Haligonians tend to pride themselves as drinkers. (note: a Haligonian is a person from Halifax) The city is filled with pubs, restaurantes, and bars, partly due to the tourism, partly due to the fact that it’s a University town, and partly due to the celtic atmosphere that has evolved with the city. Old buildings, sail boats, sea salt, and history. What better place to start brewing beer.
Before I get started, I should mention I love beer. Not like alcoholism “love”, but I appreciate a cold devil on a hot day. Heck, any day will do! Despite this love and affection I have for beer, I am by all means not a snobby Beer Connoisseur. I’m not all that picky when it comes to what I’m drinking. So long as she’s cold, chances are I’ll give it a thumbs up, or at the very least won’t completely hate it. I’d like to think my tastes have grown up a bit though; and I think I have some of these incredible brewery’s in Halifax to thank.
The Halifax Macrobrews
One of the oldest commercial brewery’s in North America was started in Halifax, way back in 1820. Many Haligonians pride themselves on the Keiths brew. Beer Snobs will tell you Keiths IPA doesn’t taste a thing like the original Keiths recipe, which is probably true; but that doesn’t stop the entire city from calling Keiths “their” beer.
Keiths is now owned by the beer-giants at Labatts. By all means not the best beer of the bunch in my honest opinion, but well worth the try, simply for historical value. As the saying goes, “Those who like it, like it a lot”. The same passion likely holds true for those on the other side of the fence. Regardless, if you’ve never been to Canada, its a must try beer.
Head down to the Red Stag Tavern (in the Historic Alexander Keiths Brewery), for a pint and a plate of amazing nachos (whats up caramelized onions!), don’t forget to check out their rooftop patio.
Keiths Brewery Tour
Tours through the Historic Brewery on Lower Water St are about $20. You typically get 2 or 3 beers out of it and are given a great little history lesson on the life of Alexander Keith. Be warned, its one of those Tours with actors pretending to be in the 1800’s. So if that’s not your cup, I’d stick with finding a pub nearby.
Olands Export Ale
In 1867 the Oland Family started brewing tasty tasty beer and it wasn’t long before they started shipping their suds all over Eastern Canada & the Maritimes.The Olands Family first started with Moosehead, and later with Olands Export Ale in the 1920’s. The Olands family eventually sold off the brewery to Labatt’s in the 70’s though. While it’s still brewed in Halifax at the Olands Brewery, some say they’ve lost some of their “Beer Cred” for being owned by Labatts. Try their “Schooner” beer, named after the BlueNose that the Olands Family helped fund and build.
Olands Brewery doesn’t do tours, but will occasionally host Open Houses. Read The Coast to watch for those events. In the meantime, park your keester at a pub, or head to the nearest NSLC for a case of Olands.
The Halifax Microbrews
Garrison Brewing Co
As with most microbrews, Garrison’s is very young compared to the old timers above. Garrison’s got their start in 1997, and have been picking up awards along the way since for their microbrews. Their flagship brew is the Irish Red, but my personal favourite as of lately is their Tall Ship Amber. Their modern facilities are very inviting, and the location is superb. The perfect stop after enjoying the Halifax Boardwalk. Garrison offers up a pretty awesome tour for groups of 10 or more as well. They run for $12 per person, but you definitely get your money’s worth as there are plenty of beers to “sample”.
They’ve got an awesome little gift shop where you can pick up cold Growlers (large jugs of beer) along with your standard beer bottles. They also offer 6oz samples for $2.00 each, which can be a great way of putting each of their beers into your mouth. Be sure to follow them on twitter. These guys are about as local as you can get. Added bonus, their beers have no preservatives.
Like the folks at Garrison, this craft brewery got started in 1997 and has been invading pubs & fridges of residents of Halifax ever since. Located along the eclectic Gottingen Street, this little brewery concentrates on beer for locals. You can taste the love they put into it. Stop by the Prop Shop for their extremely cheap Growlers. A small deposit is required for the massive bottle, but once you have one, refills are only 9 dollars.
Propeller Brewery does offer tours for groups. Having been on several brewery tours, I think this one might be my personal favourite. Depending on how many people are in your group, it’ll cost between $15 and $20; but I assure you that you’ll get your moneys worth. Their brewery tour consists of walking into a back-room with a couple giant tables, a bar with every Propeller Beer on tap, and an iPod plugin for your group to listen to your own choice of music. Basically you sit, and drink. Half way through the “Tour” they ask if anyone wants to see how their beer is made; but it isn’t required. They’re just as happy to let you continue drinking as much as you can in your allotted time.
There is a wild history behind the Granite Brewery. They got their start in 1985 in Gingers Tavern as the first Brew Pub east of the Canadian Rockies. It was also one of the oldest taverns in Halifax, going back as far as 1948. This may not seem that old, but one has to remember Nova Scotia was a dry province for a couple decades during prohibition. Unfortunately, Gingers has closed its doors for good, but the brewery that helped make Gingers famous lives on.
The Granite Brewery is now located in the North End of Halifax, at 6054 Stairs Street between Robie and Kempt. They also have another location in Toronto. The Halifax location concentrates on the producing and selling their beer, so don’t expect to find food here. They’re famous beers are still being served all over Halifax, including the Henry House, Obladee, and the Lions Head Tavern. Of coarse you can always pick up bottles & kegs right at the Brewery. Be sure to try their “Peculiar Strong Ale” – it’s delightfully strong and pleasantly awesome!
This little brewpub is close to my heart solely for the fact that their IPA is probably the best in town, and also because they’re trivia on Wednesday nights is a blast. Located on Spring Garden Road, you can find a window seat and people watch for hours. Their beer is brewed in small batches with no preservatives and is extremely amazing. I have yet to try every beer they have on tap, but I’ve put enough of a dent in their menu to know that their award winning brewmaster knows what he’s doing.
Rock Bottom Brewery
Another Spring Garden Brewery slash restaurante in downtown Halifax. This tucked away micro brewery is located below Your Father’s Moustache, a popular upstairs restaurante with an awesome rooftop patio. But ignore that patio will ya? Go downstairs, park your keester, and prepare for some mind-blowing brews. Order up a Fathom Red Ale for a robust brew, or go extra crazy and order a Sable Island Wheat Ale (What is Sable Island?). They’re beers are some sort tasty and come highly recommended by drinkers & eaters.
The folks at Rock Bottom also rock a mean trivia on Tuesday nights, which typically leads to some clever questions & some hilarious team names.
The Hart & Thistle
Along the boardwalk of Halifax is a waterfront Gastropub and Brewery called The Hart & Thistle. They serve up some great food with a mean microbrew. Their beer menu changes often; but you won’t be disappointed stopping in for something random. This little restaurantes a perfect spot to take in the Halifax Harbour and truly feel that “Nova Scotian Pride” locals talk about so often.
Staff at the Hart & Thistle is more than happy to talk beer and flavours with patrons. On a recent lunch break I was convinced by the cute tattoo’d waitress to give the American Pale Ale a try. I never got around to thanking her, but it was incredible on that particular hot summer afternoon.
Halifax is always called one of the most “Walk-able” cities in Canada. While prairie people such as myself will say that’s total bullshit (Have you seen the hills?!), everything is very close by. This convenient civic trait makes for an amazing “Micro-brewery Pub Crawl”. Do your mouth & self a favour, grab some friends, stop by a brewery in Halifax for some serious sud action.