By David MacDonald W hen Armstrong walked behind the bar to pour me the first 5oz sample – the German-style Festbier they call Coastal Lager – I was imme- diately reminded of my grandfather. He was a school teacher and lobster fisherman in Cape Breton who painted his buoys the blue, red, and white of the Montreal Canadiens. When storms snapped his lines and his buoys crashed to shore, local beachcombers always knew who they belonged to and that my grandfather would pay a modest sum for their return. He’d repaint them, measure new lines, tie them to a new trap and toss them back to the mercy of the waves off Port Morien until they were unable to fulfill their duty any longer. Sitting on its side on the bar with 24oz Tallboy cans of each of Spindrift Brew- ery’s four lagers perched atop – labels faced-out – was a blue, white, and red striped wooden lobster buoy that reminded me of my childhood in Canada’s Ocean Play- ground. It was slightly weathered with a new line attached as if it were recovered the morning after a nor’easter. It was a connection that made the flavours I was about to experience that much more full. “This is an Oktoberfest-style beer. So it is caramel in colour, has a lot of malt-forwardness to it and a nice bitter, hoppy finish to it. It’s quite nice.” As I watched him pull back the first of four custom beer tap handles that resembled in shape and colour the different buoys profiled on each can, I was reminded of our conversation earlier in his office. “Spindrift occurs when a wave crashes. Just imagine a wave crashing. You see a mist come off the back of that wave – that is spindrift. It’s fresh. It’s bold. It happens at an exciting time when the wave finally crashes,” Armstrong said from behind his desk. “It also happens in the winter, with snow drifts. The blowing snow that comes off the top of snow drifts is spindrift again. It’s very much Maritime imagery and that’s what we were going for.” “Do you want to try some?” Usually when I conduct interviews for the magazine, it’s me asking the questions, but this was definitely an occasion where I was hoping to be asked that one question in particular. The man asking was Andy Armstrong, co-owner and managing partner of Spindrift Brewery in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He was offering me samples of Spindrift Brewery’s four micro brewed lagers and after a tour of the 3,400 square feet state of the art production space where Brewmaster Kellye Robertson puts them all together, I was thirsty.



Knotty Buoy is a Bavarian Pilsner and thus it’s buoy boast the colours of the Bavarian Flag. The newest entry to the line up, Abyss, a German Style Shwarzbier (black lager) boasts a cream colour buoy with a large black dot, symbolizing the tantalizing dark liquid that is Abyss. As he grabbed a fresh sample mug and moved back to the tap, this time reaching for the yellow and azure buoy tap handle to the Bavarian-style Pils they call Knotty Buoy, I had to ask Armstrong a follow-up question that had formed in my mind earlier: “When did it all come together?” I asked him after I finished 5ozs of Knotty Buoy, which did live up to its description as a refreshingly crisp beer with a dry finish.

After I sampled what I can only describe as a delicious tease of sweet malt, spicy rye, and orange flavours, he began to pour me another 5oz mug from the contents of the next tap, Riptide IPL – a northeast-style hoppy lager with subtle tangerine and pine aromas. He told me, “This is Nova Scotia’s first India Pale Lager – we’ve made a lager-version of an IPA. It’s delicious. It’s a north- east-style, Maine- style IPL and nobody’s done it before.” It was delicious. “Spindrift occurs when a wave crashes. Just imagine a wave crashing. You see a mist come off the back of that wave – that is spindrift. It’s fresh. It’s bold.” After Armstrong told me he’d pass along my compliments to chef, as it were, I took this moment to ask him why each can profiled a buoy rather than spindrift itself. He explained that “When we tried to graphically depict spindrift it was impossible. You can’t do it justice. So Andrew Bell, my business partner, said, “Spindrift is a great name, there’s more than one story behind it, but what is more Maritime and nautical than lobster buoys? Every lobster buoy is individ- ual; they have their own markings so that fisherman knows it’s theirs. So we’ve adopted that. Each buoy in the corporate logo represents the colours of each of the Maritime flags. Each of the Spindrift brews has a buoy with it’s own identity. This buoy is present on the cans and casts down to a replica buoy tap handle for the bars and restaurants. Coastal Lager is Blue and White to pay homage to Nova Scotia colour’s. Rip Tide is yellow with a red angled slash, as evidence when a rip tide occurs a red and yellow flag is placed on the beach.

“We brewed our first beer in August, 2015 but broke ground that February.”

But it wasn’t his first foray into the beverage industry, I learned.

