NB Dispatch – #1

I’ve been away from Winnipeg for just over a week now and already it’s been a fantastic trip. I went down through Vermont, got me some Heady Topper and other great beers. Then it was down to Boston with my Dad for his 65th birthday where we saw James Taylor and Jackson Browne live in concert. We drove back up to Canada through Portland, passed through Nova Scotia and are now back in Fredericton. It was a whirlwind, but a good one.

I’ve been doing my best while here in Fredericton to visit some of the breweries that have opened since I was here two years ago. The craft beer scene in New Brunswick has exploded with breweries popping up all over the place. This province of 750,000 people has 25 breweries and more on the way! While I won’t get to visit all of them, here is part one of my NB Breweries Dispatch.

 

Graystone

Graystone exterior

Graystone is the most recent addition to the craft beer landscape in NB.  It opened this Canada Day and has been working hard to make beer since. While they have not received their equipment – they’re using gear at two other local breweries for the time being – they will have a 10 barrel system when it finally arrives.

The name for the brewery comes from the owner. His wife’s last name is Gray.  The stone part comes from his “lightbulb moment” for the brewery. The owner, Wes Ward, and a friend were in Patagonia hiking when they came up with the idea for the brewery.  They want all the names of the beer to reflect this origin, including the three beers they’re currently brewing (though I only got to try two): Devil’s Peak Black IPA, Basecamp ISA and their flagship Patagonia Pale Ale.  They have been incredibly successful with their beers since opening, selling 300 L of the pale ale in one day.

Graystone taps

One of the unique things about Graystone is they are the only place in NB doing crowlers.  I love the crowler because of its ability to stay fresh longer and be easier to transport.  Of course the downside is you have to drink it all in one sitting… wait, is that a downside?

Graystone Crowler

The brewery also sells a variety of other local craft beers in flight and pint form. They are unable to sell any beer besides their own in crowler or growler but they have about 18 on tap.  If you are in Fredericton, it’s a great place to go and try out some different brews. It’s also a baby friendly brewery with change tables in each bathroom, so no excuses not to visit.

Recently, there was a story in the local paper that Gray Stone had been contacted by Greg Koch from Stone Brewing about the name.  They are now in the process of changing from Gray Stone to Graystone.  While this certainly isn’t a simple task, Wes was impressed with Greg for calling and working through it with him rather than just sending the lawyers. The process has begun but will take some time.

Maybee

Maybee exterior

Maybee Brewing Company opened in February of 2016 for growler sales only and then opened up their tap room and canning line in June. This brewery is named after the owners, Paul and Mikey Maybee, and produces a variety of beers, from their pale ale to a Brett Red.

They currently employ two brewers with a third joining shortly. Paul is the head brewer and had been homebrewing for nine years before opening Maybee.  He was in the same homebrew club as some of the other owners of breweries in the city and they all got the idea to start breweries around the same time.

Maybee tanks

Maybee runs a 10 barrel system with three 20 barrel fermenters and a 20 barrel bright tank.  They sell in cans, growlers and flagons (1L swing-top bottles) and you can get flights at their tap room. They only sell their own beer at the tap room.

Maybee taps

They currently brew six beer varieties: Belgian Tripel, Birdseye Pale Ale, Elevensies Espresso Stout, Roseway Red, Workhorse IPA and Brett Red. You can get all of these beers, except the Brett Red, in cans at the liquor stores in NB, though you can get the Brett Red in a 750ml corked bottle.

I chose to visit them
But if your travel plan’s crazy
Just visit a liquor store
And grab some… Maybee.

Trailway

 Trailway exterior

When I was last in NB two years ago, Trailway had just started selling beer from the owners’ basement to pubs around the city. They spent their first two years as a brewery operating in this manner and only recently (June, 2016) moved to their location on Fredericton’s north side.

With a 10 barrel system and four 10 barrel fermenters they currently do two brews a week.  They are looking to get three 30 barrel fermenters in the fall and plan to start canning and producing more beers at that point. Currently you can only get their beer at their taproom.

 

Owner Jake Saunders told me they are looking to take a Maine/Vermont approach and only do limited canning with a schedule that’ll keep the product as fresh as possible.  With their focus being on hazy, American-style ales – and wanting to focus on the juicy hops for their beer –  freshness is of key importance. They want to be flexible as well and so will have a three day schedule with some of the beer being sent to liquor stores around the province.

