Newfoundland Brewery Tour: Port Rexton Brewing, Port Rexton
Port Rexton Brewing is playing a big part in the tourism industry boom that is happening on the Bonavista peninsula. Alicia MacDonald and her wife Sonja Mills opened their craft brewery in mid-2016 offering six to eight beers throughout the year. Since then, they have managed to assemble a team of ten employees who are dedicated craft beer lovers while undergoing two expansions and brewing some fifty-one beers. According to MacDonald, who spoke to The Racket via email, the team at Port Rexton Brewing strives to provide the public with great beer and new, interesting styles. “We are thriving on the excitement and passion that the craft beer industry is gaining,” she said.
The brewery celebrated its second birthday in July with a celebration that featured a number of other businesses offering pop-up shops in the taproom, including Jack Axes and Third Place Cocktails and live entertainment. New beers were unveiled including High Fives, a Foeder-Aged Brett Kettle Sour that Port Rexton Brewing called “a celebration beer”. “It was a time!” MacDonald said of the celebration, which was well deserved. Since opening, Port Rexton Brewing has tripled their production capacity by purchasing more fermentation space allowing for more beer to be brewed at the one time. “We are producing beer out of our barrel house and foeder and using older and new techniques to make our products,” said MacDonald but also admitted that there is still much to learn.
One thing that Port Rexton Brewing does not need to learn is how to get involved in and give back to the community. When we visited the taproom, Port Rexton Pride had just kicked off. The town of Port Rexton was holding the event and both MacDonald and Mills served on the organizing committee. The brewery, along with a number of other businesses in the town held various events throughout the week in support of LGBTQ2+ individuals and families. “The brewery held Queer Trivia and arranged for musicians to come to play on Saturday night,” said MacDonald. “It was a lot of fun and great to see a small rural community hold its first pride event ever.” Port Rexton Brewing also collaborated with Queer Beer, a group of homebrewers in St. John’s on a special brew to commemorate Port Rexton Pride, a Whitbier called Come Out Wit Ya.
This Belgian wheat beer with aromas of coriander, bubble-gum, and banana was on tap along with Flight of the Mango, a mango Pale Ale that resembled fruit juice and tasted almost like a smoothie which could be a little dangerous for this easy drinking ale. These beers paired perfectly with a grilled cheese sandwich and a poutine from Oh My Cheeses who operates a food truck right outside the brewery. Owner Lisa LeShane celebrated Port Rexton Pride by offering a special rainbow mac and cheese as well as a special Pride cookie.
When it comes to influences in terms of how Port Rexton brews their beer, MacDonald told The Racket ideas come from traveling to other breweries and sampling their offerings. “Travelling to other parts of the world and seeing and tasting what other breweries are doing is always a great influence,” she said. For this reason, MacDonald said that her favourite type of beer depends on mood, season and activity. “As long as a beer is made well with love and attention, we can appreciate any style.”
MacDonald thinks that every craft brewery in Newfoundland is offering beer drinkers something different, which makes each one special. “Port Rexton Brewing, in particular, has a barrel aging program that will really distinguish us from others in the years to come. We brew our beer using well water and do not use any chemicals to treat it,” she said. This unique water profile allows Port Rexton Brewing to create a number of hoppy beers, which is why they seem to offer a number of IPAs. Aside from the brewery and taproom in Port Rexton, they also have a retail shop at 286 Torbay Road in St. John’s where customers can fill growlers, buy merch. In the winter, they also offer some bottled and canned brews to try. “We hope to see more rural breweries attempt this in urban areas, as it’s a great way to sell fresh beer in the winter,” said MacDonald.
Port Rexton Brewing is happy with the reception they have received from the public. MacDonald said that people have been receptive and excited by what Port Rexton Brewing has to offer but they have also been patient as the brewery works to meet the demand for craft beer. “The public has waited in lines, been told no growlers fills for the day, or they can only buy 4 cans at a time to help spread the love to more customers; most times a smile is returned and a response of understanding,” said MacDonald. “We are grateful of our customers and are trying desperately to expand again to fulfill their needs!”
Port Rexton Brewing is excited to see how the craft brewing industry in Newfoundland will grow in the coming year but they also have a lot of respect and admiration for the O.G. craft breweries. “We wouldn’t be here without the support of Quidi Vidi, Yellow Belly, and Storm Brewing,” said MacDonald. “They are the three companies that spearheaded the craft beer scene in Newfoundland and we are grateful for every text, email and phone call they have answered to help us open our doors.”
The Racket’s Recommendations for a Flight: Come Out Wit Ya Whitbier, Flight of the Mangos Pale Ale, Chasing Sun NEIPA, and Blue Steel Kettle Sour.
***As with the nature of breweries and small batches, these brews may not always be on tap.***