Nova Scotia

Alexander Keith's crafty Halifax brewery plans

A Halifax brewery owned by a global beer giant will soon join the small world of making craft-style beer.

Company tapping into growing popularity of craft beer in Canada

Steve Durand is the brewmaster at the existing Alexander Keith's brewery in Halifax. (CBC)

A Halifax brewery owned by a global beer giant will soon join the small world of making craft-style beer.

Starting in April, Alexander Keith's, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, will begin making beer in the very same location Alexander Keith did almost 200 years ago on Lower Water Street.

Craft beers are known for being experimental, packing lots of flavour, and are produced in small batches.

Keith's downtown Halifax brewery doesn't make beer anymore, but the company will invest $1.5 million in renovations so it can once again. It will also hire another brewmaster to be the driving force behind the craft-style beers Keith's intends to make.

"It will be their opportunity to expand on Alexander Keith's and his heritage and the quality of beers that he's made and that we're going to continue to make," said Steve Durand, Keith's current brewmaster at the company's other location in north-end Halifax.

Craft beer is booming in Canada

The company doesn't have specific recipes for beers it plans to produce, but is making the move to latch onto the popularity of craft beer, which is booming in Nova Scotia. At present, there are about 20 craft breweries in Nova Scotia.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation says it sold 2.8-million bottles of local craft beer last year, a 25.4 per cent increase over the previous year.

Propeller Brewery's Andrew Cooper says he's not surprised by Alexander Keith's decision to start making craft-style beers. (CBC)

As well, recent findings from data research company NPD Group say while the consumption of beer declined by six per cent in 2014 in Canada, craft beer servings were up seven per cent.

While consumers have a thirst for more craft beer, the same can't be said for beer in general. Statistics Canada says while beer is still the preferred booze beverage for Canadians, the market share of other beverages is growing at its expense.

Fans of the new Keith's brews will be able to buy bottles from NSLC stores or growlers at the brewery beginning in the spring.

Craft brewer reaction

Keith's plan to make craft-style beers doesn't surprise one Nova Scotia craft brewery.

"It's following the consumer trend," says Andrew Cooper, the sales and marketing director at Propeller Brewery in Halifax.

He says the Keith's plans reinforce the idea craft brewers are making beers the right way. But asked if he thinks Keith's will be able to make craft beers as well as other brewers in Nova Scotia, he doesn't think so.

"We think we make the best beer in Canada," said Cooper.