Brewery bridges gap between quality and sustainability

Bridge Brewing brings Belgian ales to east coast

Brewmaster Josh Herbin prepares another sold out batch of Bridge Brewing's finest.
Brewmaster Josh Herbin prepares another sold out batch of Bridge Brewing’s finest. (Photo: Matthew Ritchie)

A bouquet of green hops adorns brewer Josh Herbin’s left arm. The NSCAD graduate had the flower tattooed on his body when he got serious about making beer and says he plans to get another addition to the growing vine for every subsequent year he works as a brewmaster.

If the Jan. 23 opening of Bridge Brewing is any indication, he may soon run out of space.

“It looks like we’ve been going for a while, but we’ve only been brewing since the end of October,” Herbin says about selling out of beer within the first three hours of opening. “We thought we had quite a stockpile, but I guess we underestimated how many people would show up.”

The brainchild of Dalhousie MBA graduate Peter Burbridge, Bridge Brewing is a new microbrewery in town that brings the pair’s extensive background in home brewing to Halifax’s north-end.

Compared to other like-minded microbreweries, which can run over a million dollars to get off the ground, Bridge Brewing was financed for under $100,000 through friends, family and CEED.

But this isn’t your average microbrewery. Located at 2576 Agricola St., Bridge Brewing specializes primarily in Belgian ales, a cornerstone of the beer market that has otherwise gone underrepresented in the Halifax brewing community.

A self-described nanobrewery, in comparison to independent upstarts Propeller and Garrison, Bridge Brewing currently operates within a 4.7-hectolitre system and expects to produce between 80,000 to 120,000 litres of beer annually, the equivalent of 60,000 to 90,000 growlers a year.

But what they lack in size, the group makes up for in taste.

Bridge Brewing's beer gets ready for sale.
Bridge Brewing’s beer gets ready for sale. (Photo: Matthew Ritchie)

Bridge Brewing currently offers two beers on tap:

  • a Belgian blonde known as Gus’ 65-metre Ale (named after the distance between the brewery and the north-end pub where it will be served)
  • and the more complex, robust Farmhouse Ale.

Although the beer is currently sold in only 750ml growlers from the company’s cold beer storefront, Brooklyn Warehouse and Gus’ Pub have already signed on to serve up drinks on tap.

After the $5 deposit, growlers can be filled with Belgian Blonde for just $5, while the full-bodied Farmhouse Ale clocks in at $6, a fair price in comparison to more well-known brewers like Propeller, who offer 1.89L growlers starting at $18 including deposit.

And after less than a week of operation, beer drinkers like what they’re tasting.

“It’s an interesting kind of smooth taste I wouldn’t really expect,” says Dainis Nams, a first-year master of engineering student at Dalhousie University, while sampling the Farmhouse Ale. “This is worth going through fast.”

But Herbin says their drinks are for more than just Halifax’s beer-loving university community.

“It’s been awesome to see the demographics in the store, because I kind of associate craft beer with a younger crowd,” he says. “But we’ve had a full scope of people from young to old, men to women.”

Once these grains are used up, the remaining byproduct - known as spent grain - will become feed for local farms.
Once these grains are used up, the remaining byproduct – known as spent grain – will become feed for local farms. (Photo: Matthew Ritchie)

And although they’re just getting their feet off the ground, Burbridge and Herbin are using their nanobrewery’s size to their advantage. They plan to turn the company into a zero emission operation in the future, giving customers peace of mind by purchasing a product that leaves a small eco-footprint.

“I just feel like there’s been a resurgence in the appreciation of craft products and niche markets,” says Herbin. “People are starting to realize that everything that’s big and huge and fast and efficient may not be the best way to treat the world.”

On top of using hops from Herbin’s Annapolis Valley farm, with the help of TapRoot Farms, the pair plans to reuse their spent-grain for animal feed and hopes to reuse water as much as possible during future brewing processes.

As the company grows in size and production, Herbin says they’d like to reinvest into more sustainable practices and have a no landfill policy one day.

“Now it’s all about making lots of beer,” he laughs.