Whelp, it’s the end of May. That means it’s Apple Blossom Festival time here in the Annapolis Valley. The weekend where everyone in my town finds somewhere else to be and everyone outside the town comes to visit. I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t really take part in a lot of the festivities, but it’s pretty cool. I usually check out a bit of the parade, and the fireworks. This year I also attended Blossom Brew Night. It’s the second year for this event. Last year I talked myself out of spending the money on it. This year I was happy to throw responsibility out the window and buy a ticket.
Blossom Brew Night
My $25 ticket included six tickets to spend on samples, as well as a souvenir sampler glass. Items from the three food vendors were priced separately, and additional drink tickets were available for purchase. Vendors included:
Still Fired Distilleries
- School House Brewery
- Roof Hound Brewing Co.
- Meander River Farm Brewery
- Bulwark Ciders
- Noggin’s Corner Cider
- Paddy’s Pub Brewery
- Wayfarers’s Ale Society
- Binky’s donuts
- Nippers, British Fish & Chips
- Longspell Farms (They were making yummy pizzas)
- Barrelling Tide Distillery
Now it just so happened that I had six tickets and there were exactly six breweries/cideries/distilleries that I hadn’t tried before. Obviously, I chose to spend one ticket at each vendor even though they all had between two and six options. I try Paddy’s stuff on a pretty regular basis, enjoyed trying fruity liqueurs at Barrelling Tide Distillery last year on my second round of the Good Cheer Trail, and had a nice tasting at Wayfarer’s late last year. (For those interested, the guy I was talking to from Roof Hound said the GCT is a go for this year, with new places to visit!) I Also didn’t eat at Nipper’s food truck. Because I’m cheap. I ate at Subway before going!
First, I’m going to give a bit of a disclaimer. I’m no expert on beer. I just know what I like. I don’t have a sophisticated palate; I’m always happy when I write down what I think I taste and then find out I was close to right! Oh, yeah, and those other disclaimers – drink responsibly and all that.
I keep a ‘beer’ book (that’s in quotes because I include whisky and cider and, occasionally, wine) where I keep track of everything I’ve tried. I have a 0-5 glass rating system.
0 – Couldn’t even finish it. (e.g. – Keith’s Lunenburg Coffee and Cocao Stout. I took like two sips and poured the rest down the sink. The rest of the six pack is waiting for some good recipes to get cooked into. Got any recommendations?)
1 – I finished it, but I wasn’t happy about it.
2 – I’ll just order a water next time, if this is my only choice.
3 – Would drink again if there are no better options.
4 – Great! This will definitely be my choice, and will be purchased to take home to my fridge.
5 – I will go out of my way to get this beer. (e.g. Big Spruce’s Ra Ra Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout, or Paddy’s Mocha Stout)
Noggins Corner Farm Market
So, I was never a fan of hard cider until last year when I visited the Annapolis Cider Company (again, as part of the Good Cheer Trail). I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been drink more wine, or just because the Annapolis Valley makes the best cider in the world (unlikely, even if part of me wants to say ‘of course it is!”) Noggins is currently making two varieties of cider – Pear Cider and Vintage apple. I chose the pear, just to be different. I thought that, although it wasn’t particularly flavorful, it was crisp and refreshing. Spoiler alert – It was my favourite sample of the event and I gave it 4 glasses.
Meander River Farm and Brewery
So, unlike Noggins and the next brewery, I knew Meander River was in the craft alcohol business, but I thought they were a winery. Well, this was a nice surprise! Since moving here to the Annapolis Valley, I’ve come to appreciate wine more, but I still prefer beer. I tried the Ashdale Honey Brown. This beer uses from honey from Meander River’s own bees. I thought it smelled and tasted a bit nutty, which I was expecting, and the sweet honey was subtle and more of an after-taste. Their website talks about toffee, but I don’t really eat toffee, so I wouldn’t really know.
Horton Ridge Malt and Grain Company
Horton Ridge is another company that I had heard of, but didn’t realize they made beer. (This was an evening of learning new things!) In fact, I thought they were just a regular farm/farm market. According to their website, they are “Atlantic Canada’s only malt house”. Other local breweries use Horton Ridge’s malts to create their own beers. The actual brewing of beer seems to be a new endeavor for the company as I couldn’t find any information about the beer on the site. I was beginning to think they were sampling other beers that just used their malt. They beer selection is, however, listed on their Facebook Page.