The brewery is co-owned by Jake, a chartered accountant, and Dan Mason, an engineer. Dan does most of the brewing while Jake focuses on the business side of the brewery. Both are solid brewers and Jake is, in fact, the President of the New Brunswick Craft Brewers Association.

As I said, Trailway’s focus is hoppy beers. They really love the Australian hops and use a lot of Topaz and Galaxy. They also love mosaic and citra (in small amounts). They do have a couple of stouts as well; a coffee and an oatmeal stout, and Jake told me they like the two extremes.  They don’t really like sweetness in beers so they go for really hoppy ales or dry stouts. They also have a Raspberry Wheat Ale in production for the summer but will likely move it to the wayside when they start canning.

Trailway flight

I chatted with Jake for about an hour and can say he certainly knows his beer and has a really good mindset for brewing. The beers were all solid and they have some other ideas for beers down the line. Jake really loves sour beers as well and said they are looking to start doing some when they get their new fermenters. Interestingly, the first one will likely be a hoppy Berliner Weisse.

The currently have seven beer on tap: Primetime APA, Patio Session, Luster Session, FanMango APA, Raspberry Wheat, Coffee Stout, and AM Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery is a little hard to see from the road, but throw it into your favourite map app and you’ll find it. They have a nice taproom and lots of space. It’s another stop well worth the visit.

I still have some breweries I’d like to visit around Fredericton, then PEI when I get there. I’ll look to do another post on these breweries next week while I enjoy sand and sun (and lobster) in PEI.

As always, thank you for following along and I hope if you get a chance to come to the East Coast, you’ll make a point to visit breweries along the way.

-Beer Winnipeg

Little Brown Jug

Little Brown Jug Logo

As I prepare to head out to the East Coast to celebrate family and enjoy the burgeoning craft beer community in the Maritimes, I have one more post to do on a local Winnipeg-based brewery looking to open in September.

Little Brown Jug, located at 336 William Avenue, graciously opened their doors to me for a tour and chat about their brewery. Founder Kevin Selch and brewmaster Bernie Weiland are hard at work getting construction finalized on their beautiful Exchange District location. The site was once the transportation depot for Red River Motor Coach before becoming a wallpaper shop, a printing business, and now the new digs of Little Brown Jug.

Some Winnipeggers may recognize the Bernie Wieland from his brewing work at Half Pints over the past year. While this was his most recent position before becoming head brewmaster at Little Brown Jug, Bernie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in brewing. His first job in 2000 was with a brewery at Gilde Braurei in Hanover, Germany. Producing over 600,000 HL a year.  This was one of northern Germany’s top 10 breweries.  After spending some time there he gained even more brewing experience at Fort Garry, the Vancouver Island Brewing Company before getting his brewing certificate from the Siebel Institute. He then went to get his Master’s diploma from UC Davis before taking the role as brewmaster at Lake of the Woods in Kenora. He came back to Winnipeg for his stint at Half Pints before moving over full time to Little Brown Jug at the beginning of June. This Brandon-born, Winnipeg/Neepawa-raised globetrotter is excited to be back full-time in Winnipeg.

Kevin Selch is also originally from Winnipeg. He had spent the last 10 years based in Ontario working as an economist with the federal government.  He worked with Industry Canada on all kinds of economic and policy plans, including telecommunications policy, intellectual property policy, the defence procurement strategy, and the Nortel bankruptcy. Before this he worked as a trade economist and was involved in negotiating free trade agreements in Geneva, including work on the Canada-EU agreement. Kevin has always had a passion for urban development, urban manufacturing and the repurposing/redevelopment of old buildings. Having taken an old Victorian home and renovating it from studs up, he has excels at taking the old and making it new while still keeping the character.

For the past three years, Kevin has planned to open a brewery. While recent changes to the liquor laws was certainly a help, the decision to open Little Brown Jug was a natural step in his business plan: he’d arrived the point where he couldn’t plan anymore, he just had to take the leap.

