Cape Breton’s Brewing #BrewedAwakening
Many of us long time lovers of good beer remember the failed early modern breweries in the Maritimes, one of which was Highland Classic from Cape Breton, a microbrewery started by musician Dennis Ryan and some investors. The beer wasn’t special, essentially another mainstream brew, but back in the 80s we were looking for anything different.
These days “different” is easily found in Nova Scotia, and all across Canada. Cape Breton has two fully operating breweries now, the famously organic Big Spruce in Nyanza, near beautiful Baddeck, and Breton Brewing, right in Sydney, the largest city on the island, and the would-be capital if they ever went independent, as per the desires of the Cape Breton Liberation party, led by “General” John Cabot Trail. Google it if you want to learn more. He’s pretty funny…
There’s also another brewery, Route 19, opening soon in Inverness, a gorgeous town along the scenic western coast of Cape Breton. Good luck to them!
I am half Cape Bretoner, as my mum is a Nicoll from Mira Gut, not far from Louisbourg. We were on the island last weekend for the burial of my Uncle Bill’s ashes, so we had an opportunity to drink some of the “new” Cape Breton beer. A bunch of Nicoll clan members met at the excellent Governor’s Pub on the Sydney waterfront, enjoying pints of Big Spruce’s very sessionable Kitchen Party Pale Ale and Breton’s well respected Hefeweizen, a difficult style that they do very well.
We also drank cans and growlers of their beers at various get togethers, and other good beers from Nova Scotia, such as Half Cocked in Antigonish, which is on the mainland, not far from the island.
One of the more interesting brews was the Seven Years Pale Ale from Breton, a 5.2% pale ale made with seven different hop varieties, and made loosely in the cloudy, fruity New England style, but not sweet like some of the “less good” versions of that style. It also has caramel malt to balance.
Seven Years is a long way from Highland Classic, over three decades, in fact, but there are surely more breweries to come for Cape Breton.