Nova Scotia Beer 101

In Nova Scotia you’re never far from award-winning craft beer – in fact you’re likely no more than a 30-minute drive from a brewery! There are more than 50 breweries across the province producing unique, world-class beers using local ingredients. With more than 700 direct jobs and a 49.3 per cent increase in sales in 2019, the Nova Scotia craft beer industry is booming, and for good reason!

As you probably know, beer is an alcoholic beverage made from yeast-fermented malt and flavoured with hops. But, what does that mean? Keep reading to find out!

Use this blog as your guide to all things local, Nova Scotia craft beer. Keep reading for an extensive list of lingo and a breakdown of beer styles, along with their perfect food pairings!

Beer Lingo

Understandably, the lingo used to describe beer can be somewhat confusing for those outside of the industry. Here’s a list of some common beer terms and their definitions:

Appearance: What the beer looks like (colour, clarity, bubbles, logo on the glass, opacity, foam).

Aroma: What the beer smells like (comes from hops and malt) – make sure you smell before tasting!

Taste: What flavours are present in the beer (comes from hops, malt, and additions).

Mouthfeel: What the beer feels like in the mouth (thick, thin, smooth, light/medium/full bodied).

Finish: How the beer empties out of the mouth (slow/moderate/fast, bitter/sweet etc.).

Contrast: Differing flavours in the beer and food that allow the opportunity for both to be present.

Complement: The ability of a beer to match the flavours of the food. For example, pairing lighter beer (such as a lager) with lighter food, and fuller beer (such as an ale) with rich food.

Cut: The ability of a beer to reduce the rich and/or fatty components of food.

Hop: A flowering vine (known as bine in the hop world), which comes from the same plant family as cannabis. A hop adds bitterness, aroma, and is used for its natural preservative properties. Flavours and aromas such as earthy, spicy, floral, resinous, piney, citrus, herbal, and grassy come through hops. 

Malt: The sugar source for yeast which also provides colour and flavour. Thousands of malts from around the world are used to create a variety of different beers. Malts can be pale, roasted, wheat, rye, and the list goes on. Flavour profiles of malts include bready, biscuity, honey, caramel, nutty, chocolate, coffee, and toasty.

Beer Styles

Saltbox Flight Beer

Not sure what to order? We’ve got you covered. Below is a breakdown of various beer styles and exactly what you should be pairing them with.


Boxing Rock Beer

Sometimes referred to as the white wines of the beer world, lagers are light, refreshing, and crisp. If you’re looking for something easy to sip on or you don’t like your beer “hoppy,” a lager is a great choice!

Food Pairing: Steamed mussels, fish and chips, salads, boiled lobster, chowder, Seafood Brochettes with Lemon and Lobster Butter.


Picture of Schoolhouse Bottles

Just like a lager is similar to a white wine, an ale is it’s red wine counterpart. It can be pale, red, bitter, brown and smooth. It’s a complex, full-bodied beer with a striking balance between malt and hop.

Food Pairing: Burgers, buffalo wings, Asian food, Mexican food, fried food, steaks, The Lumberjack Pizza.


IPAs and DIPAs are a bold pale to a dark golden colour, with a subtle malt and a strong hop. This beer is often very bitter with floral, pine, citrus, and tropical fruit flavours. Almost every Nova Scotia brewery offers an incredible IPA, each one as delicious as the next!

Food Pairing: Spicy food, curries, fish cakes, salad with strong cheese, steak, Surf and Turf Burger.


Stouts and porters are distinct in colour, often very dark and opaque, sometimes even black. They hold a rich and robust flavour profile, whether it’s roasted malt, or elements of coffee and chocolate. This beer also comes with a thick layer of foam on top.

Food Pairing: Desserts, all things chocolate, fresh berries, steak, Shepherd’s Pie.


If you’re just getting into beer and want an alternative to wine or cider, order a sour, fruit, or seasonal beer. These beers contain no hops, taking away most of the bitterness that newbies tend to be apprehensive about. Fruity, fun, and perfect for summertime!

Food Pairing: Desserts, salads, or the Rhubarb Whipped Cheesecake Jar. It can also be enjoyed by itself or used in a beer cocktail!

Taste of Nova Scotia member breweries include: Boxing Rock Brewing Company, Garrison Brewing Company, Meander River Farm and Brewery, Paddy’s Brewpub, Propeller Brewing Company, Rudder’s Brewpub, Saltbox Brewery, Schoolhouse Brewery, Sea Level Brewing Company, Shipwright Brewing Company, Sober Island Brewing Company, Tatamagouche Brewing Company, The Church Brewing Company and Wayfarers Ale Society.

Curious about learning even more about Nova Scotia’s beer industry? Make sure to visit the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia at for facts, history, and more specific details. 

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