Oxus Brewing – Follow-up

I had the chance to stop into Oxus Brewing to chat with Sean and see how things are progressing. For those of you not familiar with Oxus, I spoke with Sean early in the process and haven’t had a chance to stop in again until now. Sean has faced some challenges over the process but is well underway in getting his brewery up and running.

Oxus Exterior

Located at 1180 Sanford in the Polo Park area, Sean has a reasonable size location for the brewing that he is planning on doing.  Already well on his way to getting his brewing equipment installed, Sean is working on finalizing the flooring and electrical and getting the final inspections done.

Sean has done a great deal of the work himself including the pouring of concrete, the grinding down of the floors and the installation of the control box, which he built himself. Plumbers have gotten the trench drains in place and the glycol loops are all set for each of his tanks.

Sean hopes to be able to get open soon and has set a personal goal for himself. He’s working hard and is getting close to being able to install his equipment. He’s got a few recipes already developed including a west coast IPA and a Czech lager as well as plans for other styles as he moves forward. The plan is also to have a small tap room on site as well as a canning line to be able to get his beer out to the masses.

The focus for now is on getting the brewery up and running so that he can produce beer. Initially it will only be available in kegs and he hopes to get these on at local venues and vendors so that people can enjoy what he’s been working so hard to bring to market. As time progresses he’d like to get things out in cans and then get his taproom space open so folks can come and enjoy his beer where it’s brewed.

While there is still a lot to be done, the fact that Sean is doing all this work on his own and has made as much progress as he already has is quite incredible. I’m excited for him to get his doors open and realize a dream that he has had for quite some time.

Look forward to drinking your beer and to seeing the doors of Oxus open.

Surly Comes to Manitoba

Surly Logo

So, Surly Brewing has come to Manitoba. I’m sure people have probably heard this as it’s been widely promoted through social media, the liquor marts, and even in the news. Now here I am writing a post about this one brewery making its way to Manitoba. Well, it is a pretty big deal.

Surly Brewing Company was founded in 2004 by Omar Ansari. Omar was an avid homebrewer and decided that he wanted to get involved in the brewing industry. He proposed converting his parents Abrasives factory into a brewery, and with their go ahead, hired accomplished local brewer Todd Haug  and got to work building a brewery.

Omar and Todd - Surly Brewing

In 2005 Surly Brewing Co. brewed it’s first batch of beer. It took over 14 hours as the fermenter controls weren’t working and Todd’s heavy metal music soundtrack made things a big difficult to communicate, but they accomplished the goal and were officially on there way to becoming one of the top breweries in the United States.

It wasn’t until 2006 that Surly sold it’s first kegs of Furious to local bars. Omar had made various sales calls to bars and had bartenders spit out the samples of the beer. Only 16 months after selling the first kegs of Furious, Rate beer named Surly Brewing the best brewery in America and named Surly’s Russian Imperial Stout (Darkness) the best American beer in the world.

In 2011 Surly realized they needed to build a new brewery to meet the demand for their beer. They wanted to be able to sell their own beer on site. They faced a similar problem to Winnipeg where a prohibition-era law prevented breweries from selling pints of their beer at their breweries. Omar set out to change this law and with the help of Surly Nation standing behind him and a heck of a lot of work, they managed to get legislators to make the change. Surly’s Destination brewery is now a fantastic site to visit with food, a huge variety of beers, a state of the art brewing facility and many events for folks to enjoy.

In 2016 Todd Haug left Surly to go work with 3 Floyds Brewing Co in Munster, Indiana. I’m sure he is missed, but he has left the brewhouse in the capable hands of co-lead brewers Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith.

Surly’s Philosophy: Our philosophy? Make great beerHave funGive a Damn about your community. Be independent. Don’t be a dick.

One of the most amazing things for me is how Surly involves the community and how involved they are in the community as well. Always doing what they can to give back. The annual release of their Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness, has become an event that people travel from across North America to join. There is music, food, beer, and eventually the release of the beer. Only about 10,000 bottles are brewed each year and each person is limited to six. I’ve been lucky enough to get some, but these beers are coveted. Surly partners with artists each year to design the label for Darkness and it’s always super impressive. Surly produces dozens of beers each year from year-rounds to seasonal brews. Every beer I’ve had I’ve enjoyed.

Surly has chosen to expand across the border into Canada and have chose Manitoba as their first foray beyond their own borders. This is a big deal. Surly’s beers are considered top notch in each of the categories they brew. Them coming to Manitoba is not only a huge boon for Manitobans, but it’s a big push to the local brewing community. It can only raise the quality of beer we have access to here in Manitoba. Many of us in the beer community would make treks down to North Dakota to pick up cans of Surly. Now, we can put them in our fridge along side our favorite locals.

