Karl and Rebecca Whiffen stand in their craft brewery located in Lyons Brook. AMY MACKENZIE – THE NEWS
LYONS BROOK – On the shores of a small fishing outport in Newfoundland, a man set up a general store and brewed beer for his customers. In the 1940s, beer was hard to come by in rural Newfoundland, so you made it yourself or if you lived near Southern Harbour, you bought it from a man named Leo Whiffen.
More than 70 years later, his great nephew, Karl Whiffen, has tapped into his brewing genes and is opening a craft brewery in his uncle’s name, providing Pictonians with a beer experience they wouldn’t have unless they travelled to another region of the province.
Uncle Leo’s Brewery will open this weekend in Lyons Brook.
Home brewing has been a hobby of Karl’s for many years and for two years he and his wife Rebecca have been developing a craft brewery business plan.
“We always wanted to own our own business, so it was a natural progression to have our own outlet, where he can brew on a larger scale and sell it,” Rebecca said while sitting in the tasting area of the brewery.
Handcrafted beer is a product known in some parts of the province, but is lacking in northern Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is home to 17 craft breweries, including Uncle Leos, with several located in Halifax and others scattered throughout the rest of the province in places such as Cape Breton, Yarmouth and Kentville.
“The market here (for craft beers) if you look at Nova Scotia Liquor Store stats, is smaller, but we’re hoping to change that,” Rebecca said. “It’s catching on so well everywhere else, we thought maybe if there was an outlet here, we could do it.”
Craft beers, as opposed to mass-produced beers, are made in smaller batches and tend to use ingredients with no artificial preservatives and the fermenting process isn’t sped up to meet production demands. Uncle Leo’s is different from most breweries because it’s set up in rural Nova Scotia, which allows them to brew with fresh well water.
“Since we started our business plan two years ago, craft breweries have really taken off. There’s a lot of new ones in Nova Scotia this year,” she said. “The craft movement started west and moved east so it’s really hot in Vancouver and then peters out as you go east, but we’re catching up.”
With some help from well-known Halifax brewmaster Greg Nash, Karl transferred his brewing skills to a larger scale and has two ale recipes brewing: Uncle Leo’s Red Ale, which Karl has been perfecting for three years, and a West Coast India Pale Ale called Uncle Leo’s IPA.
“Karl had developed an IPA recipe but then he went out west for a visit to Oregon and tasted West Coast IPA and he really liked it,” Rebecca said. “He asked Greg to help him put that West Coast twist on it, and Greg was more than willing to help. It’s got that hoppy experience to it, but then it finishes cleaner.”
Uncle Leo’s Brewery will have a two-day grand opening this weekend during which customers can taste the beer and will receive an $8 growler bottle and glass for free when they fill a growler for $10.
Uncle Leo’s grand opening will take place Saturday from 2 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. at 2623 Highway 376, Lyons Brook. For more information go to uncleleosbrewery.ca
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