Having spent the past 10 years in Ottawa, Kevin had the chance to explore the southern Ontario, Quebec and Vermont craft beer scenes. He loved the social aspect of these breweries and wants to use the tasting room at Little Brown Jug as a community space to bring more people to the downtown. Kevin hopes that people will come to Little Brown Jug before heading out to dinner at one of the other local establishments. Working in partnership with other exchange businesses to help benefit them all.

Little Brown Jug Inside

For Kevin, transparency is a big part of the business model. They want to be honest in their advertising, transparent in their brewing practices, and community oriented in their business outcomes. They want to focus on quality ingredients and brewing practices and plan to pace themselves, launching the brewery with one beer, a kräusened Belgian Pale Ale. On open they also only have two fermenters – another good reason to focus on their Belgian pale ale before brewing other beers as they add equipment.  Bernie hopes that they will be able to add another beer starting in January or February.  As for capacity, they are starting with a 20 hectoliter system, brewing 40 hectoliters a week. Little Brown Jug will only use Canadian-made equipment and they worked directly with the engineer to help develop their brew system.

Focusing on one beer will allow for Little Brown Jug to be picky when it comes to sourcing ingredients for their beer. Belgian Pale Ale being Kevin’s favourite style of beer, and standing on Bernie’s experience brewing, they are excited to launch with a beer people will be keen to seek out.

Little Brown Jug’s ideal tasting room is more than a space for people to come, drink a beer and leave. They want the space to be usable by community groups, be a meeting place before heading out for dinner, and to be a spot where you can see the brewing process first hand, ask questions, and learn about the beer. Starting with kegs, growler fills and signature 750ml little brown jugs, people will have a few options for bringing beer home. While they do hope to can in the future, this is a more of a long-term plan; Bernie says he can see LBJ start canning two to three years down the road.

Kevin and Bernie really wanted to be a part of Winnipeg’s downtown atmosphere and the urban renewal happening in the Exchange District. It was important to them to be able to bring their brewery to this area, both benefitting from the surrounding renewal and contributing to it. While opening a new company is challenging no matter what it is, Kevin has said the process thus far has been good.

Kevin and Bernie have been incredibly busy with the construction phase of the brewery. When they came in, the space had to be completely gutted and while there hasn’t really been time to look back on all they’ve accomplished, Kevin did say that seeing how far the space has come is starting to make the dream of opening a brewery seem like a reality.

Kevin really wants LBJ to embody the grain to glass experience and told me having Bernie as part of his team is a huge asset. Bernie’s knowledge about brewing and the brewing industry, his input and his expertise bring a lot to the table. Forming a business team requires tremendous trust and Kevin feels they are a great fit as they trust one another’s opinion completely.

With a goal to open in September, I’m excited to visit again when I return from the East Coast to see the progress they’ve made and, of course, I’m looking forward to trying their beer.  For now, they do have a really nice ¾ sleeve T-shirt for sale.

Little Brown Jug Tshirt

This is my last post before I head out East.  Be sure to follow me on twitter @beerwinnipeg if you’re interested in following my East Coast adventures. I’ll try my best to visit breweries and do some posts from the Maritimes where the list of breweries keeps growing, so be sure to follow along. As always, thanks for reading.

-Beer Winnipeg

Beau’s comes to Manitoba

beaus-logo-colour

While there has been a lot of excitement about the growth of the craft beer industry right in Manitoba, there have also been some exciting changes outside the province. Beau’s All-Natural Brewing has announced they will be distributing nationwide. In fact, their beer is already available in Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, PEI, and New York, and will come soon to Alberta and British Columbia.

I had the good fortune of sitting down with Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s, when he was in town last week promoting their product. Before I get to our chat, I think it’s important to say a little bit about Beau’s.

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. Led by head brewer Matt O’Hara, the focus at Beau’s is to brew interesting and tasty beers using only quality, certified-organic ingredients and local spring water. While not the only completely organic brewery in Canada, they certainly have made a name for themselves with their business practices: they’ve won over 85 awards for their brewing, packaging design and business practices. This includes two gold medals at Mondial de la Biere (Strasbourg, France, and Montreal Quebec); six gold medals at the Canadian brewing awards, seven times “Best Craft Brewery in Ontario” and seven times “Best Regularly Produced Beer in Ontario” at the Golden Tap Awards.

