Story by TINA HENNIGAR
Photos by Béatrice Schuler-Mojon
They’re creating more than award-winning beer, they’re creating community. When Andrew Tanner and George Anderson sat down to talk about the beer business, it was clear, this is about more than beer.
We sat at a high-top, communal table in the Saltbox Brewery in Mahone Bay. It feels like everyone at the table, while strangers, have something in common. The Saltbox’s signature taste and aesthetic has recently expanded into Bridgwater at the King Street Beer Company, and plans are already in place to expand into Lunenburg.
“Some people thought we were crazy but we knew what we were doing,” George said confidently.” Aesthetics are important to their brand and it shows. Their flower arrangements are extraordinary. “Remember what this started out as,” George said of this former garage station.
“Collaboration is a big part of what we do. We bring in other beers. We invite food trucks to sell to our customers and host fundraisers,” Andrew said of working together. “They’re fun ways to work together and enhance the community.”
“People tell us it’s a natural gathering spot, and the way it’s been designed facilitates discussion and engagement,” George said, when asked to put his finger on what makes this place special. “There is a world-wide phenomenon occurring of people rejecting corporate to return to the authentic and the local.” George points to the rise in the craft brewery market as proof of their consumer appeal. “Tourists will ask, ‘Is that made here?’ of our beer, and not only is it made here, but it’s created here, packaged and labeled here. Even the stories are local.”
Quality is paramount. Without a superb product, it would be impossible to build that community. They’ve sought out experts in craft beer-making, recruiting Mike Gripp, a brewmaster from Alberta, who recently moved to Lunenburg County. “Mahone Bay has awesome water for beer!” Mike said enthusiastically. “We want to, as a matter of principal, use all local ingredients, and that can be difficult. We are still having to import ingredients due to supply limitations,” George said. “So, we’ve started to create our own yeast at Acadia University, a product that wasn’t available before. And we can’t get enough hops. We tell people, come here and grow hops. We’ll buy them all,” he laughed.
“The notion that people aren’t willing to take risks here, we’ve not found that to be true,” George said of doing business in Lunenburg County, noting that expanding to Bridgewater was a natural next step. “It’s the fastest growing community in Canada. They’ve invested heavily in improvements. If you can see past some of the negativity, it’s amazing what’s happening.”