Monday, December 29, 2014

Top Maritime Beer News from 2014

The year 2014 was an exciting year in the Maritime Craft Beer world. Steady growth was the name of the game with openings, expansions, a few awards and a couple of regulation changes. 

Brewery openings 

North Brewing marked their first Anniversary in January and was awarded the new business of the year at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Shortly after the announce a rebranding under the name North Brewing Company on February 13th. February also brought the expansion to allow for a 1200 litre brew day instead of 300. 

The shortest month also saw the opening of Hammond River Brewing with four beers listed with ANBL this taps in four local establishments and a bit of bad news with Hart & Thistle Gastropub & Brewery abruptly closing.

Hammond River Brewing went north in April and helped in the inaugural brew at Big Axe Brewery. Big Axe had a cream ale and IPA for their initial offerings.

Meander River Farm who grows hops and supplies Garrison with spruce boughs and lavender opened their brewery in May. It remained a work in progress throughout the year.

In June school lets out but for Schoolhouse Brewery they started delivering kegs of Principal Ale to the Library Pub in Wolfville and Spitfire Arms in Windsor. Also in June Tatamagouche Brewing Company opened with their first two brews are Hippie Dippie Pale Ale.

A little behind their original estimates, Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault officially opened for business in northern New Brunswick with their unique labels and stubbies during July.

PEI's Murphy Group moved into Halifax big time by opening Gahan House Harbourfront in the old Hart & Thistle space sporting 14 taps and the oyster bar in September. The following month the purchased Rogues Roost.

Railcar Brewing Company experienced a bit of a roller coaster in opening their doors on November 1st. They were most directly affected by Nb Liquors policy flip-flop over the summer (see below).

Picaroons Traditional Ales officially broke ground in December at the Roundhouse in Fredericton North marking the start of the construction of the new brewery. It was long overdue and will be a great new spot in Fredericton.

Lastly, Trail Way Brewing Company in Fredericton North opened late in December and got its beers into 540 Kitchen & Bar & the King Street Ale House. I am sure we will be hearing a lot from them in 2015. 

Government Policy changes 

In June ANBL board of directors meeting decided that to be able to obtain a Brewery Agency Store license which allows sales to the public for off site consumption until they have sold 100 Hl during 12 months through ANBL first. Needless to say this was a game changer for new brewers. Thankfully they changed course and this was dropped.

In October new rules to the liquor control act came into effect allows P.E.I. brew pubs and microbreweries to produce stronger beer for their customers. The Prince Edward Island Liquor Control Commission had limited brewing beer with no higher than 6.5 per cent alcohol content. But beer products from other provinces and countries with higher alcohol content could be sold. 

Although not policy an item that seems very popular in NB, ANBL added growlers to its product line with a mix of local and Canadian craft beer.

Home Brew-offs  

Garrison Brewing started with 76 entries in their Home Brew Off and narrowed it down to 13 semi-finalists and then further narrowed down to just 4 with Jason MacDougall winning toe 2014 crown.

The Gahan House crowned the winners of the first annual Home Brew Challenge. Ryan Palmer and Lee Nicholson won with their Cranberry White Ale.

Big Spruce Brewing crowned their homebrew champ, Eric Gautier won for his wheat beer called Bráthair Éric.

Tap Takeovers

We were blessed with many great tap takeovers in the region this year. Here in Halifax Bar Stillwell provided several. In January it was Big Spruce Brewing and Boxing Rock Brewing, in March Picaroons paid a visit from New Brunswick, Picaroons continues on to do on at Plan B in Moncton. Stillwell continued on hosting Garrison at an all cask takeover in June. Next to take over was Bad Apple Brewhouse in July just six months after opening its doors. Lastly in October they hosted a NB Nano tap takeover highlighting seven breweries from our neighbor to the north.

Big Spruce Brewing got to do another tap takeover. This time at Lion & Bright in Halifax on Earth Day, April 22nd, In support of the Ecology Action Centre.

One of Canada's most respected breweries, Le Trou du diable, took over the Tide and Boar Gastropub on May 29th. 

Finally in December Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault takeover the taps at the Resto-Bar Le Deck. They will have their four current offerings plus four "One Hit Wonders". 


The Canadian Brewing Awards (CBAs) took place in Fredericton in May. This years CBAs had more than 900 beer entries from nearly 140 Canadian breweries, up from 760 entries in 2013.

Breweries from all three Maritime provinces took home four medals. The highlights were:

  • Boxing Rock Brewing Co won bronze in the Imperial India Pale Ale category for their Vicar’s Cross Double IPA
  • Picaroons Brewing Co. won bronze in North American Style Blonde/Golden Ale category for their Blonde Ale.
  • PEI Brewing Co. won a bronze in Wheat Beer – North American Style category for their Sir John A Honey Wheat Ale.
  • Rockbottom Brewpub won gold in the Imperial Stout category for their Wreckoning Russian Imperial Stout.

The tops in show were Sasquatch Stout by Old Yale Brewing with Beer of the Year and Great Lakes Brewery repeating as Brewery of the Year.

The inaugural Atlantic Canadian Beer Awards were held in October They judged 168 beer entries in 15 categories from 27 Breweries & Brewpubs. Boxing Rock Brewery took the tops in medals with two gold and two silver followed closely by Bad Apple Brewhouse with two gold, one silver and two bronze. Beer of the Year was a tough choice for the judges but it went to Pumphouse Brewery's Barley Wine. Lastly there was the Stillwell's Peoples Choice Award that went to Big Spruce Brewing's Cereal Killer. In addition to the beer categories there were two other awards given out, the first being Brewpub of the Year that went to Rockbottom Brew Pub and the other was Brewery of the Year that was given to Bad Apple Brewhouse.

It was a great year and next year is shaping up to be just as great, cheers.