Newfoundland Brewery Tour: Split Rock Brewing Co., Twillingate
A lot can change in one year, especially in the booming Newfoundland craft beer scene, which is growing in leaps and bounds. Robin and Tim Vatcher along with Matt Vincent have seen a whirlwind of change since entering into a partnership that would become Split Rock Brewing Co. and the Stage Head Pub in Twillingate.
“It’s been a busy first year, and with that comes a lot of learning,” Allison Vincent told The Racket via email. She said many of the highlights for Split Rock Brewing Co. are associated with new beer releases. “We were pleasantly surprised when one of our beers, Alli's Big Brown Ale, aka ABBA, won a silver medal at the Atlantic Canada Beer Awards last fall,” said Vincent. She also noted the amount of fun they had collaborating with Port Rexton Brewing on their Next Generation brew and some craft beer events they attended back in March.
Craft beer is a different game from the brews that many people are used to from bigger companies. Vincent said that the group at Split Rock are most excited to welcome visitors to the Stage Head Pub in Twillingate but that they weren’t really sure how the beers would be received by locals. “A lot of people are getting used to the idea of filling growlers and grunters regularly, but it take time for people to embrace a change to their routine,” she said. Stage Head Pub is quickly becoming a hub in the community and Vincent noted the positive feedback about the location. “[P]eople enjoy having a place like Stage Head Pub to meet up and enjoy some entertainment year round,” she said as events like Beer and Bingo take place weekly.
Since opening, Vincent said that Split Rock’s Combines Ale, a basic Cream Ale made with barley and Red Sky Red Rye have been popular with customers with Alli’s Big Brown Ale making a bit of a comeback in the spring and summer. They are excited by the fact that people are enjoying the more hoppy recipes as well including the Gateway IPA and Nar Day APA. “People are embracing the beer and trying new styles and that's what is exciting about craft beer,” said Vincent.
A number of recipes have been on tap at Stage Head Pub since the brewery opened, including Twitty Whitty, a Belgian Witbier, Razzin’ Around Raspberry Wheat Ale and a series of small batch Sours have been featured as seasonal additions along with Split Rock’s core six beers. Vincent said it is hard to say which of these additions have been the most popular among customers because they seem excited about them all. “Our Sour Patch B'ys Sour Series is going over very well and people love it,” she said. “Often, it's a person’s first time trying a sour ale...and it becomes an immediate favourite” According to Vincent, the small batch berry sours last only a few days, the Raspberry Wheat went viral on social media and craft beer connoisseurs raved about Flanker, Split Rock’s smoked porter.
Sadly, we missed out on all of these amazing sounding small batches during our visit. There was a keg of Sour Patch B’ys Citra on tap just a couple of days before, a sour that had a lemon-lime citrus flavour but it didn’t last. We did get to try the latest sour, the Amarillo which had pineapple flavours and a grapefruit finish. This was a tasty and refreshing pint to have after a long trip to get to Twillingate. We also got to try the Park Day Pale Ale, which was named after local band Park Day who released their album Punchlines that week.
Despite not getting to drink some of the beers mentioned earlier at Stage Head Pub, we have gotten to try Twitty Witty and Razzin’ Around at a few pubs and restaurants in St. John’s. Vincent noted that while these establishments have been embracing the local craft beer scene, Split Rock has not been able to meet the number of requests to feature their brews because they do not have the capacity to keep up or effectively transport kegs from Twillingate. “We have committed to a few locations this summer, and send in beer when possible,” said Vincent. “Fort Amherst Pub has gone above and beyond to have out beer on tap by even coming out and picking [it up] for their customers. Jack Axes and the Guv'nor Pub have [also] been active in supporting the craft beer industry and we try hard to have our beer on tap at their locations.” Vincent noted that Stage Head Pub sees a number of visitors from the province, but she isn’t sure if that is because Split Rock is available in St. John’s or because Twillingate has lots to offer tourists.
Vincent believes that each of the breweries in Newfoundland has a unique character but Split Rock brewing tries to keep their core brews available year-round while also experimenting with a seasonal tap list. “As craft beer lovers, past homebrewers, and brewery customers, Matt & I love going to a brewery to enjoy our favourites but we were also excited when there was something new to try,” she said. “When planning our tap list, we want to look through the eyes of a craft beer lover and think, "what else do we need to make our brewery a great experience"?”
Vincent said that everyone at Split Rock Brewing Co. is excited to be part of the craft beer industry in Newfoundland and encourages readers to follow their social media accounts for more seasonal brews at Stage Head Pub. Here, you will surely get the latest on Stage Head Pub’s plans to add a kitchen and pub food, which has been in the works since opening but encountered a number of obstacles. “Our kitchen installation is almost complete,” assured Vincent. “We are hopeful that it will be running (at some capacity) this fall or winter.”
The Racket’s Recommendations for a Flight: Twitty Witty Belgian Whitbier, Combines Ale, Park Day APA, and Gateway IPA.
***As with the nature of breweries and small batches, these brews may not always be on tap.***