Owner Eric Wagner increasing production with bottled ales at the PEILCC coming this spring

When Eric Wagner started making beer he was doing it to please himself and share some interesting ales with friends. He is still making beer with that in mind, it’s just become a little bigger.

His brewery, Moth Lane Brewing, is undergoing some changes that will see more production and the availability of his product in provincial liquor stores. The popularity of his brewery and his product wasn’t something he could have predicted.

“I really didn’t see it coming,” he said. “Even as I was building this place, I really didn’t expect it to have the impact it has. I thought we would get some local people and that’s definitely happened, but some of my other die-hard regulars are from away. They come up in the summer and this is their spot.”

And what a spot. If you haven’t made the trip out to Moth Lane do it now. Put down the paper, turn off your phone, and get in your car and head up to Freeland.

A selection of Moth Lane’s brews Photo credit: Brian McInnis

It is a bit of a hike to get out to the brewery. Out past Summerside if you take Route 12 as much as possible (and you should) you will go through Tyne Valley, Bideford, past Lennox Island, and Ellerslie before hitting Freeland. Pay attention to the road or you will get lost. And when you do find the right lane (Mickie Allen Shore Lane) the only indication that you are on the right track is a small, hand-painted 12-inch by 16-inch sign nailed to a light pole.

Down the gravel and dirt road you can see the Conway Narrows and beyond that the Conway Sandhills, a 50-km stretch of sandy islands that protect this part of the North Shore.

At the end of the lane there is a small, fairly nondescript industrial building. But inside this building is where some of the Island’s best beer is brewed. A recent addition to the building means putting in a bottling station, increased production, and more brew for the people.

“We’ve been doing summer business all winter,” Wagner said. “We’ve got new accounts coming in all the time and last summer we actually ran out of product and we’ve been trying to catch up ever since. We’re hoping to get the additional production running for April or May including bottled product at the liquor stores.”

Eric Wagner checks on one of his beers Photo credit: Brian McInnis

Wagner also plans to put in a smoker this summer so he can offer a bit more in the way of food.

“We’ll do brisket, pork, and serve it on big plates. Just like the kind of thing you would get in South Carolina.”

The main brew floor will remain where it is, as will the bar that shares the same space. The new addition will house more tanks, the bottler, and the smoker.

There is a funky little space on the second floor of the original building, decorated with bottles and chalk boards, and furnished with various dining tables and mismatched chairs. The view is incredible as the windows face north out over the narrows. The room is getting more use Wagner said, with bands coming in to perform and board games for customers’ use as well.

Wagner likes experimenting with everything it seems: with food, with production, with beer, in which he is ably supported by assistant brewer Kevin Brewer (yes that is his real name!).

Wagner’s got a pretty eclectic beer selection now in the depths of March. Some have become standard like the Moto Boater, but there are always new brews on tap like his un-hopped red sour called Tenacious.

“It’s named after our ancestors. [It] must have been pretty tough to live here before heat pumps and running water. So I figured hats off to them and I called this Tenacious.”

Wagner inspects some hops for his beer Photo credit: Brian McInnis

It’s an ale of deep red colour and a sour hit not unlike a tart wine. Lightly carbonated it’s sneaky with a ABV of 6% but tasting much lighter.

Another interesting ale is the Brown-Eyed Girl, a brown porter. “My wife is a brown-eyed girl,” he said. The porter is a nice example of the style with a tight head and hints of coffee.

Wagner used to fish for a living. Over 30 years as a lobsterman, but he wouldn’t go back to it.

“This is way better than fishing,” he said. “Fishing you got two months’ work, 300 traps and you are at the mercy of the world market. Well, we have a 12-month season, capacity-wise as long as we can sell it we can increase volume, and we’re getting into the local liquor stores. We’re creating more jobs.”

However, the craft beer industry on the Island, while currently commanding a healthy market share, will have to face a hard truth.
“There is a limit and we’re all going to feel a crunch no doubt,” he said. “I know some guys in Nova Scotia that are having a hard go of it right now.”
The craft beer market in Nova Scotia has exploded in recent years, going from 36 breweries in 2016 to over 50 today.

“There will be casualties. If I was a young man and had to finance this operation myself I would have second thoughts. . . I don’t know if you would ever make money now.”

But Wagner is selling more than just beer.

“It’s not just a drink people are looking for experiences these days,” he said. “Now it’s terroir, and craftsmanship, and this kind of setting. Now you’re selling them something more.”

You need to add a widget, row, or prebuilt layout before you’ll see anything here. 🙂

About Rod Weatherbie

Rod Weatherbie is a writer working in the hospitality industry. He spent a number of years in Toronto as a member of the financial press before returning to PEI. Rod has published one piece of short fiction, one book of poetry, and has had work published in Red Shift, the Antigonish Review, Mitre, and the Toronto Quarterly. He has also recently co-produced, co-directed, and acted in a stage production of old television shows.

He also likes writing about food. Go figure.

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