Beer Tasting – a Bitter Ale and a Stout

For my first interview on Dream Big Cape Breton, I spoke with Jeremy White and his partner Melanie about how they came to move to Cape Breton, and about their dreams to open a microbrewery.

The next time I ran into Jeremy, he reported that all kinds of people had come up to them, in stores and on the street, saying they had read about the plans to build a microbrewery, on this website! Both he and I found that exciting, especially since they were the very first interview featured on Dream Big. For me, it meant that I actually had readers! For him, it meant that a lot more people now knew about his exciting business plan and wanted to support him.

I had mentioned that stout is my favourite beer, so Jeremy gave me some of his to taste. These are recipes he’s testing in his home, before his microbrewery business begins in earnest and he can actually sell the beer.

So last week I invited a few friends over for a pub-inspired dinner. We taste-tested a Bitter Ale, and a Stout.

I stored the beer in a darkened room until it was time to drink it. Here it is out on the deck, where it's nice and cold, before dinner starts.

We don't have proper beer glasses so we used some pretty vintage juice glasses I got at Value Village in Sydney River.

Beer and grub. Yum!

The bitter ale went great with fried potatoes, cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, chicken...

The stout was no slouch, either! I poured it badly - hence too much head. I think I need more practice. More samples, Jeremy? : )

Left: Labatt Blue. Right: "Kilted Pride", which is the name they're considering.

These are little cards I drew up so we could get the points at a glance. (Windsor Ale is actually the name of the yeast used. My mistake!)

So – how did they do? Well, it turned out that several guests weren’t actually stout fans, in general, so they didn’t appreciate the creamy, molasses-y flavor of Jeremy’s stout. I did, though, and I have to say it is in the running for my favorite stout! (It has to beat out Picaroon’s Timberhog for the top spot, and that hog just won’t quit.) I might need a few more testers before I can make up my mind…

Overall everyone enjoyed the beers, very much, and we all felt that the bitter ale was definitely ready for store shelves.

And, I bet you’re all wondering when you’ll be able to get your hands on some “Kilted Moose Farmhouse Brewery” products (that’s the name they’re considering). So I asked Jeremy for an update on his business plans, as well as some clarification on a couple of questions my guests had.

The beers were made from hops that you grew on your farm, right? For the stout, 2 of the 3 hops used were from our farm. For the bitter, all hops were from our farm.

The bitter was “Fresh hopped”. What does that mean again? This is when you use the hops green, right off the vine, without having dried them.

What is the latest news on the brewery? What can we tell our blog-reading public? ECBC has expressed preliminary interest in some funding, and we are in the final design phase of the brewery building. We have contracted a consultant to help with procurement of equipment, and with the building layout design. I am travelling to Sorrento, BC, in late April to apprentice at Crannog Ales, who have kindly offered to share some knowledge with us, as they are a very similar business. You can check them out at The sap has been flowing on our farm,and we have collected over 250 liters to date. This past weekend, I used maple syrup in lieu of water to brew a strong bitter ale. It is in the fermenter and looks great!

Posted in Business ideas, Food + agriculture | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Erin the Librarian: Useful Gardening Books at Your Local Library

2011 was a great year for broccoli!

By Erin Phillips

I’ll start off this week’s post by admitting I am not an expert gardener. In fact, the first year Brian and I had a garden I had absolutely no interest in it – until harvest time, then I was converted!

Now, four years later, I’m starting to take charge of the garden. I kept a gardening journal last year and tried to establish a crop rotation plan. So far this year, I’ve organized my seeds, thought about ordering row cover and started to question that beautiful rotation plan. Somehow we can never settle on where to put the tomatoes.

Our garden in the summer of 2010 - in our backyard in Whitney Pier.

For gardening inspiration, there’s no better place to start than the library. Since gardeners never tire of reading gardening books and there’s always something new to learn, the library is always getting new and wonderful gardening books. So many, that if I wanted to, I could do a weekly blog on gardening books alone!

