I’ve been lucky enough to call home two amazing small cities with long working-class histories. In Newcastle, Australia, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, I have been lucky enough to witness a rebirth in craft beer and cocktail culture. These two places are hardly metropolitan epicentres like Sydney and Toronto (respectively) and yet the craft renaissance has gripped them like nothing I’ve seen before. After pondering on this for some time, and comparing and contrasting these two very similar towns, it seems to me that the success of the resurgent hospitality cities comes down to the people in the cities.
For the years from the ’60s through the late ’90s, Newcastle’s heart and soul was the steel mill. When BHP closed much of the heart of the city was torn out, and the formerly bustling main street fell into disrepair. Hunter Street became a ghost town. But while our industry may have died, Novocastrians (inhabitants of Newcastle [henceforth referred to as God’s Country]) maintained the humble, working-class modesty that made our city great. Always keen for a yarn over a beer and to discuss the footy. When the craft beer revolution took off, people embraced it in such a non-judgemental manner that small craft breweries could not help but feed off it.
The people of God’s Country were seasoned on VB or Tooheys New (and never the twain shall meet) because they had been drinking it for thirty years, and their fathers before them. Those whose doctors told them they could no longer drink, drank XXXX Gold (a mid-strength beer). But presented with a multitude of delicious beers that only cost a buck or two more, the punters took them on with gusto.
There was no snobbery, no “ooh I want a beer with x flavour profile”, just “fuck that’s a good tasting beer, I’ll have ten.” And then the tap would rotate onto a new craft beer and the process would repeat. The people of God’s Country took to these craft beers in the way I had hoped they would. A sense of adventure based on a wholehearted love of beer.
I see a lot of the same here in Halifax. For many people who come into our brewery, their visit may be their first experience of craft beer, and they approach it hoping to be given something they like. Not to find a beer that adheres to a certain judging criteria, but just that tastes great and will get them on the way to a good time.
So as I see the craft beer revival thriving in these two places I love I have to give immense credit to the Novocastrians and Haligonians who are making it succeed. When it all comes down to it, without people to drink the beer, there’s no point brewing it.
So give yourselves a pat on the back guys, you make the process worth it, and are an integral part of the renaissance of craft beers and cocktails.