Since visiting Nova Scotia last summer, there's been a notable addition to the Halifax craft brewing scene. The brewery, 2 Crows Brewing Co., opened in January of this year and has already found itself stocked in Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) stores across the province. This means that their bold, flavoursome beers are readily available to all, pouring at taprooms and stacked in kitchen fridges.
2 Crows was co-founded by married couple Kelly and Mark Huizink and Jeremy Taylor, head brewer. They were set on developing a range of off-kilter beers with a focus on Belgian styles with a modern twist. Taylor has a background in biochemistry and only recently uprooted and trekked across the country, moving from British Columbia to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He's fiercely optimistic about the local brewing industry and emphasised that they’ve been very fortunate to be welcomed so warmly; their beers were stocked almost immediately in nearby taprooms, such as Stillwell in Halifax and Battery Park in Dartmouth. In return, they also champion other local breweries (and cideries) on their menu, including Tidehouse Brewing Company and North Brewing Company.
Their presence in the NSLC is particularly significant because of how alcohol is controlled in the province. Unlike the UK, all alcoholic beverages in Nova Scotia are solely distributed by a single entity, the NSLC. Currently, there are only four privately owned and independent wine specialty shops to counter this monopoly, making 2 Crows' relationship with the corporation invaluable in terms of shifting stock. However, there's a maelstrom of controversy about how the NSLC operates and their relationship with the craft beer industry in general that makes for some interesting reading.
The 2 Crows core beers include Pollyanna, a juicy and hazy wild Northeast IPA, the Liesse, a clean and bright table beer, and Pecadillo, a pilsner made with oats. Their seasonals and small batch beers are bold – such as Angel Eyes, a brett pale ale and In the Dry, dry-hopped sour – and demonstrative of just how quickly breweries are growing up in the province and customers’ palates are maturing.
The taproom and brewhouse are located downtown, just around the corner from the city’s fortification, Halifax Citadel on Citadel Hill. It’s a sleek, spacious site that sees the brewery separated only by police line tape to remind visitors to not cross beyond the serving area. Punters can grab a beer and be backseat drivers to the brewing process, surveilling all from the comfort of their bar stool. There are benches to pull up to the bar, tables for groups and an outside patio to make the best of Halifax’s fickle weather.
The taproom is bright – natural light streaming in courtesy of large two-storey windows, with splashes of colour and character throughout. The staff were passionate about the range of beer, taking time to talk tourists through the different styles represented on the board. One explained that onsite training was thorough and continuous. Their beer allowance is generous and staff are encouraged to bring beer to gatherings, as word of mouth is perhaps the most effective form of marketing (and people will always ask about the complimentary beer that they're enjoying).
It was apparent that people were already drinking 2 Crows with gusto. At the end of June, they had no Pollyanna available on keg in the taproom and cans were flying out of the fridge. Because this beer was popping up on menus across Halifax, from harbourfront tourist hotspots to the city’s famed outdoor drinking patios, and with its availability both in bars and through the liquor stores, Pollyanna is already enjoying staple status. We discovered cans in venues across the city and were grateful – the huge tropical juicy hit in this smooth beer made it a sensational summer sipper.
The Fantacity also impressed, a ridiculously drinkable wheat beer with big orange and lemon citrus flavours paired with a hint of coriander. The Angel Eyes was also a hugely interesting beer with a balance of juicy and funky notes and the Midnight Porter was deliciously dank and smooth.
The energy of the team at 2 Crows was palpable, from the staff at the taproom to their head brewer. When speaking of the brewery around town, others in the industry were quick to express their admiration for their adventurous spirit. The most impressive is perhaps to come, however: the brewery has invested in foeders, 65-year-old calvados barrels, and believe that they are the only brewery in North America to have these. With time, their barrel-aged projects will undoubtedly continue to galvanise excitement in both taprooms and patrons alike.
Finally, the origin of the brewery's name? Well, it comes from a well-known nursery rhyme that is more commonly associated with magpies in the UK:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy [...]
We also know that crows are clever – and as it transpires, so is their beer.