A popular P.E.I. craft brewery partners with local restaurateur Bill Pratt to get a toehold in Nova Scotia
The first thing you notice when walking in Upstreet BBQ Brewhouse in Burnside is the sheer size of the brewery-eatery. A long entry hall filled with arcade games leads to a spacious room with soaring ceilings. Across the restaurant a long wooden bar and open kitchen catch the eye. High-top tables surround a shuffleboard table at the room’s centre.
“We could jam more tables into this place if we wanted,” says chef Bill Pratt. “But that’s not what we’re about. It’s about that craft-beer culture. People hanging out, playing shuffleboard, enjoying beer and food.”
Pratt, who owns Chef Inspired Group of Restaurants (Habanero’s, Cheese Curds, Gecko Bus, etc.) and the founders of Upstreet Craft Brewing opened the brewery/restaurant in October 2018. Upstreet co-owner and beer engineer Mike “Hoagie” Hogan moved to Halifax to helm the brewery.
When Downeast Beer Factory closed, Pratt jumped on the Windmill Road location. He wanted to open a barbecue joint with a strong craft-beer component, and the space included a brewing system.
“I knew nothing about beer other than we have a flooded market as it is, and I didn’t want to establish a new brand,” says Pratt. “Why not go after a bunch of cool cats who have an established brand, take my established food brand, and work together?”
Hogan adds that Upstreet wasn’t planning a Nova Scotian expansion but moving into an existing space with a brew system “was too good to pass up.”
Within weeks of Pratt’s pitch, the new business partners toured barbecue restaurants and breweries in Kansas at a rate of three or four a day. Hogan and Pratt say they came home with the meat sweats and a love of shuffleboard.
“In the U.S. they are all about the meat,” Pratt says. “It’s amazing how bad the sides were. Boiled green beans, potato salad with no flavour. I wanted the sides to be just as important as the mains.”
There’s a rhythm to ordering at a barbecue restaurant. First, pick your protein. Next, choose how many sides you want. The menu offers an abundance of options from familiar house-made fries and onion rings to barbecue classics like cider slaw, pickled vegetables, and beer-baked beans.
Brisket is the most popular item, likely because it’s rare in the city, says Pratt. The meat smokes for 12 hours on maple wood until it’s tender, flavourful, and glistening with juice.
You’ll find Upstreet beer in the house-made sausage and 24-hour brined chicken, and spent brewing grain in the Caramel Apple Cheese-Quake dessert. Pratt is working on more recipes using beer and brewing grain.
Amid 14 beer taps, you’ll find Upstreet flagships like Do Gooder American Pale Ale alongside small batches like the Neon Friday series (read more below), plus guest taps from other Dartmouth breweries. Underage diners can sip a house-made soda, including a hop-infused option. On your way out, a compact retail space offers beer and soda to go, plus a selection of Upstreet swag from shirts to bottle openers.
Due to NSLC licencing, the retail space can only sell beer brewed on-site. Hogan says he hopes that will change someday. “In a perfect world we’d be making our [flagship beers] on P.E.I. and this place would be all experimental and one-off beers,” he says. “We’re playing by the rules of course. In theory, we’d be able to make more unique beers because the beers here could also go to P.E.I.”
Scott Ellis and Juanita Whitmore own a summer home in P.E.I. and count Upstreet among their favourite island stops. “Upstreet in P.E.I. is very small,” says Whitmore. “This is huge, but I love the décor. And the deep-fried pickles were perfect.” The pair live in downtown Halifax, and Ellis says he wishes the location was closer, but that he’s delighted to get his Upstreet fix in winter.
Pratt give a sly smile when people tell him they’re surprised about a brewery-restaurant in Burnside. “Come to Dartmouth–we’ve got Ikea too.”
Sailor’s Dream (dry-hopped lager)
Upstreet Craft Brewing
“It’s every sailor’s dream to own a brewery or distillery,” says Pratt, who served in the navy for 27 years. Hogan developed this recipe for folks like Pratt who enjoy flavour but not heavy hops. Dry-hopping gives this crisp brew a hint of melon that plays well with the mildly sweet base. A portion of the proceeds support the Military Family Resource Centre at CFB Halifax.
Neon Friday: NEIPA with Simcoe
Upstreet Craft Brewing
This beer is one of a continuing series
of IPAs brewed with different hop combinations. While it’s not as hazy as you’d expect from a New England IPA, it is refreshingly bitter with a pleasant fruity/earthy aroma. Each batch is on for a limited time and only available at the Brewhouse on tap and in cans in the retail section.