Shrugging Doctor

To begin: when I went into this interview I didn’t know what to expect. Shrugging Doctor has intentionally kept their business under wraps and has done a good job keeping folks curious. Shrugging Doctor is not a brewery. They will not be producing beer at opening and so aren’t something I typically write about. Still, they have a unique idea that warrants a bit of exploration, even if there are some concerns.

Shrugging Doctor wants to innovate people’s access to booze. While it is possible to order alcohol delivery through the MLCC, this requires forethought and time. It’s not something you can do on a whim or if you realize you’ve run out of your favourite beverage. Shrugging Doctor seeks to fix this problem by taking the pizza delivery model and applying it to booze. They want to be your on-call source for booze in the city, with home delivery within 60 minutes.

What will they be selling? To begin, they will focus on sugar wine (a smooth and sweet 20% alcohol), coolers (made from the sugar wine), apple cider and mead. The target audience for Shrugging Doctor is 18 to 25 year olds looking for potent, sweet tasting booze at a reasonable price. This makes sense given the gentleman behind this company. Chris Willows, a 20-year-old entrepreneur, moved out at the age of 18 and found he had bills to pay. With a business mindset – something he says he had since he was nine – he decided to start his own business and solve a problem on the minds of his peers: how do I get cheap booze delivered to my home.

While Shrugging Doctor is going to produce their own product, which they hope to sell in 23 Liquor Marts around the city, the service they plan to provide is the biggest part of their business plan. Offering city-wide deliver of their products. The product is produced by Zach Isaacs. He has been making wine and other alcoholic drinks for several years, investing a great deal of time and money in perfecting his recipes. Willows told me many of his friends have stopped buying coolers because they’d rather drink Shrugging Doctor’s offerings. (I had the opportunity to try the sugar wine and it is certainly potent but incredibly sweet.)

While they do not plan on having beer at the beginning, Willows does respect the craft beer market and would love to add those drinks to their catalogue in the future. For the first nine to ten months, however, they will focus on producing their wine-based products. With four 500L tanks, the starting capacity is quite small, only 10HL, but as they start capturing profit they hope to expand capacity not only add beer but also partner with vineyards to move away from fruit and sugar wines to producing grape wines.

I had the opportunity to view their online ordering system, which will allow people to place orders for either a bottle or a box of their wine, coolers, etc. The wine starts at $10 a bottle and is $35 for a 4L box. The wine is packaged using a 10-plate filtering system, a semi-automatic bottler that fills the headspace with nitrogen for better shelf life, and capped using stelvin caps (the twist offs).

If Shrugging Doctor takes off, Manitobans who are buzzed and unable to drive for more drinks will have an option to top up their supplies. While this certainly solve some problems, it raises others. What assurances will there be that customers (and their guests) are of age? Or that they’re not at dangerous levels of intoxication? Since they are seeking to follow the pizza delivery model, they will be hiring delivery drivers who will be paid using the deliver fee and tips. How will these drivers be trained to recognize when they should or shouldn’t deliver the product? There is also a matter of theft and safety of the drivers that needs to be considered.

Chris Willows told me that their delivery drivers will all carry their “Serving it Safe” certificate and will therefore be trained to recognize when someone may need to be cut off. As for the insurance that all are of age, unfortunately that isn’t something as easy to accomplish. What they will ensure is that the person to whom they deliver the alcohol is of age. Chris also assured me that they would be trying their best to comply with all laws and regulations.

While I admit the convenience Shrugging Doctor offers is very appealing – and potentially the base of a lucrative business model – I am not sure if the pros outweigh the concerns. While I’m not in their target market, they’re likely to appeal to a younger demographic who could still be learning their limits. It’s my hope these young entrepreneurs factor safety into their business plans even as they enthusiastically fill an obvious service gap.




Barn Hammer- Barn Raising


Barn Hammer

The beer scene in Winnipeg is starting to reach maturity. Barn Hammer has been open for a while with Torque and Peg Beer Co now joining the fray with their own beer. I expect we will see others join the market in short order. While each is taking a different approach to their production of beer, what seems to be a common thread is giving back to community. This is something that is almost a trademark of craft breweries: not just making beer, but being a part of the community in which you live and serve.

