Like grocery store customers across the country, shoppers at the Sobeys in Elmsdale, N.S., can stock up on all the essentials. Unlike customers anywhere else in the country, however, they can also purchase craft beer and cider directly from a microbrewery inside their local supermarket.
The Halifax-area store now houses the Chill Street Fresh Beer and Cider Market. Here, customers can sample a Honey I’m Home brown ale or a Skinny Dippin’ apple cider along with foods that pair perfectly with them. “Craft beer is a hot product these days, and we felt having Chill Street brewing onsite would be a draw to our store as well as offer an added convenience for our customers,” says Sobeys’ spokesperson Shauna Selig.
The combination of convenience and buying local appeals to customers, says Chill Street owner Barry MacLeod. “We can’t keep up.” MacLeod, who initially approached Sobeys about setting up a shop within their shop two years ago, says the unique business model allows both companies to stand out from the crowd. “It’s a way for us to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” he says.
Products from the two stores are closely connected. Chill Street relies on food pairings and samplings to reinforce the connection between great drinks, great food and great times. For example, if an India pale ale (IPA) is on the Chill Street sampling menu, it might be paired with burgers or carrot cake—both enhance the IPA flavour—the makings for which are available in the grocery store only a few feet away. Also available: recipes showing how craft beer can be incorporated into a variety of dishes.
The intent of the market, which opened in June, is educational as well as entrepreneurial. It also adds a touch of theatre to the shopping experience as shoppers can witness the microbrewery in action. Four vessels holding 11,000 litres operate non-stop behind a glass partition. Every can, grunter, crowler and growler is sold directly from the brewing vessel for maximum freshness. “They can see us brewing every beer they buy,” says MacLeod.
For Sobeys, the partnership may be unique, but the model is not. Selig points out that the grocery chain has partnerships with several companies across the country such as Bento, Nutella, and Starbucks. “We are always looking for opportunities to offer our customers choice and convenience,” she says, “and Chill Street is an extension of that offer.”