As with Picaroon’s (who I’ve written about before), Beau’s is a certified B-Corporation, which means they meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.  Beau’s is also the official brewery of Ottawa 2017, the festival of events our nation’s capital is organizing to mark Canada turning the big 150.

Though Manitobans have only received their flagship beer, Lug Tread Lagered Ale, Beau’s is trying to bring more of their beers into the province. They met recently with Liquor Marts to promote Golden Vox (Rye Pale Lagered Aled), Wag the Wolf (Hopfenweisse), Buenos Dias (from their Gruit Series), and The Tom Green Beer (Milk Stout). Hopefully we will see their other beers in the province over the next year.

As I said, I had the chance to talk to Steve, co-founder of Beau’s, about expansion across Canada, the brewery, his focus on environmental and ethical brewing, and craft beer in general. One of the things I was most curious about was their shift away from a “one-day” distribution model to nationwide distribution. Beau’s previously had a commitment to only sending their beer within a one-day drive to ensure quality and local reliability of supply. Their vision of themselves being this quirky little brewery only selling their beer in their own city shifted, however, after Mill Street sold to AB in Bev. They received more traction on their Facebook post than Mill Street did and realized they were now a quirky big brewery.

So after the sale of Mill Street, Steve said he felt it was important there be an independent alternative nationwide. They had also just expanded into Quebec – traditionally a very difficult market – and had been amazed by the support they received for their beer. This gave them confidence their brand was something people would be receptive to in other provinces.

Steve does not see this expansion as an attempt to get people to ditch favorite local beers. As craft beer grows its overall market share, he feels it’s nice to have options to try different beers on special occasions – perhaps pulled from a friend’s special fridge stock or when they go out for a drink.

Having had a one-day drive mindset for so many years, Steve is still very concerned about the distribution and logistics of nationwide expansion. That’s why he invited Jeff Moore onto his team – a distribution expert with 25 years’ experience at McAuslan Brewing and expertise getting product into provinces, making sure it is rotated properly so it’s as fresh as possible. This is what concerns Steve the most: that there is consistency in the taste of the beer and that it is exceptional every time you drink it.

Beaus Retail

To highlight this, Steve made sure after meeting with Liquor Mart’s product consultants about their beer to give them his card, asking them to stay in touch with questions, experiences and feedback. This is not about dumping beer off in another province. This is about keeping the same level of quality and community partnerships they have at home with the provinces they are expanding into.

Beau’s wants to create a reason to choose their beer when you are out and about. What makes their beer compelling back home? They are a brewery that produces great tasting beer, but also an organization that supports the community. Last year they donated to over 100 charities, and have donated over one million dollars to charities over the past 10 years. Steve is excited about the potential of this nationwide expansion to start developing local community building projects in each of the markets they enter. They have the goal of donating 1% of the sales in any province they enter back into community building projects that impact that area.

“We shouldn’t just drop beer in a province and be done with it. If we are going to be part of a community, we need to be part of the community.” Steve Beauchesne.

This means Steve is planning on travelling a lot more to be present in the provinces they distribute to.  Steve considers himself the most cynical customer and constantly asks himself why people might drink their beer. This is the main reason they’ve held off expanding for so long. Beau’s has always had this concept of not shipping farther than necessary. When they first opened they didn’t even distribute to Toronto because that was too far away. As they’ve grown they’ve consistently reinvested into the brewery and have increased their distribution as it made logical sense. Though this change is a bit more dramatic as they are expanding into many markets at once, they feel that with their current distribution apparatus it’s a leap they can land.

I asked Steve about the growth of the brewery since opening in 2006. He said that every year since starting, they’ve had to do a gradual expansion on the brewery.

They started from scratch – zero money – borrowing only from friends and family to get the brewery through its first 12 months. At the end of that year they went to the bank with their profits, put it all back into the business and borrowed what they could from the institution. With this money they expanded, and a year later repeated the process. What this means is there has never been a moment where they’ve taken on some outside angel investor who drops in 20 million and fully funds a major expansion. Beau’s had to look at their business every year, identify the bottlenecks and expanded their capacity strategically. One year it might be fermenters, the next their canning line, etc.  Right now Beau’s is able to brew 75,000 hectoliters but expects to brew 65,000 hectoliters this year.