For Barn Hammer, this type of community support comes out through their “Barn Raising” initiative. Drawing on the historical action of a community coming together to literally raise a barn, Barn Hammer hopes to help bring Winnipeggers together to help build up charities. One non-profit is chosen by staff each month and on the third Wednesday of that month, partial proceeds from every regular 16oz, 10oz glass and every growler fill (32oz & 64oz) sold in the taproom will be directly donated to the chosen non-profit organization.

I touched base with Barn Hammer’s Sable Birch for more details about where this idea came from and what the goal is. Sable made it clear it’s important all employees be involved in choosing causes that mean something to them.

“Everyone at Barn Hammer has the opportunity to participate and by changing the chosen charity each month, we are able to spread the funds out to various causes in the community. There are so many worthy causes out there so it’s nice to be able to reach as many as we can.”

Another aspect the team really likes about this program is that there is no middle-man. It’s Barn Hammer writing the cheque and sending it directly to the cause. This is a way for them to know the money is all going to the cause they are supporting. It’s really all about bringing community to join together in their taproom and help raise money for a worthy cause. Not only is it fun – bringing friends out for a pint of beer and conversation – but you get the opportunity to really do something and support something you care about.

Sable said that it’s not just about raising funds, but:

 “we are also helping to raise awareness for the causes. Increase traffic flow to their website or add followers to their social media accounts. Perhaps this way the non-profit also receives more volunteers, donations and attention outside of our Barn Raising Night.”

Obviously this fundraising won’t happen unless there are patrons who step up to support it. If you haven’t had the opportunity to get out to Barn Hammer’s taproom yet, make a plan to go there on the third Wednesday of the month to help raise funds and awareness for community causes.

PEG has beer

For those who haven’t been following PEG Beer Co on twitter (what’s wrong with you!) the time has finally arrived. Yesterday, October 11, PEG Beer officially launched their beers and they are now ready for consumption.

It has been a long time coming. I’ve followed their progress since before their first soft opening. The delays have been numerous and some have anxiously wondered about this day. I can’t speak to the cause of those delays and I think it’s best we set them aside. While many, including the PEG team, had hoped for beer much sooner, let’s focus on celebrating: we can now finally enjoy a pint of PEG beer at the bar!

The beers that are now available include their Lifecoach ISA, Soundtrack IPA, Marlyn Red Rye Ale and the Countess Stout, (they have on their own blog, too) and now that I’ve had my first taste, I’ll be providing some notes in the near future. I hope that all of you will take the opportunity to get down and to give the beers a try.

Winnipeg has clamored for more craft beer and we’ve done a fantastic job of supporting the breweries who have opened so far. As another begins to produce beer, they also will require our support, feedback and comments. It’s through engagement that breweries thrive, grow and learn – and that requires the local beer community to come to the table if we truly want better beer in Winnipeg.

Congratulations once again to the patience, tenacity and effort of all those working at PEG Beer Co. Glad to have your beer.


Local Fall Offerings

Local Fall Offerings

We’re into October and thus comes the arrival of many fall beers – mostly pumpkin spiced yam and pumpkin beers from around the country and the United States. For some, these represent something wrong with beer, while for others they are as comforting as the first pumpkin spice latte of the season, a warm embrace of comfort and joy. As our craft beer community continues to grow (we now have four active Winnipeg-based breweries) I thought I’d write about what they are offering this fall.

Half Pints

Image result for Half Pints Oktoberfest

Every year around this time we see the release of Half Pints Oktoberfest Lager. It’s a traditional German style of beer, also called a Marzen. Before refrigeration it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer time due to bacterial infections caused by the increased heat. This meant most brewing had to be completed by the end of spring (March/Marzen). These beers were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months resulting in a darker, amber colored lager with a higher alcohol content than average. They would typically be rolled out for Oktoberfest celebrations.

This is also the beer that often is transformed into “Punknfest” with pumpkin and spices added to become the “typical” pumpkin fall beer, but this has not been announced yet, nor is it a guarantee. For now, the Oktoberfest is Half Pints’ fall offering.