With this abundance of information, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and discouraged. To keep things simple, and local, I suggest checking out Grow Organic: A Simple Guide to Nova Scotia Vegetable Gardening by Elizabeth Peirce . This local guide to vegetable gardening explains the basics without being overwhelming.

Peirce covers everything you need to know, from deciding what to plant, where to plant it, and dealing with pests, to composting, harvesting, saving seed and preserving. She adds a personal touch to all this information which really engages the reader, and her musings on climate change and food security remind us why it’s good to garden.

Although it lives up to its subtitle by being a “simple guide”, it is not just for beginners. It is definitely worth checking out this book – or buying it – for some of the special Nova Scotia flavour that Peirce adds. For each vegetable profiled, Peirce lists varieties that work well in Nova Scotia climates. She also has a section on native edible plants and great recipes such as “Desperation Soup for the Zucchini Invasion” – I’ll have to remember that one for August!

At the end of the book, as a source of inspiration, Peirce profiles several Nova Scotian gardeners, each representing a unique gardening challenge or interesting project. This is a must-read section for anyone interested in starting community gardening projects or a garden business. You might even read something new about a Cape Breton farmer you already know!

I first borrowed Grow Organic last year, and I borrowed it again last week to do this review, quickly getting caught up in all the wonderful things it has to offer. Colour photos, interesting side-bars, an index, and a bibliography make this a great all-round gardening resource.

Some of my other favourite gardening books available at the CBRL:

The Winter Harvest Handbook : Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses by Eliot Coleman . This will inspire you to grow carrots in the winter!

Greenhouses & Garden Sheds : Inspiration, Information & Step-by-Step projects by Pat Price. Greenhouses rock! You can start crops early, grow hot summer crops that normally don’t do well in Cape Breton and use them to get a tan in February!

Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting and Sprouting by R.J. Ruppenthal. – This is a great resource for city/apartment dwellers. It even includes a section on urban chicken keeping.

And my favourite off-beat resource: The Real Witches’ Garden by Kate West, – This was my inspiration for my zodiac herb garden!

To look up any of these books, and place holds on them, go to the Cape Breton Regional Library’s website, Click on “Search for Information” in the left sidebar. Then click on “Library Catalogue,” where you can search by keyword, title, author and more.

So what are your favourite gardening books? Are you dreaming of summertime, too?

Erin Phillips

About Erin the Librarian: Erin Phillips has been interviewed on Dream Big Cape Breton, along with her partner Brian Dean, a luthier. She is a Whitney Pier resident and currently on maternity leave from her position as Victoria County Libraries Supervisor for the Cape Breton Regional Library. (Note: her views and opinions as expressed in the blog do not represent the views of CBRL.) You can read the first “Erin the Librarian” column here!

Posted in Food + agriculture, Guest posts, Libraries | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Weekly Link Round-up

I took this picture last week in Barrachois, Cape Breton. The sun is setting over Boularderie, and Long Island is in the foreground. This is SOOC - Straight out of the Camera. No alterations! We sure do live in a beautiful place.

This week the Dream Big Facebook group was fairly active, with group members sharing links to various things happening in Cape Breton. Once a week I try and round up these links in a list here on the blog. The links are proof to me that there is lots of hopeful stuff on the go – from busy community gardeners saving seeds for future veggies, to a singer-songwriter helping First Nation teens write a song about drug abuse, and more!

Click here to look at last week’s list of links.

Joining the Facebook Group: If you’re on Facebook and you’d like to join the group, just search Facebook for “Dream Big Cape Breton” and click on “Request to join group”. I usually get the notification very quickly and will add you.

If you’re not a Facebook user but you’d still like to share your community event or other news with Dream Big Cape Breton readers, you can either leave a comment on the blog, or send me an email!

Without further ado, this week’s links!

