Two thousand fourteen was the year of craft beer in Halifax. While pioneers will tell you they've been brewing in their basements for years, and their passion began with pints of Granite at Gingers, this year made the city's love affair with craft beer official.
Last October the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia announced a five-year strategic growth plan as a response to recent numbers from the NSLC that show a nearly $1 million rise in provincial craft beer sales between the last two fiscal years. While the bar is well-stocked and set incredibly high, let's drink to 2014.
Remember how dark and dreary our lives were before Stillwell, Lion & Bright and the Stubborn Goat? These brewsaders have nurtured Halifax's micro, craft and nano brew revolution, and this year marked its first anniversary. Cheers to y'all. To celebrate this milestone, Stillwell brewed up a drool-inducing commemorative ale with Shelburne's Boxing Rock Brewery: Merci Bière Smoked Imperial Saison (8.4 percent). Stockpile bottles now.
Another belated first beerthday shout-out to Halifax's Ladies' Beer League, which hosted a slew of stellar events, from home brewing classes to a Beer Hunter screening. Best of all, board members brewed Alewife's Revenge Cranberry Wheat session ale, a collaboration with Emily Tipton of Boxing Rock, for International Women's Collaboration Brew Day. LBL opens for official membership early next year.
This was also the year the cask came back, in a big way. Late 2013 saw the LBL co-organize the city's first Cask Fest, and ever since, real ale has been basking in the Haligonian love-fest it always deserved. These double-fermented darlings from across the Maritimes are now in regular rotation in city pubs, and last summer were honoured at Garrison's ambitious Cask Takeover by brewer Kellye Robertson, and Seaport Beerfest's Cask Pavillion, both hosted by Stillwell.
The city's biggest craft coup this year was hosting the inaugural Atlantic Canadian Beer Awards. Organized by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers Nova Scotia, and held at Stubborn Goat, the gala event attracted 170 submissions in 15 categories and Atlantic Canada was officially declared craft crazy.
Another Halifax first was Propeller's ambitious launching of a traditional Lambic series. After releasing the obnoxiously successful frambroise in late August, the brewery launches Blackberry Lambic, the second in its four 750 ml-bottle series, this Saturday, December 20, at Stillwell.
Propeller got comfy in its Burnside brewhouse, which opened in 2013, expanding operations and leaving the Gottigen Street location primed for the brewery's popular One Hit Wonder growler series. Soon after, in April 2014, Garrison expanded into its new brewhouse, leaving the Marginal Road brewery a playground for special projects.
Award-winning Bridge Brewing became North this year, and just released its killer Belgian ales in bottles, so start hoarding your favourites. I'll be leaving Santa some Belgian Milk Stout with his cookies this year—only because (spoiler alert) I am Santa.
PEI's Gahan House filled the void left by Hart & Thistle on the waterfront, and rural Nova Scotia saw the opening of Meander River, Schoolhouse, Bad Apple, and Tatamagouche breweries.
Two thousand fifteen is a hangover waiting to happen, with the opening of Halifax's newest brewery, Wrought Iron, in January, and Premier moving to North Street and opening a growler filling station. In the same hood, Greg Nash (Rockbottom) will finally open, with partner Andrew Murphy, his own brewery and Kellye Robertson (Garrison) will be heading up a still under wraps Dartmouth brewery. And the province's first malt house, Horton Ridge Malt & Grain Co., will make brewing more local than ever.
Cheers to 2014, and happy new beer.