Appearance:  Dark amber-brown pour with a slightly off-beige head
Smell: Caramel notes, dark fruit, slight earthy hop aroma
Nice malty sweetness brings great flavours that are kept from becoming overly sweet by some nice earthy/grassy hop notes


Even though they are the new kid on the block, this brewery is hammering their beers out of the park. I’ll be doing a write-up on their all-year offerings in the near future, but for now let’s tackle their fall offering, a Dark Pumpkin Ale called “Witching Hour”.

While called a Dark Pumpkin Ale, this beer is brewed in the catch-all style of a spiced/herb/vegetable beer. This means that while it can be brewed in a similar fashion to another style of beer – in this case an ale – the main tastes highlights are found in the additions. This style of beer can take on numerous different variations depending on the choice of malts, hops, and additions made. What I can say about this particular beer is that it is heavily malted providing a very nice caramel rich backbone to compliment the addition of pumpkin (or yams) and spices.

Appearance:  Dark brown, bordering on black, with a slight red hue with a tan head.
Smell: Dark malt, caramel sweetness, pumpkin pie spices (nutmeg, clove, allspice, cinnamon) and some roasty notes.
The sweetness from the dark malt comes through strong and is complimented by the spices. While sweet, it does have some roasted notes to the malt that cut the sweetness just slightly making this beer not overpoweringly sweet. The cinnamon and nutmeg come through with a bit of clove.
Barn Hammer


Barn Hammer has taken a different route altogether and has brewed a Smoke Pumpkin Saison. This was one of their first test batch beers and they’ve now produced a full run of it for sale at their brewery. Through and through this a saison.

Saisons are a sturdy farmhouse style of beer. Originally created in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, it was traditionally brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common.  It had to be sturdy enough to last but not too strong so it would quench your thirst in the summer months. This style of beer is very complex with a lot fruit notes, spices, and earth yeast notes to the beer. They tend to combine nice fruity notes with spice and a subtle sourness or tartness. Usually there’s lots of spice with mild bitterness and a dry crisp finish and only a hint of sweetness.

This particular saison uses both beechwood smoked malt and locally sourced roasted sugar pumpkin combined with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and ginger to bring a little bit of smoke, spice and funk to the beer.

Appearance:  Pours a cloudy copper with an off-white head
Smell: Some spice notes from the additions, smoke notes and a bit of pepperiness.
The beer is lightly spiced and the smoked malt comes through as the star. The spice is subtle backing up the pepperiness from the saison. There is a bit of funk to this beer.
Fort Garry

Fort Garry has once again released their Happy Jack Pumpkin Ale. This is another beer brewed in the catch-all style of a spiced/herb/vegetable beer. The main tastes highlights are found in the additions. This style of beer can take on numerous different variations depending on the choice of malts, hops, and additions made. This has additions of real pumpkin, traditional spices and then it is aged with oak. Another take on the traditional fall “pumpkin” beers being offered both locally and from afar.

Appearance:  Amber coloured with an off-white head
Smell: Roasted malty scent with an interesting almost rum aroma from the oak and vanilla that is complimented with pumpkin spices.
Taste: The vanilla, spices and oak come through well. The beer has a lighter body than expected. There are some savoury/bitter notes and the spices leave you with a bit of an aftertaste.

I always encourage people to get out and try new beer. I hope that you do and expand your beer horizons. I’m working on some other write-ups at the moment and have many folks to follow up with. So lots more to come.

As always, I appreciate everyone following.

-Beer Winnipeg





Boobyball – Rethinking Breast Cancer

Thanks to those who entered. A winner has been chosen. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this event or with the organization, Rethink Breast Cancer’s mission is to empower young people worldwide who are concerned about and affected by breast cancer.

This organization is the first ever Canadian charity to target those who are 40 and under in an effort to foster a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters; infuse sass and style into the cause; and, most importantly, respond to the unique needs of young women going through it.

By taking a breakthrough approach to all aspects of breast cancer – education, resources, advocacy, community engagement, and fundraising – Rethink is thinking differently about breast cancer. More information about them can be found at their website –

The event in question was founded in 2002 by a group of young women in support of their friend, Sarah O’Regan, who at 23 was diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced breast cancer. Boobyball is now one of the most anticipated, coveted and high profile fundraising events for young philanthropists in Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Over the past 14 years, this event has raised over 3.8 million dollars for Rethink Breast Cancer. This year the Ball is being held at the Fort Garry Hotel in downtown Winnipeg. The theme is “Paradise City” and encourages all those attending to “Shake their tail feathers” and to “dress in swinging jungle attire”. If you don’t know what that is, they have a pintrest page for inspiration.

