Would you care for some wine with that beer?

by Charles Mandel

Say you've got a bit of a hankering for a German rye beer, a German steam ale, or a Belgian blonde. Where are you going to find it?

Likely, you're thinking Halifax, but would you believe, of all places, Chester Basin?

That's right. The tiny town of 2,000 is home to Nova Scotia's newest microbrewery, Tanner & Co. Brewing.

Dan Tanner's operation is very much a home-grown, family affair. His partner is his "poor wife," whom he jokingly claims he dragged into the business, and they run the brewery out of their house.

While the model is not conventional, it's certainly been done in Nova Scotia already; think of Schoolhouse Brewery out of Falmouth, for instance, which also began in a residence, in the basement in that instance.

Tanner's garage contains the actual brewery at this point.

The brewery has been open for all of six weeks or so, and at the time of writing was still producing small 20-litre batches, but Tanner mentioned that he expected to move to a larger production barrel system soon.

Right now it's possible to grab growlers, 750 millimetre flip-top bottles and even 20-litre kegs off of Tanner's door step, but don't expect cans or bottles any time soon.

Tanner says the equipment for canning takes up too much space, so the best way to serve his product currently is with growlers.

"We plan on a little bit of weekend sales for a while from the brewery itself, and then after doing some licensing accounts and selling some from restaurants as well," Tanner notes.

Tanner comes by his interest in brewing honestly. A session on beer during a sommelier program he was studying piqued his curiosity. "Growing up on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, I was no stranger to beer," Tanner notes.

"But the commercial beers we all drank never got me excited."

When Tanner, who also works as White Point Resort's food and beverage manager, decided to take the culinary arts program at NSCC that further fuelled his passion for hops.

"Although not a brewing program, I attribute this course to teaching me recipe building and tight control practices that can be transferred from cooking to brewing," Tanner says in a statement on the brewery's website.

Tanner points out that his interest in beer also grew out of his love of wine. He has a vineyard on his property as well; in fact, the latter looks like it might be finding its way into the beer.

The brewer's Cab Franc Milk Stout combines grape skins and pulp into the stout mash.

It takes Tanner about a month to brew a batch of beer. He uses commercial hops and yeasts currently, noting that "looking for new yeast strains and such, you can go sideways pretty quickly if you don't have control."

So did he face any missteps getting the brewery off the ground? "I'm still having missteps," Tanner says, laughing. "It's a steep learning curve when you're going from doing 20-litre batches that's pretty basic to jumping to 300 or 400-litre equipment.

"There's a lot more bells and whistles, a lot more to learn."

Fortunately, some of the other brewers in the province have been willing to lend advice and know-how. Tanner says brewers from Bad Apple and Saltbox have been particularly generous with their time.

Is there room for another micro-brewery in the province?

"That's a great question," Tanner concedes, pointing out that the province is currently home to some 50 micrco-breweries.

"I think so. The appetite for craft beer is strong, and if you look across the statistics in Canada, craft beer is on the rise and people are switching from the larger producers to craft beer. It's captured more of that market."

Besides, until Tanner & Co. appeared, Chester Basin wasn't exactly jammed with breweries; in fact, Tanner has pretty much eked out an enviable spot, capturing a space largely devoid of brewers between Halifax and Bridgewater.

Locals in Chester and other nearby towns will undoubtedly drink to that.

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