While Surly is initially starting with Kegs, they do have plans to start sending cans to Manitoba in the Fall. There is some work to do in getting the cans “Canadianized” (adding milliliters, putting Biére Forte, etc.…) but we will be able to stock our fridges with cans of Todd the Axeman or Furious at some point down the road.

In conversation with Rick and Omar from Surly, Rick shared that Surly is in Manitoba because of the work of Cheryl Thompson at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries wanted Surly in Manitoba and helped make the logistics side of things work. So, I want to give a big shout out to Cheryl and everyone else who worked so hard to get Surly into Manitoba.

So, check the Liquor Marts website here to see where you can try something from Surly and add them to your list of beers alongside your local and other craft favorites. While I know that I’ll be stocking my fridge with many Surly items, it’s not going to stop me from supporting my favorite local and craft folks. I think everyone in the beer community, including local breweries, would join me in saying “Welcome to Manitoba Surly. We’re glad you’re here”.

Flatlanders Surly Brewing
Surly Crew at Flatlander’s Beer Fest – 2017

-Beer Winnipeg

Flatlander’s Beer Festival – 2017

flatlanders-header

Another year and another Flatlander’s Beer Festival has come and gone. Last year I opined that it was the best festival to date. Well, this years was just a smidge better. With the advent of so many new breweries in Winnipeg, more getting close enough that they have beer, and the arrival of Surly (who just raised the bar for beer in this city) it was an awesome festival.

This year I had the opportunity to act as a Beer Geek once again. I love this role and had a fantastic time. Helping people find their way to beers, encouraging going outside of their comfort zone, running into friends and being able to help expand horizons are just some of the fun things you get to do as a beer geek.

Flatlanders Floor Plan
One of the starkest differences I found between last years’ festival and this years as a beer geek was the number of people who knew stuff about beer. While I commented about this last year, I found that many of the people at the matinee were clear on what they wanted to try, what they liked, and had a good base knowledge about beer. Into the evening, chatting with folks about what they enjoyed, I found the same thing. That’s awesome.

This year’s festival grew just slightly over last years with about 88 booths and over 250 beers and ciders from around the world. From what I’ve heard, there were ~2000 in attendance at the Friday night session, ~1500 at the Saturday afternoon matinee and ~2500 at the Saturday night sessions. This is a huge growth from last year that saw just over 4000 for the whole event. Seeing a ~2000 person increase from the previous year’s festival is huge.

Flatlanders 2017 Bowl

The highlights of the festival for me were mostly found at ice level. While there were certainly some good breweries and beers up in the concourse, all the local breweries were on the ice level along with Surly and Lake of the Woods.  Surly was my best in show brewery. I have nothing bad to say about their beers and the Todd the Axeman IPA was by far one of my favourite beers.

Flatlanders Surly Brewing
The Surly crew

My best in show beer for this festival came from Jeff Stacey who brewed a gold medal winning “Intergalactic Blonde” for the Winnipeg Brew Bombers Pro/Am competition. It was the Brew Bombers booth and was just stellar. A huge shout out to all the other local breweries. A lot of good stuff on tap and it was great to see Nonsuch there with their beer. I could take a lot of time just listing the breweries and beers I enjoyed, but with them being local I’ll just encourage you to go out and try beer.

Flatlanders Pro Am Booth

Finally, I had someone ask me what Flatlander’s gives that going to taprooms and the liquor mart doesn’t. For me, Flatlander’s is about giving people the opportunity to expand their beer horizons with the “fear” of not liking something or wasting money. It gives people the chance to try that beer they’ve seen at the Liquor Marts but have been unsure if they want to try it. They can find new beers they love, new styles they enjoy, and learn about these beers and styles.

Besides raising money for a fantastic cause, Flatlander’s Beer Festival gives beer geeks and beer novices an opportunity to learn something new about beer, and find new beers that they love. I’m going to give a big shout out to Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s All Natural Brewing, for the awesome talk on an under represented style, the Gruit. Great talk, and great beer. Also to Aaron and Amanda from the Liquor Marts for their efforts during the night. Thanks to you both.

flatlanders-concourse.jpg

I can’t wait for next year’s festival. This summer is a great opportunity to get out and try the local beers/new beers coming to Winnipeg. So do it, and keep following along with me. I’ve got more write-ups on the way including a Welcome to Manitoba Surly post, my write-up of my chat with Oxus, and another Get to know a brewer on deck.

