All aboard the brews cruise for craft beer fans

Grape Escapes has long been known for hosting fun, informative wine tours –  a fact to which the company’s five-star rating on TripAdvisor attests. Lesser-known Taste Halifax, owned and operated by the same duo, offers a similar experience to those more partial to barley: The Halifax Beer Bus. The tour bills itself as different from an average city tour by providing a local perspective on Halifax’s craft beer scene. I decided to join in on the fun to see how the experience measured up.

I arrived at Chain Yard Urban Cidery on a Saturday afternoon unsure of what to expect. Taste Halifax offers the necessary information online (the $69 fare, the four brewery stops, and a bit about transportation, tour guide, and beer samples), but otherwise little detail. I was met by a boisterous group of birthday goers, retirees, and an engagement party. The crowd was as eclectic as the drinks Chain Yard showcased – from smooth and balanced to crisp and hoppy.

Our tour guide, Max, greeted us with a smile and a lanyard. Beyond the obvious benefit of keeping the beer samples coming, the lanyards offered something more: food pairings for each beer. Amateur foodies needn’t contemplate their options long, however, as Chain Yard’s southern fried chicken and frites were introduced to complement the cidery’s premier drink, the Foundation. Max milled around the room, collecting empty glasses and humouring enthusiastic beer reviews. After relaying some local cider history, he gathered the crowd and directed us to the Taste Halifax bus.

En route to bar number two, 2 Crows Brewing Co, Max let us know Taste Halifax’s role was that of a supportive bystander. Eager to answer questions and help out, but equally okay with standing to the side and letting revellers celebrate.

“I get a feel for the crowd,” he told me. “It’s important to gauge whether people want to learn about what they’re drinking or just enjoy each others’ company. We’re happy to accommodate either.”

Our group had a bit of both in mind. As we sidled up to 2 Crows, enthusiastic beer samplers made their way to the front lines. The brewer’s offer to give a tour of the facility was met with spirited nods. While some openly admired the brewpub’s looming vats, others hung back to chat and relax. 2 Crows’ modern take on beer was both visual and gustatory; taking in the impressive architecture while sipping the tropical Pollyanna made their mission to expose people to beer craftsmanship apparent.

Next up was Unfiltered Brewing. Relying heavily on Max’s direction to get to the pub (it’s unmarked), we piled into the intimate locale.  Small, but not exactly cozy with Guns N’ Roses blaring from the speakers and beer that assaulted the senses similarly – hoppy and heavy. As I walked by a fellow tour patron, he remarked that the IPA he was sipping was “probably my favourite beer yet.” But he’d made the claim a few times already, so it was hard to know whether his review was the highest compliment or more of the same.

Our last stop was Propeller Brewing Company, one of the oldest craft breweries in Halifax. Propeller’s 1997 origin is evident in the building’s façade – something that differentiated it from the other breweries we toured. I may have been the only one mesmerized by the building, but the crowd certainly matched my enthusiasm for the beer. Propeller’s latest, Stone Fruit Summer Ale, was the perfect closing note to the tour.

The Taste Halifax Beer Bus seamlessly blended craft brew education with relaxed indulgence. Our guide, Max, was attentive and chatty – herding, wiping, collecting, recommending, humouring, answering, cleaning, and entertaining us the whole trip. The breweries showcase different stories, flavours, and vibes. Roughly six pints of beer later, (for some, many more), a day well spent.