LIVERPOOL - Although Hell Bay’s not hopping yet today, things in the back are busy. It’s noon on a Wednesday, and Ian Walker is bottling beer. Mark Ballie, who co-owns the brewery with Melanie Perron, is serving customers.
The red building at 38 Legion Street in Liverpool used to be a place one might go to find antique furniture or dishware. Now it’s a place where people will find pints, growlers, a brew kettle and a mash tun. That’s because it’s Hell Bay Brewing Company.
In the last six years, Hell Bay has grown from 300-litre batches to four 10-barrell tanks and two 500-litre tanks. There are also five brite tanks, says Baillie.
Back in the day, if people wanted beer from Hell Bay, they would have to wind their way along Highway 331 to an old grey barn in Cherry Hill, Lunenburg County. That barn opened its doors for business April 1, 2011.
“I renovated a section of the barn, bought some small tanks, and we could do about four kegs a week,” said Baillie.
The brewery’s first client was Lane’s Privateer Inn in Liverpool. That summer, Lane’s was the sole business Hell Bay sold its kegs to. From there, things grew a little more, and Baillie and Perron were able to do 300-litre batches. Business in and out of the barn kept growing.
“Then we decided to take the leap and get a bigger spot and some bigger gear,” said Baillie.
As to why the co-owners chose Liverpool as a spot to pull pints, Baillie says the two had lived in the community.
“It was a little closer to the heart,” he added.
Baillie and Perron took possession of the building in January 2012 and opened that spring. Initially, it was just a store and not a taproom. Baillie says the craft brewing industry in the province was still quite young when Hell Bay opened.
It was the fifth or sixth brewery in Nova Scotia, and now there are more than 40, including brewpubs.
For Baillie, opening a brewery only made sense.
“I’d home-brewed for years,” he said.
Handcrafted beer, like Hell Bay beer, is pretty much exactly as it sounds. Everything is done by hand.
“We grind the grains here. We mash it in with a wooden paddle back there,” explained Baillie.
He says everything at the brewery is basic; nothing is automated. Everything is hands-on.
Baillie says working in the craft brewing industry is rewarding, especially when people come in to compliment their products. There are also beer festivals around the province, and Baillie and Perron get to attend those events.
When they’re not hosting or attending events, is there a typical workday? Not really, says Baillie.
“It’s kind of a weekly cycle.”
First, they encourage their licensees to submit orders early in the week. Mid-week is when bottling begins for NSLC and private liquor store orders. Along with all that, there’s also brewing.
As far as what’s to come, Baillie says there are lots of ideas but nothing concrete yet.
Hell Bay is set to host its second Brews and Barbecue event of the summer July 29. Baillie says they plan to continue to host that event every two weeks. There will be a VibeTalks event held Aug. 2 at 4 p.m., and Baillie says there might be another open mic session.