  • The Baddeck Community Market is having a Seedy Sunday this Sunday, March 18th. From their website: “Join us for another adventure in seed-saving and trading. Michelle Smith, Northwind Farm, and Kim Tilsley, Glenryan Farms, will talk about why we save seeds, how it’s done, and how to use our own seeds. Bring seeds to trade, or buy something interesting. Find us at the Masonic Lodge at 24 Queen Street, Baddeck. The event runs from 2:00 to 4:00, and we’ll be serving tea and coffee. See you at the market!” They also have a Facebook Page.
  • Angelo Spinazzola, a Cape Breton singer/songwriter, teamed up with some Unamaki First Nation teenagers to co-write a song about the problem of drug abuse. Here is a fun, energetic YouTube video that documents his songwriting workshop with the teens, that takes the song from initial ideas to finished recording. It’s a great, short video that captures the cooperative energy of the sessions!
  • We also had some political stirrings on the group this week, with two members posting links to local young politicians. Derek Mombourquette is looking to be nominated to run for the Liberals in Cape Breton South, as is Neeta Kumar-Britten.
  • A psychology student at CBU writes: “This is a neat talk I had to watch for my positive psych course this week. Thought I would share.” Silver Donald Cameron speaks about Bhutan and Gross National Happiness at TEDx Halifax – video.
  • A local farmer shared the Low-Impact Living Initiative, a group in England whose basic message is: “We’ve got to build networks and create alternatives that allow us to side-step the corporate nightmare that’s engulfing the world.” Their website is clear and easy to use, and has lots of great resources.
  • “Nestled down at the very end of Desbarres Street (in Sydney’s Northend) is a neglected and uninviting community space. It is a space, however, that has incredible potential to become the vibrant, useful and beautiful green space that it once was. A space people, both young and young at heart, from all over the CBRM will want to gather in. The Northend Park Project (NPP) aspires to revitalize this space with new trees, benches, a well-lit (and safe to use) running track and an updated, safe and accessible playground. This is just the start, the exact form will be decided by public input. When finished this space will be something the community can say “we built this, it is ours”. To make a donation or to volunteer, please email us at” Here are pictures on their Facebook page of the space as it is now. Our Frugal Friday writer, Erika Shea, is involved in this group!
Posted in Art, Markets, Mi'kmaq communities, Towns + communities | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Q+A with Alicia Penney

Alicia Penney is a Sydney-based singer/songwriter. Photo: Kristy Read.

Q+A is a new feature on Dream Big Cape Breton. How it works: I pick one local person, send them ten questions, and then after several emails back and forth between us, we’ve got ourselves a Q+A!

If you would be interested in being a Q+A participant, just contact me.

First up: Alicia Penney, a singer-songwriter based in Sydney. Her website is here: Alicia Penney. There is a nifty player feature on the blog that plays her pretty songs while you check out her info and blog!

1. How old are you?

I’m 27 years old.

2. CB born and raised? Or recent transplant? (Plus whatever biographical details you feel like giving).

I was born in Niagara Falls Ontario, but lived in Sydney my whole life since I was about a year old. My dad’s from CB and my mom’s from French-speaking Northern Ontario. I grew up in Whitney Pier and now I live in Ashby.

3. “What are you up to these days?”

I am a student at CBU. I switched programs a bit but now am settled in to the biology program and really enjoying it. I play a bit of music on the side, either by myself or with Static In Action, and I’ve been playing a little with the Billie Yvette quintet / quartet. School keeps me quite busy, and the people I play with are busy with their own jobs / lives, so I’ve been finding it difficult to get together and jam with people lately. It’s not like when I was a teenager and everyone had nothing but time!

4. What are your favourite Cape Breton eateries?

I love Flavor and Flavor 19, the Fourna Grill, Punjab Spices, Lebanese Flower in the Pier. I am thrilled that Cape Breton is finally getting some more ethnic foods. I played some shows in Scotland before and all they eat over there is Indian food, and I kept thinking “if Scottish people can love Indian food, then Cape Bretoners should too”. We think of ourselves as being very closed minded about food (and new things in general, I guess), but that’s self-defeating – how can people know if they like something without trying it? For coffee shops, I love Wentworth Perk and the Cape Breton Fudge Co. It’s important to note how many of these local businesses are really actively supporting local arts and culture – giving musicians a place to play and visual artists a place to exhibit and even staging some small theatre productions.

