Nova Scotia's Craft Beer Boom

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There was a time when if you wanted a beer in a Canadian beer in a Nova Scotian bar, your choices were limited to Molson, Alexander Keith’s or maybe the occasional Olands. That was as local as it got, and that was as varied that tastes were. How times have changed.

Even the beer industry is not immune to change, and when craft brewing companies, like Propeller and Garrison opened in downtown Halifax, it signaled that the change had arrived. These breweries offered a new option for the provinces beer drinkers and a very different one at that. While being the juggernaut organizations that they are, mass-produced beer from Molson and Keith’s found some serious competition from these smaller operations.

Propeller and Garrison opened the door for craft beer in Nova Scotia, and recently, that door has had a lot of traffic coming through. Halifax is being peppered with new breweries constantly. Rockbottom opened it’s own brewpub to get in on the action. North Brewing Company opened and offered their own spin, serving predominately Belgian-style beer. The newest resident, Good Robot, has just opened its door on Robie Street. Several more craft breweries are aiming to open within the year, and that’s just in Halifax!

Beyond the province’s capital, microbreweries are popping up in Nova Scotia’s smaller communities and finding their own success. Nyanza’s Big Spruce Brewing, Newport’s Meander River Brewing, and Tatamagouche Brewing (you can guess where that’s located) have all been embraced by the provinces beer snobs.

Despite the explosion of competition in recent years, the community seems to be highly respectful and supportive of one another. From what I can tell, there’s no bitter rivalries to be found, but rather curiosity in each other’s products. Most of the breweries are not afraid to admit their fondness for their competitor’s beer, or even recommend it to consumers. There’s also been some really great partnerships between breweries, especially with this year’s Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week. To mark the special occasion the old stalwart of the micro-brewing community, Propeller, teamed up a couple of the new kids, Tatamagouche Brewing and Big Spruce, and collaborated on a limited time beer. The American IPA, dubbed Cerberus (appropriately named after the three-headed hell-hound from Greek myth) was a big success and showed a level of cooperation not often seen between the larger breweries.

So why is it that craft beer is finding such success in Nova Scotia?

Well, the taste for one. We can’t ignore the taste. Microbreweries have the luxury of really spending time on making their beer taste as good as it can. Mass-produced beer companies just cannot compete with the microbreweries on this level. And once you develop a taste for the flavourful craft beer, it’s hard to go back to anything else. Likewise, you get more unique brews with craft beer. Sure, Moosehead will try to mix things up with some fruit flavoured beer, but that’s not even in the same league as some of the craft beers that are being developed. These brewers love to try new things, experiment and have fun with their brews. All to the benefit of us beer drinkers.

Aside from the obvious delicious benefits, it seems what Nova Scotians really like about their microbreweries is that they’re local. Nova Scotians love buying local, supporting local business and will choose local over brand name every single time. By choosing Big Spruce over Keith’s, these people get the feeling they are supporting their neighbours as well as a quality product. And even though some of these microbreweries are expanding beyond just the Maritimes, they still keep that local feel.

So if you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, or if you’re an old connoisseur of craft beer, sample a few of Nova Scotia’s best. There’s no shortage of choice in the province, and you can’t really pick a bad one. Better yet, take a stab at completing Nova Scotia’s Good Cheer Trail, a map of all the province’s microbreweries (plus wineries and brewpubs). It’s no easy undertaking with 17 breweries to visit, but you’re promised some great beer and a chance to add on to a booming Nova Scotian industry.