The ultimate Nova Scotian craft-beer six pack

The essential collection of locally made brews

We asked Halifax Magazine readers what breweries they’d put in their ultimate Nova Scotian craft beer six pack and hundreds of you weighed in through our web poll. Based on your answers, we present the ultimate Nova Scotian six pack. (But this isn’t a popularity contest; we considered every suggestion, and then made the final call.)

2 Crows Brewing, Halifax

Mark Huizink, Kelly Huizink, and Jeremy Taylor, 2 Crows Brewing. Photo: Bruce Murray, VisionFire Studios

“It’s a good thing that they seem to enjoy each other’s company,” says Mark Huizink, gesturing at the gloved 2 Crows employees on the production floor surrounded by boxes of citrus.

The pair will spend the next few hours juicing cases of grapefruit and lemons for a gin-barrel-aged sour. Yesterday they peeled and chopped 100 pounds of guava and strawberry. “If this brewing thing doesn’t work out they’ll have a great career at Jamba Juice,” laughs head brewer Jeremy Taylor.

Taylor and Huizink joke, but the quality of the ingredients is important to them.

“I think we do push the envelope and stuff, but I try to be super respectful of the brewing too,” Taylor says. “We add some odd things, but it’s always to the benefit of the recipe, with the flavour profile in mind.”

Haligonians aren’t the only ones who notice the hard work. The brewery walked away with gold, silver, and bronze awards for various beer categories, and the best-in-show trophy at the Down East Brewing Awards in March. The competition fetes the best in Atlantic brewing.

In late April, 2 Crows rolled out a barrel-age sour collaboration beer with Dageraad Brewing from Burnaby, B.C., the 2018 Canadian Brewing Awards Brewery of the Year.

Bad Apple Brewhouse, Somerset, N.S.

Many microbrewers dream of seeing their cans at NSLC. What stops most is the corporation’s rule that selling you product means supplying all stores across the province. But a new pilot project may change that.

The Nova Scotia Craft Brewers Association and NSLC are collaborating on the Hyper Local Project. Seven Annapolis Valley breweries can list a product in two to 13 stores across the region.

“It’s to bring awareness to the buy-local push,” says Bad Apple owner Jeff Saunders. “You’ll never be known to people outside your town if you don’t have a way to get it out there.

Bad Apple already sold Boxcutter double India pale ale at NSLC and now adds Stearman American pale ale. “We weren’t selling a lot because [Boxcutter] is a beer that maybe the market wasn’t ready for,” Saunders says. “Now we’re actually selling our flagship beer.”

Cider also looms large on Saunders’ canning list. Watch for the return of Bad Apple’s dry apple cider and Tartan (a tart cranberry cider), plus new addition Apearently Funky, a pear cider.

Big Spruce Brewing, Nyanza, N.S.

Ask Jeremy White how he’d increase craft beer’s 4.5% of Nova Scotia’s total beer sales and you’ll be on the phone for hours.

During a recent trip to Vermont for a beer festival and some brewery tours, he visited the Alchemist, brewer of Heady Topper, one of the craft beer world’s most lauded beers.

During his 10-minute wait in line, the brewery sold $8,000 US worth of beer. “I’ve only had five $8,000 days in the history of my front door,” White laughs. “Heady Topper, right in front of my face, had an $8,000 day in 10 minutes. On a Wednesday. In the winter.”

Nova Scotia has about 333,000 more people than Vermont but sells far less local beer. That troubles White. “The problem is that people have been marketed into believing big beer is what beer is,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get beer on lips.”

White will give more customers even more reason to visit his Nyanza brewery and organic farm this summer. Starting May 15, a Big Spruce-owned food truck will sling ethically produced and locally procured eats five days per week.

“We’re going to make the simple stuff that people come to expect from a food truck, and pair it perfectly with our beers,” says White. Expect double cooked fries, burgers, and a pulled pork and ham sandwich with a 63-degree egg (an egg slowly cooked in a warm-water bath).

Boxing Rock Brewing, Shelburne, N.S.

“Hey, Mario!” a voice shouts across the room at the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival in March. Behind Boxing Rock Brewing’s taps, Henry Pedro looks up from the beer he’s pouring and smiles in his red brewer’s overalls.

Pedro, the brewery’s co-owner, heard the joke more than a few times that weekend but says it’s worth it.