5. What are your favourite things to do outside?

In the summer I would spend every day in the ocean if I could. I could never live somewhere away from the ocean, I’m sure of it. I’d shrivel up and dry out and die.

6. What are your favourite Cape Breton music venues, past and present?

You have opened a whole can of worms on this one, hah!

This question comes at a particularly painful time, as one of my favorite places to play, the Upstairs Club, just announced it is closing its doors by the end of the month. That place was run for the past few years by some really dedicated and amazing friends of mine, Merrideth Macdonald and Yvette Rogers, and had an amazing atmosphere, excellent sound, and music-appreciating clientele.

I miss Chandler’s – it was a mid-sized venue downtown which was perfect for bands coming through that were not necessarily mainstream but had a following, like Joel Plaskett. I saw many memorable shows there and I think a venue of that size is sorely lacking here, and limiting what kind of shows come through here. Now, if a band is too big to play at Bunkers, but too small to play at the Savoy or Centre 200, they are pretty much out of luck.

The Maple Leaf Lounge was like my Cheers. A place where everyone knew your name. A lot of my favorite local musicians like Carolyn Lionais and Kyle Evans got their start playing at the Maple Leaf. It was a tiny bar with a ton of character.

I love playing at Wentworth Perk or the CB Fudge Co. Small, intimate shows are my favorite and you can’t beat the atmosphere at these places. The crowd is generally all people who are attentive and interested in hearing you play, which makes all the difference in the world.

I played a lot at Bunkers / Governor’s Pub, but the place underwent renovations a while back, which happened to coincide with the closing of one of two large local club/cabaret type bars (ie: NOT live music venues). This caused a major shift in the makeup of the crowds there, and despite the efforts of long-suffering, hardworking, local underground music scene pioneer, Darryl Mackinnon, it has kind of shifted toward more mainstream music and celtic music. While I’m sure that’s great for business, it doesn’t really have the same welcoming atmosphere for fans and creators of quiet acoustic music or punk rock as it used to. So in a way, I kind of mourn the loss of Bunkers as a venue for me to play at even though it still exists, and I still play the occasional show there.

7. Tell us a bit about your creative process.

Um, there’s not really much to tell. I find I have to be a little busy, but not too busy. Mostly happy, but sometimes if there’s a little something bothering me or on my mind that helps. And then songs just pop out, without any help from me really. I hear the music or melody in my head, or I get a few words and then I get a feeling that it’s gonna be a song, and then all I have to do is wait.

8. Are you planning on sticking around in CB? Why, or why not?

Yes, I am planning to stick around. It’s one of the big factors in deciding what to do with my life – in terms of school, jobs, etc. I don’t want a job if it’s going to take me away from my home and family. I feel comfortable here. I’m never afraid to go out alone at night; I don’t lock my doors when I’m home by myself. The worst thing that ever happened to me was someone rifling through my unlocked car. My family and friends are here. My memories of growing up are here. My favorite places to be are here. My favorite musicians are from here. I might be a little afraid of change too, afraid of crowds and strangers, haha. But really this is where I feel like I belong.

9. Finish this sentence: Cape Breton needs…

Cape Breton needs more music venues, or at least one of each size and I guess independently wealthy people to run them. Also even more different types of restaurants for people to try more things. And a university that is DOWNTOWN and not in the middle of nowhere (I feel like of all the things I can think of this would make the most impact). And better public transit. And jobs that come from long term investment – building something here that doesn’t exist somewhere else. And a comic book/graphic novel/nerd store that stays open past a couple of months.

10. Finish this sentence: Being from Cape Breton, to me, means…

Being fiercely loyal to my home and yet at the back of my mind wondering if I’m being a bit naïve about the whole thing.

I have a song called Inverness, it’s the first song on the player on my website. And while the lyrics aren’t explicitly Cape Breton-y, this island is so imbued in the song, that for me all of the visuals for every line are connected with a special place [on Cape Breton]. This place is so special to me that when I write a really personal song, the feelings are all tangled up with the places.

