Craft beer is a booming business in Nova Scotia, with the number of craft breweries doubling in recent years according to the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.
In 2007, the province had eight craft breweries. Today there are 16 and two or three more are expected to enter the market by the end of the year, according to Mike Maloney with the NSLC.
"People definitely appreciate buying local and the artisan nature of craft beer," said Maloney.
"They like to know where things come from, who makes it, so that's definitely driving some of this trend."
Brewery crops up on hop farm
The latest brewery to join the group is Meander River Farm and Brewery in Ashdale, near Windsor.
Allan Bailey and his wife Brenda started growing hops on their farm about five years ago, when their son did a project for business school on how much money the crops could bring in.
Since then, they've become the largest producer of hops in Nova Scotia. They're now going to use some of those hops to make their own beer.
"It's been a long time coming and it's also been a long-term dream of ours, so the timing was just right for us," said Allan Bailey.
The couple constructed a building for the brewery on their farm, doing most of the work themselves.
"I'm sort of a jack of all trades, I guess you could say," said Bailey.
The Baileys will start selling growlers at their farm on Saturday. Right now they're only brewing one beer — dubbed Lunch Box Pale Ale — but soon they want to produce a honey brown ale and a stout.
"It's a very clean, drinkable beer with a nice hoppy finish on the end," said Bailey.
"We've really tried to brew a beer that craft brew drinkers will enjoy, but the people making that transition to craft beer will also like."
The couple said a brewery on the farm was a natural choice. They use pigs to till and fertilize their land before they plant their hops. Then, leftover wheat from the brewing process is fed to the pigs and spent water is used to irrigate the fields.
"We're not looking for world domination in being like a huge brewery — we want to keep it nice and small and simple," said Brenda Bailey.
Small and simple means their pale ale will be on tap at a bar in Windsor — about 20 kilometres away from their farm.
People can also buy it right from the brewery or opt into a community supported brewery plan, where customers can pay up front for a discount on beer made available weekly and monthly.
Room to grow
"Craft beer has been growing tremendously over the last two years. It's definitely one of the bright spots in the beer category," said Maloney.
Nationally, craft beer makes up about six per cent of all beer sales, but in Nova Scotia, it makes up about three per cent.
Maloney said that means the local market has a lot of room to grow.
He added the NSLC is seeing a strong support for local brews — 56 per cent of all craft beer sold at NSLC locations is locally produced.