Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Antigonish has spoken, and the CBC covers craft brewing!

Well, the survey results are in, and, yes, it appears Antigonish does want a brewpub! Thanks you all for responding to our call. More than 500 people filled out our survey, and with overwhelmingly positive responses, which really helps to back up our claim that there is a demand in this town for a cozy local brewpub and eatery. If you'd like to see the results for yourself, click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WHAT DO YOU THINK??? Does Antigonish really need a brewpub?

Okay folks, it's crunch time. We're getting closer to pinning down our location and getting our funding in place, but right now WE NEED YOUR HELP! We believe Antigonish really needs a cozy little brewpub with great beer, great food, great service, and great atmosphere. But maybe we're wrong? We need to be able to demonstrate this demand, assuming it really exists, to possible lenders and investors. This is where you come in: If you also think Antigonish could do with a proper cozy little pub, please take a few minutes to fill out our anonymous online survey and let us know! Feel free to forward it to friends, relatives, coworkers, and anyone else you think might be interested. The more responses we get, the better.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A new season, and a new brewing system...?

Well, it's officially fall, I guess. The air is certainly crisp, and the nights are unquestionably cooler. And as you can see, our Cascade hops are pretty much ready to be harvested!  In fact, Terry's latest IPA was brewed using some of these very hops - we're anxiously awaiting the first sip...

Not a bad crop for their first year, but we're looking forward to checking out the notes from last month's Hops Workshop in Cornhill, NB. A friend who attended reported it was a day crammed with excellent information, and should help us increase our yield in the coming years.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lessons from a Community Owned Pub and Veteran Brewer

Well, we have one more whirlwind trip to the valley behind us, and finally some potential pub locations before us! But we'll have to move quickly, so we're thinking about our funding options again. As part of the Self Employment Benefits Program that has allowed us to dedicate so much of our time to getting this whole brewpub thing up and running (someday, sooner than later, god/universe willing), we’re paired up with someone from XEDC, as kind of a business mentor/therapist/case worker. We recently were assigned to a new XEDC liaison, Melissa MacMaster, who has turned out to be a real dynamo! She’s really gotten behind the brewpub idea and is actively investigating the community-supported funding angle with us. She thought we should have another, closer, look at the CEDIF model (Community Economic Development Investment Fund, discussed on this blog a while back along with Community Supported Restaurants), and recently arranged a meeting for the three of us with the CEO of the investment group behind The Port Pub, a community owned “gastropub” in Port Williams (which we visited once earlier this spring and have also discussed here), to talk about their experience setting up the CEDIF that raised $1.2 million to fund their start-up.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bitters are Best! Notes from a beer tasting

The aftermath...

Hi everybody, before we get to the tasting I just want to mention that all may not be lost on the downtown brewpub location front! It’s incredible, for the past month we’ve been feeling rather stuck, that we had completely exhausted all the options for a decent location, and that no matter how much effort we put into this the horizons continue to look more like brick walls. And then one week later, and I won’t say much more than this (I’m hoping I’m not already jinxing us by saying anything at all), we are feeling a seismic sort of shift in the universal alignment and #boom# a host of new possibilities appear! Our hopes are cautiously renewed, and with them comes renewed energy and optimism. Cross your fingers for us, please…

Monday, July 25, 2011

A visit to Hell Bay…

Well, the summer is truly upon us now, and an update is well overdue. The lack of spaces suitable for our brewpub available in downtown Antigonish has led us to consider starting the brewery up on its own, still on a very small scale, in an industrially zoned area of town or perhaps the county. We figure it would be best to get brewing ASAP, perfect some deadly local ales, supply a few pubs/restaurants in the area, and sell some growlers from the door and possibly at the farmer’s market. This will keep us very busy for some time, and with any luck, before too terribly long, a great downtown space will become free and we can get the pub going…

