There are so many wonderful reasons to visit Newfoundland. You can stand on North America’s most eastern point, watch whales and puffins and icebergs.
You can eat a local delicacy called “cod cheeks” and follow it up with some really great local chocolate.
You meet some of the most friendly people in the world and occasionally may encounter what some locals believe to be “shadow people.”
But the best reason to visit Newfoundland is for a local beer from the Quidi Vidi Brewery in St. John’s.
Quidi Vidi Brewing in St. John’s
Quidi Vidi is a former fishing village. The building that houses the microbrewery was actually a fish processing plant. (We’re sure the smell of hops is much better than the smell of fish).
The fish plant, however, is an upgrade from where the business started – in a janitor’s closet at Memorial University in Newfoundland. That’s where owners Dave Fong and Dave Rees met and began practicing the brewing process.
Fast forward through their brief careers in the offshore oil industry to 1996 when they finally accomplished their dream of launching a business unique to Newfoundland.
The first ale they named 1892, the year a massive fire destroyed much of St. John’s. It’s based on a recipe from a British merchant ship from the period. To make it authentic, the Daves import hops from Europe.
They continued to introduce other flavors and the little business was doing quite well due, perhaps in large part, to Newfoundlanders’ love of beer. We were told that Newfoundlanders drink about 20 dozen beers per person per year – more than any province in Canada except for the Yukon.
Newfoundland’s Iceberg Alley
The unique thing about Newfoundland and its neighboring province of Labrador is what happens here each summer. The coast becomes a meeting point for icebergs, which two or three years earlier, broke off of glaciers on the island of Greenland and began their voyage across the North Atlantic.
It’s quite the site to see – sometimes a dozen icebergs visible at a time, some 10 or 15 stories tall. They begin to break up here and float ashore in small “bergy bits.” Locals will often walk the shore with coolers to pick up iceberg ice for their home freezers. It stays frozen longer than normal freezer ice, thus keeping your drinks and other treats colder longer. Some restaurants in St. John’s serve iceberg ice in their drinks in season.
A cottage industry has developed around iceberg ice. Barge operators collect the bergy bits, which are then melted to the freshest, cleanest, most natural water ever. And anyone who knows anything about brewing beer – it’s the water that makes the difference.
Brewing Iceberg Beer
In 2009, Quidi Vidi launched Iceberg Beer using 25,000 year old water tested for purity to 8 parts per million. When other breweries advertise theirs as “light, fresh, clean, natural” – forget about it. Iceberg Beer is indeed the freshest, most naturally clean beer we’ve ever tasted.
Each year since, Quidi Vidi has bottled about 60,000 dozen Iceberg Beers to great acclaim. The cobalt blue bottles themselves have become great collectors items to the point that the Daves had to put out a call locally for people to turn in their bottles so they could continue the bottling process. Quidi Vidi had run out of cobalt blue bottles.
Quidi Vidi Brewery offers free tours daily from noon to 4 p.m. On Friday afternoons, the Daves host a very popular Happy Hour where they grill hamburgers and bring in a live band. Yep, another reason to visit St. John’s – Iceberg Beer is only available in Newfoundland.