I tried their Local Pale Ale – “Made with floor malted PEI barley and wheat, and rye grown in the field next to the Malt House”. It was a little hoppy; a fine ale. Not one I’d go out of my way for, though. I gave it another three (you’ll see a theme).
I actually didn’t choose this for me. As the guy was talking about their beer, I thought this might, finally, be a good choice for my dad. I want to find a craft beer that he will like. Unfortunately, this was not it. The guy did, however, say that they are planning to have a beer ready later this summer that should be a good entry-level beer for guys like my dad. The ‘best’ beer he’ll drink is Keith’s. I’ll have to check this out again later.
Roof Hound Brewing Company
I’d never heard of Roof Hound before this event. They do have a website, but it’s more of a landing page. You can find all their details over on Facebook. I chose a beer whose name might turn a lot of people off – the Big Stink. It’s an IPA that lives up to it’s name, though it’s ‘stink’ is actually good – citrusy. That citrus carries over to the flavour. It’s a very hoppy beer that packs a bite worthy of its name. It’ll wake ya up in the morning.
(No email, please. I know alcohol is actually a depressant blah blah science blah.) :)
I most looked forward to sampling something from Schoolhouse Brewery. I’d heard about it for a while, but hadn’t had the opportunity to try it. After chatting with someone from the Brewery, I chose the Chequers Ale, a coffee/chocolate porter. My second choice was her favourite but I chose the Chequers because it had both the chocolate and the coffee (from local (their next door neighbour!) roaster TAN Coffee) that I’d passed up at every other brewery in an effort to try different things. (Though thinking back on it now, it would have been interesting to try the same type of beer from all the vendors and properly compare them.)
I should have taken her recommendation as I didn’t find it particularly flavourful, unable to pick out either the coffee (though I could smell it) or the chocolate, just really strong, smoky beer. I like a normal porter too, though, so I still liked it. But I didn’t think it was amazing. Another ‘three’.
I chose to book end my samplings with cider, finishing with Bulwark Cider. I’ve seen their ciders in the stores quite a bit, but never tried it. I tried the Rum Cider. Rum + cider? Win! Also, I’ve tried the rummed cider from Planter’s Ridge Winery and quite liked it. I think it’s a seasonal cider, as it’s not on their site. It was dark for a cider (because of the rum?) and was quite sweet… and then there’s the rum. Rating; three glasses, but really close to a four.
You can’t have a bunch of beer, without some munchies! As I said before, I tasted two of the offerings.
Longspell Point Farm created delicious thin crust pizzas. I didn’t buy one, but they were giving out samples and tried a piece of sausage pizza. If you see them making pizza, definitely have some! I don’t really know if this is something they usually do, or where they do it as I didn’t find much about them online. #googlefail
I planned to have just one of Blinky’s Doughnuts but ended up having both offered. The featured doughnut was one of her usual offerings, one made with sweet cider from Annapolis Cider Company (the round doughnut in the photo near the top of this post). It was a bit spicy and so tasty! The doughnut shown below was created just for tonight and used Schoolhouse’s Staffroom Stout. Spicy, cinnamon?, a bit of filling, perfect glaze. So good! Definitely my favourite of the two. I hope she changes her mind and adds this to her regular line up!
The alcohol taste in each was very subtle, if there at all. Both of these doughnuts get a five!
After I finished at the tasting, I could have waited around for half an hour for the bus… or I could go out for more drinks! I planned to go to the Annapolis Cider Company, but it was already closed by the time I got there. I went instead to La Torta – a wood-fired pizzeria with twelve rotating taps of Nova Scotia craft beer. Thought I’d try another beer, read, then catch the last bus out of town. Then I decided I was hungry, too, so I ate some (very yummy!) bruschetta.
I chose Bad Apple Brewhouse‘s Russian Imperial Stout (no longer available, I believe). I give it a four and, while the Noggins’ cider was my favourite of the tasting, this was my favourite of the whole night. It’s not a really fair comparison, though, as I lean to stouts, especially ‘mocha’ (coffee and chocolate-y) stouts like this one. It was smooth and definitely chocolately. I want more!