Social media, word of mouth, keeping new business on its toes.

No sign? No problem.

Andrew Waterman

One of the newest businesses on Torbay Road doesn’t have a sign and hasn’t used any typical marketing strategies.  Yet, on most Fridays at 6 p.m., the place is full.

Scattered green tape on the floor zig-zigs through the room, suggesting how customers should line up, so the area can accommodate enough people in the hope no one has to stand out in the cold.

At the front of the line are two taps pouring Port Rexton Brewing Co’s beer and a single fridge stocked with cans.

Christina Coady
Christina Coady, manager of the new Port Rexton Brewing Co. outlet store in St. John’s, fills a growler for a customer. (Photo by Andrew Waterman)

“Half of what we do is . . . testing waters that haven’t really been tread yet,” said company co-owner Sonja Mills. “And so, we figured it would be well received but we had no idea it would be as busy as it has been.”

Mills owns and operates the business with partner Alicia MacDonald.

The Torbay Road outlet is an extension of the Port Rexton Brewery and Taproom, located in – you guessed it – Port Rexton, on the Bonavista Peninsula, about 68 kilometres east of Clarenville.

The Port Rexton location is open only through the summer; however, the brewery supplies beer to restaurants through the winter.

Tourism to the Bonavista Peninsula area slows down during the winter months, giving some businesses a chance to take a break or slow down production.

If the popularity of Port Rexton Brewery’s new shop is any indication, the thirst for craft beer in St. John’s lasts year-round.

“A large bit of our market here in Newfoundland is located in St. John’s . . . All summer long everyone from town has to drive out here. Why not try and get the beer in the winter?”

More craft beer on the way.

Mike Buhler, a certified cicerone (beer expert) and co-founder of the N.L. Artisanal and Craft Beer Club, said within two years of the club being founded in 2012, it had reached 3,000 members.

Breweries are popping up around the island and, according to Buhler, the number is approaching 20 in total, though not at all are up and running just yet.

To go from making home brew to a commercial size operation is not just simple multiplication, Buhler said.

“For new craft breweries getting on the go, it’s common that they’ll have issues with something . . . It’s common that people have trouble in trying to get everything dialed up and perfect when they try and start a new brewery. That’s normal.”

Buhler’s companion when he visited Port Rexton Brewery was Tim Webb, one of the author’s of The World Atlas of Beer, as well as several other books about beer.

One of Webb’s interests is traveling to the more remote breweries in the world. Port Rexton fit that interest for him.

While tasting the beer, Webb made a comment that stuck in Buhler’s mind.

“No faults,” Webb said.

This may seem like a fairly dry comment, but Buhler saw it as high praise.

“To be in your first year of business and have a top flight person come in and find no faults in the beers you’re making… that’s pretty good,” Buhler said.

While the process of raising production quantities is being worked out,  the store on Torbay Road sells out of the product on most weekends. Keeping up with demand has been trying, but Mills maintains that running the business is a lot of fun.

“We’re still blown away, we’re still beside ourselves. (We’re) really excited, really pumped that St. John’s really seems to be embracing our product.”

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