Twillingate is much like any rural NL town. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a cousin or an old family friend. And people like to play music.
In a nutshell, this is the background story of Split Rock Brewing Co. Co-owner Robin Vatcher has known my buddy Scott Goudie for more than a few years, and they like to play music together. Hence I wound up recently sampling Port Rexton brews at the Merchant Tavern with Robin and Scott one day as Robin told me about his new brewing project.
A businessman by trade, Robin saw an old building on Main Street, an eyesore that needed a transformation, and bought it. Somewhat unsure what to do with it, serendipity had it that his son Tim, who is also involved in the brewery, had a baby on the way and his wife was attending pre natal classes with Matt Vincent’s wife.
Matt had returned home from 12 years in Halifax in the airforce, and had been dreaming of opening a microbrewery for most of those years. Since his very first batch of homebrew, in fact.
The moms-to-be chatted about what a great idea a brewery would be in the town, noting that Robin’s building on Main Street would make an ideal location. Matt’s wife Allison is an accomplished brewer in her own right.
Once again, small town connections and music came into play. Matt’s dad had played in a band, Nightshift, with Robin back in the day. Matt would “bum around with them and help set up their gear.” Feeling comfortable with Robin, he approached him with the idea, and a brewery was born.
The 8 taps in the tasting room will contain mostly milder and very approachable beers inspired by classic English brews, though a witbier rounds off the list for a classic wheat and saison lover like myself. It is Matt’s goal to show people that craft beer is for everyone.
He promises that between their 7 beers there is one for you, no matter what your tastes. The 8th tap will pour more adventurous seasonals or guest beers by other microbreweries such as Port Rexton, whose owners have paid a visit to the fledgling operation.
“I’m a nerd” is Matt’s short and sweet explanation for his love affair with brewing. The science of what actually happens during the fermentation process intrigues him, and he has nothing short of an obsession with strains of yeast.
We talk about this for quite a while, and I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone who knows more about brewing yeast than Matt. You can almost hear him blush with joy over the phone when he tells me about the “micro brewery fund” piggy bank he had going for years. It’s empty now, and he has a brewery.
I get less details about the restaurant portion of the business as a chef was in the process of being secured over the week I was speaking to the boys. Robin tells me it will have a Newfoundland twist, and Matt says with his characteristic passion that “the food will reflect the same degree of care the beer is made with.”
If I enjoy the brewery even half as much as I enjoy Robin and Matt then Twillingate is about to become a beer lover’s destination.