It was the largest
iceberg most Newfoundlanders had ever seen. It weighed 250 million tons, loomed 12 metres above the water and was twice as long as an aircraft carrier, and when it ran aground three weeks ago in
Iceberg Alley off
Twillingate, Nlfd., there were plenty of cheers in the draught room at the Blow Me Down pub.
It means there'll be no shortage of Iceberg Beer this summer.
Icebergs drifting down from the Arctic are a vital ingredient in the popular Iceberg Beer brewed by
Quidi Vidi Brewery
near St. John's. The brewery derives its name from the unique fishing port on which it sits. Quidi Vidi Harbour is also called "The Gut." Like our own gut, the harbor has a very narrow opening leading into a wider basin.
Two years ago an iceberg drifted into that narrow mouth, ran aground and blocked the harbour until heavy seas finally broke it up. It frustrated boat owners, but it gave brew master Dave Rees an idea. Why not use the tons of pure fresh water in the iceberg to make his beer.
"We experimented with it last year, but this year is our first full-scale run at brewing Iceberg Beer. We're making 1,100 cases a day, but we can't keep up with the demand," said Rees. A case contains four bottles.
glaciers, where most icebergs visiting Newfoundland's Iceberg Alley are born, is between 10,000 and 50,000 years old. "Icebergs are made of only fresh water" said Rees. "A couple thousand years of ice melt off the surface of the berg as it floats south and our harvester digs deep into the berg to extract ice, so we estimate the ice we use is 25,000 years old."
"It's very pure water. There's almost no detectible mineral content in the water. It makes a nice beer." Rees said he's getting orders for his Iceberg Beer from wholesalers as far away as Alberta. "We are having enough trouble filling our orders here on the island. Maybe when the demand drops off a bit in the fall we can ship some off the island."
You can watch Iceberg Beer being made on Quidi Vidi Harbour. It's pronounced Kiddy Viddy and may be the prettiest port setting in Canada. Small fishing shacks cling somehow to the high rock walls protecting the harbour, which is almost hidden from the sea. The village at the end of the inlet looks like a
Newfoundland "outport", but it's only minutes from downtown St. John's.
The Quidi Vidi Brewery offers public tours, lead by Dave's brother Charlie.
Despite the beer tasting at the end of the tour Charlie Rees brags about the safety record at the brewery. He admitted on our tour that a man had fallen off a 40-foot ladder the previous day, but suffered no injuries. "He was only on the first rung," said Rees.
That's the kind of fun you'll have on your brewery tour. However, you can't watch the veteran fishermen collect the ice for the beer. It's too dangerous. "Icebergs are very dangerous to be near when they're still floating in the ocean. They're unstable, they keep changing shape and they could flip over at anytime," said David Rees. "Our harvesting crews wait until the bergs run aground. They use a big mechanical jaw that bores into the berg and grabs ice from deep inside. They sometimes wash off the chunks with high pressure steam and drop them in a holding tank. It's usually melted by the time they reach port."
The behemoth off Twillingate is the second largest iceberg Cecil Stockley has seen and he has seen many. That's why he's known as Newfoundland's Iceberg Man. He's captain of MV Iceberg Alley a tour boat out of Twillingate on which he has been escorting tourists for 25 years out for a closer look at the majestic chunks of ice, plus passing whales, dolphins and seals.
"I measured it with my radar and it's more than 2,000 feet long (610 metres). I saw a bigger one in 1991, but not much bigger."
He also owns
The Iceberg Shop, a craft and souvenir shop, plus art gallery where he ties up his boat. There you can learn everything about whales, icebergs and Newfoundland life. The shop is a 160-year-old barn that was pulled to its present location in 1958 across the ice of Twillingate Harbour.
Patrick Brennan is a veteran travel, business writer/photographer based in Guelph. His credits include writing for a chain of 60 newspapers with 1.6 million readers. He was a staff writer/photographer at the Toronto Star for 32 years.
Courtesy of Quidi Vidi Brewery
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