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Beerfest’s got high hops 

The Halifax Seaport Beerfest hosts Canadian beer author Stephen Beaumont and a passel of local brewers, but some notable locals will be missing.

click to enlarge Bottoms up, Stephen Beaumont!
  • Bottoms up, Stephen Beaumont!

If you're going to have a great beer party, you have to serve great beer and invite great beer guests.

The sixth annual Halifax Seaport Beerfest is fast approaching, and Canadian beer author Stephen Beaumont will help make it a memorable occasion---appearing at the festival and hosting the Rare Beer Dinner at Brussels Restaurant on Thursday, August 9.

Known for The Great Canadian Beer Guide, several other books and plenty of beer-and-spirits journalism, Beaumont is about to release The World Atlas of Beer in September, and has another new project.

"I'm working on The Pocket Beer Book, again with my World Atlas of Beer co-author Tim Webb," says Beaumont. "Currently I'm looking to fill about a dozen open brewery slots for Canada---I've already figured out which other Canadian breweries I'll be including. No doubt Maritime breweries will figure in there to some degree."

Things have changed since the last time Beaumont visited, researching the second edition of The Great Canadian Beer Guide in 2000. "The biggest difference I expect to see is the transition from the breweries making safe, traditional styles only," says Beaumont, "to combining those with more 'out there' stuff like high hops and high strength, barrel-aging, odd ingredients and so on."

He'll have no problem finding radical Nova Scotian craft beers, although not all of them will be poured at Beerfest. 

Some wonder why key players aren't attending, particularly Granite Brewery, Greg Nash of The Hart & Thistle and Rockbottom (Rockbottom beer will be poured, but not by him) and Propeller.

Garrison Brewing president Brian Titus invited everyone but understands it's tough at this time of year. "We're now topping 90 brewers and cideries so it's likely we'll turn away producers in the future," he says. "That said, there'll always be room for a local. You can get your Scotian fix from Hell Bay, Garrison, Rogues Roost and Rockbottom, plus five ciders from Stutz, Muwin Estates and Tideview."

"It doesn't fit our marketing plan either in timing or focus," explains Propeller owner John Allen. "We are extremely busy in the summers, and trying to fit in these kinds of events doesn't make sense to us." Kevin Keefe of Granite Brewery agrees. "We're so busy this time of year that we have neither time nor product to spare; this year with this weather it's been harder."

Beaumont steers clear of rumoured bad blood between brewers, but notes "It's silly for craft breweries to work against each other when the majority of sales are still held by the big breweries. If I'm opening a new gourmet burger place, I want to lure the people eating at the fast food chain down the road, not the customers of the gourmet burger place on the other side of town."

Nowadays, the trend is highly hopped, and he'll find local versions at Rockbottom, Garrison, Propeller, Rogues Roost and The Hart & Thistle. When asked if a beer can be too hoppy, he admits, "Hop burnout does happen, but for me only when I'm confronted with too many beers crafted by brewers who forget that tons of hoppiness also requires tons of balancing maltiness.

"I'm not into hop bitterness as a macho exercise, like trying to endure hotter pepper sauces just for the challenge of it. Just as I like the flavour of hot sauce in addition to the heat, I like to be able to taste the hops in my beer rather than just struggle through the bitterness to prove how manly I am."

Craig Pinhey is a sommelier and freelance beer, wine and spirits writer. Find out more at or @frogspadca on Twitter


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