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Special Brew - Horton Ridge, Annapolis Brewing collaborate on special new all-Maritime pale ale

Craft beer creation uses local products

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL - Take Horton Ridge malt, hops from Berwick, a beer recipe collaboration, and what do you get? A brew day at Annapolis Brewing Company and fingers crossed for a great new pale ale that should be ready to sample in a week or so -- about 400 litres of it.

Connor Stewart and Stephen Mastroianni from Horton Ridge Malt and Grain Company loaded up the truck April 22 and headed down to ABC in Annapolis Royal at the other end of the Valley to drop off supplies and help Paul St. Laurent and Danny McClair heat up the water, pour in the barley, oats, and rye, and eventually scatter in two kinds of hops.

The two craft beer breweries created a unique recipe that St. Laurent said stretches the boundaries at both ends but should result in a unique brew people will like.

There’s a lot of waiting involved in beer making, so talk tended towards favourite brews, the latest happenings in Nova Scotia’s burgeoning craft beer industry, and eventually the need for takeout pizza as lunchtime rolled around.

But when the water hit the right temperature, the talking stopped and Mastroianni took a big paddle and stirred while McClair, Stewart, and St. Laurent poured in the different grains and let them soak in the mashing process that allows malt enzymes to break the starch down into sugar.

Annapolis Brewing Company brews out of an old carriage house on St. George Street and recently swapped out their old tiny tanks for four new five-barrel tanks that allow them to increase production many times over.

Significant Dates

Because regulations require it, those new tanks have to be labeled. St. Laurent and McClair chose numbers as names.

“What we did was numbered them after significant years,” said St. Laurent. “So 1605 is the settlement date for the area; 1710 it was named Annapolis Royal; 1994 it’s deemed an historic site; and 2017 the Annapolis Brew Company was established.”

It’s in tank 1710 that the collaboration brew will be fermented when liquid (wort) from the mashed barley, oats, and rye is dumped in along with yeast.

“The four of us came up with a plan to do a collaboration brew and because Horton Ridge has all local organic malt we thought it would be a great idea to do an all-Maritime malt and Maritime hop brew,” said St. Laurent.

As they waited for water to heat up, he talked about the recipe.

“In our recipe writing, it was unique, it was kind of like a card came,” he said. “We started the recipe, flipped the recipe over to Horton Ridge and they added their signature on it malt-wise, flipped it back to us, we added our malt thing on, flipped it back to them. Then we got to the hops it was back and forth, and at the end we came up with a recipe that literally is 50-50. And that’s what we’re doing today.”

Horton Ridge

Horton Ridge Malt and Grain Company is a unique venture that prepares barley and other grains for brewing by germinating them to produce enzymes and then drying them to prevent further germination.

“We buy grain from farmers locally, as local as we can get it,” said Stewart. “We have oats from PEI, barley from PEI, and rye that was grown on our farm. I think we have a large portion of that rye in this (recipe).”

After the grain is cleaned, Horton Ridge steeps it in water over the course of two days and then takes it upstairs to the malt floor.

“That’s where it germinates – the starch turns to sugar,” said Stewart. “So it lays on the floor for about four or five days while we rake it and keep it from getting all knotted up. And then it will be dried in a kiln to five per cent moisture and to make sure it’s shelf-stable and then from there you can make beer out of it.”

Horton Ridge is the only malt house in Atlantic Canada. But back in the day, malt houses were fairly common and supplied local breweries.

“The hops are from Fundy Hops in Berwick,” Stewart said, noting that a lot of the ingredients are local from along that stretch of highway from Horton west through the Annapolis Valley.

The Hops

The recipe calls for two kinds of hops – Galena to bitter it and Centennial to give it a citrus flavor.

“We went with something that is going to show off the hops, but it’s still going to be a fairly malt-forward beer,” said Mastroianni, Horton Ridge’s brew master. “So you’re going to get a lot of the rye notes and showcase the barely as well.”

He described the brew as a pale ale, middle of the road, nothing overly hoppy but it will have some hop character. As Stewart said, they do want to show off the Valley hops.

Mastroianni said they are very excited about the collaboration with Annapolis Brewing Company.

“It’s our second big collaboration with local brewers,” he said. “We love it. It’s an opportunity to come down and hang out with our fellow brewers and produce some really great beers.”

McClair said he hopes ABC will be able to launch the beer at their new taproom that’s scheduled to open in May and at Horton Ridge at the same time. It will also be available at the Annapolis Royal Craft Beer Market that opens May 13 at Market Square where both Annapolis Brewing Company and Horton Ridge will have tables.

Most of the new brew will be in kegs, but McClair didn’t rule out a few bottled stubbies. “We’ll see how it goes,” he said.

Across the province, McClair sees great things.

“I think the state of the craft beer industry is good and growing,” he said. “It’s strong. There’s good representation along the Valley and into Halifax. We hear great things and everyone seems to be growing and succeeding and making a great product and representing Nova Scotia well.”

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