Beaus Tanks

Beau’s has a reputation in the brewing community for being the “nice guys.” They are always willing to help other breweries and this co-operative culture has helped other breweries get more distribution and grow. For example, Beau’s has partnered with Gigantic brewing to help brew La Formidable and get it into Ontario. Steve says they have this reputation because they “walk the walk.” Beyond the Pale was opening up and going through rapid growth, so Beau’s lent them two fermenters and two bright tanks to help keep up with their demand. They’ve given the bottling line they outgrew to Cassel Brewing when that business needed it. They’ve given growlers to breweries who ran out and, of course, have spent tons of time talking to breweries, handing out free advice. This has been a rewarding path for Beau’s, both in reputation and sales.

“The old school philosophy about competition, being cutthroat and hurting everyone you can, it doesn’t work. The more we help, the more we do the right thing, the more our sales grow.” Steve Beauchesne

Beau’s expansion nationwide is certainly a dramatic expansion for them. Steve told me it took a lot of soul searching and contemplation before making the decision. They had been so adamant about staying super close to home they had to come to terms with making this move while staying true to the core-principles upon which Beau’s was founded.

After my conversation with Steve I was left with a better understanding of Beau’s, their reasoning behind their expansion, and a hope they will be successful in the Manitoba market. I’m impressed with their business practice, with the commitment to giving 1% of sales back to the community in Manitoba and with Steve’s passion for quality beer.

So, welcome to Manitoba Beau’s. Glad you could join us.

-Beer Winnipeg

Follow-up with Torque

Torque Tag

 

We are halfway through the summer months and getting closer to having two new breweries begin selling their beer. PEGbeer has written they‘re close to starting to brew while Torque is inching ever closer.

I had the opportunity to follow up with John and Adam from Torque earlier this week to get an idea of when we might get to taste some of their beer in a commercial setting. They’ve been working very hard these past months, doing a wonderful job of updating their Twitter followers, and have their tanks installed and are pretty much ready to go.

Torque Brewery - Long

Adam said they hope to have interim occupancy this week and they would like to be brewing August 2. The goal is to get beer out the doors as soon as possible, so the focus will be on producing, canning and selling beer with the taproom opening pushed to early September.

John said they want to get their beer on the shelves in Liquor Marts and beer vendors soon, so people will be able to bring Torque home with them. They will launch with four beers: Diesel Fitter (American Stout), Witty Belgian (Belgian Wit), Red Line (Red IPA), and What the Helles (Helles). Each style will be available in a 473ml single serve, with a 12 pack of the Helles and a 12 Variety Pack also available in the 355ml size.  Their beer will also be available on growler bars around the city, so you’ll have a few options for bringing home some of their beer.

“We’ll also be supplying a 473ml size Witching Hour Dark Pumpkin Ale for the Liquor Marts’ Pumpkin Pod fall promotion”, says Heim.

One of the things they are still waiting on is the loan program announced by the NDP and committed to by the PCs. They haven’t heard much on this program lately but hope to soon as it will help them get their beers out to Manitobans and possibly expand in the future.

The taproom itself will be limited to a 49-person capacity. They have two long tables made from beautiful elm, some stand up tables which are being made from wood recovered from old grain silos, plus a nice long bar. They plan on partnering with food trucks to feed patrons as well as laying out Torque beer nuts and baked goods from local bakeries. They also plan to have local foodie tours starting in the fall, partnering with the Winnipeg Trolley Company.

Torque Tables

One of the things on John’s radar are Manitoba’s rules regarding taprooms. He’d like to work with other members of the Manitoba Brewers’ Association to push for changes. Right now the occupancy limit is 49, they can only be open from 9am-9pm, and beer options are limited to in-house brews. He’d like to see hours shift to 11am-11pm, so folks leaving a Jets game could visit the taproom. And he would also like to see the option of a guest tap to expand the variety of beers.

While there is still a lot to do at Torque before they hit their ideal state, they’re prepared to put in the effort to “do things right.” They’ll take extra time if it is needed to get details perfect in both the brewery and the taproom. They’re even willing to take this approach in their brewing process: if the product is not up to snuff, they won’t send it out the door until it is.

