The Smallest (Beer) Bar In Canada!? #BrewedAwakening

By / Wine + Drinks / April 27th, 2018 / 5

“I just went to the smallest bar in Canada!” You don’t want to make big (small) proclamations like that without doing the research, but it’s hard to trust everything you read online, so it’s a lot easier to just say: “I think I might have been to the smallest bar in Canada last night,” and hold the exclamation mark.

There is already at least one bar claiming to be the smallest, El Pequeño, in Old Montreal, a cocktail bar which is only 150 square feet and has room for 9 customers and 2 staff (I have a question: why do you need 2 staff?)

At any rate, Tidehouse in Halifax is VERY small. This tiny brewery and bar is located on Salter Street, just off of Barrington, tucked in behind a tasty restaurant (2 Doors Down) and with the same street entrance as a new country bar called Ruby’s.

Salter Street is a well known wind tunnel, one of several around Halifax’s Maritime Centre. As I was leaning into the heavy wind, walking up from Hollis Street, my hat blew off and had already gone 3 blocks towards the harbour before I started chasing it. Thankfully a friendly Haligonian grabbed it and saved my day. I leaned in again, hat in hand, and made it into Tidehouse unscathed.

I was greeted by co-owner/co-brewer Shean Higgins, who was manning their neat little bar while also tending to whatever was going down in their little brewery in the back room. A former homebrewer, like many of Canada’s microbrewery entrepreneurs, Higgins and fellow owners/brewers Peter Lionais and Shannon Rockwell make a wide range of styles.

Higgins was standing in front of a menu board sporting a pretty creative and extensive list of brews. The brewers have different preferences, which explains their wide variety of brews. Higgins is a hop head while Lionais is a Belgian enthusiast. Higgins’ wife Rockwell also brews occasionally.  I tried City Mouse, an APA with Citra & Mosaic; Cloud Shadow, a hopfenweiss; Grisette Jungle; and Cryo me a river – a Cryo hopped NEIPA (New England IPA), made using cryo, a process that freezes hops, concentrating the hop flavours and aromas, and shrinking volume, so that adding a pile of hop aroma and flavour doesn’t need all the vegetal volume and the green flavours that brings. All the beers were unique and tasty, challenging but appealing.

You can’t get a pint at Tidehouse. “Our license is known as a ‘Hospitality room permit’,” Higgins explains, “which limits us to only serving 4 oz samples. It’s been pretty frustrating to say the least. A flight of 4x4oz samples equals what? 16, right? So if we’re already serving 16 ounces… why in the hell can’t I pour it in one glass?”

Are they the smallest bar in Canada? Well, they might just be. They, like the one in Montreal, have only 150 square feet in the bar. However, Tide House only has 8 seats and there is only 1 person on staff, so I’ll give them the nod. They might expand at some point and lose this honour, but for now I’m naming them the smallest! You heard it here first (probably not).  I’ll also give them a nod for having one of the best brewery logos I’ve seen.

The bar at Tidehouse. Note the logo on the left…

Higgins says they may expand at some point, but it won’t be extravagant. “We don’t want for much,” he says, “We just want to make good beer and hang out. That’s pretty much it.”


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.

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