ntil September, if you were looking for Tusket Falls Brewing Company, you’d have to travel a bit off the beaten path. “It’s definitely in the country,” says Melanie Sweeney, co-owner of the brewery located seven minutes from Yarmouth in southwestern Nova Scotia.
The reason behind such a secluded location? It’s home for both Sweeney and her husband Jeff.
“We had a house, a cottage in Gavelton which is really close, two minutes from the brewery,” she says. “We knew when we were starting the brewery that we wanted to be a little bit more rural, we didn’t want to go into town.”
But as of this fall, Tusket has made it to the mainstream, opening a location called Tusket Falls Beer Project on Gottingen Street in north end Halifax.
“Initially our plan was to open in June and get the summer season. But understandably, with construction, the building was very far behind schedule,” says Sweeney, sitting at a booth in the storefront, which first opened on Labour Day weekend. “So we got in a little bit later than what we expected.”
It’s more modern than the first location, with high ceilings and big wooden tables. While the rural Tusket gives off Irish pub vibes with frequent live music and dancing, Sweeney says she hopes to bring a bit more style to the Halifax location, which also sells beer to go. “For here, it's just a little bit of a different feel,“ she says.
The eight beers on tap range from hazy IPAs to creamy porters and stouts and fruity sours. “We use real fruits, so our sours are very fruity,” says Sweeney. “Sometimes it’s even smoothie-like.”
On-site at the Tusket Falls Beer Project the team is cooking up smoked meats like brisket and ribs. Then about half of the menu is also provided by Reagan Stuart of Speakeasy Kitchen. “She also does a lot of pop up dinner events,” says Sweeney. “Two or three times a month, she'll do like a five-course meal for reservation only at our Tusket location and we hope to bring that here as well, and it's always a changing menu.”
Sweeney and her husband have been running the brewery for nearly four years, before that they worked in an entirely different field.
“My husband and I had another business, a fire and flood restoration business out in Alberta, and we were there for almost 10 years,” she says. “Both being from the Yarmouth area, we were kind of ready to come back home, and both of us are fairly entrepreneurial. So we knew we wanted to do something on our own, but something different that we were doing.”
It didn’t take long for a brewery to come up as an idea. “We talked about different possibilities,” says Sweeney. “Both of us towards the end of our journey in Alberta, we started to really enjoy craft beer and kind of started to get into that atmosphere out there. So we started home brewing and playing around.”
Jeff took on the brewing aspect while Melanie took on management, and Tusket has been growing on the South Shore since 2017. But there’s always been a desire to expand.
“We kind of always had in the back of our mind that we could potentially open a second location at some point,” says Sweeney. And finding the location at 2220 Gottingen was serendipity. “I think we started looking at it when they only had the first level constructed,” says Sweeney. “We kind of snagged it before it was even really on the market.”
The large space also includes a covered, heated patio, with windows that fold out to extend the interior in good weather. “We hope to have a long patio season,” says Sweeney. Tusket Falls Brewing Project is open 12-12 Monday through Saturday and 12-10 Sunday.
The north end was an easy choice because, Sweeney says, “we didn't really want to be downtown, and I kind of like the community feel.” After more than two months in operation, Tusket has “lots of regulars already” and is looking forward to being part of Halifax’s craft brewery scene.
“On site here we do brew small batch experimental brews. Licensing requires us to brew in order for us to sell our cans,” says Sweeney. “So we'll see some more experimentals coming up on the board over the winter, now that we're open and got some kinks worked out.”