“The 15th annual Boobyball fundraiser will immerse guests into the wild for an evening of electric sunsets, lush libations, majestic beats and tiki treats all entwined in the most sizzling soiree of the year!”

So, why am I writing about this? The good people at Beau’s All Natural Brewing have been incredibly generous to support this wonderful event here in Winnipeg and around the country.

They have given me two tickets to give away to this phenomenal event and I’m putting it out to you folks in the form of a contest. Either follow and retweet my tweet on Twitter or follow this blog and post a comment to be entered into the contest. I’ll be drawing for these very soon.

DETAILS: Boobyball presents Paradise City
DATE: October 22, 2016
TIME: 9:00PM – 1:30AM
LOCATION: The Fort Garry Hotel
222 Broadway
Winnipeg MB R3C 0R3

Trans Canada Brewing Co


I chatted with Matt Tallman, President and CEO of TransCanada Brewing Company this past week. He invited me to their space at 1290 Kenaston, gave me a tour and shared details about what you should expect from TCB when they open.

Matt has been working on this project fully since April 2015. It’s been a journey to get to this point and it was really interesting to hear Matt walk me through the process.

Matt has always dreamed of opening his own business. When he graduated high school in ’09 he took a business program at UNC. After a couple of years of traditional classes, he spent a semester at sea through a university in Virginia. The ocean-spanning classes gave him a chance to travel and see a lot of neat stuff.

He eventually transferred to University of Western Ontario’s ivy business program – the HBA. While digesting a lot of ideas there, Matt was exposed to Ontario’s rich craft beer scene. Though he took another semester at sea to get some more travelling under his belt, he returned to Canada with a purpose, having explored the beer industry in many different countries across five continents.

When Matt rolled back into Winnipeg he had a vision to expand local beer offerings. (At the time only Half Pints and Fort Garry were operating, with Farmery just starting.) Matt felt, like many others, there was a need for more local brewing in the city and he wanted to create a truly world class venue in Winnipeg. After setting his mind to this he spent a time working through vision and decided to start the project in April of 2015. Matt feels that there is a lot of opportunity in the market and that people are more interested in where their food and beverage come from, who makes it and how it’s made.

A lot of people are curious about the name behind the brewery. Matt said he is often asked “Why TransCanada?” Initially he went through piles of names and had lots of ideas. One day Matt just had TransCanada pop into his head and felt it was so uniquely Canadian that it fit what he wanted the brewery to embody. With its historic and modern usage and the fact that on an average day you’ll hear it mentioned in the radio or see it written on your drive, Matt felt this was a name that was timeless.

The branding for TCB is Canadiana, with design elements pulled from an earlier era (1950s-60s) to give a taste of nostalgia. While referencing the period, TCB’s branding is also meant to be timeless – something that won’t expire or go out of fashion.

As a local brewery, Matt is very excited to produce beers with local ingredients and work with local suppliers and producers. His brewery concept is very Canada centric and he wants to explore different Canadian symbols and events in history. Overall he hopes TCB will be a celebration of Canada

Matt spent eight months looking for a site before settling on 1290 Kenaston. He explained it had been a very long process and he is excited to finally get started. If all goes according to plan, TCB will open in Q2 of 2017.


The concept behind TCB is interesting. While they will have a taproom they are looking at doing pizzas and will have a dedicated pizza space, pizza oven and kitchen. Matt explained the plans were being discussed before recent taproom legislation came into effect. After looking at the legislation and taproom license, he decided it made more sense to do manufacturing, restaurant and retail. All components are part of one business. The idea is not to be a brewpub but a production brewery with a taproom attached. This is very casual meeting space with no assigned seating, servers, etc. It’s a place to come and hang out and chat, enjoy the beer from the brewery and have a pizza or a beer-related snack from a set menu.

