Sometimes our beer travels and visiting the Earth’s cool quirks mesh just perfectly. In mapping out our first ever trip to Nova Scotia, I found two breweries on the northwest shore of the peninsula along the Bay of Fundy. Two breweries AND the opportunity to see the world’s highest tides was too much to pass up.
We left Bangor very early on Sunday morning geared up for a long drive to Nova Scotia. We pride ourselves on being seasoned travelers but sometimes even Merideth and I can act like rookies. Crossing into New Brunswick, we saw a sign that said entering the Atlantic Time Zone. Merideth and I looked at each other puzzled. We had never heard of such an animal. I figured that it was just the goofy Canadian way of saying the Eastern Time Zone.
After what seemed like an eternity of driving (it had been years since we did such a long haul in one shot) we finally saw a sign saying that our destination, Wolfville, was 20 kilometers away. But we were confused, our GPS gave us an arrival time of 3:30pm but the clock displayed just past 2:00. At that point, I had the epiphany. That sign at the border was trying to tell us we lost an hour!
We pretty much laughed at ourselves for that final 20 kilometers. Arriving at our B&B we sorted ourselves out. A long walk to our first ever Nova Scotian brewery was scrapped due to the heavy rain in the area. Reluctantly, we hopped back in the car and drove over to Port Williams.
Nestled along one of the many finger-like channels that dot the coast, the Port Pub in Port Williams was a beacon of hospitality for the weary beer travelers. More important, it was also the home of Sea Level Brewing. Despite the recent downpour that sent other customers scrambling inside, Merideth and I chose to sit outside on the covered patio. Not only for the view but after eight plus hours in the car, we needed the fresh air.
Parched and famished, we quickly ordered a sample flight and some food. With the important stuff taken care of, we could now stare at the water. We had missed the afternoon’s high tide – we would have had to leave Bangor in the middle of the night to see that – so we were about halfway to the next low tide. Being a day with a full moon, it was an extra special tide with a 36 foot difference between the previous high and the next low. It was fascinating watching the water drain out of the channel somewhat akin to watching a large bathtub emptying.
If we don’t count way too many Alexander Keith’s IPAs on Canada Day 2000 in Victoria, the Sea Level beers were our very first brews from Nova Scotia (those Keith’s IPAs in Victoria probably weren’t brewed in Nova Scotia anyway). There were six beers in the flight ranging from a Summer Blonde and Raspberry Wheat on the lighter end to a roasty Porter with a big creamy head on the dark side. All were very welcome as our first real introduction to Nova Scotian brews with the aforementioned Blonde and Porter being Merideth’s favorites. Mine was Sea Level’s self-proclaimed hop head brew, Blue Heron ESB, a beer that put a smile on this hop head’s face.
The food was excellent. Being both lunch and dinner for us, we treated ourselves to an appetizer of local scallops wrapped in bacon. That was followed up with each of us getting a lobster roll. The non-traditional bun threw us off at first, but the Nova Scotian lobster was sweet and delicious.
Driving back towards Wolfville I rued our bad weather luck. I had conceived a cool little two brewery walk that would have culminated in Wolfville’s quaint downtown. Driving instead of walking down the quiet Main Street (it wasn’t tourist season yet), we found Paddy’s Brew Pub.
Originally, I envisioned a long evening playing scrabble and drinking beer but we were too wiped out from our exertions of the weekend. Our Paddy’s stop morphed into a sample flight and a few pints while chatting with the friendly staff and fellow customers.
The flight ranged from the light Acadian Cream Ale and ubiquitous Blueberry Ale to a dark, dark, smoky Chimney Swift Stout. The star for me was the Annapolis Valley Ale, the most hop forward of Paddy’s brews.
After Paddy’s we went back along the causeway that joined Wolfville and Port Williams to a vantage point to see the low tide in full effect. Seeing the channel completely empty that had been half full a few hours before was pretty impressive. Being kind of a geek, it reminded me of the Doctor Who episode The Runaway Bride where the Doctor drained the Thames.
We frequently came back to one theme on this trip… it’s just amazing some of the places beer travel brings us. Adding our first Nova Scotian breweries to The List was great. Seeing the tides along the Bay of Fundy was a great bonus.