Beyond that, the guys are looking forward to building some play into their project. Torque aims to a community brewery, with charity brews available early on. They also want to do brewing events like “learn to brew” and even have some homebrewers lined up to guest brew batches of beer. Adam is also really excited about their barrel program. They’ve got a 50 wine barrels from Mission Hill winery in BC and, while it won’t be any time in the near future, they have big plans for their barrel program.

Torque Brewery - Barrels

All in all, the folk at Torque’s hard work is steadily moving pieces into place so they can deliver some fantastic beer. If the quality is anything like what we tasted at Flatlander’s, expect some great brews soon.

-Beer Winnipeg

*Torque Brewing is located at 330-830 King Edward Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba*

Barn Hammer Open

Barn Hammer

Yesterday was a pretty special day for the craft beer community here in Manitoba.  Barn Hammer became the first brewery to open since the government changed the regulations.  I’ve been following Barn Hammer since I first heard about them over a year ago and to see this accomplishment is truly awesome.

I went down there for the first day and was surprised that even though I was arriving at 12:50, there were already quite a few people there.  Tyler told me that it had been pretty steady since they opened at noon and from what I heard it got pretty busy there as the day went on.

BH Taproom

They are serving beer in 10oz or 16oz for you to enjoy in the taproom, and then they have their 32oz and 64oz growlers that you can take home.  They have a few baked goods and snacks available and have been working with local food trucks to try and have something available to eat.  The Walleye Wagon was there yesterday serving up some delicious food.

While there have certainly been challenges along the way, delays, and even a few hiccups, it was good to see Tyler and Sable Birch behind the bar seeing their hard work come to fruition.  Brian and assistant brewer Adrian were in the back brewing up a storm to keep up with the demand.

So, get down there to 595 wall street, they are open from noon-9pm again today. Let’s do our best to support local.

Brazen Hall Brewery and Kitchen

Brazen Hall Logo

It’s the summer time, it’s warm outside, there is project work to do, and it’s a great time to have a beer.  With the progression of the craft breweries here in the city moving steadily forward, there is much to be excited about.  Barn Hammer opened their tap room for growler fills this week and officially open on Wednesday.  For me, my excitement this week was sitting down with the team behind Brazen Hall Kitchen and Brewery.

The interviews that I have done are each different in their own way. What has never happened was that almost 30 minutes has gone by and I haven’t even gotten to ask a question. He spent those minutes telling me how he got to where he is, and man it’s an interesting story.  The passion that Kristjan Kristjansson has for this project is astounding.

Kristjan started off working in the telecom industry in sales. He loved work, seeing himself as a problem solver, but wasn’t overly excited about the company.  After having a great deal of success in his first business venture, running the company he used to work for, he took a few years off.  His next project would be the one he will be the most well-known for, his foray into the restaurant business. When Kristjan purchased the Round Table it wasn’t just about making money or running a business.  He saw real estate as a good investment but more so, he wanted to secure a future for his family.

Having accomplished these goals, in 2010 Kristjan faced a dilemma of either shifting the focus of the Round Table or changing it to another business.  The Brogue was an attempt to shift the focus of the Round Table and get more sales from the bar.  Kristjan explained that he actually said no to the Molson and Labatt folks when choosing his beer and decided to focus on more local and different beers. This helped him realize that something with a focus on craft beer was a viable option.

This is when the idea of opening a Brewpub started to take hold in Kristjan’s mind and he began looking at numerous other locations while still trying to figure out what to do with the Round Table. While doing this he met Kris Kopansky, another person interested in opening a brewery.  After talking with him, things just clicked and the location on the old site of the Round Table was chosen.

The team working with Kristjan is quite impressive.  Steve Watson will be the brains behind the kitchen and the menu at Brazen Hall.  He is a chef instructor at Patal International College.  The college is a level 1 certified program through apprenticeship Manitoba and Steve is a red seal chef himself.  The college works with international and indigenous students to help them find good work in the community.  Steve loves the work he does, it’s something he is proud of and gives him time to spend with his family.  What he was lacking was a creative outlet.  When Kristjan called him up to help develop the menu at Brazen Hall he jumped at it.  Not only that but he can involve his students in helping to design the menu because of the schools private status. Steve had originally helped open Brogue and has quite a lot of experience with quality assurance and creativity.  He can be given a food like buffalo wings and improve on it, or create a bacon appetizer that people love.  Steve’s passion for food and attention to quality bring an ability to make boring food exciting and crazy food amazing.

