THE GAHAN HOUSE: Making craft beer right on the Halifax Waterfront
The Gahan House brewery originated in PEI twenty years ago this March, and as of 2014 Halifax’s harbourfront has been fortunate to host its sister brewery. I sat down with brewmaster Kyle Jeppesen to get a better feel for the Gahan story. Jeppesen has worked at a few different breweries in Halifax, and he’s studied biology and food science at Dalhousie University with a focus on brewing science and fermentation. Jeppesen comes up with the seasonal beers that are unique to Gahan House Harbourfront.
One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Gahan’s beer lineup is that it’s heavy on very easy drinking sessionable beers. Several of those beers have won awards at the local and national level, but Gahan is able to offer new seasonals every week or two as well that are unique to the Halifax Harbourfront location, keeping customers interested. When asked, Jeppesen said the most important thing they strive for is quality, whether it’s the locally sourced specialty ingredients they use for brewing, keeping up with beer trends, or making barrel-aged or casked beers. Creating the highest quality beer possible is always the main goal.
It is this philosophy that keeps customers coming back to Gahan. It was mid-afternoon on a weekday when I dropped by and the restaurant had no shortage of patrons enjoying beers and food. That food is another draw to Gahan; their menus even offer pairing suggestions. Jeppesen said the kitchen uses a lot of locally sourced ingredients like regional seafood and Nova Scotian cheeses. They recently revamped their menu, and I was impressed with the appetizers I tried while there.
I sampled the buffalo cauliflower, which I fell in love with; the ribs, which would fall off the bone just by looking at them; and a great pretzel with both cheddar and sweet mustard dipping sauces. With its beautiful view of the harbor, the Gahan is cozy and inviting, and the food and brews certainly make you want to stay a while. It also happens to be right next to the ferry terminal, which makes it a great spot for a quick pint while waiting to cross the harbour.
6 BEERS TO TRY
Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale
4.5% ABV, 12 IBUs
Named after Canada’s first prime minister, this beer has won many awards over the years, including gold in the category for North American Style Wheat Beer at this past year’s Canadian Brewing Awards. The locally sourced PEI honey is subtle, but lends a nice floral aroma to the brew. This honey wheat ale also presents flavours of sweet grainy malt, and some light citrus in the aftertaste. There is a nice effervescence to this brew, which along with its smooth flavours, make this a very sessionable ale.
Iron Bridge Brown Ale
5.3% ABV, 36 IBUs
Iron Bridge is one of the regular beers in the Gahan lineup and can be found at both PEI and NS locations, as well as bottled at the NSLC. Like the Honey Wheat ale, this is another easy drinking beer, and another past winner from the Canadian Brewing awards. The beer has a low bitterness to back up its sweet malt profile that tastes like cocoa and light brown sugar. Brown ales are also very versatile when it comes to pairing with pub food, which Gahan so happens to have plenty of!
Crosscurrent American Pale Ale
5.5% ABV, 32 IBUs
This is one of the Gahan local gems that you can expect to see in regular rotation down on the Harbourfront taps, although you may notice some variation from batch to batch as brewmaster Jeppesen plays around with the recipe to showcase different hop profiles each time. Currently on is a batch made with simcoe hops. Simcoe is a bold hop variety, with flavours of musky citrus or woodsy flavours, and this beer was plenty flavourful without feeling overly heavy.
7% ABV, 6 IBUs
Definitely one for beer buffs, this is a rare find. With the exception of the yeast, this beer was made using an authentic Finnish recipe, including 50% rye in its malt profile and juniper branches from local trees. This was a fun beer to dive into; it smells and tastes very juicy yet it finishes dry, and it has a sweet sugary aroma but is slightly tart and has a spicy bite from the rye. With only a few kegs left, get down to Gahan house to try this historical style!
Night Vision American Porter
6.2% ABV, 28 IBUs
Often it is hard to strike a balance between dark roast malts and American hops without resulting in an astringent beer, but Jeppesen managed to do just that with Night Vision. This American porter has an enjoyable level of American hops used for flavour, and also to lend bitterness to the ale. It is smooth and dry, but not puckery. The sweet malts are subtle and are reminiscent of chocolate and graham crackers, with deeper roast notes coming through underneath.
1772 India Pale Ale
6.5% ABV, 65 IBUs
Along with Sir John A’s Honey Wheat and Iron Bridge Brown Ale, 1772 India Pale Ale was the third flagship beer sampled from Gahan house. This beer nicely showed off those “C hops” that are typical of American IPAs without being overbearing. All those hops are well balanced with a toffee-like malty backbone. I happened to be having the ribs while I tried this beer and it was a killer combination. This is an approachable IPA that even your “non-crafty” friends will enjoy.
What is Sahti ?
Sahti is one of the world’s oldest beer styles. Originating in Finland, some say this beer was responsible for agricultural development in Scandinavia. Sahti producers traditionally relied heavily on juniper to give it bitterness and flavour, and used baker’s bread yeast for fermentation. Flavours vary by region, but most historical sahtis would have a distinctive tart or sour flavour, likely from lactobascillus bacteria (the same found in yogurt), which modern brewers can intentionally imitate. This rare style brewed at Gahan House Harbourfront is likely the first of its kind to be made commercially in Atlantic Canada.
Meet the Maker
NAME: Kyle Jeppesen
YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY: 5
FAVOURITE STYLES: German Pilsner,
FAVOURITE BEERS: Rodenbach Grand Cru, Saison Dupont, Miller Genuine Draught, Corona Extra, Boon Gueuze
THE NEXT BIG THING IN CRAFT BEER: I am hopeful that large scale oak aging and oak fermentations is the next big thing in NS Craft Beer.