Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Meet Troy Kirkby: The Spitfire Arms Alehouse - Windsor, NS

front of the Spitfire Arms Alehouse
Meet Troy Kirkby (without a picture), the publican of The Spitfire Arms in Windsor, NS. While I have never personally met Kirkby, we've been emailing each other for a number of years, dating back to the first time I visited his pub, and based on those emails, Kirkby sounds like a passionate publican. A guy you'd like to have a beer with.

The Spitfire Arms is a great little pub in the small community of Windsor, NS and boasts a credible beer menu that satisfies both the beer enthusiasts' and macro drinkers alike (Garrison, Propeller, Granite, etc). It's also home to Kirkby extensive WW2 aviation museum, free to view.

How long have you operated your establishment
I purchased this circa 1898 commercial building in June of 2002. It was derelict, full of rats, mice, bats and junk...lots of junk. A rough estimate puts the demolition debris total weight at approximately 20,000 pounds! The second floor apartments were brought up to living standards first so I had a place to live. November 2002 saw the first phase of construction on the main floor, it was here that my dream of building a pub became a sudden reality. Since there had never been a restaurant on these premises, everything was new from the floors joists up. After months of hard labour, blood, sweat, tears and thousands of dollars invested into the "swear jar", we finally opened for business on April 19, 2003.

How did you get into the hospitality industry?
In 1999, while on vacation in England I visited dozens of pubs including my Great-Grandparents "local" and the Packington Arms, Islington, London which my Great-Uncle ran during WW2. It was then that I decided by the time I turned 30, I would open my first pub somewhere in Canada. As it turned out, I celebrated my 31st birthday, eight days before The Spitfire Arms opened.

What is the best part of operating a pub?
There have been countless moments over the past eight years that have been significant to me personally. But in reality, it's the simple fact that any great pub finds its way into peoples everyday lives and becomes an extension of their own space. We have celebrated births, deaths, anniversaries, marriages, birthdays, Friday's, holidays right beside our friends and customers. If you aren't a part of the local community, you don't last very long in this business.

What is the worst?
To be honest, it can be challenging to separate personal lives and emotions with everyone who walks through the doors. Finding a balance between personal and public life is something I believe most hands-on owners face at some point in their tenure as a "Publican".

How do you go about selecting the beer for your establishment?.
"Market Research!!!" I love using that phrase. I'm a beer guy, through and through. If there's something new or unique available to the trade, I want to find out as much as possible about the brand, its history and its representation prior to putting it on draught or in the fridge. To the best of my recollection, we have offered something in the region of approximately 230 different brands from across the globe since 2003.

Where did the name of your establishment come from?
My life-long passion for Commonwealth aviation history was the main inspiration for choosing the "Spitfire" as the name for the pub. My Grand-mother served in the Royal Air Force as a WAAF, she grew up in Islington and I've listened to her telling stories about growing up during the Blitz and seeing and hearing the Spitfire's and Hurricane's roaring through the skies over London. It's an Iconic aircraft and in my opinion still one of the most beautifully designed airframes of all time. I also wanted to exhibit my personal collection of RCAF and Commonwealth aviation artifacts, so there is a display case built into the pub that allows customers of all ages to see the genuine article. The pub has been referred to as "the fourth aviation museum in Nova Scotia". I use the phrase "The Spitfire Arms Alehouse, not just a pub, it's a place of Remembrance" to express my thanks to an entire generation of common people who did remarkable things during uncertain times. It is to them that I owe my freedom.

What has been the biggest change in the beer industry since you started your business?
It was an emerging trend in the Maritimes that I was able to capitalize on when we first opened - SELECTION. People thought I was crazy to open a pub outside of Halifax with eight draught lines in 2003. We now offer sixteen choices and a guest beer. A shift in people's tastes to import, specialty and microbrewery beers, coupled with tailoring a great food menu to compliment the entire experience. I believe we were at the right place, at the right time with the right idea.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
One word...Government.

What do you get up to when your not at your establishment?
I've been involved with the preservation and restoration of an Avro Lancaster bomber in Edmundston, New Brunswick since 2001. It is my other passion in life. Aside from that I collect Francis-Barnett motorcycles (one of which belonged to my Great-grandfather), I travel as much as possible to experience new cultures, especially their food and drink! And, as I mentioned before - MARKET RESEARCH!

If you're not drinking at your own bar, where do you head to for a beer?
I have a few favourite spots in Halifax. In no specific order; Durty Nelly's, Finbar's, The Henry House...but there's one in Ontario close to my Mum's place in Paris - The Cobblestone Public House. Great people, great food and great beer!

Name the last beer you consumed?
Funny enough, it was Lancaster Bomber by Thwaites Brewery, Lancashire, UK. It was given to me by someone at an aviation conference in Ottawa a few weeks ago...nice and hoppy!

The Spitfire Arms Alehouse
29 Water Street, Exit #6, Hwy 101
Windsor, Nova Scotia B0N 2T0

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