The 2017 edition of the Atlantic Canadian Beer Awards took place this weekend, and two local breweries took home medals: Split Rock Brewing Co., for their “Alli’s Big Brown Ale” (in the European Specialty Ale category), and Quidi Vidi’s Winter Ale (in the Belgian Style Specialty category).

A total of 321 beers and ciders from 50 Atlantic breweries and cideries were in the running for the awards. This meant Newfoundland rookies Split Rock Brewing Co. were going head to head with Atlantic legends like Garrison, Good Robot, and Big Spruce, and yet they emerged as runner-up to Pump House Brewery’s “Barley Wine Ale,” in the European Specialty Ale competition. That’s quite a promising feather in their cap.

The origin of Split Rock Brewing Co. was a combination of chance, and the limited degrees of separation between family and friends in a rural town like Twillingate. Everyone kinda knows everyone in Twillingate, and that made it so much easier for happenstance and serendipity to help this new brewery open its doors.

Music helped too. Robin Vatcher played in a band called Nightshift with Matt Vincent’s father many years ago, and Matt would “bum around with them and help set up their gear,” so they knew each other. Cue to many years later, and Vatcher, a businessman by trade, saw an old eyesore of a building on Main Street, and bought it to “do something with.”

It was Matt’s passion for beer that gave Vatcher that “something to do with the building” he was looking for. But only because of a coincidence. Robin’s son, Tim Vatcher, had a baby on the way, and it just so happened so that his wife was in pre-natal classes with Matt Vincent’s wife. Matt’s wife, Allison, is as much a brewer and beer lover as Matt is. She is the “Alli” of “Alli’s Big Brown Ale.”

Alli and Tim Vatcher’s wife got to talking about what a great idea a brewery would be for Twilingate … and how Tim’s father had just bought a building that would be perfect for it.

So Split Rock Brewing Co. was born as easily as that, though naming it wasn’t so easy. “A few names were tossed around, but nothing really felt right,” they say.

“Matt pitched the idea of Split Rock because Twillingate is made up of two islands, and the brewery location is right where the Town is ‘split in two.’ It had a good ring to it, and a friend of ours designed a logo that we loved.”

As for “Alli’s Big Brown Ale,” the brew that granted them “award-wining brewery” status already, it’s a 5.6% brown ale. The recipe was born when Matt challenged Alli to design her own beer from the ground up.  She wanted to brew a beer that had all of her favourite things: a full-bodied brown ale that was balanced, nutty, chocolatey, and malty.

Alli describes the resulting beer as “tea and PB toast.” They all say it was one of their favourite brew days while gearing up to launch their brewery, and it yielded this impressive, welcome addition to the beers of Newfoundland. There certainly aren’t many brown ales going around.