Newfoundland Brewery Tour: Secret Cove Brewing Co., Port au Port East, NL
Finding ourselves based in Corner Brook for a portion of our trip to the west coast in August, the boys of Mosaic.Wit made the effort to visit Secret Cove Brewing Co., a new family-run brewery located in Port au Port East. Owners Jason Hynes and Sheila Dwyer opened Secret Cove just before Christmas 2018 and spoke to The Racket about their venture.
“The process of opening a brewery began with a concept, followed by a business plan, a design and a strategy,” said Hynes. The beer recipes had come years prior but he admitted that he never thought he and his partner Dwyer would make a career out of something they enjoyed doing as a hobby. “Once we decided to move forward with the brewery idea, we started our business and marketing plans,” he recounted. Work began on converting and renovating an old town hall, along with designing the taproom and installing all the fixtures. Finally after all that came the production of beer.
The name Secret Cove has roots in Hynes and Dwyer’s family tree. “Our family originally settled here [in Port au Port East] fishing, living off the land and raising their families,” said Hynes. “Years later when we returned to Newfoundland we discovered a secluded cove in the same area and have since built our home there.” This “secret cove” has not only served as the inspiration behind the brewery but the sentimental ties to the area also play a big part in the business’ mission statement.
Hynes and Dwyer said there are a lot of great things happening in the Newfoundland craft beer industry and are proud to be part of it. In terms of what makes Secret Cove different from everyone else, Hynes said, “We got into this business to do our own thing. If not we would have worked somewhere else, doing someone else’s thing. That’s always been our vision, focusing on our product we are creating so that someone can appreciate what it is we’ve produced.”
They also noted that everyone in the local craft beer industry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia has been super helpful and supportive specifically noting the owners of Port Rexton Brewing Co., Big Spruce Brewing, and Unfiltered Brewing.
“For anyone who’s ever visited our brewery they quickly recognize the effort and details that have gone into creating our unique, personal, and welcoming taproom,” said Dwyer. This statement rings true the minute you walk into Secret Cove. Handcrafted decorations adorn the taproom along with locally made camping rugs using old fishing rope that customers can purchase. Each beer style has a detailed write up on every table which includes tasting notes and food pairing suggestions, which is a very welcome addition to a taproom for anyone who really enjoys craft beer and food. Perhaps most unique, , the men’s washroom features the most unique urinals we have ever seen (we can’t speak for the women’s).
In terms of brewing, Hynes and Dwyer said they strive to make their beers clean and well balanced. “Port au Port is historically known for having some of the best tasting water in the province and we are grateful for this,” said Dwyer. “That was an early consideration when choosing our site location so we are different in our own way, but similar [to the other breweries] in that we are all building an exciting industry in the province we call home.”
The couple said their background in biochemistry and food science along with a passion and love for creating food and beer pairings has influenced their approach to brewing. Their favourite styles of beer include smooth IPAs that lack harshness, tasty, fruity or hop-forward beers that are balanced but show restraint and high alcohol barrel-aged beers.
Hynes and Dwyer said they take brewing seriously but also like to have fun with recipes. This was quite evident in some of our favourite beers we tasted in the taproom including the Oat to Newfoundland, a style devoted Pale Ale with citrus and silky notes, the apricot wheat ale Come Home Beer, a riff on the popular rural community summer tradition of a Come Home Year, and the NFLD Light & Sour, a Berliner Weisse brewed using Newfoundland marshberries which grow abundantly in the area. (We can also confirm this beer makes a great hiking partner when scaling Gros Morne Mountain).
According to the couple, the response of Secret Cove from the general public and beer drinkers has been “overwhelmingly positive” and they “couldn’t be happier with the feedback.” The praise is also coming from the business community as Secret Cove has been nominated for a Long Range Business Award in the category of “New Business”.
In terms of what might be next for the brewery, Secret Cove is keeping plans a secret but did tease announcements regarding new beers, food options, and tourism.
The Racket’s Recommendations for a Flight: Chin Music American Pale Ale,, Oat to NFLD Style Devoted Pale Ale,, NFLD Light & Sour Berlinner Weisse, and Come Home Beer Apricot Wheat Ale.
***As with the nature of breweries and small batches, these brews may not always be on tap.***