For the first time since before the start of the pandemic, the Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest will be gathering to provide thirsty connoisseurs with plenty of tasty beverages on the waterfront and no one could be happier than Bruce Mansour.
“I haven’t made a penny in three years,” laughs the festival’s co-founder and coordinator, noting COVID-19 lockdowns made it impossible to hold the annual event for two years. “It just kind of mothballed.”
Now, 14 years after the Seaport Cider and Beerfest first surfaced on the Halifax waterfront, Mansour says he feels a little bit like he is starting all over again.
“You would have thought there was an overwhelming pandemic response that people want to get out, and I’m sure they do, but there is so much happening, it’s reminding people that we’re back on,” says Mansour . “(So) you’re almost like a bit of a start-up.”
Partly as a result of the renewed approach, this year’s Seaport Cider and Beerfest will be held outdoors at the entrance to the Halifax Seaport on Marginal Road and organizers are inviting people to “Get Fizzy With It” by capitalizing on the popular emergence of Ready to Drink (RTD) cocktails that have been pre-batched and bottled or canned.
Entitled Fizzfest, Mansour is counting on scoring points with a whole new demographic of drinkers.
“It was about time to evolve," says Mansour about the rise of RTD beverages in the marketplace. “You’ve got brewers with sodas and seltzers. Same thing with some of the cider companies. And certainly the wine and spirit companies are leading the way."
Mansour notes that this year’s August 4 to 6 event has always been about growth and providing a wide variety of choice for its patrons. When Mansour started the event with Garrison Brewing founder Brian Titus in 2007, they solely focused on local beer.
Since then, they have expanded to national and international ales, then on to ciders and adding meads.
“So the next step was this emerging category for Ready to Drink,” adds Mansour. “And Get Fizzy With It really excites a whole different category of people that we’ve not reached out to before so we are very excited about the new element that it brings.”
There will still be plenty of beer, mind you. In fact, even with the lingering effects of the pandemic shifting the event’s focus slightly, the Seaport Cider and Beerfest will feature more than 50 breweries and cideries and, according to their website, showcase approximately 300 different products.
“This year we focused on our neighbours to the south — we have a nice grouping of Maine beer and some folks from Ontario,” says Mansour, noting that because they weren’t certain if the event would even happen until late Spring, procuring international product would prove too difficult.
Still, Mansour is excited to showcase an extensive selection of local Maritime craft beer as well such established Maine operators as Lone Pine and the 24-year-old Sebago Brewing Company. However, Mansour is particularly thrilled to introduce Ontario’s acclaimed Collective Arts Brewing as a first-time vendor.
“They are a fantastic brewery from Hamilton,” says Mansour about the craft brewery that aims to blend the creativity of beer making with the inspired work of artists from around the globe. “What (co-founder) Bob Russell and his team out of Hamilton do is amazing (and) the relationship with the graphic designers and how they alternate the artwork on their cans — that’s just one of the things we admire.”
Of course, Seaport Cider and Beerfest isn’t just about guzzling great amounts of lager. In addition to a wide variety of beer, cider and fizzy drinks, the event will feature live acts and local DJs like DJ Stilldrunk, who will be spinning hits from the 80s, 90s and 2000s.
As well, there will be plenty of food from such local vendors as King of Donair, Asado Wood Fired Grill and Jamdouns Jamaican and Canadian Cuisine.
“I am most looking forward to people having the opportunity to be surprised and delighted by the range of products — whether it’s the new Collective Arts or the new Barrelling Tide or the amount of Ready to Drink,” notes Mansour about this year’s event. “I’m looking forward to seeing people’s faces when they try a new drink that might become their summer favourite and just the collectivity of seeing us all back together under the stars at night having a good time like we used to take for granted.”
For more information on Halifax Seaport Cider and Beerfest, visit the website.