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Something brewing in central Newfoundland

Central Newfoundland is seeing a surge in interest in craft beer.
Central Newfoundland is seeing a surge in interest in craft beer. - Adam Randell

Craft beer businesses in Twillingate and Gander seeing success this summer

In a tilted glass, an ale slowly runs from the tap, fills the bottom and starts inching its way up. As it nears the top, Dave Jarret — aviator turned brewer — alters the holding pattern to bring the brew in for a landing, producing very little head.

Clearly, it wasn’t his first pour.

Looking at the glass, the co-owner of Gander-based ScudRunner Brewing Ltd. can’t help but admire the microbrewery’s latest on-tap creation, dubbed Lovebirds.

The India Pale Ale (IPA) craft beer's name was inspired by a couple – Nick and Diane Marson – who met and fell in love in central Newfoundland when 38 planes and some 6,600 passengers and crew were diverted to Gander following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

It’s just one of a number of aviation-themed brews to be offered on tap since ScudRunner Brewing Ltd. officially opened May 28.

“It’s been hectic, but it’s been excellent,” said Jarret. “The local reception has been phenomenal and there’s been a lot of interest in St. John’s.”

ScudRunner Brewing Ltd. officially opened its doors on May 28. Over its two-month run, co-owner Dave Jarrett said demand for the product has created 12 part time positions at the Gander microbrewery.
ScudRunner Brewing Ltd. officially opened its doors on May 28. Over its two-month run, co-owner Dave Jarrett said demand for the product has created 12 part time positions at the Gander microbrewery.

A growing trend

The Gander operation isn’t the only business betting on craft beer. Split Rock Brewery in Twillingate opened about a year ago and is evidently a growing success.
Co-owner and brewmaster Matt Vincent, 35, returned to his hometown roughly four years ago. Even back then, the prospect of establishing a brewery was already planted in his mind.

Vincent eventually approached Tim Vatcher, 32, who owned a vacant property with his father in the centre of town. Now this former dollar store that once sat worn and unused is becoming one of the liveliest businesses in Twillingate.
Nearing one year since Split Rock opened its doors to the public, the business has provided employment for eight people, offers a year-round venue for area musicians, and is actively fostering interest in craft beer among locals.
They have been reaping the benefits of success thus far, but the ability to give back to the community and offer employment is particularly satisfying for the hometown boys.
“With the times in rural Newfoundland, we’re developing something that’s creating jobs, putting food on the table and keeping people home – and that’s a great part of it,” said Vatcher.

Matt Vincent, left, and Tim Vatcher with some of Split Rock’s brewing machinery. The business celebrates its one-year anniversary this August.
Matt Vincent, left, and Tim Vatcher with some of Split Rock’s brewing machinery. The business celebrates its one-year anniversary this August.

Looking ahead

For its part, ScudRunner is currently providing kegs to nine restaurants on the Avalon – six regularly, with three others trying out the product.

“They are taking more than we sell here, so we are looking at that positively,” Jarret said.

As a result, ScudRunner has 12 people working in part-time positions, doing everything from manning the bar to filling kegs and overseeing the brewing process.

And if everything goes as planned, the brewery could be looking at adding to its work force come fall. Jarrett said the company’s canning equipment has been set up and the design has been approved.

After testing the equipment and a few trial runs, the product will be ready for distribution, eventually moving into Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation markets.

“People don’t always want to come to a bar to drink, so it’s about making our products more portable and more accessible,” he said. “We get a lot of requests from people about where they can find our products — soon we’ll have an answer.”

Closing in on a strong first year, some Split Rock crafts are now available at pubs in St. John’s and elsewhere. Vatcher and Vincent have hopes to further grow the business with a kitchen already in the works and plans to bring their beers to more pubs and maybe even liquor stores.
“Food is on the horizon for sure,” Vincent said. “We’d really like to start getting our beer further out on the market place as well.
“Doing packaged products is definitely on our radar.”
Whatever lies ahead, with a lot of hard work, passion and luck the Twillingate brewery has already built a firm foundation with plenty of opportunity for growth.
“We have fantastic support from the community, people are excited to people that we got a brewery in town,” Vatcher said. “It’s been a long road with all the work that went into this place, but it was definitely worth it.”
 

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