No trip to Cape Breton Island should be complete without a visit to Big Spruce Brewing – one of Canada’s only organic, on-farm microbrewery. Brewing seriously delicious craft beers overlooking the picturesque Bras D’or Lakes.
I have to admit I’m a wine gal. Heck wine is even in the title of my blog (because you can not have food or marriage without wine!). And usually beer isn’t on the tops of my list of what to drink, which is clearly because I have NOT been drinking craft beer. A recent visit to Big Spruce Brewing completely changed my thinking on beer, and left me craving for my next trip to this small organic, on-farm microbrewery.
Over the past year I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this small brewery on the Island, and with my interested seriously piqued I recently found myself following the bright yellow ‘craft beer’ sign off the main highway and traveling up the winding hill to Canada’s second only on-farm microbrewery. And coming around a sharp corner, I’m greeted by a bright blue farmhouse the home of Big Spruce Brewing.
Glazing out over the Bras D’or Lakes and the farm’s orchard on that hot summer day (a rarity for Cape Breton this summer) the brewery is a buzz with visitors. Approaching the brewery I see to my left an enclosed porch, which serves as a tasting room and gives new meaning to the saying ‘drinking in the view‘. Entering the brewery’s tasting bar and shop to the right, I’m greeted with the famous Cape Breton hospitality. After chatting with the friendly staff we discover that one of the ladies and my Dad are on a running team together, and a visiting family friend had been by brewery earlier that day. It these occurrences that remind me of the joy of living in a small, friendly community. City living has it benefits, but it can’t match the charm of a small town.
To share a little personal truth… This wine gal loves the smell of beer breweries. There is something warm, inviting and yes intoxicating about the aroma of the hops brewing that I love. Enjoying the scent of the brewing beer I browsed through the shelves of locally made products using Big Spruce beer. From soap and nuts, to vinegar and marmalade; Big Spruce has a unique, and after taste testing, delicious assortment of beer treats. We’ve all heard of nose to tail cooking, well Big Spruce has openly applied the concept, ensuring no beer goes to waste. And I couldn’t help but fall in love with the cheeky t-shirts baring the slogan ‘Farmer is the new hipster’.
While I could have happily stayed all day sipping beer and chatting with the friendly staff, I had a drive and a dinner date with my Dad ahead of me, which meant I had to be selective about my choice of what to sample.
Chatting with brewmaster and founder of Big Spruce, Jeremy White, he recommended trying the new Silver Tart, a sour raspberry wheat ale, and to stick with what I would generally drink for my second choice, which for me meant a red ale – Regatta Red. I should have guessed by the ‘Farmer is the new hipster’ slogan that their beers would have equally cheeky names… Glass of Spin Me White Round anyone?
As I have admitted I am by no means a beer expert, but let me have a go at sharing what I tasted…
The Silver Tart is an unfiltered sour raspberry wheat ale that has some serious history behind it. Brewmaster Jeremy White was contacted by Parks Canada with a mission to help them reimagine Alexander Graham Bell’s (In case you missed that history lesson he is the man responsible for the telephone) personal recipe for his drink of choice – raspberry shrub. White, working from Bell’s personal notes that detailed his making of the sour cordial, created a purposely soured wheat ale that has been aged on fresh raspberries. The result is refreshing beverage, that is perfectly at home in a champagne flute served as an aperitif. A beautiful cloudy pink color, with a delicate pink head, this ale has a lovely aroma of raspberries and slightly flora. The taste is tart, not overwhelming sweet, which offers more citrus tones over a sweet berry. Silver Tart is a limited release, created to be served at this summer’s production of The Bells of Baddeck at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, and is hands down my favorite ale ever!
REGATTA RED ALE
Perhaps it is days of a misspent youth in Ireland, but I love an Irish red ale. So choosing the Regatta Red as my second tasting was an easy choice to make. At first glance this ale has a gorgeous deep amber color with a slight cooper head that is probably better suited to a fall day than a warm summer afternoon. I loved the malty aroma of this ale, the taste has slightly sweet caramel notes, that was nicely balanced with the bitterness of the ale. A crisp finish, this ale – for me – was brewed to be enjoyed with friends over a long evening filled with music, tales, and laughter. If you like red ale, you will love Regatta Red Ale!
If you’d like to enjoy your beer with a view, be sure to visit Big Spruce Brewing your next trip to Cape Breton!
Big Spruce Brewing was included in Food Blogger’s of Canada Where to Eat This Weekend Cape Breton Edition article as a just for fun destination.