KENTVILLE, NS - A new brew from Alexander Keith’s highlights Nova Scotian ingredients and is helping to bolster the Valley’s burgeoning hop growing industry.
Alexander Keith’s brew master Stefan Gagliardi said the main goal behind Annapolis Hop Field Ale is to promote agriculture in Nova Scotia and to give the province a beer that uses as many Nova Scotian ingredients as they could find.
Gagliardi believes in supporting local farmers, producers and businesses, so he jumped at the opportunity to use Valley hops in the brewing process. He’s interested to see how far the idea can be taken.
“We maximized the amount of Nova Scotian ingredients that we could put into this beer and pretty much everything except our base malt is from the Maritimes,” Gagliardi said.
They started out making one batch of Annapolis Hop Field Ale with hops purchased from one Valley farm in 2016. In 2017, they produced eight batches, approximately 40,000 bottles, to be released through the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. This was the maximum they could produce with the amount of local hops they were able to source.
Gagliardi said they bought one farmer’s entire crop this year and as much hops as they could get from two other growers. All three plan to reinvest in hop production, purchasing harvesting equipment or otherwise expanding operations.
He said it’s a great way to harbour relationships and it helps foster increased hop production so that maybe they can soon brew Annapolis Hop Field Ale year round.
Gagliardi said growing hops is a young industry in Nova Scotia. Putting their energy into helping that industry grow will increase how people perceive the province from both a beer perspective and an agricultural perspective. The ale includes five varieties of hops purchased from the three farms and a supplement of malt from Horton Ridge Malt House.
“What it ends up giving us is a beer that has dominant characters of our province,” Gagliardi said. “Hops grown in our climate tend to have a slightly different flavour than their brothers and sisters from other climates.”
They’ve recognized for a long time that growing conditions impact hop flavour, similar to grapes. He said it’s hard to describe the Nova Scotia flavour but the final product is quite delightful. Annapolis Hop Field Ale is 5.3 per cent alcohol by volume and 20 BU (bitterness units).
“It kind of plays around a very floral note, it’s kind of reminiscent of geraniums, as well as orange peel and gummy bears,” Gagliardi said. “There’s a lot going on and these flavours kind of oscillate in and out depending on how cold the beer is and how good of a perceiver of flavours the drinker is.”
Gagliardi said hops serve the purpose of adding flavour and to create a bitterness balance point to the sweetness of the malt. An added benefit and one reason why hops became a staple of beer is that they also provide anti-microbial properties, allowing the yeast to perform better and minimizing bacterial infections.
The product was officially launched at the Annapolis Winter Night Market at the Wolfville Farmers Market on Dec. 7. Gagliardi said getting all the suppliers they work with who have products to offer together for such an event was something he’s wanted to do for a while.
He said it was like a gathering of friends, including hop farmers, Laughing Whale Coffee (which Alexander Keith’s uses for its stout), SeaBoost Seaweed (used for the Fundy Low Tide India Pale Ale) and Perennia, a not-for-profit corporation with the mission to help farmers, fishermen and food producers be prosperous and profitable.
The event also featured several Wolfville area vendors to promote the community-based approach Alexander Keith’s has taken with the Annapolis Hop Field Ale.