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Special brew

House blends bring Halifax brewers and restaurants together, offering diners tasty new beer experiences

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Local craft beer tailored to pair with the menu helps Jennie Dobbs bring diners to Morris East. Photo: Paula Bugden

Local craft beer tailored to pair with the menu helps Jennie Dobbs bring diners to Morris East. Photo: Paula Bugden

A localized, yet exclusive experience is the idea behind many of house beers that are brewed locally and offered by restaurants and bars in Halifax.

Often, bars and restaurants will have a variety of beers on tap, such as India Pale Ales, bitter ales and Irish Red Ales. However, sometimes these establishments go beyond the basics and work with local brewers to create a house beer.

“It’s great for them to do that, so there’s something unique about each place,” says Brian Titus, owner of Garrison Brewing. “They don’t have their own brewery, so this is a way for them to have their own beer.”

These house beers often combine two different types of beer, or a beer and another ingredient. Garrison has worked with a number of other local businesses over the years to create these specialty drinks, including current clients Morris East and Jamieson’s Irish House and Grill. Morris East has a blend called Fire Tap, while Jamieson’s has Jamieson’s Dark Ale.

Most house blends are designed to complement the existing menu or another aspect of the restaurant, which often enhances the dining experience as a whole.

“Our customers love the beer; they are curious to try a beer which was made to go with pizza,” says Morris East owner Jennie Dobbs about Fire Tap. “I have also noticed it’s a lot easier to get people out of their beer comfort zone and try something new when they learn the beer is unique to the Morris East restaurant.”

Other house blends, like Propeller Brewing’s Horsepower add to a night out in a different way, by sometimes having a different taste each time it’s poured.

Restaurant craft-beer blends like Propeller's Bombetta blend for The Bicycle Thief are also available in growlers from the breweries. Photo: Trevor J. Adams

Restaurant craft-beer blends like Propeller’s Bombetta blend for The Bicycle Thief are also available in growlers from the breweries. Photo: Trevor J. Adams

“I think having two blends together makes it a bit more exciting and fun because it’s a different taste,” says Lindy Johnson, a bartender at the Seahorse. “Sometimes they get a different taste out of each keg because you can’t tell how much of each [part of the blend] is in it.”

Other Halifax house blends that Propeller currently makes are Krave Burger’s Krave Lager and Bombetta for the Bertossi Restaurant Group restaurants, like the Bicycle Thief and La Fresca.

Although these establishments and their customers aren’t the only ones to benefit from this partnership. Another advantage of having house beers is increased business for the breweries themselves. If the ingredients that make up a house blend are available at a brewery, bartenders can often fill a growler or make a pint of the specialty beer at a customer’s request. The customer can then buy or sample other products, if they’re interested.

“They may not be interested in craft beer, but like it and then want to know where they get more,” says Andrew Cooper, sales and marketing manager at Propeller Brewing. “It’s just another way to get attention and bring them into the world of craft beer.”

While there are a number of benefits for everyone involved, there are some challenges to making a house beer. Titus says that due to capacity issues, craft brewers can’t often brew small batches at a time. This is why he likes the idea of blending two beers, as they can easily meet the order quota and don’t have to worry about having to find somewhere
to store the unused product.

“When we brew Tall Ship [amber ale] we know there will be 90 or 100 accounts that will take Tall Ship, so it’s not a big deal and we can fit into production,” he says. “When we have one bar, they can only take so much at a time and we don’t have the tankage and kegs to sit on it, so a lot of time the compromise is to come up with a blend for that account.”

Another downside to creating a new house blend is that it’s not always as popular as the breweries, restaurants and bars would like.

“Not every house beer we’ve done has been successful,” says Cooper. “Some of them have come and gone and a lot of that depends on the bar or restaurants and what their customers are looking for.”

 

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