Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stillwell Beer Bar turns 2

Stillwell turns two today and in their short time in Halifax they have nurtured the craft beer culture and endeared themselves to our city. I had a chance to ask them a few questions late last week on their past successes and plans.

MBR: Stillwell arrived at a time when the craft beer wave was building. Would you say that Stillwell not only rode it but also shaped in the Halifax area?
Stillwell: It definitely was a bit serendipitous in terms of timing for our opening. We wanted to bring a great beer bar to our home town, but when we were scheming about it in the early days, there were some, but few options for craft beer lovers in the city. We imagined we were going to have to bring in a lot of out of province products to be able to create a balanced and exciting tap list. The growth of the beer industry in Nova Scotia over the last few years has been incredible, and there is so much more room for growth here. We definitely like to think that we're helping propel our industry forward in NS, but there are so many incredible brewers devoted to the craft that we're inspired by their successes as well. It really is a privilege to be a home base and canvas for those products to be highlighted. 

MBR: You have had so many successes and accolades in the first two years. Being so successful what is your motivations?
Stillwell: Our goal was always to be the Nova Scotian beer hub, a place for brewers and beers to shine, and be at the forefront of new products, and experimental brews. We opened this bar to have a room we'd want to spend time in, a place to focus on doing one thing really well and that's the drink in the glass. The motivation for us is simple, because we seek out great beer in our spare time, it's a bit of a thrill to also be able to do that as a curator for our customers. 

MBR: You have had my great events, which one was your favorite?
Stillwell: That's really tough, but if I had to pick one, I would say the Dunham and Jester King collaborative event. It's always really great to bring in new beer that has never been served in Halifax, but it was such an amazing experience to host representatives from both breweries and show them what the scene here is like. People were so in love with the products (myself included!) and to be able to actually pat the brewers on the back and say "thanks!" while enjoying such rare and incredible beer was a bit surreal. It was also one of the toughest to plan and execute so it was such a relief when it all came together! 

MBR: What does the future hold for the Stillwell gang?
Stillwell: That's the biggest debate in our lives right now. We're really thirsty for more projects, but have so many ideas swirling around our minds that it's hard to decide what the right move is. We definitely want to get up to something, we just need to figure out what that is! The most immediate thing on our plates is the future of the Beergarden. If we're able to stay in the same location for next year, we would like to invest in more infrastructure, expanding our offerings, and broadening the customer experience. Waterfront Beergarden 2016 will be a bigger, bolder Beergarden if we get the site! 

MBR: What is your dream for a beer to have in the bar and for an event?
Stillwell: We're really hot for Zwanze Day as a long term goal! I think being part of such a big global celebration would be an absolute riot. In a more local sense, Péché Day is something that's on our radar for early next year - that beer is so well regarded, and for such good reason. Highlighting world-class, Canadian beer is always a pleasure, and I think our customers would absolutely love it!  

Birthday party at Stillwell starts at 6:00 PM tonight with lots of great beers and foods including their own beer Two. Chris from Stillwell descibes it as a 4.5% "rustic farmhouse" beer inspired both by historical saison and modern American farmhouse brewing. Fermented with a mixed culture featuring several strains of saccromyces, brettanomyces and souring bacteria, the beer is complex yet refreshing. Hopped with saaz and sterling, the nose is peppery and fruity, and the finish of the virtually totally dry beer is crisp. It was a very experimental brew but they're extremely pleased with the results; it turned out just as we'd hoped it would. They're very grateful to Peter at North Brewing for allowing them to brew this beer at his brewery. The beer will be in both keg and bottled conditioned form, and bottles for retail will be on sale at North next week.

Thanks Stillwell for a great teo years and cheers to many more.