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.

 We started with an early morning stop at the Tangled Garden. The valley really are at least a week ahead of us, and the leaves and greenery in the gardens were a real treat. I couldn't resist the preserves in the windows. If you ever run out of ideas for jams or jellies, they've got some winners–ginger lime thyme, quince & rosemary, apple sage...

Wolfville, from all accounts usually bustling, was really thrumming with activity that particular Saturday.  Our beeline to the Just Us cafe took us straight to the Annapolis Valley's first independently organized TED x conference. IF you're not familiar with the TED series or format check here: TED.  The theme had to with ideas for connecting rural communities and featured talks form university professors, Isabelle from the Heartwood, and the awesome Patricia Bishop of Taproot farms on CSA veggie production. This has me thinking, let's put on a TED conference Antigonish! But this is for another conversation - anyone interested in helping to organize one (maybe in our fabulous new library?) do let me know!

Our main objective was to meet with Wayne Shankel, the brewer at Paddy's Pub. Paddy's has been brewing great beers for over 15 years now, first at their location in Kentville, and more recently here in the Wolfville location. Wayne has been brewing their for 10 years now and was a really lovely and generous guy and stopped in on a day off (after his son's ill-fated soccer game) to answer all our many questions. Paddy's only has their own ales on tap and go through about 14 kegs a week. They brew between 80-90 times a year. But Wayne says he's in there checking on things, cleaning things, doing something pretty well everyday. And did we mention he really knows what he's doing? The beer he's putting out is VERY tasty. We particularly likes his bitter (Annapolis Valley Ale), his stout and his remarkably crisp and refreshing pilsner. Too bad they don't bottle. You'll just have to stop in for a pint next time you're in the valley.


Wayne and Terry talk shop.
The mill. Where it all begins... 

The crushed grains then go into the mash tun (in the front) where hot water leeches out the sugars and malty flavours. The hot sugary liquid then goes into the boil kettle (not in picture) to be boiled up for a specific period of time. Terry says it tastes like really sweet cerealy water at this point. Different varieties of hops are added at specific times during the boil to produce various degrees of bitterness flavours and aromas.
These are Paddy's 3 fermenter tanks (the middle one was made in PEI by a company called DME). This is where the magic happens. Or some of it anyway. This is where the yeast is added and converts the grain's natural sugars into alcohol. Hops can also be added at this stage, for a dry-hopped ale. Adding the hops in the boil gives you more intense bitter flavour, where adding them nearer the end of the process gives more of the lovely floral hoppy aromas.

We also visited Wolfville's tiny and intensely charming Library Pub - this place certainly beat out the rest in terms of a proper cozy atmosphere.  Check out the chair below - these are the same ones we've got lined up for the Townhouse!


 To finish off the trip, we met up with my folks and managed to squeeze ourselevs into the Port Pub, among the throngs of Acadia grads and their families, for a quick dinner and a sampling of Randy Lawrence's adjoining Sealevel Brewing Co ales. The Port is the Port Williams pub I mentioned in a previous post on fundraising where residents raised money to open by starting a CEDIF . The staff were friendly and fun, the food was excellent (we had lamb burgers, sweet potato fries, crab and lobster dip, a delicious salad with roasted beets and feta cheese!), and the beer was also very, very good! I especially liked the Dusseldorf Altbier they had on tap. Although we had a lovely time there, we all agreed the atmosphere was a little too formal or grand for our plebeian tastes...

All in all, it was a pretty interesting and encouraging trip. Surely if the Valley can support 3 brewpubs, Antigonish could manage at least one!

1 comment:

  1. Wolfville's come a long way. I remember when the Anvil and the Axe were it as far as drinking establishments.