Recently, the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market hosted the first edition of the Savour Craft Beer Cottage Party. This unique event was part local craft-beer show and part indoor summer party. Many of the participating breweries climbed on board with cottage-party themes of their own. Notably, Meander River Farm and Brewery’s tiny cottage complete with snowshoes and pelts, which won best booth; Upstreet Brewing Company’s ski-lodge vibe, tended by a bundled-up bartender; and Good Robot Brewing’s taxidermy and plaid-filled dad’s basement theme.
There was live music and games galore (including the ever-popular washer toss), but the beers were the real stars. Halifax Magazine editor Trevor J. Adams and contributing editor Kim Hart Macneill share their favourites.
Kim’s Top 5 Beers
Black Heart IPA, Propeller Brewing. This is one dark beer. Peering down into your glass you might be fooled into thinking it’s a Porter, but you’d be wrong. Much like Propeller’s Rye IPA, this black IPA offers some surprises. The hops have a citrus kick that complements the roasted malt and chocolaty flavours. It’s almost creamy and goes down quickly if you don’t pace yourself.
Blueberry Ale, PEI Brewing Company. I was keen to try this brewery, but had low expectations for this beer. I don’t usually like fruit beers. I like beer to taste like beer, not fruit. The P.E.I. blueberries were in there, but to my surprise they didn’t overpower. Instead they added a sweet-tart hit to a light but enjoyable wheat beer.
Watchtower Conspiracy DIPA, Big Spruce and Stone City Ales. At 9% ABV, I was expecting this beer from my home island to punch me in the mouth and take my lunch money. The booziness is definitely there, but it’s not overpowering. The blend of several strains of hops lends it a tropical taste and a perfect, lingering, and bitter finish.
The Abyss, Spindrift Brewing. I stumbled upon Spindrift’s IPL in cans at the NSLC during the holidays and eagerly awaited its next release. The aptly named Abyss didn’t disappoint. This dark lager had a funky nose, and a big taste off the top. It took me a few sips to get on board, but it will join my regular rotation when I can find it on tap.
Samsquamptch! Smoked Ale, Good Robot Brewing Co. Smoked beers tend to remind me of the way a long closed-up basement smells, so I generally give them a pass. But Good Robot’s new brew changed my mind about what a smoked beer should taste like. The smoke is sharp, but dissipates quickly with a spicy finish.
Trevor’s Top 5 Beers
Dirty Blonde, Nine Locks. The opportunity to sample all four beers from this new Dartmouth brewery before they were in stores was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to this event. I liked everything I tried (more on that to come) and this was my favourite. Most blonde beers are vapid nothings to drink. Smooth and flavourful, with tasty but mellow hops.
Sauer Sagen Hat, North Brewing. I had high hopes for this. I frickin’ love sour ales, and I figured if anyone would do one right, it was Halifax’s Belgian-style brewery. And North didn’t let me down. Big mouth-puckering flavours, with a surprising hoppy funk. Complex and unforgettable. A perfect hot-summer-day beer.
Rhuby Social, Upstreet Craft Brewing. I’m so happy this Charlottetown-brewed beer is available in Halifax now. This is pretty well a textbook witbier. It has an intriguing nose of smoke and fresh-boiled corn, hitting the tongue silky smooth, with a slight tart fruitiness to finish. And it pairs great with a haddock taco.
Oyster Cloister, Tatamagouche Brewing. The idea of an oyster stout seems so bizarre to me that I’ve been curious to try this one for ages. I’m not sure how exactly they incorporate the oyster (my beer expertise is more on the consumption side of things) but the result is a standard-starting stout that suddenly takes a weird briny turn. Some loved it, some hated it. I loved it.
Bulwark Hopped Cider, Muwin Estates. I love hoppy beers and I love craft cider so this is pretty well a can’t-miss combination. At its heart, it’s a clean crisp cider. The hops just add another layer of super-dry flavours. I could drink this all day.
Our Favourite Brewery: Nine Locks, Dartmouth. It would be more dramatic if we disagreed over this pick, but we both feel that Nine Locks was the best brewery of the show. The staff had some trouble hitting the right keg temperature early in the night, but the beer was worth the wait. All four of their beers are classic styles, nicely executed. The ESB is the perfect amber colour and boasted pear and toffee notes. The Porter is rich and roasty without being heavy. And the Dirty Blonde is light and effervescent, nicely hitting the spot after a lot of stouts and IPAs.