Just off the beautiful and historic LaHave River in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia is a hidden gem of the craft beer world. It’s a spot like no other. They often feature live local music. They have shuffle board, crib boards and board games. And they sell Lunenburg County’s premier craft beer – but they never push the beer. “If someone wants to come and listen to music and play games with friends and only drink water, that’s great,” explained Adam Sarty, co-owner of FirkinStein Brewing Inc. “We’re happy they’re having a good time. We didn’t want to build a place that was awkward to visit because you felt obligated to buy beer. We have a beautiful maple top bar that I built and often people just come in to check us out – and that’s fine. Devin and I enjoy a good time. We’re a little lacking on the business end of things but we do love to have a good time,” he laughed. Devin Fraser, FirkinStein’s other half, agreed. “We’re not marketing gurus but the beer really does sell itself. Our whole lineup – Nor’easter, Set Sail Pale Ale, Project Orange, Beet This, and Rock Your Boat Oatmeal Stout – is available at our store at 673 King Street, Bridgewater. We’re selling our Nor’easter at the Knot Pub and the Rime Restaurant and Wine Bar in Lunenburg. We’re also at the Local Public House, the River Pub and Boston Pizza all here in Bridgewater. People love it.”



By David MacDonald F or Adam, it’s not an “if” question, it’s a “when” question. “We started off with one core beer – we exclusively made Nor’easter, an amber ale, for almost a year,” he explained. “Then after we had our feet under us, we made our Set Sail Pale Ale and then our Project Orange and then Beet This. These are beers that have to stay in the rotation. Our Stout, which when we made it the first time it took a month to sell and now only takes about a week and a half to sell, we’ll have to make that a staple beer soon, as well. Everything we make seems to turn into a core beer – we’ve got to keep them coming. So, we do plan on getting into the NSLC [Nova Scotia Liquor Commission] in the future, but we’re so small and we’re selling so much out of our store right now – and doing well – that we’d need to expand our brewery in Mount Pleasant to make that feasible. But it will happen. It’s just a question of when.” “I’m at the brewery right now, though, bottling. When the phone rang, that’s what I was doing.” As luring as a conversation is about a future where a regional sensation becomes a Provincial treasure, the story of how Adam and Devin got their feet under them is too good to pass up – particularly the part about how they came up with the name FirkinStein. You see, brewing beer isn’t their day job – well, it is when they’ve just finished a backshift at the Michelin Tires plant in Bridgewater. “I just finished a backshift at 7 a.m. yesterday and I spent the day doing paperwork after that – something not so strenuous,” Adam told me. “I’m at the brewery right now, though, bottling. When the phone rang, that’s what I was doing. Devin has a shift at the plant later today.” Adam and Devin are trouble-shooters at the plant – problem solvers. They have a knack for seeing solutions. Always have.

“With our machines, our brewing equipment, we built everything by hand – well, for our boiler we bought a stain- less steel pot, which was a dairy tank. Our boil pot was purchased from our local exhibition – the Dairy Barn – and we converted it into a steam-jacketed electric boiler. Our mash tun was purchased in Moncton from a farmer and our HLT was purchased from a farmer in Windsor – all three tanks were converted to work as brewery equipment and work well. We made everything by hand like a Frankenstein machine,” Adam said. The “Frankenstein machine” is truly the result of a labour of love. “It’s an important part of our story,” Devin explained. “Our passion to build our own brewery equipment started with our small home brewer setups. For me, it really started 15 years ago when I was driving home one day with my wife Amanda. I remember I had five dollars to my name and this old tank in this guy’s driveway caught my eye. I thought it was a firkin. A firkin is an old European-style barrel-shaped keg and it’s smaller than a traditional-sized keg. What it ended-up being was just an old keg. Well, years later when we started to get going with our setup, we incorporated that keg into our equipment. We thought firkin was such a cool name that we decided to stick with it. That’s where the FirkinStein name comes from. Now, our microbrew- ery equipment comes mostly from Kijiji. Our brite tanks



“We made everything by hand like a Frankenstein machine.”

are made of pressure tight wine tanks that we converted, for example. We only have a couple of standard brewery pieces, such as our bottling machine, our kegs, our plate chiller and pumps. We’ve pretty well done it all ourselves.” “There have been a few things we’ve had to hire out, to pay someone else to do. The welding is one. We went to a buddy of ours for that one – and we paid him in beer. He’s a buddy from work. We also needed a licensed electrician and that was another buddy from work. Other than that, everything here has been built by either me or Devin.” “The F-S on either side of the logo, I came up with that on Microsoft Paint. That was our original logo. I just found a script that I liked and I overlaid the F and the S and then sent it off to Devin. Then we sent it off to a local guy here, Ian MacRae with Spitfire Signs, and he upgraded our image so that it didn’t look like a bunch of rednecks did it,” Adam laughed. “But he eliminated the imperfections, the pixels and the uneven edges. My father has also been a huge help; Dad’s very hands-on with woodworking,” he said with a humble enthusiasm. “When we built our store in Bridge- water in the spring, he was over there every time I was. If I said I was heading over after work, he was already there when I arrived.” Devin explained that as hands-on as they were, the encour- agement and support that he and Adam have received from those in the craft beer industry in the province has been a major factor in FirkinStein’s success. “The craft beer industry here in Nova Scotia really is a big family. Before we officially got underway, we met with Schoolhouse Brewing out in Falmouth to see if we were getting in over our heads. When Adam says “everything” he really means it – every- thing right down to the logo.

Cam [Hartley] was awesome. He reassured us that we could do it – but he did tell us we weren’t going to get rich. He told us if we wanted to get paid for something we’re pas- sionate about that we were on the right track,” he said. “When it came to bottles, we just texted Marc Baillie at Hell Bay Brewing in Liverpool and he sent us the contact informa- tion for United Bottles,” Adam continued. “We bought our bottling machine off a place called Pro Brewer, which is mainly in the States, but it’s specifically for smaller breweries – it’s a little like a Kijiji for brewers. Marc also sent us the contact info

we needed to make a connection at Pro Brewer. Even when it came to our labels, we didn’t know who to contact and again, Marc helped us with that. It’s a family, the craft brewing world is.” also includes a lot of loyal FirkinStein custom- ers who have been buying up growlers of beers like Beet This, a beet-based beer as red as red wine, at the local farmers’ market from the beginning. “People are coming to our brew store on King Street and sure, they’re asking for a That family

Nor’easter or a Project Orange, but then they’re asking for one-offs we did a year ago,” Adam said. “We’ve recently realized that there’s a serious demand for specific brews we’ve previously done. We’re not getting to experiment as much as we’d like, but that’s the price of success, as it were. I have an idea for a maple beer I want to brew this spring, something I’ve been planning for a long time, and I hope we’re going to have the capacity to make it when the time comes. Our amber beer, Nor’easter, has been our biggest hit, which is the beer we started with. But we’re still known as the place where people come in to see what’s different and we don’t want to lose that.” Adam’s sense of urgency is a driving force at FirkinStein. “In April 2014, a friend of ours was diagnosed with leukemia – and he recently passed away,” he explained. “Prior to his sickness, Devin and I had only dreamed of becoming brewery owners. Sometimes a person needs to see how fragile life is to understand what true risk is. We only live once so we need to embrace life and live our dreams.”

“We went to a buddy of ours for that one – and we paid him in beer.”


673 King St, Bridgewater, NS B4V 1B4

(902) 530-5400

as spotlighted in the NOVEMBER 2017 issue of SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE

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