Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest – Bringing the world’s craft brewers to Halifax

When co-founders Brian Titus and Bruce Mansour started Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest 13 years ago, the North American craft beer expansion was just starting to explode and the majority of the beers on tap at the event could be purchased at the local Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation.  Spotlight on Business sat down with Bruce Mansour, founder of Make It Happen, Inc. and Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, at Garrison Brewingto chat about this year’s festival and how things have changed since that first event in 2007.  One thing that we picked up on was that although the festival has grown over the past 13 years to include beers, meads and ciders from all over the world the focus is still on celebrating the craftsmanship, entrepreneurial spirit and the sense of community of this amazing industry and of course amazing beers, meads and ciders along the people behind them that make it all happen.

~

When things started to happen in craft beer industry, Brian Titus of Garrison Brewing, the brewery that he co-founded in Halifax back in 1997 and Bruce Mansour, founder of Make It Happen, Inc., an events management and sponsorship consulting firm asked themselves ‘Why doesn’t Halifax have a craft beer festival?’  It did not take long for the former diving officer in the Navy, to jump in and look at the opportunity.  Titus has always had a love of craft beer and was an avid home brewer and when he came to the East Coast and noticed there wasn’t much of a craft beer scene he decided to start one so it should be no surprise that he and Mansour would soon organize the first Halifax Seaport Beer Festival.

The first event in Halifax was 5 hours and included 15 breweries which saw about 1,200 people come out to sample what was on tap and available in Halifax and what the craft brewing had to offer.  Fast forward to 2019, “what started as a thread has become a rope,” says Mansour.  The event changed its name to the Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest this year to represent the diversity and inclusivity of the industry, with over 140 brewers and more than 350 beers, ciders and meads from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia along with brewers from Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States as the Maine Beer Box made a stop at this year’s festival supporting a cross-country beer trade making the Halifax waterfront a craft beer enthusiasts paradise drawing in over 6,000 attendees for three tasting sessions spread over two days.

The Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest brought 78 brews from 65 Maine breweries across the border this year in a very unique fashion with the Maine Beer Box, which is a massive 40-foot, refrigerated shipping container set up as a mobile keg fridge with taps fitted right into the side of the container.  In addition to visiting Halifax, the Maine Beer Box has also visited Leeds, UK in 2017 and Reykjavik, Iceland in 2018 in the hopes of promoting both Maine’s local beer scene and the opportunities for international beer trade.

“The whole idea is brewers learning from other brewers around the world and just sharing beers,” said Sean Sullivan, the very passionate craft beer ambassador and executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild as we spoke at Garrison Brewing.  

“The craft beer industry is known for being collaborative, we really see this as a symbol of that global craft beer community collaboration,” said Sullivan.  About 200 people from Maine’s brewing industry were in Halifax not only to pour beer to the many festival goers but to have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with local brewers to learn and share best practices with those in the industry here in Canada.  The craft beer industry continues to grow as a result of these interactions which keeps rising the bar for the industry itself.  Very much like the craft beer enthusiasts that come to these events to meet the people behind the beer and learn the story about their beer, it gives brewers from Maine a professional reason to do the same.

The idea behind the Maine Beer Box is to promote Maine as the best destination for craft beer tourists and to do that our brewers need to go outside of their comfort zone and their professional bubble to meet brewers from all over the world, and learn about different beer styles and the Maine Beer Box gives them that opportunity.”

TheMaine Beer box also opens opportunities for regional brewers in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to meet with brewers south of the border and send their brews to Maine to be sampled by craft beer connoisseurs in the upcoming Sugarloaf Festival happening on October 26th.

This is not the first time that Maine Brewers have been a part of Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest, they have been attending since the very beginning when Titus and Mansour started Halifax Seaport Beerfest 13 years ago, invited seven breweries in Maine to be part of the event.

Sullivan says, “It is always fun to see what is happening in other regions and to see what brewers and craft beer enthusiasts are into when you travel to different events. It is what keeps our industry growing and if we want to make the best beer in the world you need to keep learning and sharing with those in the industry.”

TheHalifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest is truly an amazing event and for two days is a craft beer drinkers paradise.  The event itself is well planned and laid out so that it offers the best possible experience for festival goers.  The Maine Beer Box was an impressive sight as you walked into the Cunard Centre grounds and had your first chance to sample brews from Sober Island Brewing and Noggins Farms Cider, which I must say had one of the coolest antique delivery trucks I have ever seen and the experience just got better from there.

Every brewer was excited to be part of the event and more than happy to share the story behind their business and the brand and pour you a sample or two, maybe three.  To be honest I lost count.  It was also nice to see Meander River Farm, Breton Brewing, PEI Brewing, 2 Crows Brewing and Spindrift Brewing all which have been featured in Spotlight on Business Magazine as our continuing craft brewing and distilling series which like the Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest spotlights those in the industry and brings the brews for you to enjoy.

TheHalifax Seaport Beer festival and it partners are committed to giving back to the communities they serve and that is why each year, Seaport Cider and Beerfest donates a portion of the net proceeds to various local, regional and national charities like the Adsum for Women and Children and the Prostate Cancer Canada Atlantic Region so that you know while you are having a great time sampling some of the best craft beers in the world you are also helping those in the community.

by Jamie Barrie