So, after reading the recent article in the Chronicle Herald about the newest, and probably smallest, microbrewery in Nova Scotia, we decided we had to head for the South Shore to check it out. Mark and Melanie Baillie, of Hell Bay Brewing Co., live in Cherry Hill, between Bridgewater and Liverpool, and are brewing some mighty fine beer in a beautiful old barn. Mark had been home brewing for 12 years before he decided to allow the general public to sample his wares this past April. He works full time and brews twice a week on a 30 gallon system, supplying a pub called Lanes in Liverpool, and only very occasionally bottling. Their two flagship beers are Anchor's Aweigh Pale Ale, and Hell Bay English Ale (a very nicely balanced bitter), and he adds a few seasonal specialties into the rotation. Right now they have a Summer Wheat Beer on tap at Lanes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Worth Brewing?

Well, hello again, everybody. It’s been a pretty crazy time since we reported to you last. We'll start with an update on the Townhouse, including some not so great developments, and end with a great little video on a great little brewpub in Iowa, Worth Brewing Co.

An example of an excellent brew-pub location. Unfortunately it's already taken. And in Iowa...

So, last month we were full steam ahead trying to seal the deal to buy the dream location we ‘d been working toward for almost a year now, when the deal fell through rather unexpectedly. Before we’d even had time to feel the full force of the blow we’d found another potential location, a leasehold almost as appealing as the first building. We started to think we liked the idea of leasing after all, and especially the “not having to sell our (very) little, recently renovated house to buy a business location” aspect. One does get attached after putting months of work into a living space…

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Visiting Valley Brewpubs

Last weekend we made a very brief but leisurely trip to Wolfville and Port Williams to conduct some research. Essentially this meant visiting the farmers market to meet wine and cider reps, hitting a yard sale where we found some great old light fixtures, and, of course, visiting some of the valley's great little pubs! This is, of course, the really pleasurable side of our business preparations (in case you're getting too jealous, I'll assure you that the week that followed was far less enviable, consisting of endless phone calls and e-mailing to alcohol and gaming officials, banks, liquor commission reps, lawyers, and architects, bugging suppliers for specs, dragging electricians through buildings and floor plans, and a particularly labyrinthine internet search for wheelchair accessibility dimensions, etc., etc., ad nauseum). 

Paddy's coffin-box beer dispenser unit.
Beer research is serious business.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Barley Sandwiches for everyone!

Sorry we've been so long between posts. I can assure you that it's not because nothing has been happening! We've been taking in some of the local political action, applying for some start-up programs that could be a big help in getting things up and running, welcoming back Seabright Garden's Susie and Will, and working on our research (which happily can include things like trying new beers and perfecting recipes for soda bread and ratios of cheese to pickles, etc, in addition to the number crunching, data collecting, and cold-calling).

!!!Big Announcement!!!
We're very pleased to be able to give you a (very) ballpark estimate of when the Townhouse will be up and running!!! If things go more or less as planned, we hope to be serving you great beer and great local food by the new year! I know it isn't as soon as some might like (including us!), but we think it's better to take our time and get it right!

This post is all about beer...

Craft brewing in the Maritimes
Over the past 6 months or so we've been having discussions about our plans and the local industry with the owners and brewmasters of Propeller and Granite breweries in Halifax, Picaroons in Fredericton, and Mill St. Brewing in Toronto. They have all been very encouraging! Like the UK, US, and Western Canada before us, the Maritimes are experiencing our own craft brewing renaissance. In fact, it's been suggested that the numbers of breweries in the US now exceeds pre-prohibition numbers. This is incredible! Before prohibition, each town or region might have had it's own beer brewers, but after prohibition the big guys took over (as they did here in Canada). The numbers of producers dwindled to just a few centralized mega-breweries. In 1983, the US had a total of only 80 breweries across the entire country, and 92% of these were owned by the top 6 brewing companies (including Budweiser, Miller, Coors, and Pabst). In 2010, the US brewing industry had 1'753 breweries, the highest number since the late 1800s!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A capital idea?

Hello and happy spring!

