We pride ourselves on having something for everyone around here at Sprudge, and when that comes to stuff like cafe features, maps, and guides, there’s no stone left unturned in the search for great coffee. But somehow, in our 14th year of publishing, we’ve never before featured a coffee shop in the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland—or indeed, any cafe in the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This ends today! We are overjoyed to bring you reportage on the fine work of Bannerman Brewing Co., located near the harbor in the heart of downtown St. John’s, a few blocks from the iconic brightly colored row houses of Jellybean Row. This spot doubles up on both coffee and beer, operating as both a cafe and a brewery out of a charming old firehouse. The space’s redesign is stunning, and the Bannerman team’s dedication to fine coffee appreciation can be felt throughout this interview. Let’s dive in!
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As told to Sprudge by Whit MacDonald
Introduce yourself to our readers—tell us about your cafe!
We’re a locally-owned brewery and a cafe, operating out of an old fire station in the east end of downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland. We opened in the spring in 2019 after a lengthy, but worthwhile, overhaul of the building. It’s a big, open space with lots of natural light and communal seating, which kind of encourages customers to mingle with each other over a coffee or a beer. We think the space helps foster a community-centered atmosphere and that’s something we definitely take pride in.
We start our days serving coffee and baked goods and begin the transition into taproom/kitchen service in the afternoon—our cafe hours end at 3pm, while our taproom goes til 11pm. When we first opened, one of our goals was to introduce our customers to really great coffee, but in a more elevated way than most were used to. We also wanted to make it approachable and interactive for the customer, so we decided to offer V60s as our only drip option for the first few years of business (we recently added batch brew to our menu). Being in a small city with a very small coffee community can make it challenging to get everyone else on board with specialty coffee, but the experience has been very positive and rewarding; it’s really special to see our patrons develop a genuine interest in coffee. We have a fantastic team of baristas who put a great deal of care into the drinks and we hope that translates to the finished product.
What equipment do you use in your shop?
Which roaster or roasters do you serve?
As an espresso, V60 option and on drip, we offer Cape Coffee (our newly-launched sister company) as our other espresso and V60 option, we offer SEY Coffee. For retail options, we offer both of these, as well as Monogram and Pilot Coffee Roasters.
What is the neighborhood like where you’re located? What’s some other cool stuff nearby?
Downtown St. John’s is a great place; it’s the oldest city in North America, so that certainly comes with history and we’re located right in the midst of it all. The city is fairly well-known for its colorful old, row houses and historic properties, some dating back to the 1800’s, which is pretty cool to just walk around and look at. Within walking distance, we have some fantastic coastline trails and beautiful views where it’s not at all uncommon to see whales breaching in the summer. There’s also Signal Hill, which is probably one of the city’s more popular attractions. It’s probably best known for being the location of the first ever received transatlantic wireless transmission in 1901, but it’s also just a great spot to hike or take in a sunset (or sunrise!).
What’s something cool or unique about your cafe you want folks to know?
The building itself, being an old, restored fire station, is pretty unique. It’s a big space, so we’ve got a lot of room to utilize. We have an event space upstairs that we use for a variety of events like shows, markets, weddings, etc.; we have an in-house brewery on our main floor which allows the customers see some of the beer-brewing process; and our kitchen serves as a home for NamJim, a (now permanent) pop-up that serves up dishes that play off of Southeast Asian flavors that are great for sharing (and pairs really well with our beers).
Is there a community organization or charity you’d like to shout-out as part of this feature?
We’d love to give a shout out to Semilla Coffee, a green importer in Montreal, Quebec who helped us get set up with some of our first coffees at our sister roasting company, Cape Coffee. They do really great work with a small handful of producers and connect them with roasters who then maintain those relationships, offering them security and stability through purchasing their product. This model allows roasters to buy with intent and cultivate meaningful bonds with these small-scale growers.
Photos by Bannerman Brewing Co, used with permission