Between the taproom and the brewery there will be a wall featuring 20 ft. tall windows. These windows will stretch almost floor to ceiling. Matt wants people to see what’s happening live during the day or have a nice brewery backdrop in the evening. He plans on having some funky lights shining on the brewhouse and tanks to create an ambiance for the taproom.

At the bar area, Matt plans to have 16 taps. He would like one of these taps to be local/craft brewery rotating guest tap. As I hinted above, the taproom will be decorated with Canadiana. As well, there will be a private function room for events and parties. It will have the same taps as the main bar area to optimize its use for any event. This room, too, will have windows letting you see down into the main taproom and there will be A/V equipment for meetings.

Right now, Matt is the only employee of TCB but he does have two others helping out who will eventually join him full time. First is Thomas Schneider. This head Pizzaiaolo (pizza guy) has been in the pizza industry for a number of years. He’ll run a dedicated Pizza area within the taproom called “Timmy Toms Pizzeria” and produce a very unique hybrid pizza. It’s close to New York style but with twisted dough prepared for individual-size orders. When the team decided pizza was the way to go, they took a trip down to San Francisco to meet pizza guru Tony Gemignani. He runs the International School of Pizza where the guys took a week-long course on making, baking, serving and selling pizza. Matt is really excited about the pizza – both the variety the can bake and the special release combinations they can curate.

Also on board is Jeff Wirt. His future role will be accounting and administration but he is currently assisting with everything – a true renaissance man. Thanks to a lot of hard work, they’ve just posted the job to round out their team and hire a Head Brewer, with the ambitious goal of enticing a world class brewer to come and prepare the best beer possible.

On the production side of things, there will be an overhead door separating the taproom and brewery to allow for them to hold open houses and for easy movement of kegs to the taproom.

The main brewhouse is built by Specific Mechanical from Victoria, BC. It is a 35hl four vessel brew house with state of the art technology operated by touch screen controls. It has a 5 HL pilot system fully integrated into the one brewhouse.  It’s fully capable of any style of beer and can do decoction mashes, kettle souring and multi-stage mashes. There are essentially two separate brewhouses, fermenters and bright tanks at TCB. For the small batch system, Matt plans to have six 10 HL fermenters and two 10 HL bright tanks while there will be six 70 HL fermenters and two 70HL HL bright tanks for the big system.

This will allow for the production of small and large batches. Matt tried to automate some of the brewery to make it easier to flow and to expand in the future. To accommodate this, he is going to install a grain silo just outside with an auger through the wall that will go directly into the surge hopper and then feed to the malt cracker, grist case, and then into the mash tun. It’s a hands off approach for base malt and all of the spent grain will be augered to silo before being trucked out for feed. While specialty malt will have to be added by hand, this allows for some automation with the largest quantity malt.

The brewery is designed to be scalable, adding more tanks if there is a need. The space allows them to double capacity if necessary, following a flow pattern Matt designed to be sustainable in the future.

Matt really wanted the ability to produce sour beers. As part of TCB’s design a dedicated space has been set aside as “the barrel room.” This climate-controlled room, with closely monitored humidity and temperature, will house 40HL Foeders from France made from oak as well as additional barrels. A glycol system will allow for precise temperature control within the room itself as well as overall temperature control. The room will act as an aging and conditioning room where, thanks to the Foeders, TCB will have the ability to really experiment with sour beers and barrel aged beers. It’ll be a slow start, but Matt is very excited about the potential.

The main packaging line from German company Markl will allow them to bottle their main beer in open carriers of 355ml bottles and 650ml bombers. They’ll also have the ability to do cork and caging on a specialty packaging line they will use exclusively for 750ml bottles of beer from the barrel room. While Matt said they don’t plan to can, they do have the ability to add a canning line.

When I was walking around the space, everything was nice and open now, but it will be quite full when all the equipment is in. You just have to use a little bit of imagination.

As for the beers, Matt wants to brew many styles of beer. Obviously a lot will depend on the Brewer who joins the team, but the brewery is designed to produce a diverse array of beers including barrel aged beers, experimental beers, and mainstream styles. It’s a flexibility that matches its owner’s tastes in beer, though go-to styles for Matt to drink are American Pale ales and German Wheat ales (hefeweizen/dunkelweizen).

