More craft beer options brewing in the Saint John area

With Loyalist City Brewing set to join Picaroon’s General Store and Big Tide Brewing in uptown Saint John, Foghorn Brewing in setting up in the Kennebecasis Valley, and even long-established Moosehead proposing its own small-batch brewery, Saint John could well become a destination for craft beer lovers.

Craft brewers also setting up in smaller New Brunswick centers like Edmundston, Nackawic, Charlo, and Sussex

Some fans say the beers being served up at the new downtown arena don't measure up. (BrewHa! festival)

Saint John is starting to position itself as a destination for craft beer loves.

Loyalist City Brewing is getting set to join Picaroon's General Store and Big Tide Brewing in uptown Saint John, and Foghorn Brewing in setting up in the Kennebecasis Valley.

Even long-established Moosehead Breweries is proposing its own small-batch brewery in the city.

Shawn Meek, a home brewer and co-author of the Atlantic Canadian Beer Blog, says the recent experience of craft breweries opening in the Port City is a trend has become "really big over the last two years."

"The buy local movement has been big in food for a few years and now there are so many options," says Meek.

"Now, people like to purchase local beers to go along with other local products."

From home brew to a bar near you

Hops, a key ingredient in beer, growing in the wild. The craft beer community in New Brunswick is generally good about "lending each other ingredients, or equipment, and collaborating on beers," says beer expert Shawn Meek. (Laura MacNaughton/CBC)
He links the rise of craft beer in the region with the popularity of homebrewing culture.

"A lot of the people that are now brewing professionally were just making beer for themselves and their friends a few years ago," says Meek.

"Then they realized they just loved doing it so much that they wanted to do it full-time."

He says the shift in consumer tastes from mass-market lagers to craft beer appears to be a permanent one.

"You talk to pretty much any brewer around here and they say they're having a hard time keeping up with demand," says Meek.

Two more craft brewers are expected to open in the Saint John region this fall. Shawn Meek is a home brewer and a co-author of the Atlantic Canadian Beer Blog. 7:00

He says he's not concerned about undue competition arising in a sea of indie booze options.

"Compared to most other industries,the craft beer community is very friendly," says Meek.

"They're usually lending each other ingredients, or equipment, and collaborating on beers — so I would say if there is a critical mass, we're not reaching it anytime soon."

Endless variety

Even for consumers who aren’t normally adventurous in their drinking habits, Meek says, craft beer has a broad appeal. (Northwest Beer Guide/Flickr)
Even for consumers who aren't normally adventurous in their drinking habits, Meek says, craft beer has a broad appeal because it's simultaneously familiar and exciting.

"You could have 10 different breweries make the exact same style of beer and find that all 10 of them will taste, smell and look different," says Meek.

The beer blog author said people often become fans of craft beer by accident.

"If you're not into it yet, and you're out having a meal somewhere [...] people might try it because it was made close by. Then they're like, 'Wow, I didn't realize beer could taste or smell like this,'" says Meek.

"Once they do that, maybe they want to start trying a lot of other local options."

Beer tourism buzzing

As for whether the increased number of craft breweries will boost tourism to the region, Meek says that seems likely once more breweries get fully established.

"It's a great thing for the ones that have gotten bigger, or who are opening big right out of the gate with taprooms where people can fill up growlers," says Meek.

He said he's breweries are also popping up in smaller New Brunswick centres, such as Edmundston, Nackawic, Charlo, and Sussex.

"You can expect it to rise in a lot of small towns," says Meek.

"It's a great way to bring tourists into New Brunswick."

with files from Information Morning Saint John