When Anthony Wight, Kyle Andrus, and Phil Church talk about interviewing Premier Stephen McNeil for their podcast, they sound like they’re describing first-date nerves.
On a January afternoon, the hosts of the 902 Brewcast, a podcast dedicated to Atlantic Canadian breweries, sat at Battery Park beer bar in Dartmouth, wondering if the premier would actually show up.
The trio met McNeil a month earlier at the All-Party Party, a Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia event for politicians. Church asked the premier to come on the podcast, and he agreed instantly. “But that’s beer,” says Church. “You put a beer in front of someone, they have to agree.” He notes that booking the premier is a lot harder for most media organizations. (Editor’s Note: Truth.)
By the big day the podcasters lost faith. “The day of I thought, ‘Oh god this is not going to happen, this is not going to happen,” says Andrus. “Then it started snowing and I thought, ‘This is definitely not going to happen.’ And then he walked in.”
The 902 Brewcast celebrated its one-year anniversary in November, and 50th podcast in February. Each weekly episode features a 90-minute interview with the brewer and owner from a local brewery, while everyone on the mic samples a few beverages. Each month also features a tasting episode, welcoming beer-loving guests including Chris MacDonald from Atlantic Canada Beer Blog, certified cicerone and Globe and Mail beer columnist Crystal Luxmore, and this columnist, to give their thoughts on local offerings.
Wight pushed for the podcast. “[We] had been talking beer back and forth, and I thought it would be cool to just record it for our own sake,” he says.
But they didn’t want it to just be “three dudes talking about beer,” says Wight. “We wanted to visit these breweries and tell their stories about the work they do. Some of it is about the struggles they face in making beer in this province.” Plus, Andrus adds, the occasional free beer isn’t a bad perk.
While the podcast discussions can veer way off topic, there is a relaxed conversational energy to each interview that makes you feel like you’re sitting at the bar sharing a pint with friends.
“We all kind of joked around that we should have said something more controversial maybe it would have gotten more media attention,” says Church of the McNeil episode.
“There were some things he was not going to talk about. We’re not journalists, so we’re not going to push it.”
McNeil shared his frustration with regulations, offering the example that a brewery with a hospitality permit can sell a customer four 4-oz. samples at once, but not a single 16-oz. glass, and his hopes that NSLC repeal the regulation requiring craft brewers to be able to supply 32 stores to be eligible for shelf space so more breweries can sell in their local stores.
Since 2016, the trio have visited and interviewed dozens of brewers across the Maritimes and collaborated with 2 Crows Brewing (“Slave labour,” Andrus describes his time on the canning line). They have more big plans for year two.
Andrus says he hopes to shoot video in 2018 to go with the podcast. Wight says that the way the Nova Scotian craft-beer scene is growing, the podcasters aren’t worried about running out of new breweries to visit, but that they hope to visit some Newfoundland breweries this summer.
“The Maritimes as a whole has caught up in a hurry,” says Church of the Nova Scotia craft beer scene. “I’ve lived in Toronto and go to Quebec and Maine all the time. We were behind, but the amount of catching up that’s gone on here the last four years is amazing.”
Must-try beers: Recommendations from the 902 Brewcast
4.7%, 24 IBU
“It tastes the way pilsner should taste, light, crisp, refreshing,” says Church. “A crushable, quaffable beer, and you don’t have to think too much about what you’re drinking.” This one is soft and malty, with a spicy and floral hop character. Light in bitterness, Schoolhouse calls this “the most approachable” beer in its regular line-up.
Exile on North Street (IPA)
6.5%, 65 IBU
Brewer Greg Nash “is always tweaking that recipe a little bit, as people should,” says Andrus. “It’s good to keep readjusting to make sure a recipe is where you want it to be. He seems to have it really dialled in right now.” A constant favourite from the North End brewery, this East Coast IPA is known for being aggressively bitter and hoppy.
Eclipse (Black IPA)
Lunn’s Mill Beer Co.
7%, 60 IBU
“I don’t really like black IPAs,” says Wight. “It’s kind of a weird style, but this one hits all of the right notes.” Personally, I love black IPAs and this one is a perfect example of the style. This citrusy hop-forward brew is zesty enough to keep you warm in winter, with a hint of roast to wait out the end of the cold months.