“I own another company calledAtlantic Spirits and Wines and it represents dif- ferent alcohol beverages from around the world. So, I’ve been involved in the beverage and alcohol game for close to 25 years now. I’ve worked directly for Molson and Seagrum.” I was eager to have a sneak-peak sample of Spindrift Brewery’s newest beer, Abyss – a traditional Ger- man-style black lager that features a combination of malt proole and German Hersbrucker and Magnum

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hops – but I was curious what motivated Armstrong to take on Goliath.

minimum of 10%. So, you will see, more than likely, the craft beer industry in this province double over the next half-decade – and then get even bigger. With the amount of microbrewers, craft beer will rise to 15% in the fore- seeable future. This is why we’ve committed to brick and mortar,” he said as he handed me a cool 5ozs of dark, crisp, Made in Nova Scotia lager. “Every lobster buoy is individual; they have their own markings so that fisherman knows it’s theirs. So we’ve adopted that.” Abyss did have, as described at, notes of toasted grains, coffee and chocolate malts – not to mention an elegantly smooth finish. It was just as Arm- strong told me earlier, “a sessionable beer.” It’s not a stretch to say that the initialism IPA is known around the globe. India Pale Ales are as ubiquitous as their ingredients. I confessed to Armstrong – who didn’t, by the way, have a bar towel over his shoulder – that I’d never heard of an IPL before. He assured me that’s common. “We’re a lager-focused brewery. Chances are most micro- brewers people come across are ale-focused. We decided there’s tons of ales flooding the market place. Everyday there’s a new one. But you don’t come across a lot of microbreweries doing lagers, or at least focusing on them. We make four beers, soon five, and they’re all lagers. And the difference in that is this: an ale can be made anywhere between five and fifteen days from the time it’s brewed to the time it’s packaged to the time it’s available for con- sumption. Lagers need 35 days, minimum, from the time it’s brewed until we put it into a package of some kind. Lagers ferment at much lower temperatures than ales do. The lager fermentation process is anywhere between seven and 15 days, depending on the alcohol content you want and how many times the yeast has been pitched – and then it has to lager for three weeks after that. So you get a much more refined product with a lot of natural car-

“The next big thing is small batch brewing and we discov- ered an opportunity in the craft beer segment. Craft beer has always been something I wanted to do – myself and Andrew. He has family lineage that goes back generations to brewers in Newfoundland. Although there are several microbreweries in Nova Scotia, still only five percent of business done at the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission is craft beer. When you look at developed markets south of the border and elsewhere in Canada, it should be a

bonation. Less filtration is involved and shelf life is greatly extended as a result of lagering process. When you’re brewing in much smaller sizes, the malt and the yeast is exposed to so much more, so you’re getting much more flavourful beer than you can get out of the big commercial systems. The other big thing is that there are no additives or preservatives. It’s four simple ingredients.” When I enquired as to how long it took Armstrong to famil- iarize himself with the vernacular of brewing, his answer was anything but self-promoting. “Beer’s always been the same. Beer needs fermentation, it needs laydown time. Andrew and I aren’t Brewmasters, so we went out and found a very, very capable young woman by the name of Kellye Robertson.” Kellye is a graduate of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia who then went on to the Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program at Niagara College, Ontario, a two-year concentrated studies program focused on brewing beer. “She came up with the recipes. What we did [Andrew and I] was go out and identify the holes. We asked ‘What are the styles that aren’t out there that might entice the consumer?’ This particular line of beers is very consum- able, it’s darker in colour, has got lots of flavour to it, it’s a very nice product.” He continued: “The brewery is the most technological- ly advanced of its size anywhere east of Ontario. We’ve invested. It’s fully computerized, well with the exception of the malt room, and once the malt is put into the bin she [Kellye] wants with the various styles of malt. Literally one person can brew; she can brew beer by herself.”

ing of malts. This leaves the by-products of Kellye’s job ripe for the feeding. “A dairy farmer comes and picks them up, free of charge,” Armstrong said. “It’s high quality feed for his cows.” “The brewery is the most technologically advanced of its size anywhere east of Ontario. We’ve invested. It’s fully computerized.”

The canning line is very efficient – well, a better word might be ‘cool’ – and it’s worth a look.

The bells and whistles are every bit impressive as Arm- strong boasted at the bar.

“On our Facebook page there is in fact a video of the process, as well as on our webpage.”

The entire brewery operates on steam heat. Nowhere is there an open flame used in the brewing process, which eliminates hotspots in beer kettles and in turn the scorch-

If you’re in the neighbourhood of Frazee Drive in the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, the

retail store where I sat and sampled beer as Armstrong’s guest is definitely worth a look. “We do tours for the public, host tours and samplings for bachelor and bache- lorette parties, do our kegging and deliveries out of here, and we sell our product. The Growlers are extremely popular – we sell a ton of them.” Spindrift Beer is also available in Nova Scotia Liquor Commission stores and locations throughout the Atlantic Canadian provinces.

YOUR BUILDING PARTNER IN ATLANTIC CANADA With offices in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland JWLINDSAY.CA

many thanks to our advertisers

Spindrift Brewing Co.

21 Frazee Avenue. Burnside Industrial Park Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B3B 1Z4 902-703-7438 •

YOUR BUILDING With offices in Nova

as spotlighted in the OCTOBER 2016 issue of SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE

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