The beer will be distributed to Liquormarts, beer vendors, as well as sold on site from their retail section. Some specialty beers and those produced in the small batch system will only be available on site.

It was a great opportunity to chat with Matt. I’ve known about TransCanada for quite some time and I’ve been trying to get him to give me some details. Having the opportunity to hear about the plan is exciting. I can’t wait to see how things progress and to have the opportunity to visit along the way. Matt has a pretty swanky T-shirt he’s made, and if you’re interested, just contact him through their website and he’ll give you the details on how to get one of your own.



Maritime Dispatch #2

While it’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from my travels out east, I want to make sure I give details on some of the breweries I happened to visit.



Originally Grimross was brewing out of Picaroons. It’s where they sold their first beer on July 1, 2013. As their popularity grew, they got their own space on Bishop Drive in Fredericton, New Brunswick. They officially opened their doors in December of 2014 and I happened to visit them on opening day.

The brewery is named for an island in the Saint John River near Grand Lake where owner Stephen Dixon spent a lot of time growing up. Currently, they run a 10-barrel system with five 20 barrel fermenters. They keep four tanks full, plus one empty at present for transfers. Their popularity continues to grow and they are looking to add two new 20 barrel fermenters so they can move forward with plans of canning their beers.


As a test run, they have been doing a limited can run of their Maritime Pale Ale, which frequently sells out. Along with the goal of expanding their capacity, they are straight up expanding their footprint from 4,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet. This will allow them room to install a canning line while also expanding their taproom space.

While Grimross had brewed mostly Belgian style ales they have recently expanded their horizons, adding more American styles to their repertoire. I tried all their beers and enjoyed each one.


Bonus: If you are looking for a job, they want to hire a new brewer to help keep up with demand. Fredericton’s not a bad place to live, after all…

PEI Brewing Company


PEI Brewing Company has a storied history on Prince Edward Island, beginning in 1997 with the founding of Murphy’s Brewing Company next to the Lone Star restaurant on University Avenue in Charlottetown, PEI. As the popularity of the brewery grew, in November 2000 they moved to a 19th Century building in downtown Charlottetown where, in honour of the original owner of this building, they changed their name to Gahan House Brewery.

In 2008 they expanded to an off-site location that allowed them start bottling beer for sale. With a new 10 hectolitre system they were able to produce more beer, expanding their distribution. They won a gold medal for their Sir John A’s Honey Wheat in 2011 as well as 2012. After running out of beer three summers in a row, owner Kevin Murphy partnered with Jeff Squires and expanded again, this time opening the PEI Brewing Company.


A new brewery was constructed for the PEI Brewing Company, which opened in May 2013 with a 50 hectolitre state-of-the-art brew system built entirely in PEI and a whole new team of brewers. While Kevin Murphy is still involved in PEI Brewing Company, he continues to brew with both the Gahan and PEI Brewing Company labels.

One of the more interesting marketing events they’ve done is partnering with local musicians to offer some unique experiences. I had the opportunity to go and see Lenny Gallant, an Acadian artist, who sang songs and told stories about PEI all while enjoying beer. Overall, the place is well worth a visit, for the tour as well as the brews.


Final Thoughts

While I had hoped to get to more breweries, I was ultimately out east to spend time with family. But I do have a few final thoughts on some differences I noticed between Manitoba and New Brunswick.

I understand each province is entitled to its own regulations and laws when it comes to the sale and distribution of alcohol. Still, I think there are some interesting differences. In New Brunswick, there is no requirement to have food at a taproom. In fact, you can sell whatever beer you choose at your taproom. The only restriction is you can only sell growlers of your own beer to take away.

In New Brunswick they do not use the Peagas system for filling growlers. Each site uses its own method, but most seem to fill straight from the tap using a food grade tube. This is after purging the growler with a CO2 tap.

Finally, there seems to be a huge boom of breweries happening in New Brunswick and the surrounding area right now. There are currently seven breweries and three cideries open in a town of roughly 60,000 people, with more on the way. While there may be concern here in Manitoba that we might grow too quickly, I think that if a town of 60,000 people can support a rich local craft beer scene, then we sure can, too.

-Beer Winnipeg

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