GARRISON BREWING COMPANY: One of Halifax’s first microbreweries celebrates its 20th birthday this year

GARRISON BREWING COMPANY: One of Halifax’s first microbreweries celebrates its 20th birthday this year

Article: Angeline MacLennan
Portrait and brewery: Riley Smith

Twenty years ago, the beer scene in Halifax was not the bustling hotbed we know today. After 12 years of home brewing and struggling with the home brewer’s constant dilemma of continually improve one’s beer recipes, Brian Titus decided to open a brewery. He thought, “How tough can it be?” Garrison’s Irish Red was their original flagship beer, first produced in 1997, and it has gone on to win multiple awards over the years, including gold at the World Beer Championships.

Garrison, to me, is quintessentially Halifax. The name itself speaks to our city’s military history. The cannon logo (which also decorates the Irish Red) is a visual reminder of those on Citadel Hill who fire every day at noon. The brewery sits majestically on the waterfront and enjoys patronage from cruise ship passengers, local farmers’ market visitors, beer nerds and beyond. There is no particular beer drinker who visits the brewery; instead there is an eclectic mix of age and demographic. Titus chocks up their wide breadth of customers to the brewery’s array of beer styles. Their tap list appeals to beer drinkers of all stripes, and they also offer ciders and sodas for non-beer drinkers and even water bowls for four-legged friends.

In the ever-evolving beer industry world, Garrison has their sights set on an expanded barrel program. They plan to barrel-age up to 40 barrels of select specialty beer for months and years at a time. Customers can also look forward to a newly renovated hospitality room where Titus is hoping to host more events, including the possibility of a longer Oktoberfest celebration. Titus says they aim to participate in as many events as possible because it’s a great, fun way to interact with patrons and get immediate feedback. You can expect to see Garrison’s strong sense of community support with more brew-offs, collaboration brews and concerts this year, while also showing support to other events around the city.

So swing by, grab some food from the Seaport Farmers’ Market and sit on Garrison’s sunny patio while watching cruise ships and market-goers. It’s a truly Halifax experience!

The Brews! 

Irish Red

5% ABV, 20 IBUs

The Irish Red ale was the first beer to grace Garrison’s taps 20 years ago. Bringing the malty goodness, this beer relies on dark caramel and Munich malts for its medium body and beautiful red colour. This award-winning Irish red style also has lots of toasty and sweet flavours. The British hops (Fuggle and Pilgrim) give this beer a grassy, earthy must, almost like damp Irish weather, or dew on the grass. It’s not hard to see why this ale has stayed as a flagship all these years!

Triple IPA

9% ABV, 100 IBUs

To celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, Garrison has released this limited edition powerhouse. Style-wise, it falls somewhere between a double IPA and a barley wine, so this beer is a big boy. It has the carbonation levels and fresh hop characteristics of a double IPA, while having the pleasing sweet alcohol warmth of a liqueur typically tasted in a barley wine. There is a nice caramelly malt backbone to this hoppy beer, and I’m excited to fire up the barbecue and fire on a thick, juicy pork chop to pair with it.

Hoppy Buoy American IPA

6.5% ABV, 50 IBUs

The Hoppy Buoy was first launched in April 2016 to replace Garrison’s original India Pale Ale after the company’s rebranding. It is aromatic with lots of American hop flavor, which is nicely balanced by its malt character. With mango and pine flavours coming from the hops, this is definitely a crushable IPA, and it will definitely keep your taste buds afloat. Keep this in your bag to enjoy while camping after doing some sea kayaking.

Sugar Maple Ale (sold out for season)

6.3% ABV, 17 IBUs

What better drink to have while celebrating Canada’s 150th than a maple beer? The maple syrup used in this beer was sourced from Sugar Moon Farms, and you can detect it more strongly in the beer’s flavour than in its aroma. I’m not typically a sweets-lover and was skeptical about a maple beer, but this beer actually has a well-balanced bitterness to it and a medium body, so it doesn’t feel overly heavy. It obviously tastes of maple, but it’s also reminiscent of oatmeal with brown sugar.

Juicy! Double IPA

8% ABV, 75 IBUs

Now in a can! Citra, Ella, Mosaic hop action. Thick and luscious with an attractive orange hue, this juicy beer is aptly named, and tastes like summer. It is a definite hop-forward double IPA with lots of tropical fruit and citrus. This is a good example of how hoppy and bitter are not synonymous, as it has bursting hop character, with a restrained bitterness. This beer has a cult following, and is sure to be a quick seller. Right some juicy!

Seaport Blonde

4% ABV, 8 IBUs

This is one of my favourite blonde ales. It is well crafted, and what I consider a “gateway beer,” meaning that it helps domestic beer drinkers easily transition to craft beer. The Seaport Blonde is the type of beer I want to drink during the summer at the beach or by the lake. It has a light and sweet grainy malt flavour, almost like cereal. It is has a sunny yellow-gold colour, and is superbly easy drinking.


Meet the Maker

BREWMASTER: Daniel Girard

YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: 19

FAVOURITE STYLE: IPA

FAVOURITE BEERS: None in particular. Daniel enjoys trying all kinds of beers, all the time.

THE NEXT BIG THING IN CRAFT BEER: The next thing is sours, but IPA will continue to be the big thing in Halifax for a long time to come.


Pucker up for a kettle sour

Garrison is relaunching their “Pucker Up!” beer series for the summer! Aptly named, these beers are kettle soured. Kettle souring is a technique that allows various microbes, often the same ones found in yogurt like lactobascillus, to lend a hand in the fermentation process and add distinct sour notes. The wort is boiled for a few minutes then rapidly cooled, at which point the bacteria are pitched. After a few days, the wort is boiled again to kill off any remaining bacteria and stop the souring process. What’s left is a very puckery, sour liquid to make beers. Kettle sour beers take roughly the same amount of time to ferment as a regular ale or lager, unlike other sour beers which can take years to ferment and condition. Keep an eye out for Garrison’s cranberry, pomegranate, and hibiscus sour beers for a lip-smacking pucker!

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