Island will expand its seven-barrel brewhouse by an extra 15 barrels to supply NSLC with cans of its oyster stout. Look for it on shelves April 30. “It’s huge,” says co-owner and brewer Rebecca Atkinson. “We’re seasonal, so especially in the winter that extra volume will be great to get out. We were always brewing more oyster stout than anything else, but now we actually had to put in a double tank.” This roasty brew features whole oysters, (shell, juice, and all) tossed into the brew for the last 10 minutes of the boil. They lend the beer a mineral, briny flavour that blends well with sweet, smooth malt.

Wicked Good (New England APA)
Garrison Brewing
Halifax, N.S.
5%

One of the things I love about local beer is that while brewers are always eager to get in on a trend like the hazy New England-style IPA, they don’t necessarily all follow the same path. Garrison’s offering is an American pale ale, which means along with bursting tropical flavours, it brings a solid malt backbone to support all of those hops. Garrison released this as a test batch at the Craft Beer Cottage Party in March, but sales manager Jeff Green says we’ll see it more widely available in April or May, likely in cans.

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Seven Years (Pale Ale)
Breton Brewing Company with Brathair Brewing
Coxheath, N.S.
5.2%

Again, more news than new, Seven Years is coming to NSLC shelves in May, where it will replace Stirling Hefeweizen. This big juicy beer named for its seven massive hop additions is made in the hazy New England-style, but doesn’t always hold its hazy in the can. Regardless of what it looks like, it tastes fantastic. Tropical sweet hop flavours, low on the bitterness. There is a reason it took home gold at the 2017 Stillwell Open, a tasting event where customers don’t know which brewers made which beers.

Million Acres Wild Blueberry IIPA with Mosaic
Upstreet Craft Brewing
Charlottetown, PEI
8.5%

Upstreet describes its Million Acres series as “unique barrel-aged and farmhouse-style ales, hand-bottled and bottle-conditioned in very limited batches.” The 750ml bottles are corked and caged to lend an extra air of special to the beer inside. “We’re doing sours under that label and some exotic fruit beers,” says Michael Hogan, co-owner and brewer.  “We’re trying not to put any limit on ourselves when we’re making these beers.” While blueberry comes first in the name, this beer is a double IPA, not your typical fruit beer. Firm malt flavours give the light blueberry notes space to play on your taste buds. Watch for the third release from this limited series this month.

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