Featurepreneur: The Resurrection of a Gathering Place

Featurepreneur: The Resurrection of a Gathering Place
By Genevieve Allen Hearn

A restaurant. A brewery. An event space. The Church Brewing Company, located in the former St. Andrew’s United Church in Wolfville, has a lot on their plate. Since opening their doors in January, the space has been packed with locals and visitors alike, checking out what this new hot spot has to offer: spectacular live music events, a curated craft beer/cider line-up on tap, and mouth-watering dishes executed by former Gio chef, Vince Scigliano. The Grapevine asked the owners a few questions about opening this ambitious business:

The Grapevine (GV): Why did you choose the former United Church as the location for your restaurant and brewery?
Church Brewing (CB): The idea stemmed from us wishing to move home to Nova Scotia from Calgary. We needed a change of pace, to improve our quality of life, and ultimately to be closer to family. We have a passion for craft beer and thought, why not open a craft brewery? Recognizing that many beautiful and historic churches across the province were being repurposed or left vacant, we wanted to resurrect one more. The Church Brewing Company existed in concept before we even had a church! The property is now owned by two Nova Scotian families: Matthew & Erin Haysom and Steve Haysom: SMU and Acadia Alumni. When Steve and Matt’s mother, Barbara Haysom, found the stone church we all knew it was right. Originally designed by Andrew Cobb, and built in 1914, it is a historically important piece of architecture with significant meaning to the community and this has inspired us during the restoration and renovation process. We continue to hear from community members about the special memories the church holds for them, and we feel successful in creating a welcoming and comfortable destination for local food and craft beer enthusiasts.

GV: Do you have any highlights of your business so far?
CB: The warm welcome we received when we opened our doors, and the love we have felt from the community, was even more than we had hoped for. The atmosphere, the menu, and the craft beer on tap have been well-received by our customers. Our restaurant menu has been carefully curated by our restaurant manager, Brendan Nichol, and our head chef, Vince Scigliano. We feel they’ve done an excellent job building relationships with farmers and sourcing local ingredients. Together they have created a menu that is a little different from your standard pub-fare. We are all very excited to open our brewery, and we look forward to showcasing the beer our brewmaster, Andrew Bartle, creates.

GV: You’ve got some great local cider and beer on tap, but nothing from Church Brewery yet. When do you expect to have your own beer available?
CB: We are lucky to have such an abundance of talented makers and crafters right here in our own backyard. These partnerships are truly what makes this craft beverage industry so vibrant. Even after we have our own beer, we will continue to support and showcase other great producers. Our best estimate would be late spring or early summer to have our own beers to share. We are working diligently to get brewing as quickly as possible without risking safety or quality. Ultimately, the beer will let us know when it’s ready to serve. We are extremely passionate about quality beer brewed with flavour, personality, and purpose. Our initial line-up of beers has deep roots in tradition.

GV: Any insight into where you think the craft industry is headed in the Annapolis Valley? Do we still have room to grow?
CB: It gives us goosebumps thinking about the growth potential of the craft industry on the East Coast. Breweries are expanding, moving into bigger buildings, reaching beer fans all around the world, and putting a spotlight on Nova Scotia. We’re also seeing the indirect jobs the beverage industry creates, like local malt houses, hop farms, and even manufacturers of foeders (wooden barrels for fermentation). This industry is creating jobs for young people and specialized skills that can help create long-lasting careers. Craft breweries only make up 5-6% of Nova Scotia beer sales, so there is room for many new breweries, and for existing breweries to grow. As brewers, we are stronger together. It’s important to build relationships as we all help each other achieve our goals and raise the bar.

For more information visit churchbrewing.ca