-Beer Winnipeg

One Great City – Soft Opening

OGC Logo

I had the opportunity to go to One Great City’s invitation opening last night. It was nice to people there enjoying the beer and the food. The space came together nicely and I encourage people to get out and check the place out when they open to the public this Thursday.

Having had the opportunity to visit on a few occasions and see the progress, it was really nice to be able to see the place complete and with everything together. It hasn’t been easy, like with most, to get this place to where it is today. Jon and Tim stuck with it and with the help of their investors and supporters have managed to put together a really nice looking Brew Pub.

They had four of their beers on tap (I’ll get to this in a minute) as well some beer from Half Pints, Torque and Barn Hammer. The bar is made of reclaimed wood and most the furniture in the place was made by the OGC team. While it was a bit hectic and the servers were still working on getting everything figured out, the bartender who served me was knowledgeable and interested in the products that they were selling.

The food that I ordered was the charcuterie plate. I tend to go for this as I enjoy it when I’m tasting beers. It was a plate of meats, crostini and some Dijon mustard. The presentation of the dish was beautiful. The meats were nice and the mustard was really tasty. The rest of the menu looks fantastic and I’m looking forward to trying more food the next time I visit.

(Update June 11, 2017) – I went back for a second visit to try more of the delicious sounding food from the menu. I had the Burger with beer and cheese soup for dinner and the ricotta and brown sugar beignets with maple ice cream for dessert. Everything I had was spot on and absolutely tasty.  I can’t wait to go back and try more.

I tried all four of the beers they had on tap. The flight boards are nice and the overall beer drinking atmosphere was great. The four beers they had were their Monkey Trail Pale Ale, Queen’s Best Bitter, Tipsy Cow Milk Stout and their Belgian Esprit (Wit). They have two other core beers, Falcon Blonde Ale and Mad Scientist Double Eye PA which were not currently available.

The Belgian was quite nice. It was smooth and has an addition of chamomile to it that results in this nice smooth beer with a subtle dry finish. Great traditional wit notes of citrus and pepper. The bitter was good and had that distinct malt sweetness. It was lacking on the bitterness component. It was a bit too malt forward. On the contrary, the Pale Ale was quite hoppy with a good lingering bitterness. The milk stout was very approachable with good lactose sweetness and that creamy characteristic you’d expect. It wasn’t done on nitro, and once it is, I think it will be elevated a bit and bring out the chocolate and roast.

I am interested to see how these beers progress as they’ve been brewed on Torque’s system. As they move over to their own system and work on the scaling I think we might seem some subtle changes in the beers. It also means they’ll get to brew their other core beers and start working on developing seasonal beers to put on tap and sell.

There are plans to do bottles and sell those from the brewery as well as howlers and growlers.

Overall, while there are certainly some opening night hiccups, the beers overall are good. While there will certainly be some modifications made, they’ve got things in a good place. I’m excited to see how things progress and to try future beers from OGC.

One Great City opens to the public for a soft opening from Thursday, June 8th-Saturday June 10th. They will also be at Flatlanders Beer Festival and at the Manitoba Brewers Association Meet a Brewer night tonight at Brazen Hall.

 

Beau’s – Patersbier

Beau’s keeps sending new beers out our way and I’m happy about that. While I am mostly focused on what’s happening here locally, and what beers we can get from our local folks, I do enjoy reviewing these beers from Beau’s.

I did a pretty in-depth write up about Beau’s when I met with co-founder Steve Beauchesne, but I do want to reiterate a bit about the brewery. Founded in 2006 in Vanleek Hill, Ontario by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s is an employee-owned and completely independent Canadian craft brewery. They are also the official beer of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The Patersbier from Beaus is starting to pop up on shelves in Liquor Marts around the city. So now is the perfect time for a writeup of this beer.

*Writer’s Note: I did receive this beer review free of charge. This did not influence my write-up. *

Patersbier (Father’s Beer)

While it might be surprising to some of you, those monks who brew all the delicious Belgian strongs, tripels and quads, do not spend their time drinking these high alcohol beers. If they did, I’m sure they wouldn’t get a whole lot done. Instead, they brew this style of beer, a lighter variety called Patersbier (literally “Father’s Beer” in Dutch). They drink this beer instead of their high ABV products to allow them to enjoy the fruits of their labour while still being able to carry on the tasks of the day.

