As the year winds down and the heat needs to be turned up, memories of summer fun are fading away. As we said goodbye to what was a pretty great season in Newfoundland, my friends and I took a little trip out to Split Rock Brewing Co. in Twillingate. We visited the Stage Head Pub just days after it opened for business this past August. I had not really planned to write an article about Split Rock because I just wanted to try some brews and enjoy a Saturday evening with friends as a tourist at home but the beers, atmosphere, and company changed my mind. After a flight and a few pints of Combines Ale, I changed my mind. I reached out to the owners of this establishment via email to ask some questions about this new, exciting business venture.
Split Rock Brewing Co. is a partnership between Robin and Tim Vatcher and Matt Vincent, I spoke with Allison Vincent via email about how this venture came to fruition and she told me that while living in Nova Scotia, she and Matt became passionate home brewers and lovers of craft beer. “Matt has always dreamed of opening a microbrewery in his hometown,” says Allison. “Robin and Tim are local business people and were in the planning stages of developing an old run-down building in Twillingate. Once the three partners got together, the idea of Split Rock Brewing Co was born.”
Allison says that since opening, the response from both locals and tourists has been “excellent”. “We opened at the end of the tourist season but we have had individuals who are used to the craft beer scene elsewhere come in and really enjoy our beer. Our locals are embracing craft beer and love the atmosphere at our pub. There is a lot of excitement in town.” My friends and I arrived around 6 P.M. and several patrons were already there, by the time we left, the pub was full and things were in full swing.
I was immediately a fan of the rustic, yet modern aesthetic of the pub and wondered where they came up with the designs. Allison says this was a group effort. “We liked the idea of an “old fishing stage feel” without going overboard (no pun intended) with it. We used some old wood from a house that was being torn down for one of our walls and the bar is built with floorboards from an old shed.” I was surprised to discover this because everything in the Stage Head Pub seemed new. (The bathroom sink is also really cool…)
I first ordered a flight and asked the bartender to pour me up the four most popular brews from Split Rock. I ended up getting the Combines Ale, Bluff Head Bitter, Red Sky Red Rye, and Gateway IPA. I enjoyed all four but was especially a fan of the Combines Ale, which was light and tasty. I was also impressed that the Gateway IPA lived up to its name because try as I might, I just cannot get into hoppy beers and have not really found an IPA that I like. I asked Allison which brew she suggests to customers. She noted that while it really just comes down to personal preference, she would recommend the Bluff Head Bitter for someone new to craft beer. “Craft beer lovers should try the Black Island Stout or Alli’s Big Brown Ale,” she says.
There are plans to offer food options at the Stage Head Pub as well as a kitchen is under construction. Allison hopes that it will be ready sometime this winter with plans to serve “high-quality pub fare” and eventually a full menu. Allison lists stout and smoked ribs as her favorite food pairing so one should not be too surprised if you eventually see this on the menu.
Since my visit to the Stage Head Pub, Split Rock Brewing Co. has been active on social media as well as in St. John’s having participated in the Craft Beer Attraction that was held at the Remax Center in late September. Allison said they had a great time and were “overwhelmed by the response and loved seeing people enjoy [their] brews.”
That same weekend, Split Rock Brewing Co and Port Rexton Brewery took over the taps at popular downtown restaurant Adelaide Oyster House. I was disappointed to discover Split Rock were highlighting their own Belgian style witbier as that is my favorite type of beer and it was not on tap when I visited the Stage Head Pub.
I am really hoping that this type of tap takeover becomes a regular thing because I was to try this beer though as of now, Allison says they have no concrete plans to feature their beers in the capital city but are looking at the feasibility of serving their beer in St. John’s. “Hopefully, you’ll find us taking over taps again,” she says. “[W]ho knows!?!”
Hopefully that is the case, but for now if you are interested in trying what Split Rock Brewing Co. has to offer you can visit them at the Stage Head Pub at 119 Main Street in Twillingate. There, you can also purchase some cool swag like the tucker hat I bought that me thinking I was Justified era Justin Timberlake, (though the pints, combined with the early to mid 2000’s bangers we were listening to on the drive to and from Twillingate probably didn’t help either). My friends and I had a great time at this modern, yet classic feeling pub and really enjoyed the beers we had. If you are a fan of road trips and trying new beers, you too will enjoy the Stage Head Pub.
I cannot guarantee you will love it as much as we did though because good times need good beer and even better company, which we definitely had. You could lock us in a church basement and we would still have a time. I look forward to seeing Split Rock Brewing Co. grow and cannot wait to try that witbier.