New microbrewery in Ashdale, Hants County, a culmination of a 30-year dream

Ashley Thompson
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The latest development at Meander River Farm is creating buzz in Ashdale.

Alan Bailey, co-owner of Meander River Farm and Brewery, is ready to introduce the public to the first variety of beer that will be sold from the microbrewery he’s dreamed of opening for nearly 30 years.

Bailey started growing hops — a key ingredient in beer — four years ago.

Lunchbox Pale Ale, a 6.5 ABV per cent craft beer that may be on tap at the Spitfire Arms Pub in Windsor soon, was first released for public consumption when Bailey decided to open the doors of his developing microbrewery to customers on May 17.

 “We tried to make something that the craft brew drinkers that are established now would enjoy, but that would also be something that people who are just making the transition from the traditional beers into craft beer would enjoy as well,” said Bailey, who runs the family-operated farm and brewery with his wife, Brenda.

 

Lunchbox history

The first batch of beer on tap at Bailey’s brewery is named in honour of his father-in-law.

“My father-in-law helped us renovate our first home and he’d show up with his metal lunchbox every day,” the experienced homebrewer recalled with a smile.

The lunchbox, an everyday essential turned cherished keepsake, is a symbol of the work ethic Bailey’s father-in-law instilled in his family.

It is that work ethic, largely characterized by the willingness to go nonstop, that’s made the rural West Hants property now known as the Meander River Farm what it has become since the Baileys occupied the land in 2004.

Their children, now pursuing post-secondary studies, pitched in to help the Baileys grow the family business while also working off the farm.

“I want them to go out and find their own way in the world, and if this happens to be a success and they’re interested in it, then there will be a place for them for sure,” said Bailey.

Bailey’s end goal is to retire on the farm and create a sustainable business that will support his family for generations to come — should they choose to make a living on the farm.

“The pigs cultivate and fertilize. We plant behind them. The pigs eat the spent grain product from the brewery and the spent water from the brewery is used to irrigate the crops.”

 

Value-added approach

The brewery, complete with a retail shop – predominantly featuring tastings, growlers, kegs, unique handmade items and products made from lavender grown on the farm – is meant to be a primary source of revenue.

“We’re just trying as many different value-added approaches as we can to try and really make a go of it here on the farm.”

Bailey intends to have two to three varieties of beer on hand at all times when the small brewery, still under construction, is more established. He said he is permitted to brew up to 200,000 litres of beer per year, but his business plan only calls for 20,000 litres in the first year.

In addition to offering homegrown craft beer, Bailey hopes his 186-acre property will become a popularagritourism destination.

The full “Meander River Experience,” as he calls it, will include tours of the brewery and flourishing hop yard, plus visits with pigs, turkeys and chickens. For the ambitious travellers, Bailey is prepared to mark out a walkway that leads to a waterfall hidden in the outer reaches of the property.

“We’re hoping that people will be able to come here and just sort of relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” he said, adding that the guests will be invited to walk around and enjoy the lush flower gardens.

The Baileys, both of whom still have off-farm jobs, will open the microbrewery from Thursdays to Sundays in the summer season. The hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, and varied on Thursdays and Fridays.

Bailey expects construction to wrap on the brewery’s headquarters by the winter, but he knows that when one job ends, another will begin. And the Baileys wouldn’t have it any other way.

“There’s no finish line on the project. This is the rest of our lives we’re talking about here,” he said.

“We love it. We’re totally enthralled with our life out here.”

 

 

Geographic location: Ashdale, Hants County, Windsor West Hants

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  • Mark
    May 21, 2014 - 17:54

    Congrats Al and Brenda! I know you've been at it for a few years now and it's finally come to fruition. I'll be up to have a cool one at some point. Again, congrats on your hard work and success