From home brew to hound brew: Master Chef contestant plans a brewpub for Digby area

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on January 24, 2016

DIGBY – The Digby area may soon have its first brewpub.

Les Barr says just a little paperwork and patience stands between him a lifelong dream.

“We’re busy with paperwork and permits but we expect to announce the location shortly,” he said.

Barr has formed a company under the name Roof Hound Brewing Company and has bought some of the equipment including the 700-litre stainless steel brite tank where the beer settles and carbonates.

He’ll be using 500-litre kettles to start the process and a mash tun repurposed from a scallop bin.

“A lot of places use old dairy equipment,” he says. “It’s just a stainless steel vessel so I’d thought I’d use something local.”

If demand is there, he could make two batches a week and produce 5,400 litres a month. He’ll be selling locally but also hoping to sell kegs, growlers or pints farther afield.

To learn about the process of bigger batch brewing, Barr has been visiting nearby craft breweries, including Rudders in Yarmouth, where he was assistant guest brewer for three days.

He’s been looking around the Digby area for a spot to set up and says the plan is to have a microbrewery with light food to start.

“This would be a destination type place with local music, art – a community place – with creative beer and food,” he says.

Eventually he hopes to develop the restaurant more and maybe even start a hop farm.

He has already launched a website and a Facebook page for Roof Hound Brewing Company.

The name comes from a family story about a hound dog that got tipsy on raisins left over after Barr’s grandfather made homebrew.

Barr’s flagship brew, Big Brown Roof Hound Ale, is made from the same ingredients of brown sugar and raisins and he has a whole litter of other dog-inspired brews: Little Pup Pale Ale, Big Dog IPA and Roof Top Rye-it.

Barr has always dreamed of running a brewpub with great beer, great food and live music.

“Beer is the original social media,” he says, quoting one of his mentor’s Tony Magee. “It brings people together. Digby needs more places where people can come together and share ideas – cafes, pubs – where they can network and build on these ideas.”

Barr always has a few kegs of homebrew on offer in his Bloomfield kitchen. And he’s always pulling something scrumptious out of the oven.

He’s attracted to the artistic and scientific aspects of cooking and brewing but mostly to the social aspect.

“Cooking and brewing is something I like sharing with people,” he says. “It’s how I show my love to my friends: I invite them over and feed them - you don’t eat with your enemies.”

But taking it all to the next level has always been just too big a step.

“I’ve toyed with this idea for years,” he said. “I get excited, I get nervous: the food business is a tough business, it’s risky.”

Barr though has recently received a little confidence boost – he won a spot on Master Chef Canada, a TV reality show where home cooks compete for a $100,000 prize.

The show doesn’t air until February and Barr is not allowed to say how he made out.

“I will say, being on the show has given me a boost in confidence to finally go for it,” he says. “The publicity could help too.”

The story behind Roof Hound Brewing Co. as told by Les Barr

“Many years ago, there was a man in Barton with many children. Eleven, in fact.

He had so many children that he had very little money to spare for recreational drink. So, this man decided to make his own.

He put water, raisins, brown sugar and yeast in a bucket, and placed that bucket behind the wood stove where it fermented and turned to alcohol.

The man enjoyed his liquid creation, and poured the swollen raisins out in the backyard.

The family hound dog found the alcohol-plumped raisins, and ate them.

He then proceeded to climb up the woodpile, and onto the roof of the house, where the hound moaned and howled throughout the night.

The man’s many children found this very entertaining, and henceforth the story became part of the family folklore.”

That man was Les Barr’s grandfather and Barr hopes to keep the story alive with Roof Hound Brewing Co. and Big Brown Roof Hound Ale made with raisins and brown sugar.

To keep up with Les Barr's culinary and brewing adventures, follow him on Instagram @roofhound.