October 24, 2010
The autumn light slants in across the marshes, strikes the glittering
surface of the slow little river, bounces through tall windows, and
flares up into amber, red and gold in the five little sampling glasses
of beer before me.
Raspberry Wheat Ale, Rojo Mojo Red Ale, Planters Pale Ale, Blue Heron
Extra Special Bitter, Port-in-a-Storm Porter. They’re all delicious, but
the bitter and the porter are exceptional. They’re made by a brewmaster
named Randy Lawrence, whose brewery is right here, right behind that
wall in the Port Pub and Bistro in Port Williams.
Marjorie and I have brought friends from BC, and we’re all delighted.
The ambiance of the pub is alluring – barrel-staved ceilings, dark wood
floors, original art on the walls, a waterside deck, a welcoming air of
warmth, cleanliness and competence. Our server, whose name is Miki, is
friendly and attentive, but never intrusive.
The food is succulent and surprising. Karen has a “spectacular”
lamb-burger with sprouts and yam fries, accompanied by the local
Tidewater cider. Doug orders fish and chips and bitter, with the fish
battered in Planters Pale Ale. Marjorie chooses a pizza loaded with
sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and cheese. She washes it
down with bitter. Along with my five little beers, I have Al’s local
sausage with a bright, spicy sauerkraut and real potato chips – not
French fries but chips, thin slices of potato deep-fried right on the
I look around the table.
“Is there any way this lunch could have been improved?” I ask. Everyone
shakes their head. It has been, apparently, a perfect lunch – and
perfectly affordable, too.
The Annapolis Valley is amazing right now, a cornucopia of vineyards and
wineries, orchards and cideries, roadside stalls bursting with squash
and onions and tomatoes, artisanal jams and cheeses. You’ve heard of the
100-Mile Diet? The Port Pub does The Ten-Kilometer Meal, a feast in
which every single item – the beef, the butter, the vegetables, the wine
– is gathered within ten kilometers of the kitchen.
How many places in Canada could possibly assemble such a meal? And
here’s the kicker: The Port Pub is a community development project
organized by local citizens working in partnership with a creative
Dr. Bruce McLeod is the CEO of the investors’ group that owns the pub,
which began with three Port William couples, mostly physicians, getting
together on Friday evenings for drinks and food. Wouldn’t it be nice to
have a congenial place to socialize right in Port William, though,
rather than driving to Wolfville? A place like an Irish local pub, say?
Well, why not? In fact, why not Nova Scotia’s first “gastropub,”
emphasizing fine food?
Nova Scotia has an instrument called the Community Economic Development
Investment Fund which allows a group of community investors to pool
their money and invest it in local businesses. Because such investments
can be risky, investors receive a 30% tax credit. The investments are
also eligible for RRSPs. CEDIFs, says Chris Payne, the provincial
official who supervises them, have been very successful in generating
jobs and profits at minimal cost to government. Prince Edward Island has
just adopted the concept, and the new government in New Brunswick
proposes to follow suit.
McLeod and his friends formed a CEDIF and set out to raise $1.2 million
to ensure that the proposed pub would start with no debt, no rent, no
mortgage. The shares cost $5000, and many of the 60 investors really
didn’t expect to get their money back – but they ponied up $1.4 million
anyway. The Port opened in November, 2007, its kitchen supervised by
famed chef Michael Howell of Wolfville’s Tempest Restaurant.
The pub initially served 200 customers a day. It now serves twice that
number, and on one recent Saturday, says McLeod with mock chagrin, it
had served 400 people by lunch-time, and the CEO had to wait for a
table. It employs 38 people, full-time and part-time, and buys most of
its beer, wine and food from local producers. It’s a solid contributor
to the Valley’s economy.
What’s even better than a perfect lunch? A perfect lunch that builds up
a community. Thanks, guys. Well done. We’ll be back.
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