If you were cruising down Barrington Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and if you didn’t truly know where exactly you were heading, or if you weren’t fully paying attention—or, as is often the case with myself, both—you would miss the place. But, if you were looking out for it, you’d surely spot the illuminated sign hanging above the retro building facade: “Stillwell.” This is it.
Inside you will find what is arguably Halifax’s premier beer bar. The space upstairs’ aesthetic is elegant, clean, a stark marble backsplash with faucets and wooden tap handles facing a long, cozy bartop. Head downstairs, and it’s a disparate atmosphere with flashy colors, graffiti artwork, beer stickers all over everything. Pinball machines illuminate a small area that leads towards some of the most interesting washrooms I have seen—even if you don’t need to go, you need to go see them.
Clearly, everything about the place is intentional and deliberate. And that extends to the beers on tap and the food coming out of the kitchen. Twelve taps featuring predominantly local breweries—2 Crows Brewing, Unfiltered, Propeller, and the bar’s own house beers, Stillwell Brewing Company (beers that are also currently brewed in town on the system at Propeller). Two hand pumps feature beers on cask, and there’s an extensive bottle menu featuring some offerings from the best brewers from around the globe. The food is simple, bar snacks, fried chicken, and burgers, but all really well-thought out for the joint, and well-done.
The staff are all incredibly nice, and they know beer. It’s a treat to sit at the bar, sipping a pint of Stillwater’s Pils or the American Pale Ale from Unfiltered, Hop Fingers (and it’s a surprisingly tasty Pale Ale at that), and listen-in on the exchanges between the bar staff and the folks who have wisely made this place their destination for beer in town.
And in a town where the beer scene isn’t anything like it is stateside in the Northeast in cities like Portland, Boston, New York, or Philly, it’s uplifting and encouraging to see a place like Stillwell so busy, so full of people who really actually care about beer. And to that end, in their own way, the folks behind Stillwell are certainly starting to make waves. I look forward to continuing the ride.