Planning on heading to Canada’s East Coast this summer? Then make Halifax, where friendly Haligonians enjoy their music-filled pubs and roof top patios, a must-stop on your Atlantic adventures. I just returned from five rather cool, rainy and beer-soaked days in this historic gateway to the East Coast, but the soggy weather certainly did not dampen the locals’ spirits in their rowdy, packed bars, pubs and patios, literally spilling over with plentiful and flowing local craft beer. Grab some food, quaff some ale, and if you linger into the evening, you will be treated to one of the many local bands that pump out long sets of popular and traditional music to the hand clapping, spontaneous dancing revelers that Halifax is known for.
Here’s where to say Cheers and get Sociable in Halifax:
The micro brewing industry in Nova Scotia is huge and nowhere more evident than in Halifax. Garrison and Propeller Breweries and the quintessential Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale (those who like it, like it a lot) are all popular and successful businesses that have a solid, local feel and if you simply want to do a ‘sampling’ then The Alexander Keith’s Brewery Tour certainly is worth the 16 bucks admission and a good place to start (if you can stomach the sickly sweet historic presentation that four young acting hopefuls put on five times a day). The tour is all of an hour and provides some historical context to one of the first certified brew masters in North America. If you can time it right, try to pound down at least 3 frothy pints of Pale, Red or Dark ale before the crusty bar wench cuts you off. At least that’s what we did.
After our Keith’s experience, we continue to ‘sample’ some of Halifax’s finest micro brewed beer just a stone’s throw from historic Pier 21. Garrison Brewing‘s Dan Mackenzie with his easy going charm and infectious humour kept us well informed and topped up during our tasting. Locals in the Maritimes know The Growler: a re-usable bottle that holds a six-pack of beer! Bring it in for a refill of your choice of the ‘year rounds’ Nut Brown Ale, the Imperial Ale or the Tall Ship Amber for a great BBQ or house-warming gift. Why can’t we figure this out in Ontario? This was the best beer time we spent during our five days in Halifax: truly an indication of east coast hospitality. Thank you, Dan!
The Old Triangle Irish Ale House is a must for food and music and is always packed. Tourists abound here with a great buzz in the place and plenty of local colour that keeps the room interesting. The Triangle offers great beer choices featuring local on tap from Propeller and Keith’s. They serve some great imports and seasonal offerings paired with continuous local, traditional live music and a wee hint of cover band spilling over. This is a must stop in Halifax, just to enjoy the ambiance, several pints of ale and people watching. Typical Pub Grub with such Irish-themed items as Mussels Molly Malone and Paddy Fernandez Nachos round out a wide selection of crowd-pleasing food to satisfy. Have the Curried Chips if you can, one of my work mates was raving about them. Service by the amiable and funny Cindy was outstanding.
The Maxwell’s Plumb a block from Argyle Street’s trendy pubs and eateries offers 60 Beers listed on tap and always a loud and gregarious crowd. Great attentive service by the young ladies (at least the night we were there; generally reviews on-line are mixed) and the (infamous) deep fried salami (we ordered it a second time, although I was not so happy at 3 am) is a ‘local tradition’. Their beer selection pretty much covers everything from Quebec-based Blanche de Chambly to Murphy’s Irish Stout, several Belgium beers and tons of Maritime-based local breweries, with the 80 oz ‘Brewtender’ the way to go. If you are looking at a stop-over between more trendy places and can stand the fried food and stinky pub atmosphere, then you can’t really go to wrong with Maxwell’s Plumb.
The Lower Deck, overlooking Halifax’s waterfront can be a great choice pretty much any night of the week. This is party central so be prepared for long line ups and elbow-to-elbow revelers and particularly on the Sunday night we were there. ‘Sociable’ is what they say in Nova Scotia to mean ‘Cheers!’ or ‘Party!’ And the cheering, jam-packed crowd sure was social, egged on by the six piece house band playing everything from traditional island music, to Peter Frampton, to the Bee Gees. Their Beer Market and Tap Room at Privateers’ Warehouse cater to larger events and private functions so whether you are looking at your next corporate event or simply a rowdy and loud night cap to round out, as in our case, a full day of work and beer tasting, then make The Lower Deck your last stop in Halifax.
Quaff and ‘Social’ well my friends, any time in Halifax. Cheers!
An edited version of this post originally appeared on thesceneinTO.com