Electric Avenue. George Street. Charing Cross Road. Yonge Street. Spring Garden Road. Anyone who has ever set foot on any of the above streets will know they are famous for their high concentrations of drinking establishments.
Faithful readers may recall that your intrepid liquor columnist is a transplanted maritimer. So, when the word came down from the boss that someone in the office had to make a business trip to Halifax, I was naturally the first to volunteer.
Normally, the first booze-related thought one has of Halifax is the Alexander Keith’s Brewery right down on the waterfront. However, since your intrepid liquor reporter has toured that brewery several times over the years, this trip concentrated on the microbrews available in Halifax.
Doing justice to their Scottish roots, Nova Scotians have a wide variety of microbreweries and brew pubs that are very popular.
After a bleary night of pub crawling, your humble narrator gained a love for the local microbreweries in Halifax, all of which were widely available in the many pubs.
In fact, your globetrotting liquor reporter is penning this very column on the back of a beer-stained napkin in a microbrew pub on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, where the beer is flowing freely, and the taverns are full of cute redheads of Scottish descent.
After a long night of pub crawling down Spring Garden Road, your humble narrator somehow managed to get through all ten brands offered by Propeller Brewing.
For those not familiar with the name, Propeller Brewing is a Halifax-based microbrewery that has been cranking out the good stuff since 1997.
The ESB (Extra Special Bitter) is the local take on the English Standard Bitter style of beer. Purists enjoy this beer at cellar temperature straight from a draught engine, which draws the beer using a hand pump instead of using a pressurized CO2 tank to dispense the beer. This makes for a less fizzy beer than you may be accustomed to, but the full body really shines through when not masked by the artificial added carbonation.
It’s hard to find a pub using a draught engine anywhere outside of jolly Olde England; the only two your intrepid liquor reporter has discovered in his travels are the Brasserie Restaurant in Calgary’s hip Kensington district, and the Banff Brewery in the Banff Clock Tower Mall. All beer snobs should try beer straight from a draught engine, so be sure to visit one of these soon.
Faithful readers will recall that your humble narrator has long been a hop-head, craving the sharp hop bitterness in an India Pale Ale. The Propeller IPA is a fine example of the style, using the more traditional English-styled IPA, instead of the more citrusy American IPA made popular by Californian microbrews in recent years.
To keep things friendly for the lady drinkers, Propeller has a Honey Wheat Ale, which resembles a blend of Big Rock’s Grasshopper and Honey Brown Ales. Using local barley and wildflower honey, this beer has very little bitterness, and is a very clean and smooth-drinking brew. I didn’t drink this one myself, but got a good idea of the flavour from the lips of the redheaded maritime girl that I was chatting up at the bar.
My favourite brew of the evening was the Porter, a style of beer invented in London in 1750 as a full-bodied and nourishing working-man’s beer. Jet-black in color from the use of roasted barley malt in the brewing process, this beer should be consumed at a slightly warmer temperature than the others; take it out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before opening one at home.
As with most Porter beers, this has a rich taste full of burnt cocoa and smoky flavours, and just enough hop bitterness to balance the full mouth feel. With the days of summer behind us, now is the time to switch from the light summer beers to the fuller flavour of dark beers to sip by a roaring fireplace. If you enjoy dark beers, this one will not disappoint.
As luck would have it, the beers from Propeller Brewing are readily available in Alberta, although you may have to visit a well-stocked booze merchant like the Co-op Liquor in Strathmore, or the ever-popular Willow Park Wines & Spirits in Calgary. Pick one up today!