By Kate Watson
Ian Lawson and Matt McGrail like making beer.
Or to be more accurate, Ian Lawson and Matt McGrail LOVE making beer.
They love it so much that in addition to their jobs as mechanical engineers, they moonlight as the owner/operators of Brightwood Brewery.
Their operation is HRM’s newest (and smallest) brewery, and it’s located in Lawson’s basement in the Brightwood neighbourhood of Dartmouth.
“We’ve always been home brewers,” Lawson says. “But a few years ago we started kicking around the idea of opening a brewery.
“At different points we imagined doing something medium-sized, something huge and something small.”
What they ended up with is something really small, a nano-brewery in fact.
The beer is brewed in 120 litre batches, which works out to two kegs at a time.
The pair briefly considered Halifax as the home for their brewery, but Dartmouth’s favourable zoning by-laws and its up-and-coming vibe made it the perfect fit.
“We both wanted to start up in this community,” Lawson says. “Dartmouth has small town charm right in the city.”
Right now, Brightwood produces two types of beer: The Big Lift American IPA and a honey-smoked ale called Smokey the Beer. They are available in 750 ml and 1.89 L growlers and are sold at the Alderney Landing Farmers Market on Saturdays.
Lawson and McGrail fill the growlers with cold, fresh beer right on site, and customers choose from bottles decorated with art by local artists.
One of the advantages of running such a small operation is that there is room for trial and error in creating different brews says McGrail, and he and Lawson enjoy experimenting with the taste , look and smell of their brews.
“It’s a bit like baking,” explains McGrail. “There’s an opportunity to say, ‘Let’s try a little more of this and a little less of that’ or to add some interesting flavours.”
McGrail says he and Lawson feel very lucky to be pursuing their passion in such a supportive community. ‘It’s so great to be at the market talking beer with people. We’re having such a good time with this.”