Yesterday evening, staff at Bishop’s Cellar made a last-minute call to open the newly refreshed store for the last few hours of the day. It was closed earlier this week as staff put the finishing touches on the redesign and expansion into the neighbouring space (previously home to the Haskapa store) that started this summer.
The old Bishop’s was about the size of a particularly small corner store, packed wall-to-wall with beer, wine, and spirits. Over the last 16 years, it offered plenty of products you won’t see anywhere else in Halifax (especially beer), but moving around was so tight that I often worried I’d knock over a particularly pricey bottle of wine while browsing.
The new store is spacious and filled with natural light. “The concept of the space is that there are distinct zones around the store for spirits, wine, and beer,” says Matt Rodgers, Bishop’s president. “Between that and the signage we’re trying to make it easier for customers to find their way around the space and find what they’re looking for.”
Spirits, once relegated to a small strip behind the cash counter, now highlight an entire wall and corner so customers can browse without leaning and squinting. A monthly featured cocktail recipe hangs in the section, and customers can find all of the necessary ingredients directly below the sign.
But what about the beer, you ask? The newly expanded section features at least twice as much beer as Bishop’s carried previously. You’ll find plenty of N.S. offerings like The Church Brewing and Maritime Express Cider, plus beers from Indie Alehouse and Burdock Brewery in Toronto.
One of the most exciting parts of Bishop’s expansion for beer lovers is the store is now stocking the Ungespundet, Pilsner, and Hellsbier from Mahr’s Bräu, a tiny but renowned brewery in Bamberg, Germany. It’s the only spot you’ll find them in Nova Scotia.
Part of the big appeal of shopping at Bishop’s, then and now, is that the staff are constantly learning about the products and their recommendations come with weight. For those who want to browse solo, Bishop’s enhanced signage offers info on grape varieties, wine regions, and more. A large wall-mounted tablet lets customers scan the barcode on a wine they enjoy and the system will suggest a wine staff tagged as similar.
In other beer news, Propeller Brewing Company announced it will open a taproom on the ground floor of The Keep, a luxury condominium on the corner of Quinpool Road and Vernon Street, early next year.
“With all of these new breweries opening up we’re still growing,” says Michael Allen, general manager of Propeller Brewing Company. “We renovated [the Gottingen Street taproom] a couple years ago and Propeller Arcade opened about a year ago. In particular, that location grown quite steadily and we felt it was time to export that.”
In addition to a 30-seat taproom, the new location will offer retail sales and feature a two-hectolitre (200-litre) pilot system brewing experimental beers.
“There are a lot of growlers in that neighbourhood and not a lot of places to fill them yet,” says Allen.
By the time the new taproom opens, Propellor will join one of Halifax’s other original breweries on Quinpool. Garrison Brewing’s new taproom, The Oxford, will open in the former Oxford Theatre on Nov. 15. Keep an eye on Twitter for the announcement.