As craft beer continues to explode across our region, so too does the number of beer festivals. For Halifax Seaport BeerFest co-founder and Garrison Brewing Co. owner Brian Titus, that meant thinking about what BeerFest really is.

“The question for us was how do we differentiate ourselves,” says Titus. “We are not trying to be a 100% Nova Scotia beer fest, or even 100% Maritime or Atlantic beer fest. Frankly there’s enough festivals out there right now where that is the focus.”

In 2018, the festival hits just over 50% local representation and will showcase 59 ciders, meads, and gluten-free beers, the most in its history. Of the over 300 products on offer, more than 50 come from outside North America.

“We go out and bring in product from far flung producers,” Titus says, “Iceland being the newest addition. Also the fact that we intermingle cider and mead into that whereas most of the festivals that are out there it’s really just beer.”

Festival co-founder Bruce Mansour lives in Ireland most of the year and organizes several festivals there. “He managed to go to an Icelandic beer festival in 2017 and struck up a friendship with these guys,” says Titus. “He realized how much of a burgeoning scene there was for this small island.”

Thanks to that meeting, four breweries will send 16 beers, and Gæðingur Öl Brugghús brewer Arne Hafstad will attend, offering Halifax beer fans a chance to learn about and taste the beers of other lands.

To celebrate the occasion, Garrison joins join Mason’s Brewing Co. from Brewer ME and Hafstad in a collaboration recipe featuring hops those breweries are known for. It’ll be a hazy APA, and will likely run out after the Friday night session.

As always, there will be food, tunes, and more beer than you can safely consume. Ladies Beer League and The Brewnosers home brew club will be offering samples from smaller local breweries who couldn’t make the event.

Tickets are still available for all three sessions (Friday 7 p.m.–9:30 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m.–4:30 p.m., and Sunday 7 p.m.–9:30 p.m.). As of this writing, the VIP sessions (starting an hour earlier) were sold out, but tickets remained for all of the regular sessions. Find yours here.

Wit Rabbit (witbier)
Trider’s Craft Beer
Amherst, N.S.
4.5%

This will be your only chance to try this dry-hopped wit within our city limits. It’s generously hopped with French Triskle, which gives it a fruit and floral aroma. “It’s a great summer slammer,” says brewer and co-owner Joe Potter.

Fireweed and Red Spruce Ale
Sober Island Brewing
Sober Island, N.S.
6%

I always appreciate Sober Island’s interest in foraging and crafting recipes that force us out of our flavour comfort zones. This one is pure Nova Scotia. Marris Otter base malt lends a rich, biscuit flavour familiar from English beers. Then “dry-hopped” with locally foraged fireweed flowers and red spruce tips. Owner-brewer Rebecca Atkinson says the final product is floral, toffee, and spruce.

Skyrgosi (gose)
Gæðingur Öl Brugghús (collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing [Denmark] and Two Roads Brewing Co. [Stratford, CT])
Sauðárkróki, Skagafirði Iceland
5%
The island nation’s third largest micro-brewery comes to Beerfest for the first time, bringing a host of beers with flavour combos we’ve never even pondered here. Icelandic skyr (a yogurt-like cheese) was used to sour the mash, which was then spiced with cumin, birch smoked sea salt and herbs. Why the heck not.

Liquid Rapture (imperial IPA)
Mason’s Brewing Company
Brewer, Me.
8.2%

Hands down my favourite beer at Beerfest 2017. Run, don’t walk, to try this one. It’s intensely hoped with Idaho-7, Ella, and Citra hops (translation: juicy as all get out) but features smooth, sweet malt flavours up-front. Watch for hints of dark, dank pine and peach that blend oddly well together.

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