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SUMMER SUDS ‘The more the merrier’: Annapolis Valley brewers say craft beer appeals to those from 19 to 90 in Nova Scotia

Heather Luby, taproom manager at Lunn’s Mill Beer Company in Lawrencetown, draws a Charming Molly for a customer. She says there really isn’t any defined demographic for craft beer drinkers – it appeals to all ages and genders.
Heather Luby, taproom manager at Lunn’s Mill Beer Company in Lawrencetown, draws a Charming Molly for a customer. She says there really isn’t any defined demographic for craft beer drinkers – it appeals to all ages and genders. - Lawrence Powell

MIDDLETON, NS - Nova Scotia craft beer appeals to people ranging from 19 or 90, but as for a specific demographic, a couple of local brewers say there really isn’t one.

Go into a taproom or stand in line to fill a growler and you’ll find yourself talking to older folk who’ve been waiting years for the craft beer revolution to hit Nova Scotia or younger people who just know that small-batch brews with local ingredients and attention to detail make sense.

There are brewmasters changing it up with new recipes that include anything from oranges to blueberries and even include coffee in their beers. There are lots of hoppy beers that you’d never find at the NSLC. Sometimes, you just have to try a beer named Charming Molly or Ceasefire IPA.

There are a lot of reasons people of all ages are getting together with friends to raise a cold one in a taproom where they can actually see the brewing process take place. Heather Luby, taproom manager at Lunn’s Mill Beer Company in Lawrencetown, describes a recent evening.

“Last Friday night, we had a full house … at the first table, all the people were in their 50s; the second table, everybody was 19 to 22; and the other tables were in their 30s,” she said. “So we had a nice wide range of age for people who come out for craft beer. I wouldn’t say it’s a specific age.”

Old and Young

Sean Ebert, a partner and brewer at Lunn’s Mill, thought the demographic would be the older crowd, plus a few NSCC students.

“Lawrencetown is a fairly old community, as far as the demographics go, or older. So we were kind of expecting the local community and then during the winter the students from COGS (Centre of Geographic Sciences),” he said.

“We knew that there was going to be a mix there, but I’m finding it really interesting seeing the younger people that are coming out of the woodwork – because there’s a place for them to come. So that demographic is starting to change.”

He said young people are coming from as far away as Greenwood to the east and Annapolis Royal to the west to enjoy the taproom.

“So yes, the demographic is definitely a lot younger than I was expecting,” he said, noting that the NSCC students ranged in age from 19 to mid-20s and even a little bit older.

“They’re all gone now, but we’re finding that that demographic is still here even through the summer. We’re pleasantly surprised by that too,” he said. “We were expecting during the summer to be once again our local population and tourism.”

But, he said, people are coming out from Greenwood and people coming out from the city too.

“We’re making ourselves a destination which is really cool.”

 Complete Summer Suds series and map

Mobile?

One characteristic that might define craft beer drinkers is that they’re mobile, at least in rural Nova Scotia, where breweries stretch out across the countryside, giving craft beer aficionados reason to hop in the car, so to speak.

“I’m of the mindset the more the merrier,” said Ebert. “The more things there are for people to do here, the more people you’re going to attract to the area, and not just people driving through on their way to Halifax, or on their way to Wolfville – coming and making it a place to spend the day and maybe spend the night.”

The buzz around craft beer, including the great food supplied at some taprooms, gets people out.

“There needs to be a draw, there needs to be that critical mass of things to do, and I think we’re starting to get there, especially with the guys down at Annapolis Brewing Co.,” Ebert said. “We’re starting to see people come out from the city. They stop at all the different breweries along the way.”

Ebert also points to local wineries and cideries as part of the mix. There’s Beavercreek Winery directly across Highway 201 from Lunn’s Mill and a new cidery is expected to open a few kilometres away.

That’s part of the critical mass and there’s plenty of patron crossover, he adds.

Staff at Annapolis Brewing Company get a sense of what a customer is used to in a commercial beer and helps them find something similar in a craft beer.
Staff at Annapolis Brewing Company get a sense of what a customer is used to in a commercial beer and helps them find something similar in a craft beer.

All ages

“Being a home brewer for many years and being a craft beer drinker, drinking craft beer in the US and craft beer here, you always seem to look around when you’re having craft beer and you’re seeing the demographic and it is literally from legal drinking age to grand-dad,” said Paul St. Laurent, who, with Danny McClair, owns Annapolis Brewing Company.

He speculates that the demographic ‘pocket’ may be around age 40.

Some new clients may not know what to expect at local taprooms, so staff at Annapolis Brewing Company get a sense of what a customer is used to in a commercial beer and helps them find something similar in a craft beer. They offer samples of the beers on tap or sell ‘flights’ of beer – trays with a variety of two-ounce glasses. That interaction assures that somebody new to craft beer has reason to return – the taste of good beer.

Luby and staff at Lunn’s Mill do the same.

“They’re all talking about the craft beer,” she said. “So when they come in, they’re all welcome to have a sample of anything and that’s how we get the ball rolling on talking about all the craft beer.”

A look around both taprooms at any given time shows people of all ages and gender identities – it’s about the beer, the food, the socializing - and craft beer as an experience.

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