Brew­ing trou­ble

The Coast - - THIS WEEK - —Emily Tip­ton, found­ing part­ner and beer engi­neer at Box­ing Rock Brew­ing Com­pany, pres­i­dent of the Craft Brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia

I’m con­cerned about the re­cent open­ing of Chill Street, a fer­ment-on-premise re­tail out­let lo­cated ad­ja­cent to the Sobeys in Elms­dale. It has been called the first of its kind, which I would say is ac­cu­rate. Chill Street has also been re­peat­edly re­ferred to as a mi­cro­brew­ery. As pres­i­dent of the Craft Brew­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia and the owner of one of the 40 craft brew­eries and brew pubs in Nova Sco­tia, I say that is just not the case.

A craft brew­ery is three things: Small, in­de­pen­dent and tra­di­tional. In Nova Sco­tia, small means that our an­nual pro­duc­tion must be less than 1.5 mil­lion litres of beer. Is Chill Street small? Yes, I be­lieve it is. In­de­pen­dent means not owned by one of the large multi­na­tional beer pro­duc­ers. Also, true of Chill Street. But tra­di­tional? This is where the sim­i­lar­ity ends.

As craft brew­ers, we make beer in the tra­di­tional way—from whole grains, like our brew­ing pre­de­ces­sors have done for thou­sands of years. At Box­ing Rock we use pri­mar­ily malted bar­ley, and when we can, we use malt that has been grown and malted in Nova Sco­tia, New Brunswick or Que­bec. We crush the grains in a mill, then mash them in hot wa­ter to cre­ate wort. We trans­fer that wort to the ket­tle us­ing a process called lau­ter­ing. We boil the wort and add hops—mostly from Nova Sco­tia, New Brunswick or On­tario—to cre­ate flavours. We cool the wort, trans­fer it to a fer­menter and pitch some yeast. It is the process re­quired to brew unique, flavour­ful and tra­di­tional beer.

At Chill Street, they open an an­ti­sep­ti­cally sealed bag of pas­teur­ized, con­cen­trated wort that has been shipped from New Zealand or Ger­many, dump that in a fer­menter and pitch some yeast. They do not han­dle raw ma­te­ri­als. The hard work is done else­where, the raw ma­te­ri­als are not lo­cal and their eco­nomic im­pact is only a frac­tion of that of a real craft brew­ery.

Al­though the NSLC has granted a “mi­cro­brew­ery” per­mit to the Chill Street store, there is no ac­tual brew­ing go­ing on in Elms­dale. At CBANS, we de­fine a craft brew­ery as one that makes wort from whole grains us­ing a full mash process—that is, as a fa­cil­ity where brew­ing oc­curs in the tra­di­tional sense. Per­haps it seems like se­man­tics from the out­side, but it is very im­por­tant to us. As small-scale man­u­fac­tur­ers in Nova Sco­tia, we cre­ate jobs and support other in­dus­tries across the province. For our in­vest­ment, we are granted the priv­i­lege of a man­u­fac­turer’s re­tail store where we can sell di­rect to the pub­lic from our man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity.

Chill Street’s busi­ness model—where im­ported, con­cen­trated wort is fer­mented on premise and then given the priv­i­leges of a man­u­fac­turer—is an in­no­va­tion. But it is not a mi­cro­brew­ery. The eco­nomic im­pact of these facilities does not war­rant in­vest­ment by our gov­ern­ment in the same way as ac­tual brew­eries.

This reg­u­la­tory loop­hole has the po­ten­tial to se­verely dam­age our in­dus­try, and to tar­nish the well-de­served rep­u­ta­tion of Nova Sco­tia craft beer.

The NSLC and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment ur­gently need to act to support Nova Sco­tia’s craft brew­ers by work­ing with in­dus­try to up­date pol­icy to ad­dress this is­sue.

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