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Voyages: Stillwell Bar

Voyages: Stillwell Bar

Long reputed for having the most bars per capita of any city in Canada, those who truly know Halifax understand that this is a drinking town. And in Nova Scotia, more often than not, beer is the beverage of choice. Ever since the creation of the legendary Alexander Keith’s Brewery in 1820, there has been a legacy of brewing excellence in this province. While the classics will always remain a fundamental component of Halifax’s drinking culture, the past few years have seen the local landscape reach new heights with the founding of over 15 new breweries.

Down in Barrington Street’s historic heritage district, enthusiasts of the sudsy stuff flock to local craft brew sanctuary Stillwell for their daily fix.

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With a deep selection of bottles and an eclectic blackboard tap menu of 12 small-batch beers that are refreshed on a daily basis (sometimes twice a day), Stillwell’s mission is to expose Haligonians to new and exciting flavour profiles through opening up a dialogue for exploring the wide and wacky world of artisanal brews. Most of the beers are sourced from within the maritimes; however, recent developments in keg technology have reduced transportation costs to the point where they can offer many amazing Quebec beers as well. As expert bartender Matt McIntyre explains to me, they are always searching for new ways to get more beers on the menu and they one day hope to offer items from Europe as well.

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Since I am at a beer bar, I want to try a little bit of everything, so I opt to go with one of their four-beer flights. To start things off, I dive straight into Stillwell Two, the bar’s collaboration with North Brewing Co. At 4.5%, this rustic farmhouse ale is made with wild yeast from the Annapolis Valley and rolls off the tongue with a refreshingly fruity and peppery punch. As you can see below, it is also available in limited quantities of bottles, so act fast!

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Next up is NS brewery Bad Apple’s Mosaic Double IPA. At 8.1%, I expect it to be quite bitter, but I am pleasantly surprised by the resinous hard candy IPA taste. Third up is Quebecois microbrewery Trou du Diable’s L’Ours. Easily my favourite beer of the night, the 6.5% sour saison blend is a combination of barrel aged and young brews, and hits the palate with a uniquely addictive tartness. This is the kind of beer I can see myself drinking all night, and then having another in the morning with breakfast. Finally, I finish off my beer marathon with QC brasserie Dieu du Ciel’s Péché Mortel, a 9.5% imperial coffee stout that tastes just like espresso. This intensely dark and dense beer is infused with fair trade coffee during the brewing process and would pair nicely with any dessert.

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While craft brews are the focal point of this fine establishment, head chef Graeme Ruppel is turning out equally awe-inspiring eats to go along with your booze. Similar to their beer selection, the menu changes daily and today’s offerings include an interesting sounding Beef Tongue Pintxo. For $6, you get two juicy strips of beef tongue atop creamy brie and slices of TOA Bakery baguette, which are garnished with fresh salsa verde and salsa guisado. The dish offers a curious fusion of Mexican and French flavours accented by the potent but not overpowering spice from the mix of salsas.

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With the hour getting late and the bar growing increasingly busier by the second, I decide to cap off my night with a colourful and enticing bowl of Dan Dan Mien ($12). Originating in the Szechuan province of China, this stunning interpretation comes with alkaline noodles, smoked seitan, portobello, shiitake, black beans, salted radish, choy sum and peanuts. The powerful flavours of smoky, savoury and sweet paired with the simple yet elegant presentation demonstrates a meticulousness that is largely absent in Halifax bar food.

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This beer bar is a mandatory option for their welcoming environment, innovative food and top-notch assortment of premium craft beers. Whether you are a hardcore beer nerd or a bud light buff discovering what a German weissbier tastes like for the first time, the vastly knowledgeable staff and cozy décor make Stillwell the perfect hangout for some evening libations. As the geniuses behind Stillwell put it themselves, we hope that you’ll come have a beer with us!

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