Friday 27 January 2012

Behind the Labatt Beer Curtain

Like most 30-something Haligonians, I've been on the Keith's Brewery tour before. It's fine for what it is, and you get a beer or two along the way. What I didn't know until recently is that there is another locale, hidden away in the Brewery Market, where a person can also learn about beer... and get way more than just one or two glasses of Keith's for their efforts! That place is the Labatt Beer Institute, and I had the good fortune of being invited to a session there earlier this week.

Everything is shiny... like beer heaven

First off, the space they have set aside for the institute is a lot larger than I would have guessed. It's about the size of the Lower Deck in Halifax, with approximately 15 different beers on tap, and more in bottles. They only have Labatt products, which covers the Keith's family, Bud, Stella, Leffe, and Hoegaarden, to name a few. I think there is also a classroom, but I didn't see it, as the evening I was there the focus was on sampling the beer on hand.  And sample I did!  I gave up on drinking Keith's years ago, so figured I'd give it another try and went with the flight (including regular, Harvest Ale, Amber Red, White and Dark Ale).

Still shiny, but more like beer limbo

Turns out I still don't like it much, especially the White and the Harvest Ale. Regardless, I couldn't let even mediocre beer go to waste, and so finished the flight quickly and moved on to something else. A tap handle just down from the Keith's caught my eye. I'd never seen it before, and so figured I'd give it a try. Called 902, it's labelled as a 'full-flavoured spicy lager.' 

When compared to some of the better local offerings (Garrison PiLs as an example), calling it full-flavoured is a bit of a joke. That said, it wasn't bad either. It had a little more body than your standard Labatt product, and more flavour. The spicy notes dulled the crispness normally associated with a lager, but not unpleasantly so. If I was stuck at an airport bar with the usual poor selection and they had 902 on tap, I'd probably get a pint of it. I guess that's a compliment?  

A beer that reminds you where you are after having had too many

Apparently InBev (Labatt's parent company) has started trademarking area codes across North America, so expect more of these beers to pop up. The 902 is still in testing and so isn't widely available, but apparently it's on tap at two places in HRM. One is the Boston Pizza on Portland St. in Dartmouth; unfortunately, no one on hand that night knew where the second location is.  

All in all, the beer might not have been the best, but it still made for a great evening. Thanks again to those who let me join their visit, and please remind me to take the next day off if I ever get a chance to go back.


  1. I was just stuck at the Halifax airport bar for 4 hours. Thank goodness they had bottles of Propeller IPA.

  2. I'm sitting at Freeman's on quinpool and it has 902, I guess that's the other place.

  3. Frank: Sorry to hear about the delay, but very happy to hear about the IPA. That's key info, which I plan on taking full advantage of the next time I fly out of Hali.

  4. Steve: Thanks for the heads-up! Did you try it?

  5. Currently tasting it at the Mug & Anchor in Mahone Bay