Rare Bird: Brewing a Recipe for Rural Economic Development

Cannon blasts rang out around Guysborough, Nova Scotia, in celebration of the new $10 million distillery at the Osprey Shores Golf Resort. The Authentic Seacoast Company property boasts a 4 ½ star inn, a golf course, a coffee roasterie, and they offer authentic seacoast fish and chips at the Rare Bird Pub. Plus they offer tours of the 22,000 square foot property. Five years in the making (they had to design and order the equipment from all over the world), they now have a combined distillery and brewery, the only one in Atlantic Canada. Today there are more than 20 craft brewers in Nova Scotia, but when Authentic Seacoast opened, there were only five.

Eleven years later, Glynn Williams, the proprietor, said that he was most proud of being able to showcase our province to tourists, confidently saying that “if we can cause people to engage with us and take notice, then we can bring them here.”

He says that this rapid growth of the industry has allowed Seacoast to learn and grow with other brewers, and that “the pioneers have done an good job of making it public.” The high degree of collaboration between craft brewers is something Williams doesn’t take for granted. “If you have a problem, you can call one of them up and they’ll help you figure it out.”
When asked what kind of difficulties they faced, Glynn laughed, saying they were countless. Because of its remote location, it was necessary for them to drill three wells (something craft breweries setting up in the HRM wouldn’t have to worry about). They also installed a fire hydrant in Guysborough—the only one in the county—and a fire pond (ultimately costing $500,000).

Williams said that being in such a remote area, he was thankful for the workers he had found and said that “you’re only as good as your team… but how do you attract [more] people for these roles?” He admitted that he had probably chosen one of the hardest places in Canada to set up shop. Traditionally, craft breweries were too small to employ workers year-round, especially in rural parts of Nova Scotia, it being 80% tourist-based. In the company’s early years, Williams said he could remember a blustery day in February when he looked out the window to the empty employee parking lot. Now the parking lot is packed year-round, which he thinks is the most rewarding aspect. The company has become 80% manufacturing and the facility has created 30 jobs (plus 20 more anticipated with the new distillery) in a community of 400 people. His workers are now going out and buying services before and after work, contributing more than ever to the local economy.

Williams explained that craft breweries are growing because of their ability to customize and vary their flavours. Larger brewers are losing popularity because they mass produce. “They try, but at the end of the day, who makes the stuff?” He said there was a “real person who makes it [at Rare Bird] at a scale where there are distinct flavours. There’s a huge degree of artistry to it.” Following the practices of the beer-making pioneers of Nova Scotia (Guysborough is the birthplace of brewing in Atlantic Canada), Rare Bird’s beers are made without preservatives and they aren’t pasteurized either, which Williams says reduces the flavours. Instead, they use a membrane that takes out active enzymes without filtering out the good stuff.

As a part of the Good Cheer Trail, and with the great success of Rare Bird beer, Fortress and Sea Fever rums, plus the release of the new GLYNNEVAN Canadian rye whisky, Williams anticipates only growth for the company. Authentic Seacoast plans to introduce some new products in the fall, and even more are being announced at the end of the year. “I can only be optimistic. It’s a challenge, but that’s why it’s fun.”

by CBANS