This style of beer is also known as an Enkel (single in Dutch) a name that likely comes from when the monks do an additional sparge on the grains to extract any remain sugars and then then use this collected sparge water to brew a highly sessionable beer. Singles from Trappist breweries are rarely available outside of the monasteries. So if you want to try one from a true Trappist monastery, you might have to travel.

Lucky for us, Beau’s has used their brewing skills to produce for us a Patersbier we can enjoy. With the weather warming up, these low ABV beers are a godsend for those days toiling away out in the sun on gardens, mowing lawns, or playing your favorite sport. So, how does it taste?

ABV – 4.7%
Appearance – Pours a light yellow with a slight haze, likely from acidulated malt and wheat malt, with a small bit of white foam that dissipates quickly.
Smell – Sweet notes of honey and subtle floral notes as well as some bready notes from the malt.
Taste – Sweetness on the front with a bit of an odd metallic note, as well with notes of lemon, and a touch of clove as well a bit of pepperiness.
Mouth Feel – Light bodied, clean drinking, good finish and rather refreshing.
Overall Thoughts – Overall this beer comes as described. The beer is easy to drink and has some nice flavour notes to it. It is a touch metallic upfront which is a bit odd. Despite that, the beer is as described, a great lawnmower beer that is refreshing and tasty.
Do I like it? – I did enjoy this. Despite the somewhat odd metallic note which wasn’t overly noticeable and easy to ignore, the beer was well done. It is refreshing and has some of those same Belgian characteristics that you get from other abbey style beers.

I hope that this write-up was informative. I encourage you to get out and try as many new beers as you can. Broaden your horizons and your palate.

I’m really looking forward to next week. Not only do we have the Manitoba Brewers’ Event happening down at Brazen Hall on June 6th, we also have Surly arriving in town on June 7th and Flatlanders’ Beer Festival coming up the weekend. It’s a pretty sweet time to love beer in Winnipeg and I’m psyched to partake as much as I can.

Keep following along as I keeping doing what I can to write about beer, breweries and brewers.

-Beer Winnipeg

Nonsuch Launch Party

May is a ridiculously busy month for me with work. It seems to be a series of meetings followed by other meetings and a few trips away. It’s hard doing all this with a new baby at home as I just end up missing her and my wife that much more. But, the month of May is coming to an end, and I’ve got a few things to update on.

First, the second annual get to know a brewer event is coming up on June 6th. This year it will be held at Brazen Hall. Tickets are available here. Last year I had the chance to attend the event and it was a fantastic precursor to Flatlanders. You get an opportunity for a sneak peek at what will be coming and a chance to speak one on one with the brewers and other folks from the local breweries. If you’ve never been, I highly suggest you go. It’s a fantastic event and well worth it.

Second, as I mentioned above, Flatlanders Beer Festival is fast approaching. Last years saw our first glimpse at some of the upcoming breweries. This year, we have our newly established brewery folks joining with our long-standing ones and some potential newcomers. All this along with other brewers from across Canada and around the world. This is the pinnacle of beer in Manitoba as it brings together so much from so far. If you love beer, go to this event. Come say hi, I’ll be in a Yellow Beer Geek shirt.

Finally, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the fantastic launch event that Nonsuch held this past Thursday, May 25th.

Nonsuch-Logo-on-Water

I had the good fortune of meeting the guys from Nonsuch and chatting with them about their vision a while back. While they’ve had some trouble finding a location, they are very close. This hasn’t prevented them from doing what they set out to do, brewing beer, and we should see their beers showing up in the Liquor Marts by June.

Nonsuch has been brewing in collaboration with Barn Hammer to perfect their beers and get everything where they want it to be. At the launch party, they debuted their Old Ale, Belgian Strong, Saison and Biére de Garde. I had a chance to try each one of these beers and was overall very impressed with the quality and taste. I’m quite excited to see these beers start showing up in the Liquor Marts.

What’s impressive is that they have been sticking to their original plan of brewing with spring water and selling in caged and corked 750ml bottles. The bottles look sharp and with the beer inside being darn good, I think they’ve got a product that many people in the city will enjoy.

While I don’t want to write a full review of the beers I tasted, I do want to say that each one of the four beers were top notch. Mark has a unique ability to adjust his beers on the fly and come up with a result that is tasty and enjoyable to drink.

As we approach Flatlanders and the Manitoba Brewers’ Association event, there are numerous opportunities to meet those brewing our beer and taste what they’ve got to offer. There are sure to be some special ones so be sure to get out and give them a try.

