Tapping into the beer boom: Nearly 20 microbreweries set to be open in N.L. by 2019

Newfoundland and Labrador is definitely on the craft-beer bandwagon and a beer blogger says the microbreweries will draw tourists to small towns.

Beer blogger Chris Conway says demand still way outpacing supply for locally-brewed craft beer

Newfoundland and Labrador is joining the rest of the country's obsession with craft beer. (CBC)

With nearly 20 breweries set to be open in the province by 2019, Newfoundland and Labrador is definitely on the craft-beer bandwagon.

We're really looking at summer 2019 as being the birth of beer again in Newfoundland.- Chris Conway

Several small breweries have launched over the last few years across Newfoundland, in places such as in Port Rexton, Port Au Port East and Pasadena.

According to brewer and beer blogger Chris Conway, the province is just starting to get in on a trend that's been sweeping the U.S. and the rest of Canada for more than a decade.

"It seems like a lot in just the Newfoundland context, but if you look at larger national context in provinces like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we are way, way behind," he told the St. John's Morning Show.

Chris Conway is a beer blogger who also founded a brewpub in Toronto before moving back to St. John's with plans to start one in his home province. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Conway and his wife founded a brewpub in Toronto before moving back to Newfoundland with plans to launch a new one in the St. John's area. Through his blog, he's been tracking the development of craft beer in the province over the last few years.

2019: Year of beer?

He said it will take time for recently-announced microbreweries to go through the environmental assessment process. Three proposals are now at that stage.

Most should be clear to open by next year, he said. 

"We're really looking at summer 2019 as being the birth of beer again in Newfoundland."

The craft beer and cider scene in Newfoundland and Labrador is looking more and more crowded. (Split Rock Brewing Co./Facebook, Scudrunner Brewing/Facebook, Submitted)

What's interesting about the craft beer renaissance in Canada's most eastern province is that many of the new breweries are not in St. John's, but are spread out across rural areas.

Conway said de-centralization is good to see, and that craft breweries are actually drawing "beer tourists" to small communities that are off the beaten track.

"It's going to drive tourism to all these towns and communities, just for people to say 'I want to go try a beer,'"  he said.

"We've seen this so well with Port Rexton Brewing Company, who have driven tons and tons of people out to Port Rexton."

Sonja Mills and Alicia MacDonald moved to Port Rexton, Newfoundland, to start a microbrewery in 2016. They supply seven bars and restaurants and have a wait list of 23 companies who want to sell their craft beers. (Chris O'Neill-Yates/CBC)

Most of the microbreweries that have already opened are having trouble keeping up with demand. YellowBelly and Quidi Vidi Breweries seem to be the only two local breweries big enough to keep up with demand year-round.

That leads Conway to believe the industry has a lot of opportunity to grow.

"Newfoundland's market could probably deal with four or five Quidi Vidi-sized breweries," he said.

"Everybody that opens sells out of beer immediately. Port Rexton is struggling to keep up and we just saw Bootleg Brew Co. open in Corner Brook and they were open for the weekend and just had to shut down because they were out of beer."

A list of open or proposed N.L. microbreweries can be found below:

  • Secret Cove Brewing Company - Port Au Port East (opening soon).
  • Scudrunner Brewery - Gander (opening soon).
  • Dildo Brewing Company - Dildo (opening soon).
  • Rough Waters Brewing Company - Burin Peninsula (opening soon).
  • Baccalieu Trail Brewing Company - Bay Roberts (undergoing environmental assessment).
  • Boomstick Brewing Company - Corner Brook (undergoing environmental assessment).
  • Brigus Brewing Company - Brigus (undergoing environmental assessment).
  • Iron Rock Brewing Company - Labrador City (undergoing environmental assessment).
  • Landwash Brewery - Mount Pearl (undergoing environmental assessment).
  • Ninepenny Brewing Company Inc. - Conception Bay South (environmental assessment complete).
  • Split Rock Brewing Company - Twillingate (open).
  • Western Newfoundland Brewing Company - Pasadena (open).
  • Port Rexton Brewing Company  - Port Rexton (open).
  • Crooked Feeder Brewing Company - Cormack (in development).
  • Bootleg Brew Company - Corner Brook (open).
  • RagnaRöck Northern Brewing - St. Anthony (in development).
  • ​The Fire Hall - St. John's (in development).
  • Motion Bay - Petty Harbour (in development).

With files from St. John's Morning Show