I had the pleasure of visiting Nova Scotia this past week and I happened to fly into town just in time for the Halifax Seaport Beerfest. There were over 200 different beers to try, and with only two and a half hours, I am sad to report that I didn't get to try them all. I did, however, sample 25 different beers (and some of those more than once.)
Ontario had a strong showing of breweries, as did Quebec, although the majority of these were festival volunteers pouring and not actual reps from the breweries. There was talk of an Irish village, but I only saw a table with half a dozen volunteers pouring Irish beers. There was quite a few breweries up from Maine and they had some great offerings. There was also some great representation from the east coast (of course) with local breweries and brewpubs on site. You can find the full list of breweries and beers they brought here.
The overall experience was very good. The variety was phenomenal. The length of time was just right: enough to sample a lot without people getting too drunk (although I would have personally preferred another half hour or an hour, but that's because I spend a lot of time talking to people.)
Speaking of talking to people, I spent a fair amount of time chatting with the guys from PEI Brewing. I'm sold on them. Great people, fantastic beers. I look forward to the day that they hit the LCBO, I'm confident that their product will do quite well here. If you get a chance to try them out, do so! Another booth I spent a fair amount of time at was Rogue's Roost, which for those unfamiliar with them, they're a Halifax brewpub (I stopped in later in the week for a quick pint, if you're ever in the area I highly recommend it. Great set up, excellent beer, polite and friendly staff.)
- The previously mentioned beers and interactions with the guys from PEI Brewing and Rogue's Roost. Just awesome.
- Saint Bock from Trou du Diable. An incredible chocolate stout. Smells and tastes like hot chocolate. Served with a marshmallow in the glass.
- Finding out about an Ontario brewery that I had previously not heard of: Denison's. Their Weissbier was great! (Apparently some of the bigger LCBO locations here in Ottawa carry them, so I'll have to pick some up in the near future.)
- I got to try a lot of fruit beer (I've been fascinated with fruit beers lately, mostly because I want to see who can actually do them well.) PEI's blueberry ale was tops. Rogue's Roost's raspberry wheat ale was very good (so good I ordered a full pint at the brewpub later that week.) Granville Island's raspberry was quite good as well.
- The location. The Cunard Centre was just perfect for this. Great size with a nice outside area with plenty of seating next to the waterfront.
- Lack of brewery representation. Many breweries couldn't have a rep or staff member come to Halifax to represent them, which is understandable, as it can get costly to fly employees around the world to represent you at every single event. So when this happens, the brewery still ships up a bunch of beer, and the festival organizers rely on volunteers to pour on behalf of the brewery. Well, this is great, because it gets the beer out there. But for beer enthusiasts like myself, it becomes a disappointment as these volunteers know little to nothing about what they're pouring. Recommendation: when breweries send their beer up, have them send some info up along with it and ensure your volunteers are read up on it. At least know what kind of beer you're pouring, who the brewery is, and be able to tell me a little bit about them. That's all I ask.
- Actually, that was the only disappointment, everything else was top-notch. Although, one more recommendation would be to avoid situations like what you see in the last picture. That's just a recipe for disaster, folks.
So while I am disappointed that I did not get to take part in NCCBW, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Halifax Seaport Beerfest and I sincerely hope to be able to return.