Summer comes slowly to this part of the country, but we Nova Scotians know how to make the most of every hour of sun. Whether your perfect summer day features a patio, a barbeque, or lounging by the water, there’s a Nova Scotian craft beer for you.
It’s never been a better time to try Nova Scotian craft beer. Our province boasts 40-some breweries and brewpubs already, and given the explosive growth in the industry, a handful more will open before you receive your next issue of At Home.
From light wheat beers to refreshing lagers, and session ales to fruit-flavoured beers, local breweries produce beer styles that are tailor-made for summer and an approachable way to discover the bounty of local beers made here at home.
Wheat beers are a great place for new craft-beer drinkers to start out the summer. They’re low in hops, feel silky in your mouth, and are highly effervescent, which makes them a refreshing choice on a summer’s day.
One Atlantic Canadian Beer Award-winning wheat beer brewed here on the North Shore, comes from Uncle Leo’s Brewery in Lyon’s Brook, two kilometres west of the town of Pictou. The brewery’s Vohs Weizenbier is named for neighbours Matt and Brenda Vohs who own the nearby Piper’s Landing Restaurant.
“Matt is actually from Germany and a great lover of European beers” says Rebecca Whiffen, who co-owns the brewery with her husband Karl. “He’s a wealth of German beer-related knowledge and is probably the reason Karl makes so many German beers.” Karl named the beer after the Vohs as a thank-you for being the first restaurant to carry Uncle Leo’s on its taps.
This Hefeweizen-style beer is characteristically light-bodied so it feels much lighter than some of the craft beer you might be familiar with. The yeast used in its fermentation imparts slight flavours of clove and banana with a hint of spiciness. Rebecca recommends trying it with a summer salad or fish to highlight the tropical flavours of the beer.
This is a seasonal beer, which means it will disappear with the warm weather. Find it on tap at the brewery for growler fills, and in cans at the brewery and NSLC stores. Plus, this summer Uncle Leo’s will open a small patio on the front of the brewery.
Rebecca says she hopes to start serving flights of beer by the end of June so visitors can try a small sample of all of Uncle Leo’s brews.
Another returning wheat beer is Ace of Lace Whitbeer by Tatamagouche Brewing Company in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.
Well-known Nova Scotia vintner Hans Christian Jost started working on this brewery within weeks of selling the winery that bore his family name. Today, his daughter Christiane manages it, and her partner Matt Kenny brews the beer in a historic building that’s been a butcher shop, a tire store, a dance hall, and a restaurant in previous incarnations.
Like many of Tata’s beers, Ace of Lace is approachable and easy to drink. The addition of Queen Anne’s Lace flowers and orange peel accent the traditional light flavours of the wheat beer. And like all of the brewery’s beers, it’s organic.
Tatamagouche offers a small tasting room and retail area where you can try and buy beer to take home, plus a small patio, nicknamed The Flight Deck.
Once you’ve tried wheat beers, the next step on your summer introduction to craft beer should be lager. Like wheat beers, lagers are a lighter beer style that hits the spot on a summer day.
Unlike the ales above, which are fermented at warmer temperatures, lagers are fermented cold, which means they take longer for the yeast to do its work. This longer maturation process gives lagers a crisper and cleaner taste than ales, but means that most breweries shy away from them.
Not Spindrift Brewing in Dartmouth, N.S. This all-lager brewery is earning a reputation (and awards) for its smooth, easy drinking beers. In March, it took home three Downeast Brewing Awards, a little over a year after its opening.
One of those awards was for Coastal Lager, a German-style Festbier that offers a sweet malty flavour. It’s moderately hopped to highlight hints of orange and earth flavours, and offers an easy introduction to hoppy beers.
Another Spindrift beer that you’ll find in your local NSLC is Killick Session Lager. This one is new this spring, but fast gaining a reputation with beer lovers as the beer of summer 2017. Like Coastal, it’s hopped, but more subtlety to highlight delicate citrus flavours in the hops.
“This lager is a great starting point as a transition into craft beer because of the familiar lager style,” says Kellye Robertson, Spindrift’s brewmaster. “It’s very approachable and thirst-quenching while still being crafted with a lot of care.”
Over the last few years, it’s often felt like craft brewers were trying to outdo each other with more hops and higher alcohol beers. Now, session ales are rising as a popular alternative in the Nova Scotia craft-beer scene.
While session beer isn’t a strictly defined style, it’s generally used to describe beers that fall in the three to five per cent alcohol range. The lower alcohol content means you can have more than one or two while grilling without paying for it later.
Many session beers are available year-round, but one that you’ll want to try before it flies from the shelves is Cellar Slammer India Session Ale. This beer is a collaboration between the team at Bishop’s Cellar, a private liquor retailer in Halifax, and Tatamagouche Brewing Co.
This one is a little hoppier than the brews above. You’ll discover shimmers of tropical fruit and big citrus hop flavours packed into this can. Ask for it at the brewery, but don’t wait. It sold quickly last year.
Christiane Jost suggests pairing this summer sipper with Mexican food from the village’s new food truck, Taco Gringo. “It’s going to be a really exciting summer this year with so many new businesses opening in Tatamagouche.”
If you’re a wine drinker, fruit beers might be your best introduction to craft beer. You’ll find fruit beers in almost every style imaginable, but what all good ones have in common is that they still taste like beer.
Garrison Brewing’s Raspberry Wheat Ale is a prime example. This light ale has all of the traditional wheat beer characteristics described above, plus an ample dose of fresh raspberries.
When you pop the cap the first thing you’ll notice is the fresh, sweet berry smell wafting out of the bottle. The beer’s flavour is sweet but not sugary, with a tart finish that compliments the refreshing taste of the wheat ale. You’ll find this one at the NSLC year round.
Sadly, this next beer you won’t find all year. Watermelon Blonde from Nine Locks Brewing in Dartmouth is brewed and fermented with mashed watermelon. The melon imparts a fresh summery smell to the brewery’s year-round blonde ale, and slight sweetness to this already smooth beer.
If ever there was a time to try craft beer, that time is now. You’ll find all of the beers above at Tatamagouche Brewery, Uncle Leo’s Brewing, and at NSLC stores across the region.