The seaside village of Tatamagouche is located in Nova Scotia’s Northumberland Strait, taking its name from a Mi'kmaq term, Takumegoochk, which loosely translates to ‘extending across’. It’s home to the Tatamagouche Brewing Company, the Atlantic Canadian Beer Award’s 2018 Brewery of the Year.
With a population of just over 2,000 people, it ticks all the boxes of a small, tight-knit community. Its Main Street boasts a bakery, butcher, a family-owned restaurant and an artisan chocolate shop. Blending into its surroundings, the brewery emulates the streetscape frontage, betrayed only by a gleaming water tower looming overhead.
The brewery site was originally a butcher shop, but Tatamagouche Brewing took over the lease in 2013 and opened its doors to the public a year later. Founded by couple Matt Kenny, Christiane Jost and Christiane’s parents (who sold Nova Scotia’s largest winery, Jost Vineyards, in 2012), the business struggled to keep up with demand from early days. They’ve gone through a series of expansions since 2014 and, when we visited in January 2019, they were gearing up for yet another upgrade to double the size of the brewhouse.
The team brews up to five times a day in the summer and most days in the winter. Despite this incredible volume, quality remains at the heart of their business. They’re proud of their certified organic accreditation and have the second lowest dissolved oxygen level in Atlantic Canada, which helps their unpasteurised beer to stay fresh as long as possible.
They’re committed to increasing the brewery’s energy and water efficiency; sustainability is a concern for those who live in the village. At the time of our visit, residents were protesting against proposed gold mining exploration in The French River watershed, a local water supply. The brewery is proud to employ 20 people during the summer months and — with more growth on the horizon — they see this as a socially responsible way of creating local jobs for local people.
Tatamagouche Brewing’s taproom was bustling even in the winter; it acts as a hub where neighbours congregate and tourists immerse themselves in a beer flights. Off-duty employees gave us an impromptu brewery tour and then kept us company for an entire afternoon. It’s that sort of place.
The North Shore Lagered Ale is a popular dependable beer with locals (and won a Bronze at the 2015 Canadian Brewing Awards). An homage to the kölsch style, it’s refreshing with a whiff of grass and a touch of balanced citrus flavours. But it’s Deception Bay, their West Coast IPA, that appeals to the province’s craft beer drinkers. A modern beer, it delivers a wave of bitterness and an intense flavour and aroma profile from US and German hops, delivering punchy grapefruit, melon and resinous notes. The night before, I watched a keg of this beer fly off the tap in Battery Park, a beer bar back in Dartmouth.
The world of Nova Scotian brewing occasionally borrows from local lore; Shelburne’s Boxing Rock Brewing Co takes its name from a legendary place where sailors would resolve their differences over blows. Tatamagouche Brewing’s logo is a two-headed bull, which aptly reflects the brewery’s duality of championing progress while embracing the past. It also refers to a piece of history about a two-headed calf born in the village over a hundred years ago.
Which is exactly the kind of extraordinary tale that’s best recounted over a beer.