Posted in Q+A | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

International Women’s Day Open House – Baddeck – March 8th, 2012

Last Thursday was International Women’s Day! I was inspired a few months ago to do something to celebrate this international event. I heard a voice in my head – while in yoga class, how “new age” is that? – to rent St. Michael’s Hall in my hometown and have an Open House. This event would be a celebration of women and community, a party! I was inspired by similar Women’s Day events that used to take place in this area about ten or fifteen years ago, organized by women in my mother’s circle. I thought it was time for my generation to start celebrating the day.

So it’s not as dramatic as, say, Joan of Arc. I admit it! But, I followed the voice’s advice. I rented the hall two months in advance, and slowly, bit by bit, the event came together. (I’ll be sharing some ideas about community event planning, based on my own experiences, on this blog soon!) And, as you’ll see in this photo gallery, it was a wonderful day. (When you click on a picture, it opens it up larger and allows you to click through the whole gallery.)

Edit: Looking at all the photos together I realize that I neglected to take pictures at the busiest time of the day, lunchtime! The hall was packed with 50 or more people eating delicious soup prepared by the Herring Choker Cafe. Note to self – take more pictures next year!

Hurray for all these wonderful women!

Posted in Art, Towns + communities, Women + kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Frugal Friday with Erika Shea

Erika Shea and her daughter Frances

By Erika Shea

Last week when Leah proposed to make Frugal Friday a regular feature – and with a guest contributor at that – I had to hold myself back from dropping everything I was working on (making myself ridiculously late for a meeting on the other side of town) to e-mail with the subject line Oh me! Me, me, me!

As I got in the car and headed east I thought maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t send that e-mail – maybe I should think a little more about where I’m going to find the time to contribute to Dream Big Cape Breton on a regular basis. But I didn’t think about that at all. I thought about how to save money with credit cards and financial institutions, how to save a little money at the grocer, how to save on clothing and gas and shipping charges and cable. And I thought about why for me, now more than ever, saving money is a priority.

I recently went back to work after almost two years at home with my daughter Frances. I feel as though every minute away from her and every penny of income I earn during that time needs to go further, needs to count. Having Frances also means another little mouth to feed and little person clothe and a little mind to think of educating not only now, but also twenty years from now, when your run-of-the-mill undergraduate degree will probably cost $156,753.

Last, though definitely not least, we want her to have a healthy relationship with money. To think about the cost of money (what we do and sometimes what we give up in order to earn it), to think about spending money ethically, and to never ever assume that there are more toys or clothes (or dollars) if we use these ones irresponsibly. We hope that by spending our money carefully and intentionally she’ll learn to reflect on where our money goes, where it should go, and realize that if we thoughtfully spend what we earn, we won’t have to spend too many of our days thinking about money at all.

I am happy to have this beautiful space to share with you some of the things we’ve picked up along the way. And I hope you’ll share what you’ve picked up too! We truly do have so much to share with and learn from each other. And while some of our thriftiness-tips are universal, some may be specific to the community that you live in, so please share, share, share! I am hoping to post on a different theme each week, like banking or groceries. That way we can all add our own tips on that topic in the comments section making it easier for new and return readers alike to browse our shared smarts by theme.

If you have a few seconds today, what is it that you find gets more and more expensive with each passing day? Gas? Rent? Insurance? For me it’s food. I never cease to be amazed at what it costs to feed our small family of just three (and two cats, but they don’t get to eat at the table). At the same time, as a wise friend of mine says, “I feel like the wealthiest person in the world when I can afford to eat well.”


Erika lives in the historic Northend of Sydney with her handsome partner Rob and beautiful, but increasingly mischievous toddler, Frances. When she dreams about having free time, it is filled with sailing, knitting and gardening. Since it is a dream and in no way tied to her actual track record, the garden is thriving.

