Riding The New Brewery Wave #BrewedAwakening

By / Wine + Drinks / October 14th, 2018 / 6

I’ve written quite a lot over the past three decades about the wave of small breweries opening across Canada. It was a mere trickle when I first started writing in the 90s, but it has been a tidal wave recently. I get frequent questions about when it will end, and whether we have too many breweries for the market, or soon will.

Perhaps the rate of brewery openings needs to slow a bit, and make way for the new wave of distilleries, or the legalized marijuana industry.  Maybe the growth rate of breweries now has more of an ebb and flow to it, much like the overall economy.

In any case, I still hold to my previous opinion that every town with a reasonable population can support a small brewery, especially if they have a taproom. A brewpub can work too, as long as the beer AND food are good.  Locals love having a place to walk to, to gather and drink beer together. What’s a reasonable population? I don’t know. Maybe a couple of thousand?

I was in the “in between Digby and Yarmouth” part of Nova Scotia last weekend, which is essentially the French Acadian part, the Municipality of Clare. Up until last year there had only been one modern brewery in the area: Yarmouth’s Rudder’s, originally the Queen Molly, a fairly large, waterfront brewpub with a good selection of beer and good comfort food, including many seafood options.

On this trip I was able to sample from four different local breweries, including Rudder’s, Heritage (in Yarmouth), Tusket Falls (just East of Yarmouth), and Roofhound, from Digby. Digby also has Lazy Bear, but I didn’t encounter it this time.

The snappy Heritage Brewing logo featuring the local lighthouse in Yarmouth, NS

Not all of the beers I had were pristine, but it was great to be able to drink local beer, and have a few choices, in a region with a relatively small population. Yarmouth has close to 7,000 inhabitants, Digby around 2,000, while Tusket is only around 400. Clare, which doesn’t include Yarmouth or Digby, in total has around 8,500. Digby, to be fair, is where the ferry arrives from Saint John, NB, so it gets a lot more tourist traffic than the average town of 2,000.

Perhaps the most telling change is that the tiny (mostly) fishing community of Meteghan, in Clare, where we go several times a year to visit family, now has a place for me to go for a pint. I’ve been going there since the late 1980s, and only now do we have a place to go drink a locally brewed beer. It is called Sip Café and they have beer from Heritage, Roofhound, and Tusket Falls, as well as great coffee, pastries made at their own bakery at their original location in nearby Yarmouth, sandwiches and the like. It’s a beautiful and popular little spot.

The loft at Sip Café in Meteghan, Nova Scotia

While the wave of new breweries may slow, there is no doubt that a sea change has taken effect, and small towns like Meteghan and Tusket have benefitted. While the number of breweries in large centres may be reaching a peak, there are still towns all around Canada that could use a local watering hole.





Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

One response to “Riding The New Brewery Wave #BrewedAwakening”

  1. jim says:

    I would like to know what you mean by “not pristine”. If the beer was defective, or poorly made, why not say it? Part of promoting “good beer” includes being honest and clear about your impressions.

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