The tide is turning in the Nova Scotia brewers industry. Craft Breweries have been growing in number across the country, but it’s become a sweep in Nova Scotia. Local restaurant owners are on the front lines of this change, citing that demand for locally brewed craft beers now outweighs the requests for the “big breweries” (in Canada, that is primarily Molson and Labatt’s) products. Sure, the price for a craft beer is a little higher because they tend to be small-batch, but it’s not bothering beer drinkers.
Nova Scotia is littered with craft breweries, some of them also operating their own restaurants, such as Wayfarer’s Ale in Port Williams, and Rockbottom Brewpub on Spring Garden Road in Halifax. It seems that where there’s water in Nova Scotia, there’s a brewery!
A perfect case in point of the success of craft brewing and pubs is the recently opened The Church Brewing Company in downtown Wolfville. This place has been big news all over Nova Scotia, with its mandate to “Brew Good, Do Good”. Owners Steve, Matthew and Erin bought an old stone church on Main Street and transformed it into a brew-pub. They retained much of the charm of the old building and added a state-of-the-art brewery building on to the back.
While there are numerous restaurants in this sophisticated small town, The Church is full every day of the week, its patio virtually overflowing in season. It has literally become a tourist destination point for Nova Scotians and the world. Serving upscale pub grub, seasonal and local, and on-site brews like Congregation Pilsener, Mayflower White IPA, Sanctuary Enkel (a lighter alcohol content, thank heavens!), Married to the Sea German Porter and Eight Bells Belgo Pale Ale, The Church has set the new standard for brew-pubs in Nova Scotia.
Port Williams Hops!
Pockets of breweries and brew-pubs seem to cluster, and Port Williams, a few kilometres from Wolfville, is a concentration of breweries, the largest being Wayfarer’s Ale Society, a brew-pub situated on the edge of the Cornwallis River with a large balcony popular in summer. Their feature ales are: Ruby Ale (Irish Red); One-eyed River Hog (IPA); and Hellene Blonde.
Right next door, Sea Level Brewing occupies the lower floor of a building that houses The Port Pub (a separate business), which features Sea Level’s products, the favourite being Rojo Red, an ale that matches the colour of the soil in the Annapolis Valley.
Halifax in a Glass
You would think Haligonians (aka Hooligans!) were addicted to beer or something; the number of breweries and brew-pubs per capita is staggering (pun intended!). A beer tour could encompass the entire province, or be staged in Halifax alone. To be clear as beer, Halifax encompasses the City of Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and surrounding areas, known locally as HRM (Hurry! Rum Missing!). Given that ale is the most produced style of beer in Nova Scotia, and the sheer number of breweries, we thought it best to suggest a tour rather than cite every beer each brewery brews (life is too short!), so here are the breweries located in HRM (assume all are in Halifax proper unless otherwise specified):
- Propeller Brewing Company
- Upstreet BBQ Brewhouse, Dartmouth
- Garrison Brewing Company
- North Brewing Company, Dartmouth
- Oland Brewery (to be fair, not really a craft brewery, but a Nova Scotia staple)
- Alexander Keith’s (ditto; see above)
- Moosehead Breweries (fooled you; it’s in New Brunswick, but a lot of Nova Scotians swear by it and believe it’s in Nova Scotia)
- Good Robot Brewing Company
- 2 Crows Brewing Company
- Off Track Brewing Co., Bedford
- Spindrift Brewing Co., Dartmouth
- Rockbottom Brewpub
Beer Around the Peninsula
Now that you’ve drunk up the best of HRM’s suds, it’s time for a circuit of beer around the province. Add to your beer tour that most Nova Scotia towns are along the shoreline, so double bonus! Assuming you start in Halifax, you can go north and west or south and east; we’ve designed this tour such that you start north, head west, bend south, and go east to end up back in Halifax (if you remember…).
North and East-ish, head up the 102 northbound, and eventually also connect with the 104 and 106. Stop here:
- Trider’s Craft Beer, Amherst
- Uncle Leo’s Brewery, Pictou
- Backstage Brewing Company, Stellarton
From here, go south on the 102 and connect with the 101 into the Annapolis Valley. Stop here:
- Meander Farm & Brewery, Newport
- Schoolhouse Brewery, Windsor
- Paddy’s Brewpub, Wolfville and Kentville
- The Church Brewing Company, Wolfville
- Sea Level Brewing, Port Williams
- Wayfarer’s Ale Society, Port Williams
- Bad Apple Brewhouse (also a cidery), Berwick
- Lunn’s Mill Beer Company, Lawrencetown
- Annapolis Brewing Company, Annapolis Royal
- Heritage Brewing, Yarmouth
Tired yet? You’ve traversed the entire 101, and now you’re going to head back east, but on the 103, first passing through the southern tip of Nova Scotia. Stop here:
- Tusket Falls Brewery, Tusket
- Boxing Rock Brewing Company, Shelburne
- Hell Bay Brewing Company, Liverpool
- Saltbox Brewery, Mahone Bay
- Tanner & Co. Brewing, Chester Basin
Find a DD and Go on a Beer Tour
Everybody knows somebody who doesn’t drink beer (or any form of alcoholic beverage); yeah, they’re pretty boring, but often willing to be designated driver (maybe for a fee). Failing that, hire a cab and driver to take you to the best of Nova Scotia breweries. There’s also great grub along the way, a fabulous beer vacation for the brewski-lovers among you.
Nova Scotians are funny; as in humorous. One of the most enchanting aspects of Nova Scotia breweries is the tongue-in-cheek names applied to both breweries and their beers. You’ll discover laughter as you quaff a Wee Heavy or Hell’s Anvil from Hell Bay in Liverpool. Wear that on a T-shirt or ball cap…