Inside the Best Beer in Canada: A Q&A with Christiane Jost from Tatamagouche Brewery

tatamagouche breweryWhen locals are asked what’s going on in Tatamagouche, the answer is often what’s on tap at the Tatamagouche Brewery. Co-owners Christiane Jost and her husband Matt Kenny—she’s general manager, he’s head brewer—and their team are creating an irresistible buzz for producing amazing East Coast ales that some consider the best beer in Canada.

Opened in 2014, the brewery has never strayed from its mission of providing the community Jost loves with small, handcrafted batches of organic beer they refer to as pure “Tatamagoodness.” While they specialize in quaffable lagers and full-flavoured ales, they love to experiment, creating so many unique brews, they’ve gathered them into whole collections like the Weird Beer Series. Imagine the flavour blasts from brews like Giantess Barley Wine, Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout and Kiskadee Sour Porter Aged on Black Currants.

We spoke with Christiane Jost about her boozy pedigree, mentorships with Nova Scotia’s pioneer brewers and the Tatamagouche vibe captured in beers like Hippie Dippie Ale.

Q: The Jost name is associated with wine, and you’re in beer. There must be a story there.

Jost: My parents ran Jost Vineyards for almost 30 years. They sold the winery in 2012. At that point, I had finished my degree at Mount Allison where I met Matt. I studied anthropology—very useful for beer. I joke that I majored in socializing and minored in beer drinking, so it was excellent training.

Q: How did you transition to beer?

Jost: The village library was up for sale, and my father said, “I think I want to open a brewery.” I said, “Oh my God, you just sold the winery. What are you doing? Take a breather.”  He said, “No, these microbreweries are going to be a thing. If you and your sister would like to pick the paint colours, that would be so helpful.” I was finishing up a public relations degree and thinking, am I going to be able to work for anyone? Am I going to be like my father? So I said to him, “I want to be part of this brewery, but from the ground up.”

Q: Booze is in your blood, then.

Jost: We always joke that we can run, but we can’t hide from the alcohol industry. My family ran a winery for hundreds of years in Germany. My grandfather decided he was done with Germany and done with the industry and moved the family to Canada. They were pig farmers, but before you know it, they started grapevines and opened one of the first wineries in Nova Scotia. Now I’m in it. I have a daughter, so I’m looking at her thinking, you can run, but you can’t hide. What are you gonna do, whiskey?

Tatamagouche Brewery

Q: How did you learn to brew?

Jost: Luckily, my father knows how to ferment things. We were also super fortunate that Randy Lawrence from Sea Level Brewing took us under his wing. Then we spent time at the original Propeller Brewery in Halifax. Matt had no experience at all. The guy could barely fry an egg, but he’s taken to it like no other. He’s won eight Canadian brewing awards, and is otherwise completely self-taught.

Q: What were the first beers to come out of Tatamagouche Brewing Company?

Jost: We opened with Hippie Dippie Pale Ale and Butcher Block Red Ale. We really thought those would be sufficient. The pale ale would be approachable enough and the red would have enough hops. It turns out the pale ale was too hoppy. Like many rural communities, Tatamagouche had never experienced craft beer, so we came up with North Shore, a lagered ale. It’s been our workhorse, the beer that got us in everyone’s glass.

Q: Where did the name Hippie Dippie come from?

Jost: It speaks to and compliments Tatamagouche, a unique little community. It’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s a really accepting, approachable place. Free-spirited people live here.

Q: What must I see and do when I visit Tatamagouche?

Jost: In the summer, you definitely want to sit on our patio. There’s a butcher shop next door, and he makes simple, tasty homestyle sandwiches. We encourage people to grab a sandwich and come on over. As for Tatamagouche restaurants, Jost Vineyards has dining options now. The Train Station Inn is always a favourite. It’s renovated train cars and the old train station made into an inn. The Chowder House has good, homestyle food and a patio. Tatamagouche is busy in the summer. We joke that a local doesn’t drive on Main Street on Saturday. We don’t have a stoplight, but it’s gridlocked. We’re surrounded by beaches and golf courses. In the winter, Ski Wentworth is a must, along with Sugar Moon, which is a maple sugar farm.

Train Station Inn

The Train Station Inn in Tatamagouche (Photographer: @daveyandsky)

 

Q: What are you drinking these days?

Jost: Whatever’s new is always what we’re drinking. We’re always excited by the new kid.  Matt and the brewing team have a lager series now. They came out with the most crushable Italian pilsner called Pausa Pranzo, which means “lunch break” in Italian. It’s just gorgeous.

Q: What do you like that’s stronger than a lager?

Jost: We just came out with Solitude. My husband is very proud of this beer. It’s a cognac barrel-aged imperial stout. It’s incredibly well-balanced. We use cacao in it, so it’s got everything you want in a dark, barrel-aged beer. At 12.6 percent, it’s a sipper for sure, part of our weird beer series. We want people to think of them like bottled wines.

 

 

 

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Q: What are your favourite food/beer pairings?

There are the classic combinations, something hoppy with a curry, a burger or even seafood with a pilsner. Our dry-hopped sour complements a nice oyster, much like a Tidal Bay wine or a really fresh, citrusy white wine goes with seafood.

Q: Where do you like to go elsewhere in Nova Scotia for a bite and a pint?

Halifax is always a go-to. We really love the small places, the little hidden treasures—Lot Six and Bar Kismet. We really appreciate the blood sweat and tears that go into Halifax restaurants. As far as beer and food, I love the three Stillwells. So simple, but delicious—the original on Barrington Street, The Stillwell Freehouse for British fair and Stillwell Beergarden is everything you want in patio food. It feels like a European beer garden. Everything they touch is just perfection. Every so often, they’ll change the focus. Right now it’s tacos. They went to Mexico and learned how to do it.

Stillwell Beer garden

Stillwell Beer Garden—Credit: Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Jessie Emin (@eatwithjessie)

Q: What Nova Scotia Restaurants do you like outside Halifax?

Jost: We were recently in Chester for a staycation to hit the Sensea Nordic Spa. We went to the Kiwi Café, which is what every café should be. In Wolfville, we love Le Caveau, Julep Kitchen and Cocktails, and Church Brewing. In Lunenburg, we had one of the best meals at Lincoln Street Food.

Q: What keeps you motivated?

Jost: I just want to continue making great beer and offering this little slice of goodness in a small community. Along with our customers and our employees, that’s really what it’s all about. I just want to keep rocking it here.

FAQs

Where is Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia?

Tatamagouche Nova Scotia is a seaside village located in Colchester County, along the Northumberland Strait. It’s in the northern part of Nova Scotia, and approximately 1 hour and 45-minutes by car from Halifax.

What’s going on in Tatamagouche?

A heck of a lot! If you’re looking for what to do in Tatamagouche, the town has several claims to fame, most notably the Tatamagouche Brewery and the Train Station Inn—CN Rail cabooses converted into a B&B. Other attractions include the farmer’s market, artisan chocolatiers, and access to The Great Trail for biking and hiking. It’s also only 30 minutes away from three provincial parks with beaches for swimming.

BEFORE YOU GO:

Due to the impact of COVID-19, make sure to check with the Nova Scotia tourism website for updates on travel restrictions. As of writing, people travelling from outside Atlantic Canada must self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive in Nova Scotia. If they have already self-isolated in another Atlantic Canadian province, they may enter Nova Scotia without self-isolating again. Every adult (18 or older) from outside Atlantic Canada needs to complete a Self-declaration Form before they travel to the province. More FAQs are answered here.

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