Brightwood Brewery a bright light on the Dartmouth brewing scene

Brightwood Brewery launched last July by bringing and selling Big Lift IPA to the Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market.

Partners Ian Lawson and Matt McGrail are both practicing engineers who have a passion for not only craft beer and home brewing, but also the community they live in. These passions, along with a desire to be entrepreneurs and have their independence, led to this stage which has taken them through multiple plans and reformulations.

McGrail is from Halifax and has travelled around a bit, but always considered here home. Lawson is a Wellington boy who spent his summers and weekends paddling on Lake Banook.

They had a variety of brewery names, but in the end they choose Brightwood, which is where Lawson lives and where the duo brews. McGrail and Lawson made homebrew for about 10 years, starting with the typical beer kits, and then quickly moving to an all-grain system.

The hobby turned into an obsession and they could be found on home brewers’ forums in the early hours of the morning researching yeast flocculation rates. They have also learned a lot from local brewers and are always anxious to find out more to improve their process.

A typical week for them is working 40 hours from Monday to Friday at their engineering jobs and running the brewer in their off hours. They brew Wednesday evenings, which can go late into the night. Saturday is taken up with sales, and you can find Lawson and McGrail at Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday is another brewing day. Like any entrepreneurial venture you need the drive but also support from your family, and they have both.

Lawson and McGrail love the support they get from their local community. They are excited about their business and hope to expand in the future.

They have some preliminary plans in place, which would keep their brewery in their community and a larger production facility in the greater Dartmouth area.

As for the beer, their production limits them to a select number of brews at any one time. Brightwood currently has four beers in rotation, of which three have a local connection in the name.

Even though they are limited in the number of brew, the offering won’t be stagnant. They expect one of the current brews to go on hiatus and be replaced by a Steam Lager this spring.

The Big Lift American IPA is pale gold in colour and heavily hopped for flavour and aroma, using a combination of American and English hops which give floral and citrus tastes with minty and woody undertones. It weighs in at 6.6 per cent ABV and 71 IBUs.

Smokey the Beer Honey Smoked Ale is 5.3 per cent ABV and 37 IBUs. It’s made using beech smoked malt, giving it campfire aromas and tastes on the front of the palate, while the honey malt brings out some sweetness on the tail end.

McNab’s Pure Rye IPA is a spicy and crisp beer from the combination of rye and hop blends, and is 6.3 per cent ABV and 49 IBUs. The name is an homage to an old soda company that used to operate on McNab’s Island in the 1800s — Pure McNab’s.

Their newest beer, Portland St. Porter, was born out of feedback and requests from customers. They brought it out just in time to fight the winter blues. The 5.3 per cent ABV and 31 IBU ale has coffee notes followed by a big chocolate taste and finishes with smoky and sweet undertones.

You can pick up a Brightwood brew Saturday mornings at the Alderney Market, and the brewery will be part of the Evolution Nanobrewery Tap Takeover Feb. 9 at Battery Park Beer Bar in Dartmouth.


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