Nova Scotia

Halifax brewery marks African Heritage Month with Obama-themed beer

A craft brewery in Halifax's north end is launching an Obama-inspired beer to mark African Heritage Month.

Good Robot Brewing Company hopes to inspire conversation about Halifax's changing north end

Jillian Moran (left) of Good Robot Brewing Company and Halifax journalist Evelyn White sample "Ale to the Chief" at the brewery in Halifax's north end. (CBC)

A craft brewery in Halifax's north end is offering a honey porter inspired by U.S. President Barack Obama for African Heritage Month.

Staff at Good Robot Brewing Company are hoping the hops, named Ale to the Chief, will inspire conversation about the city's north end.

"As the neighbourhood changes, it's important to remember its history and celebrate its history," said Jillian Moran, who works at the brewery.

The area is historically home to a large population of African Nova Scotians and has become increasingly gentrified in recent years, with trendy cafés and craft breweries popping up. 

"All of a sudden, we've got these hippie white guys with their beards and they're all into beer while we're trying to survive," said Evelyn White, a journalist who was asked by staff at Good Robot to help organize a party for African Heritage Month.

White, who is also a customer, has been closely observing the rise of craft breweries in the north end since moving to Halifax three years ago from British Columbia.

Hipsters and hops

"Brewing beer in their basement, then they were able to get the loans or they have inherited wealth or somehow they are able to open these breweries," she said. "They're high tech and have a lot of fancy equipment. So I think that has turned off a lot of people, especially from marginalized communities where some of these breweries have set up."

Of the two dozen licensed microbreweries in the province, five are in Halifax's north end.

"I think this party will be a really great welcoming mat for the community," said Moran, whose own roots are Jewish and Irish. 

"I moved to the north end with a lot of fear that I was an intruder here," she said. "There's a lot of animosity going around as the class changes with all the condos going up. We really wanted to be a business that did it properly."

'They can't just sit and wait for African Nova Scotians'

The brewery is hoping the Obama-inspired beer will draw people from all corners of the neighbourhood through the doors. 

White, who is black, doesn't always feel comfortable entering north-end businesses and says staff need to be proactive in order to be welcoming to all customers.

"They can't just sit and wait for African Nova Scotians to show up," she said. 

"When a person of African descent does walk into your establishment, go out of your way to greet them and talk to them. I'm not expecting special treatment, to be treated like Beyonce or anything like that."

White said she notices when staff go "out of their way to talk with me like a normal person. Not like I'm some sort of intruder."

Ale to the Chief

She also wants people to be more aware of these new businesses and their potential spinoff opportunities.

"Somebody, somewhere, is making beer gas — growing hops and growing yeast," she said. "The honey is coming from somewhere."

The recipe for Ale to the Chief is based on the White House Honey Porter created after Obama purchased a home brewing kit for the White House kitchen. 

Moran says the new brew stays true to the original recipe released by the White House in 2012

While Obama's brew uses a pound of honey from a beehive on the White House's South Lawn, staff at Good Robot use Robert MacDonald's from Annapolis Valley.

'Barack himself would be proud'

"Honey has a very fine aging property, it preserves for thousands and thousands of years. It has a nice metaphorical tie-in to what we're trying to do here," Moran said.

"I like it. I can't wait until it's going full-tilt boogie," said White, after taste-testing the brew for the first time. "It has the basic ingredients, I bet Barack himself would be proud of this."

When the Ale to the Chief tap runs dry, White hopes business owners will honour the neighbourhood in other ways.

"I think it has proven to be good business when you have a diverse staff in all ways — race, age, sexuality, political point-of-view," she said.

"Especially here in the north end, where I know very well the history of the community. If I don't see a diverse staff, I won't go back there with my hard-earned dollars."


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