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to our questions. We have had lots of messages and comments about the menu and service issue. We really, really appreciate it! Your feedback is really helping us make decisions, and tailor the pub to our community. Overall, people seem to be up for ordering at the counter, as long as it is clearly communicated. One great suggestion we've had for a better counter service model was to have menu/ordering forms on each table that can just be checked off with the order and brought to the counter, all filled out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Tentative Menu and the Service Question

We'll get to the service issue shortly, and yes, this is my little sister, and no, I can't take credit for this, her friend John in Ireland made it. But first, the menu!

So, I've spent the past month or so whittling down our menu and painstakingly pricing out each recipe. And now I'd like to hear from you. I'm hoping that we've come up with tasty snacks and dishes that will appeal to Antigonishers and our visitors, reflect our regional bounty and character, and be interesting and delicious without derailing your attempts to eat well–asolutely no nasty preservatives or additives or excessive grease to worry about! I've built it around foods that are readily available in our area, and the vegetables that have the longest growing seasons or that keep well for most of the year. We'll be changing it up and adding new things fairly regularly to reflect what's in season, and keep things interesting, but this will be the core of the menu.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Farm-to-Pub model in action!

I'm really looking forward to volunteering at the ACORN Conference again, this year it's being held at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton, March 10-12. 

As I've mentioned in past posts, it's a pretty amazing weekend for anyone interested in growing food on any scale. I'm especially looking forward to hearing Chef Vergen's keynote talk at the organic Banquet on Friday (March 11th, just over 2 weeks away!). As Executive Chef of the Saint John Ale House and a farmer in one of Quispamsis, New Brunswick’s last standing farms, he's a Maritime pioneer of the farm-to-table food model. Trained in classical French cooking, and seasoned with years of experience in fancy restaurants in BC, Quebec, and Paris, he returned to New Brunswick to get back to basics.

 “I grew up in a little log cabin in the woods. It was the 1970s and my folks were back to the land-ers.” That’s where chef Vergen’s love affair — we might even go so far as to call it obsession — with the freshest of fresh ingredients, began.

For more on Chef Vergen's farm to pub perspective, check out this article. Or this one.
 ACORN will also be holding an organic community day on Saturday, and I'd encourage anyone who can be in Fredericton and is interested in organic food, to attend. There's a special pass for all 6 community day workshops for only $25, which include home canning and sprouting, GMOs, seed saving, and growing apples, plus our Seedy Saturday seed-swapping/sale event (a great success last year in PEI!), and entrance to the Trade Show. This is a great place to get organic, open-pollinated seeds for the spring, find out about new varieties of veggies, neat tools, and lots of advice, information, and new ideas.

The banquet, happening Friday night, is in it's 11th year and it always sells out. This year's mouth watering menu, featuring food sourced entirely from Maritime organic farmers: 

Potato-Garlic Soup (potatoes from Five Tier Farm and  garlic from Hope Seeds)
Beef Roast (1784 Slipp Farms Ltd) with gravy
Vegetable-Barley Pilaf
Herb Roasted Potatoes  (Five Tier Farm)
Tuscan Risotto with Squash (TapRoot Farms)
Carrots and Turnip 
(Red Soil Organics)
(Red Soil Organics)
(Gerry Gallant) & Cranberry (Springbrook Cranberries) Crisp with whipped cream

Tickets are $30/each. Everyone is welcome to attend! 1-866-322-2676 or click here to download a full Conference registration form (Banquet registration included).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Time, gentlemen

Some of you may have heard Ann Wroe, obituaries editor for The Economist, interviewed on the CBC about her eloquent "elegy for the English pub." The old fashioned English pubs,  icons of Englishness itself, are shutting their doors at an alarming rate of 50 a day, or 6000 in the last 5 years! Some friends had dropped off a copy of the magazine a while back, and I'd meant to post something on it, but had forgotten until I heard her on the radio last night. When a pub dies, Wroe writes, much more dies with it. Here are a few excerpts that get at how a good pub serves its community, and a link to the full article at the bottom.