Weyermann Specialty Malts in Germany awards the coveted coveralls to breweries who win a national or international award for a beer made with its malts. Stayin’ Alive bock won gold for Traditional German Style at the 2017 Canadian Brewing Awards.

Pedro’s overalls aren’t the brewery’s only news. This summer, expect to see regular releases from the Boxing Rock Test Kitchen within Local Source Market on Agricola Street.

“It’s one thing to make a pilot batch in your brewery and have the staff try it,” says co-owner Emily Tipton. “It’s completely another thing to make a one-barrel batch in the test kitchen and get feedback from paying customers.”

Stop by on the first Tuesday each month: Tipton and Local Source staff pair nibbles and beer samples from 5–7 p.m.

FirkinStein Brewing, Bridgewater, N.S.

When Devin Fraser and Adam Sarty started selling their beer via home delivery and farmers’ markets in 2015, they didn’t imagine it would lead to this.

The pair still work day jobs at the Michelin tire plant, but everything else has changed. The taproom, which opened in July, operates six days per week and hosts live music Thursday through Saturday.

“I try not to work Friday night and Saturday night because I don’t want to burn out, but we had a new band in Saturday and I promised I’d see their set,” says Fraser. “The next thing I know it’s 11:30 and I’m still there. It was a packed house, and everyone was dancing and having fun.”

Locals and visitors alike will soon have a new reason to visit the taproom. The Brew Crew, a group of 50 patrons, will brew small-batch beers under the watchful eye of Fraser and Sarty.

“We don’t have enough capacity to do a full range of the brews we want to make,” says Fraser. “So we got a small [brewing] system to play on. When we talked to the customers, everyone wanted to jump in.” Watch for the first keg in May.

Nine Locks Brewing Company, Dartmouth, N.S.

Growth looms large on the minds of cousins Shaun and Danny O’Hearn, co-owners of Nine Locks.

Last year, a summer one-off beer, Apricot Blonde, took off on social media and sold fast. Customers begged Nine Locks to make more, but the brewery was at maximum capacity filling keg orders across the province and keeping NSLC shelves stocked.

“When we originally built the brewery three years ago, we built it with 180 hectolitres of fermenting space,” says Shaun. “Within three months we added 60 more. Last summer we added another 180.” For those counting at home, Nine Locks can ferment 420,000 litres of beer at once.

That’s why the O’Hearns and brewer Jake Saunders went to the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, Colorado, in April to research a new canning line. “Our current can line is having a hard time keeping up with production,” says Shaun. “It runs about 22–25 cans per minute and we’re canning every day. This summer we’ll be canning every day, double shifts.”

Given the relaunch of Apricot Blonde, a new pale ale, and blonde ale four-packs coming to the NSLC in May, the time is right for Nine Locks to beef up its canning abilities.

Six essential Nova Scotian beers

Photo by Bruce Murray, VisionFire Studios

Bitter Get’er India (black IPA)
Big Spruce Brewing
Nyanza, N.S.
Brace yourself. This beer brings bitterness, bite, and a hit of fresh-roasted coffee. Adding dry hops gives it a heady hop aroma and stubborn aftertaste.

The Vicar’s Cross
(double India pale ale)
Boxing Rock Brewing
Shelburne, N.S.
Tropical and citrus hops hide this strong ale’s serious alcohol content. This beer starts off sweet and bready and finishes with beautiful bitter.

Dirty Blonde
Nine Locks Brewing Company
Dartmouth, N.S.
Crisp and crushable. This American take on a German weizen style tastes of bread with a dry finish and hint of honey sweetness.

Nor’Easter (strong ale)
FirkinStein Brewing
Bridgewater, N.S.
A strong beer that’s got enough caramelly malts to back up its bitter Cascade hop flavour. Pine, citrus, and floral scents will rise up out of your glass to tempt you in.

Fantacity (witbier)
2 Crows Brewing
Halifax, N.S.
The coriander and orange-peel flavour in this light wheat beer taste like a warm summer night. It’s light as a feather with subtle Citra hops that boost its citrus flavours and scents.

Black & Tackle (Russian imperial stout)
Bad Apple Brewhouse
Somerset, N.S.
A stout so black you can’t see through it with a flashlight (seriously; try it). Dark malts give it a depth of flavour and the high alcohol content warms your belly.

Halifax Magazine