There’s a place to chill in Elmsdale.
“After a year, we’ve done the better part of 200,000 cans,” said Barry MacLeod, president and operator of Chill Street Fresh Beer and Cider Market, which takes up about 1,500 square feet of retail and production space at the front of the Sobeys store.
The market sells beer, cider and sodas. There are blueberry, brown, India Pale Ale, Pilsner and light beers. Cider tastes can run from strawberry-lime, gingerhabanero and a new special edition honey-mango called Tide Fest. The market has just launched an old-style root beer, and will add a cream soda and ginger beer.
“We make them in-house,” said MacLeod, who originally hails form Prince Edward Island. “I do a lot of the blending.”
MacLeod describes the outlet as the “first craft brewery located in a supermarket setting in North America.”
The market website echoes that historical reference, boasting it as “the first store of its kind in Canada, an educational craft beer and cider experience in a supermarket setting, literally feet from the grocery aisle.”
The website says everything is brewed on site, “using fine ingredients from around the world, and it’s packaged in our store so you’re tasting our products the way they were meant to drink — fresh. All of our beers are fermented in small batches, free from any preservatives or additives.”
Not everyone accepts the “first craft brewery” assertion.
Emily Tipton, president of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia, penned a letter last year stating that despite Chill Street’s microbrewery permit from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp., there is no actual brewing going on in Elmsdale.
“At Chill Street, they open an antiseptically sealed bag of pasteurized, concentrated wort that has been shipped from New Zealand/ or Germany, dump that in a fermenter and pitch some yeast,” Tipton wrote. “They do not handle raw materials. They do not use local ingredients. And as a result, their economic impact is only a fraction of that of a real craft brewery. The hard work is done elsewhere, and the raw materials are not local.
“This new business model, like Chill Street follows, where imported, concentrated wort is fermented on premise and then given the privileges of a manufacturer is an innovation. But it is not a microbrewery.”
The Chill Street website says all beers are made on a SmartBrew system, which was fabricated and shipped from Prince Edward Island. The system is automated and designed to fit in a smaller space than most craft brewery layouts would require.
“While we rely on SmartBrew for the malt portion of the brewing process, this system allows us to ferment and condition all our Chill Street beers and ciders on site, right in front of you, adding whatever local ingredients our little heart desires,” the website says.
Undeterred by any brewing controversy, MacLeod marches on, last week introducing the mango Tide Fest cider in time for the second annual three-day festival of the same name scheduled for the nearby East Hants Sportsplex in Lantz in mid-July.
“We want it to be part of the event,” MacLeod said. “Labatt is the official beer sponsor, we’d like to be in the cider side of things. On all of our seasonal releases, we associate with the CCOA, the Corridor Community Option for Adults with learning disabilities. We do 25-cent contributions for every seasonal beer or cider we sell. That’s a big part of what we
do in terms of giving back to the community.”
In the past, Chill Street has produced pumpkin ale, a Christmas beer and a St. Patrick’s Day release.
“On all of those we donate 25 cents a can. This will be twice that. Fifty cents from every can sold goes back to the Tide Fest organization, which then diverts it to local food banks.”
Chill Street employs seven people, most fromthe local area. The outlet has stainless steel fermentation tanks in the back and beer taps from which customers can get a taste beforebuying. It has entrances
from Sobeys and from outside the mall, and MacLeod said customers show up from both directions, the Sobeys shoppers often wandering in to see what Chill Street is all about, sometimes with a load of groceries and a child in tow.
“We’re all about food pairings. We’re about an experience. You can taste everything before you buy it. You can watch us hand-can them. We actually hand-label right here. We really wanted to be about the food tie-in.
“Elmsdale has really adopted us. We sell those growler jugs, which is really the culture of the craft brewing industry. That would be like 15 to 20 per cent of our sales. That’s people coming back every week or twice a week to fill them.”
MacLeod said Sobeys manager Paul DeCoste has sort of adopted the Chill Street crew, too.
“We’re happy to be here. A supermarket parking lot is full seven days a week, no matter the rain or the time of year. This is kind of a unique thing for his (DeCoste’s) store and so, it’s really been good.”