THE CRAFT BEER AND LOCAL FOOD CELEBRATION - Local Connections Halifax’s annual flagship taste fest returns January 12

THE CRAFT BEER AND LOCAL FOOD CELEBRATION - Local Connections Halifax’s annual flagship taste fest returns January 12

Article: Jordan Whitehouse
Photos: Scott Thieu

The lineup is selected, the brews are picked and the chefs are busy refining their menus. Local Connections Halifax’s flagship event food and drink event returns January 12 to the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront, and it’s set to be Halifax’s most delicious night of the year. 

For an all-inclusive $85 ticket to the Craft Beer and Local Food Celebration, you’ll get all of the bite-sized eats and 4-ounce craft beer and cider samples you can handle from 34 of this province’s top eateries and breweries. Plus, the Mike Cowie Quartet will be on hand, setting the mood with cool jazz tunes, as will a Casino Taxi concierge, making sure you get a cab at the end of the night and get home safe

Unfortunately, we can’t reveal what the chefs and brewers will offer quite yet, but judging from last year’s eats and drinks — which ranged from double IPA risotto balls and maple whiskey porter, to sustainable blue salmon and wild blueberry cider — your taste buds should be happy.  

But don’t expect a glutton fest. “It’s not about a starter pistol going off and then how much you can get in your belly,” says event founder and Local Connections owner, Alex Henden. “It’s about taking the time to really experience things, and there’s an exploration quality to the event.”

Set within two ballrooms and two connecting spaces, the event should allow you plenty of room to explore. And in case you discover a few beers you want to remember the next time you get thirsty, you can pick up a beer and cider list there that will detail everything served.

Another important addition this year will be more vegetarian food options, which Alex admits was one miss from previous years. This year, though, his team will make sure participating restaurants know that both carnivores and herbivores attend. 

Attempts at improvements are the norm for this event, which Alex started in 2014 at The Halifax Club. Then, it was a seven-room, seven themes taste-fest where about 20 restaurants and breweries served about 420 people. Now, it’s a more open concept at the Marriott with about 800 attendees and 30-plus local foodsmiths and brewers. 

It likely won’t get any bigger, though. “If you get too big, it changes the atmosphere and the experience,” says Alex. “If we doubled in size, it would become almost silly. You'd end up missing out on a lot of stuff. I simply like the idea of everyone having the chance to go to every single table and to be able to see everything and taste everything.” 

Alex got the idea for the Craft Beer and Local Food Celebration after going to a cocktail competition in the city hosted by a group of out-of-town event producers. He enjoyed himself, he says, but all he could think about was how much better it would be if everything was local instead. Not wanting to compete on the cocktail front, he picked craft beer and food for his event. It was good timing, and not just because no one was doing an event like this, but because the interest in Nova Scotia’s beer and food was about to explode. 

With at least another ten breweries set to open within the next year across the province and new local eateries popping up every month, that interest isn’t subsiding. That’s good news if you’re running a magazine and events heavy on food and drink. More importantly, though, it’s good news for the rest of us wanting to discover new flavours and support a local industry.

“One of our goals in doing events like this one is that you’ll leave and remember what you tried,” says Alex. “Maybe you’ll find a new favourite brewer or beer, or you’ll come across a restaurant you haven’t been to. And now, because you’ve met them at the event, and tasted their wares, you’re likely going to go seek them.”  

As per tradition, tickets to the Craft Beer and Local Food Celebration will likely sell out by late December, and there won’t be any sold at the door, so if you are keen to grab a piece of the action, get your tickets today!

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