Thanks again for following, and be sure to check back for more

-Beer Winnipeg

Get to know a brewer – Adrienne Johanson

Barn Hammer

I am incredibly excited for this summer. We already have had a fantastic year for breweries and we are going to see a exciting Flatlanders’ beer festival this year. This summer we will have 5 new breweries added to the list of what’s already open. One Great City, Nonsuch, Oxus, Stone Angel, and Trans Canada Brewing are all hoping to open their doors soon. From when I started this blog to now, the landscape of Manitoba breweries has blossomed. Exciting times and more to come.

One of the most enjoyable things I’ve started doing on this blog is my “Get to know a Brewer” series. I’ve really been enjoying a chance to sit down and chat with some of the people who are behind making the beer we’ve all come to enjoy. For this installment, I sat down with Adrienne Johanson from Barn Hammer Brewing.

Adrienne began her career with beer with the government of Manitoba. Originally working with the Liquor Commission in the licensing and permit department, she was around during the merger and worked with the newly formed Liquor and Gaming Authority in the same area. Having done this work, Adrienne had an opportunity to take the higher certificate course and her love for beer grew.

Having some knowledge of the brewing process and finding herself looking for a change, when the opportunity came to work at Barn Hammer, it was too good to pass up. The story of how Adrienne began working at Barn Hammer specifically is a funny one.
Adrienne has been friends with Sable, co-owner of Barn Hammer Brewing, since grade one. When the entire conversation around opening a brewery began, Adrienne jokingly asked “What’s my job going to be? I can just be the brewery gremlin.” Never expecting to be taken seriously, when Tyler and Sable asked her to join the team she couldn’t say no.
Adrienne started working at Barn Hammer doing pretty much everything that needed to be done. Picking up supplies, cleaning, getting things organized around the brewery, and helping in the taproom. It wasn’t until the brewery opened and started picking up that she moved full-time to the brewery working alongside Brian Westcott.

Since joining the brewing team, Adrienne has reveled at the fact that she is now in a more physical job. Having been at a desk job most of her career, being able to move, do something physical, and create something tangible has been a real source of enjoyment in this new role. While she has no formal brewery training, like many who begin down this path, she has had the chance to learn hands on from a skilled brewer. While the “why” of brewing is something that Adrienne is working diligently at learning, the technical aspects of the role have become relatively easy. Being like a new shiny baby in the brewery world has meant that she doesn’t need to be “deprogrammed” of bad habits, but can learn good habits from the start.

Adrienne doesn’t really have a go to beer, liking to keep her mind open to trying new things. The first “non-garbage” beer she had the chance to try was Hoegarden back in the days working at the Liquor Commission. From that point on she tried whatever was new at the Liquor Marts and has continued to try to expand her horizons. While she was originally “scared” of IPAs, since working at Barn Hammer she has quickly left that fear behind.

Since November Adrienne has been brewing beer solo and holds the position of “Brewer” at Barn Hammer. She’s also recently taken to making some brews on the test batch system and is continuously learning more technically as well as theoretically about brewing. Having been a “shiny new baby” originally, Adrienne has quickly built upon her organizational skills and her ability to prioritize to become a true brewer of beer.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to talk to Adrienne about being one of two female brewers in Manitoba. That along with the fact that female brewers are underrepresented in the industry in general. While she hasn’t encountered anything overt, many people are surprised that she’s a brewer and many more think that it’s cool.

Still, Adrienne hasn’t felt like the only girl since she began brewing and has felt as though it’s been an overall positive experience. Having the opportunity to participate in the International Women’s Brew day as a brewer was cool and being able to speak with the other female home brewers and work along side them in making a beer was a rewarding experience. While Adrienne wouldn’t call herself one, being someone who others can look to and say “hey, I could do that too” is essentially the definition of a role model.

Adrienne feels incredibly luck and fortunate to have had the opportunity to take on a role as brewer and has been working very hard at the role to not give anyone a reason to question her place. She cares a great deal about the brewery and wants to ensure she is doing everything she can to support it. To that end, Adrienne is looking at some training opportunities to build on the knowledge she’s already gained. Considering online courses through Niagara college and even their one-year program. Having just bought a house and finishing a degree, these are plans to come.

On a personal note, Adrienne likes playing video-games, spending a lot of time playing Zelda Breath of the Wild recently, and has gotten into comic books as well. She also has a mini-schnauzer at home named Reggie who I’m sure occupies a lot of time.

A big thanks to Adrienne for taking the time to sit down and chat with me. To everyone else, keep following along as I continue to explore the growing beer landscape and community here in Winnipeg.

-Beer Winnipeg

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