The church can go, long since the preserve of a flower-arranging few; the local shop can go, since the distant hypermarket’s cheapness is worth the petrol; but the vanishing of a pub means, by common consent, the loss of the beating heart of a community, in town or countryside. A pub can become a sort of encapsulation of place, containing some small turning’s grainy photographs, its dog-eared posters for last year’s fete, its snoozing cats, its prettiest girls behind the bar and its strangest characters in front of it. The Square & Compass at Worth Matravers in Dorset, on the Jurassic Coast, has accumulated so many fossils brought in by punters that it has its own little museum. Most longstanding pubs have a fossil equivalent, and not merely on the human side: cases of moths, dusty farm implements or, at the Widow’s Son in Bromley-by-Bow, a hanging bundle of blackened hot-cross buns to which, every Good Friday for 150 years, another has been added.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Inspiring Interiors

Well, we've been doing a lot of thinking about how to get the atmosphere of the pub right. Terry spent a fair bit of time in the Mt.A sculpture studio last year trying out designs, crafting settles and benches (a lovely deep green one sits in our mud room now), small tables, and wall paneling samples. Obviously much will depend on the character of the space we end up with, but the we're leaning toward an interior dominated by dark wood, cozy benches, odd nooks and crannies and maybe a dart-board or two all constructed with our very own hands to give it that real home made feel. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Orwell on the vibe...

The Moon Under Water
by George Orwell
Evening Standard, 9 February 1946

My favourite public-house, the Moon Under Water, is only two minutes from a bus stop, but it is on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights. 

Its clientele, though fairly large, consists mostly of "regulars" who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much as for the beer.
If you are asked why you favour a particular public-house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about the Moon Under Water is what people call its "atmosphere."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Local Hops and Malt?

Hi, again. We just wanted to share some of the exciting beer news that has been coming out of Atlantic Canada the last while. Just as NS wines have gone from novel experiment to an award winning industry in the last decade or two, we're hoping truly local beer will soon be as sought after, tasty, and abundant.

(photo source:

As you may have heard, there has been a lot of talk about local hops in the past year or so. Check out these stories on Evan Price of Fiddle Hop Farms and the burgeoning Maritime hop industry. If you'd be interested in growing hops for The Townhouse and the other NS/NB breweries scrambling to source their hops locally, please get in touch!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


If things go as we hope, The Townhouse will be situated on, or very near, Main Street and offer a cozy, classy, and genuinely friendly atmosphere to Antigonishers and visitors looking for a place to spend an afternoon or evening, meet friends, sample top quality ales and have a bite of something tasty, simple and locally grown to eat.

We will offer 2 of our own brews, a wide variety of NS micro-brewed and imported draft beers (including Guinness and several others that are not available anywhere in Antigonish), as well as a selection of NS and/or organic bottled beers and wines. But we’ll talk more about the beer another time. Terry is off this morning to do some brewing with Kevin Keefe of the Granite Brewery! Kevin trained in England and is the only guy east of Quebec that does cask conditioned ales (their Summer Ale, Stout and Best Bitter).

Today I want to talk a bit about food.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Early days yet...

As it's a small town, many of you may already know us and it certainly seems like everyone's already heard what we hope to be doing. That said, we'd like to introduce ourselves to those we may not have yet met, and to let you in on our plans to alter the social topography of this little town. Terry and I have decided we'd like to open Antigonish's first brewpub! We're big fans of locally produced, all-natural, food and drink, and of the cozy, laid back vibe of the traditional pubs of the UK and Ireland and we feel such a place would fit into this town quite nicely.

We've been researching, day-dreaming, checking out potential locations, and developing our ideas for about a year now. We moved back to Antigonish this past spring and have just been able to get back to our business planning (after several months of renovating and settling into our tiny new home). It's not going to be easy and it won't happen too quickly–there are many long days of researching, number crunching, exploring regulations, applying for permits, and a lot of money to be raised. And then there'll probably be renovations, and inevitably set-backs, and possibly even nightmares, and so on... But we figured, why not let you all in on the whole process? We'd love to get your feedback as we go along–your suggestions, concerns, ideas will be very helpful to us. We want to hear what you think this town really needs!