Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios
Good chats, great beer and East Coast hospitality can be found at Antigonish brewery
Candid Brewing Company started with an idea that good beer is meant to be enjoyed with friends, quality conversation and East Coast hospitality.
“That was kind of the genesis,” says Bryan Druhan, owner and head brewer of Candid, which opened in Antigonish, N.S., in May 2021. The independent family-owned and operated brewery is located on College Street, near the Antigonish Town Hall, in a space that once served as home of the community newspaper, The Casket.
“The thing about Candid is it’s a big, friendly space,” says Druhan. “Beer is meant to be shared, and to have face-to-face conversations, candid conversations, amongst friends. It’s also about being straightforward about beer; it doesn’t have to be snobby or inaccessible.”
Craft beer, he says, is just beer. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Upon entering Candid, you’ll see a retail space at the front as well as the entrance to the taproom, which has seating for around 110, depending on the event.
“We have cosy nooks, with some couches and soft seating, with a laidback, homey atmosphere,” says Druhan. “We have chrome steel kitchen table and chair sets, they’re vintage, like what you would have seen at your grandmother’s. It’s being somewhere familiar, like home. At the same time, it’s colourful and fun with bright colours and pop art.”
Splashes of the brewery’s core colours — a gold-yellow, teal green, fire engine red and dark brown — liven the ambiance.
“Beer is supposed to be fun,” he says, describing the thinking behind the taproom’s vibe. “It’s a familiarity, so people feel comfortable, like they’re at a kitchen table, which is very East Coast. You feel a little nostalgic, but the pop art gives it a little more life.
“I want it to be fun and bright and visually interesting.”
Druhan, an Antigonish native, says he and his partner Louise Brennan were wanting to move back to the university town and were looking into options. The idea of opening a brewery appealed to them. Plus, it leaned into his experience as a brewer.
Druhan has been in the beer industry for eight years, coming to it in a roundabout way.
With an English degree to his credit and fresh off an education degree, he was living in Edmonton and looking for a summer job. “Honestly, I just had an interest in craft beer sparked by a local brewery, Alley Kat Brewing Company.”
He got a summer gig at Alley Kat and liked it. That summer he learned about the industry from the bottom up, and found he liked working with his hands and the creativity involved. A fall trip through Europe, travelling to places like Germany and the Czech Republic with big beer cultures, underscored that he wanted to keep going down that road.
Druhan moved next to Victoria, B.C., in 2012, a place he describes as a little enclave of craft brewing and a cool place to get into the beer scene — which he did, learning about making beer. Eventually, he came home to Nova Scotia to take up the job of head brewer at Propeller Brewing in Dartmouth. Another stint in Europe followed before he returned to Antigonish.
Candid’s location met the elements they needed. It had a warehouse at the back with a loading dock, and a retail street front.
The old newspaper office also fittingly ties into their story of facilitating conversations. “We still move the news around, we just do it the old-fashion way,” laughs Druhan.
On any given day, Candid has about a dozen beer on tap, which come and go. They also carry cider and wine.
Druhan says both their IPAs — the Humdinger, a big West Coast IPA, and Party Line, a hazy, Northeast IPA-style that originated in Vermont — are popular. They also have a couple of blonde beers in their wheelhouse, which sell well, including one called Lagerish. The name, he says, is meant to imply it’s easy drinking.
Candid also produces three or four gluten-friendly beers at any time, an intentional decision. “In-house, we wanted to make beers that were accessible to everybody.”
His favourite? That’s a tough one. “I’m kind of like the parent saying, ‘I love you all differently.’ It kind of depends on my day,” he says.
Along with their beer, Candid offers a full roster of activities. They have trivia nights and stage music events most nights Thursday through Sunday. On Sundays, they host a traditional Celtic session, an evening like being at an East Coast kitchen table.
While they don’t have a kitchen, Druhan says Candid has a couple of food partnerships, including with a food truck, The Boneyard, onsite selling pub food like hamburgers and onion rings, and next door, The Townhouse (“a really great restaurant”) has a small take-out menu exclusive to Candid. Candid reciprocates the partnership, making a light lager for The Townhouse that they offer on tap.
Celebrating their first anniversary just this past May, Druhan says there’s been ups and downs with restrictions and shutdowns due to COVID, but overall, it’s been a good year since opening their doors.