I love Nova Scotia. Let’s get that out there right away. My ancestors came to Nova Scotia 200 years ago and it’s where I grew up. The province, the people, and the culture are central to my identity and personality.
All that said, I’ve been living elsewhere for the past eight years. I’m home often, but I now get to be a tourist in my own backyard.
Liverpool, Nova Scotia is a town I knew very little about except that their minor hockey team always seemed to win when I played against them. That and their pulp and paper mill, which was a regular end point for wood harvested from our family property. It is only an hour away from my home town, yet I know relatively nothing about it.
Well, that all changed this year. My brother (Dave) and his wife (Christina) gave us an amazing Christmas gift – a brewtrip to Liverpool!
Liverpool is in Queens County on the province’s South Shore. The town of fewer than 3,000 people was founded in 1759 on the shore of the Mersey River, where it meets with the Atlantic Ocean. Combine 256 years of history with stunning natural beauty and the warmth of rural Nova Scotians, and you end up with a town that few could resist! Oh, and did I mention there is a craft brewery in the centre of town?
This is where Nova Scotia is world class, in my opinion. The entire province is easy to explore by car and the landscape ranges from the highlands of Cape Breton to sprawling farmlands of the Annapolis Valley. And there is a vibrant urban culture in Halifax. This diversity can typically be explored for little or no cost! And all of this is packed into a province that has a population of fewer than one million people.
Liverpool is loaded with great options for the cash conscious traveller. We started by visiting the beautiful Fort Point Lighthouse. This lighthouse from 1855 is, as you’d expect, right on the waterfront. It overlooks the sheltered harbour, on a point of land that sticks out into the mouth of the river, and is surrounded by a small park and beach. It was also free to both park and visit! In warmer months there are costumed interpreters to help you learn more about the lighthouse’s and Liverpool’s history.
There are small lookouts and parks throughout the town, giving you a wonderful vantage point for taking in the river front views. The town is easily walkable, so we simply parked (free!) and started exploring.
As with any town of Liverpool’s age, there is a hidden history in their cemeteries. The Old Burial Ground, with large trees and paths, is a quiet place to stop and reflect.
You’re also spoiled for choice when it comes to museums and heritage buildings in Liverpool and the surrounding region. The list includes Perkins House, Queens County Museum, the Hank Snow Home Town Museum, and the Old Town Hall.
Although we didn’t get to visit, we heard that Astor Theatre is also a must visit for those looking to take in a show!
If you’re into active adventure, this is also a great place to visit! We don’t have time to list everything, but like most of Nova Scotia, the fishing, hunting, hiking and camping options are extensive! There is a great directory online and it has us wanting to visit Queens County again as soon as possible!
Being surrounded by ocean, with one of the best growing regions in the country, and a steadily growing agriculture sector, Nova Scotia puts those assets to work in its amazing cuisine. Thankfully, Dave and Christina picked a restaurant for us. We’d have never been able to choose otherwise.
A chef in my home town, and owner of Peasant’s Pantry, highly recommended a visit to Lane’s Privateer Inn. Located just before the Bristol Avenue bridge, Lane’s is a classic South Shore building. Not too imposing at street level, once you’re in the parking lot you see how large the building really is. Like much of Liverpool, it’s right on the shore of Mersey River, meaning the views are spectacular whether you’re eating in their restaurant or staying over in one of their rooms.
This Taste of Nova Scotia member restaurant has a great menu, an impressive local beer and wine list, and has an absolutely beautifully designed interior. And I loved the bar – classic shore town pub feel to it!
Dave and I both had fish, which was so fresh and flaky that I’d have sworn it had been in the ocean that morning. Jenn had the chicken burger, which she thought was super tasty and fresh. Christina went with the fried clams which were also very fresh. Whatever you order, be sure to order the poutine to start! One of the tastiest poutines I’ve had!
I went with Propeller Brewing Co.’s Pilsner on tap. It was crisp, hoppy and a little bit bitter. The underlying sweetness was also really nice. Lane’s really is a great choice if you want Nova Scotia beer on tap.
Lane’s also has a gift shop full of local music, books and crafts. The cherry on top is a small cafe, just through the gift shop, which serves a mean cup of coffee!
Liverpool is a great town to visit – period. But with a craft brewery too, Liverpool is a town you simply have to visit someday soon!
Hell Bay Brewing Co. is a relative veteran of the Nova Scotia craft beer industry. When they opened their doors, the Nova Scotia craft beer drinker was limited to primarily Garrison and Propeller. Both great breweries, but wasn’t a lot of diversity compared to other provinces. Now, Nova Scotia is booming. It’s hard to keep track of all the breweries and brewpubs throughout the province.
The visit to Hell Bay was one of our best brewery experiences to date. Their bright red building, just off the main street, is a beacon of craft beer goodness as you walk along the river. Walking into Hell Bay, you’re met by friendly staff, a wall of merchandise and a cooler of singles and growlers. You also quickly get a glimpse of their personalities, as the wall is lined with growlers from craft breweries across Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada. These are clearly people who are of the mindset that craft breweries must support other craft breweries.
We ordered a flight of samples (three samples for $5) and I immediately struck up a conversation with Matthew – who I’ve decided is a Jack of all trades at Hell Bay (see why I think that in our Brewtripping Halifax post!) I have a tendency to engage in long conversations with anyone working in craft beer. However, when that person is also a fellow Nova Scotian the conversation has the potential go all day.
Hell Bay brews great beer. Their flagship beers are the Dark Cream Ale and Hell Bay English Ale. Both are complex, yet approachable. They are beers that can be appreciated equally by both the craft beer tourist and local Big Beer convert. Hell Bay was also serving a seasonal Oatmeal Pale Ale. This was one Dave was wanting to get down to Liverpool to try and it was well worth it! It has that wonderful pale ale bitterness, but with some added depth. Jenn loved this one and picked up peach notes in both aroma and taste, whereas I got grassy notes in aroma.
As great as the beer was, the conversation was even better. Hell Bay is a perfect example of a reversion back to the community brewery model. Their beer is available throughout the province, but we really got a sense that this is a Liverpool brewery first and the rest of Nova Scotia is just lucky enough to come along on the ride. The brewery is a cornerstone of the town’s identity. So much of Liverpool’s marketing references the brewery. And yet my money is on Hell Bay being a growler brewery. Meaning they see lots and lots of town residents. Most people who came into the brewery while we were there didn’t come by car. That means Hell Bay has won over the most important customer: their neighbours.
Craft beer’s history is that of small breweries brewing for the town. If you can’t do that right, you aren’t doing craft beer right.
While chatting, this fact came up. Matthew talked about how much he enjoys a time that most breweries would worry about – the beer tourist off season. During that time, he sees a constant stream of Liverpool residents and those from surrounding towns. But these aren’t simply customers to him and the other Hell Bay employees. These are their friends, family and neighbours. Craft beer’s history is that of small breweries brewing for the town. If you can’t do that right, you aren’t doing craft beer right. Hell Bay doesn’t just do it right, they do it perfectly.
Hell Bay is the type of brewery we love. They have loads of personality, are passionate about brewing, and are fiercely loyal to the town that they call home. On top of all that, they brew delicious beer.
Liverpool really impressed us. I knew so little about this town essentially down the road from where I grew up. And to be honest, if it weren’t for Hell Bay Brewing Co., I probably wouldn’t have gotten back to Liverpool. Now, we’ll likely be visiting the town almost every time we get back to Nova Scotia.
When the culture and personality of the people can match the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings, you know you have found something special.