Halifax is a beer town, that’s for certain. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone of legal drinking age who doesn’t enjoy a cold brew at least once in a while, and with all the local craft breweries in the region, there’s lots to choose from.
But that abundance of choice isn’t quite there in terms of a drinking venue, at least for the social introverts, or the quiet types, or anyone else who might not be a fan of the typical club or pub scene. With the exception of a few chill outliers, if you want to get out for a drink in this town, you’ve got to be prepared for a loud and crowded night.
But the folks behind the Good Robot Brewing Company, one of the newer names in Halifax craft beer, know that beer drinkers come in all types, and they want to try and make their newly-opened tap room a place all kinds of beer lovers will want to visit.
“There are a lot of beer drinkers that aren’t extroverted, and don’t like the loud scene of the pub,” says Joshua Counsil, co-founder of Good Robot Brewing. “They don’t want the person next to them to start a conversation with them.”
That’s why the folks at Good Robot are setting aside two hours a month to turn their tap room into an “imbibrary,” and hosting silent reading nights.
The rules are simple – from 6pm to 8pm, no cell phones, no wifi, no idle chat. The tap room’s typical raucous playlist is switched out for soft jazz, and the only things open are the taps and your books.
Counsil admits that this isn’t an original idea – it’s something he’s borrowing from the Sorrento Hotel, a watering hole he knew of from his time in Seattle.
“It was the same concept - fireside kind of room, low-lying tables, comfy seats,” says Counsil. “I never got a chance to go, but apparently it was just the coolest thing ever. They had a line around the block at opening.”
The idea of drawing that kind of crowd, especially in the winter months when beer sales trickle in comparison to summer, definitely appealed to the guys at Good Robot. And for their first trial run, a crowd they did draw.
“It was crazy. It was, for a Wednesday night - we hadn’t seen that kind of traffic,” says Counsil. “By 6:20, there was no sitting room in the place - standing room only.”
Their second silent reading session, which I attended, was no less busy. I arrived early so as to guarantee a seat, and while the tap room seemed more crowded before the event began, thanks to the chatter and lively music, there were actually more people in the bar during quiet time - the patrons really began to flow in once the clock struck six.
I’m one of these types who find the typical bar atmosphere too loud, and too extroverted to be comfortable within, even with people I know, much less by myself. Once that clock turned over, you could feel the change in atmosphere – suddenly, it’s less “bar,” and way more “quiet coffee shop with a liquor license.”
For two hours, I sat quietly in a corner booth with a bunch of people I had never met, sipping an orange-infused Double IPA, and getting through some of my graphic novel backlogs. It should have been the most introverted way I could spend a night at a bar.
And yet, when the pub rock came back on and reading time was over, that typical bar feel returned, but I was way more comfortable in it, and I felt like I had already made friends with these strangers.
That, according to Counsil, is the whole point of silent reading night.
“After two hours of silence and drinking - you know, your eyes wander, and you see people around the room, and oh my god, they’re reading Kurt Vonnegut, I love Kurt,” says Counsil. “All of a sudden, you have something to talk about with a fellow kind of introvert, or a fellow book lover.”
“I knew that it was going to be crowded, but quiet, and how nice that was going to be, even though we were sharing the table with four or five people we didn’t know,” says Alex Hagen, one of my table-mates for the evening. “It’s like a sense of community, but you don’t even talk to each other.”
“It’s social without being social. It’s actually perfect for the functional introvert,” says Kristine Kovacevic, another one of my table-mates who likened the experience to bonding with a stranger you meet when you’re both out walking your dogs. “It’s a dog park for the literati.”
“It’s essentially forcing people to interact, but they don’t realize it,” adds Counsil. “The silent reading part is actually just sort of a catalyst to get people comfortable at a pub setting.”
Counsil plans to keep hosting silent readings at the tap room on Robie Street once a month, at least until the summer months, but don’t expect much more than that. They have their more extroverted customers to think about, too.
“We don’t want to become the silent reading bar,” says Counsil. “We have lots of other stuff going on - the silent reading is fun once a month for something different, but we also have a lot of rowdy events.”
But for those two hours a month, quiet drinkers have a haven at Good Robot’s imbibrary – and I think I’ll continue to join them.
“If they did this once a month, I would probably come every month,” says Kovacevic.
Good Robot’s Facebook page is the best place to keep up-to-date on when their next silent reading session will be, if you want to get in on this, too.