Posted in Guest posts | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Erin the Librarian: What are ‘Sustainable Communities’ and how do libraries support them?

By Erin Phillips

When Leah asked me to do this book review segment for the blog, I instantly knew the kind of books I wanted to share – books relating to building a sustainable community and books which offered practical how-to information; e.g. How to garden, how to start businesses, how to make your own cheese, etc.

I’ll probably start into some gardening books next week but first: Sustainable communities and libraries. What is the connection?

The idea of creating sustainable communities has become so popular that it is now mandatory for municipalities to have Integrated Community Sustainability Plans (ICSPs). So what exactly is a sustainable community? It is a community with:

  1. Cultural Vitality
  2. Economic Health
  3. Environmental Responsibility
  4. Social Equity

Together these are known as the four pillars of sustainability.

I first started reading about these four pillars a few years ago when I attended a library conference focused on the themes of Creative Cities and municipal cultural planning. The link between sustainable communities and public libraries seemed quite obvious to me, being a librarian, but not everyone uses public libraries! Many people value the public library as a place only for kids, or conversely, only for seniors. But it really is a place for everyone!

Libraries may seem pretty archaic compared to iPads and Blackberries but they have kept pace with new technologies and are actually experiencing higher usage than ever before. A vibrant community library supports the four pillars of sustainability through offering a rich variety of information resources, as well as educational and cultural services and programs.

Libraries support community culture through author readings, writing clubs, art exhibits, and exciting programs such as Teen songwriting contests and Storytellers in Residence. They can contribute to economic health by providing resources to entrepreneurs, internet access to job seekers, and literacy programs for children and families. The model of loaning books instead of purchasing is of course environmentally responsible and as for social equity the library is open to everyone and it is free! In an era of difficult financial times libraries provide free access to information through books, internet access, online magazine databases, and digital books (ebook and audiobooks).

The branch library is a gathering place. It is a place for children’s programs, lectures and workshops for adults, a place for teens to go after school, and a place to informally meet up with old friends. And in areas without a branch library the bookmobile is often the only way (besides online shopping) to get the newest hot bestseller or DVDs.

For those of you who aren’t using the library, why not? It’s free. It’s all free!

And Library services may be closer to you than you think. I think we’re lucky in Cape Breton to have two really great library systems – Eastern Counties Regional Library (ECRL) and Cape Breton Regional Library (CBRL), which provide these essential services to our communities. ECRL has branches in Margaree Forks, Petit de Grat, and Port Hawkesbury. It has Library Links community stops in Cheticamp, Inverness, Judique, L’Ardoise, Mabou, Port Hood, St. Joseph du Moine, St Peter’s, and Whycocomagh. Check out this neat video for a visual tour of the mobile library stops:

CBRL has branches in Baddeck, Dominion, Donkin, Florence, Glace Bay, Ingonish, Louisbourg, Main-a-dieu, New Waterford, North Sydney, Reserve Mines, Sydney, and Sydney Mines. It also has two bookmobiles, which drive a combined total of 20 routes, stopping in almost every foreseeable community in Cape Breton County and Victoria County at least once a month.

And although ECRL and CBRL are two separate library systems, you can easily borrow books in Baddeck and return them in Margaree! Or borrow a book in Port Hawkesbury and return it in North Sydney – this is called the Borrow Anywhere Return Anywhere initiative.

Yes, I am biased, I am a librarian, but what other community facility exists that perfectly complements so many aspects of sustainable living?

For more information about the specific libraries, visit the websites and

Next week, I’ll share some of our libraries’ great resources for planning your garden!

Erin Phillips was recently interviewed on Dream Big Cape Breton, along with her partner Brian Dean, a luthier. She is a Whitney Pier resident and currently on maternity leave from her position as Victoria County Libraries Supervisor for the Cape Breton Regional Library. (Note: her views and opinions as expressed in the blog do not represent the views of CBRL.) She’ll be writing for Dream Big Cape Breton weekly on great books that help healthier and more sustainable living , that are available at our local libraries!

Posted in Guest posts, Libraries, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments