From No Access to Staggering Options

The long road to creating an East Coast craft brew scene
Photo by Jessica Emin

Twenty years ago, if you were offered a beer in Atlantic Canada, you tended to know what you were going to be handed. It was probably a Keith’s, an Oland’s, an Alpine or maybe a Ten Penny (RIP). But when someone offers up a beer today, the choices are staggering.

That’s where East Coast Crafted: The Essential Guide to the Beers, Breweries, and Brewpubs of Atlantic Canada comes in. This hefty tome clocks in at just over 400 pages and is the progeny of Christopher Reynolds and Whitney Moran.

The most important thing for these two was that East Coast Crafted be anything but just another beer book. They saw an opportunity where people could possibly get as much information as possible, no matter if the reader was a novice or a devotee. “There are a lot of beer books out there that are basically a listicle with two covers,” says Reynolds over a couple pints at Henry House in downtown Halifax. “I personally love reading beer books, especially Canadian beer books that relate to what we can touch and experience in our daily lives. We wanted to give people as much information as possible, to give them choices. Beer changes over time, and taste is subjective, so any recommendation has to be taken with a grain of salt, or barley.”

Moran points out that the range of possible beer experiences in Atlantic Canada changes at a rapid pace. “Since we started writing two years ago, over a dozen breweries have opened up. The book just kept getting bigger.”

A bigger book meant more room devoted to the stories behind the beers, brewers and breweries. It was important for Moran and Reynolds that readers get a strong sense of who is making their beer, not just what ingredients go into making it. “It arguably gives people a better drinking experience,” she says. “East Coast Crafted is a hi-definition snapshot, or a painting. When you have more background, your appreciation for the art of it grows exponentially.”

One of the things that gave the authors a greater appreciation for brewers was the amount of work that went into making beer, let alone an active culture of brewing in Atlantic Canada. “I couldn’t believe hearing about Picaroons, and the Granites, and how they had no access to knowledge or equipment in the way that brewers have today,” says Reynolds. “It’s amazing how wide the gap is from what their challenges were to today when you only need money and internet access. Kevin Keefe from Granite had to get on an airplane to get equipment and convince people as to what he was doing.”

But the chutzpah and gumption required for such endeavours led to a craft brewing scene in this region where people knew they could rely on each other for information, favours and more. “People talked about the old days when there were only a few and they felt like a family,” says Moran. She points out that like most families, there is a generational shift. She says new brewers are popping up all over the place and doing things in their own way. That spirit of generosity amongst brewers has tended to stay intact.

“Beers are everywhere, and hopefully this book will help you separate the wheat from the chaff,” says Reynolds. He pauses to try and make a joke about separating the malt from the wort, but Moran stops him.

“Just drink your beer,” she says.

 

Full disclosure: I know both Chris and Whitney. Whitney is a senior editor at Nimbus Publishing and was the editor on my book, Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food. Chris is a co-owner of Stillwell Bar and I have interviewed him on many occasions about beer. It’s because of this relationship and the fact that I’ve been watching these two work on this book for some time that Atlantic Books Today asked me to write this profile.

Written By

Simon Thibault is a Halifax-based journalist and food writer. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Vice, East Coast Living, Saltscapes, and is a regular contributor to CBC Radio in the Maritimes. Palate and Pantry is his first book.

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