The third member of the team is Kris Kopansky.  For the past 24 years he has been working in the restaurant sector.  He first opened the Green Gates back in 1992.  He’s spent time working at Pasta la vista, Fuzion grill and was finally recruited by Earl’s where he has spent the past 14 years.  All of this experience has helped him understand the restaurant business, profitability, but most importantly consistency. Kris was looking to do something different.  Tragically, he lost his daughter last year and was looking to create something of his own, something he could develop and develop the people around him.  Kris got involved with Brazen Hall to be a part of something that he sees as special.  The concept, the design, but especially the people.  He wants to help create something special that will make a difference in the community.

Head brewer Jeremy Wells.  Jeremy has worked at Half-Pints for the past 8 years.  He started off doing labelling, deliveries, cleaning tanks, kegging and bottling.  Eventually he became the delivery driver but the folks at Half Pints decided he was more valuable in the brewery than on the road.  He was trained on how to brew and has been brewing there ever since.  One of the things he loved about Half Pints was that creativity is encouraged.

Brazen Hall

Jeremy loved bartending and felt a desire to get back into the brew pub concept.  Through a mutual friend he met Kristjan a few times, keeping Half Pints in the loop all along, and while Half Pints was interested in keeping him, he needed to do what was best for him.  Now he gets to create his own beers and see the response.  At Flatlander’s he was seeing people excited about a beer was really cool for Jeremy.

“It’s about being able to be excited about going to work”

Kris Kopansky chimed in at this point to say that while everyone is passionate about the task ahead, that they are all excited for the opportunity to do something special and to bring both great food and great beer to Winnipeg, he made clear that “We are not in kumbaya mode. We hold each other accountable and make sure that we are all moving towards the goal of doing something awesome.”

The plan for the brewery and kitchen is pretty straight forward.  Each will be its own entity with the brewery brewing their beers and the kitchen bringing the same laser focus to its food program.  The restaurant will produce awesome food and servers who explain the food, beers, and pair them together. Both of these entities will be making the best possible product they can.  It’s called a Brewery and Kitchen for a reason. For Kristjan, too many pubs decide to try their hand at food, or a restaurant trying to bring business in with a brewery.  Both of these models can struggle when the commitment isn’t real. The plan for Brazen Hall is to be awesome at both and have experts, Jeremy and Steve, acting as the leaders for each while Kris leads the entire team.

The team behind Brazen Hall want to write a great story, make a place that develops great people, produces quality products and supports the community.  They plan to use as much local product as possible.  In fact, the group wants to look into whether they can raise their own cattle for beef, grow their own hops for beer on Kristjan’s ranch, and use local farmers as much as possible. In every instance Brazen Hall wants to try their best to give to the community and support local industry.

“Being a Brewery and Kitchen is like having two chefs.”

Brazen Hall will be a 200 seat restaurant and a 10 hectoliter system.  There will be tank to tap for the restaurant as well as bottling in 650ml bottles for sale from their retail store on site and later, Liquor marts.  Brazen Hall will also have growler fills available at the bar so that people are able to take the beer they love home in many formats.  What was clear was that they don’t want to focus on commercial sales until they know they can produce enough beer to help fill their customer’s fridges.  They want their beer to be available to their consumer base first.  Focus isn’t on commercial sales, but butts in the seats of Brazen Hall.

While at this point they have made a number of test batches; a best bitter, an ale, a saison, and others, they are looking to let the market decide what will become “their” beers.  They plan to launch with a number of different options, listen to the feedback on the beers, and make their decision from there.  They are well aware that there are a number of people in the city who still gravitate towards the yellow water, but Jeremy brews beers he would like to drink so the options provided will still be good, unique and delicious.  Of course they will also be leaving room for seasonal beers and are hoping to brew fun beers that are not only great but will have customers wanting more.  To continue the excitement, the team has a 70 year old lager specialist consulting with them as well.

What is exciting is that Brazen Hall is already looking to the future.  They are plotting out possible locations for a second site.  What will go on this site has a lot to do with the reception from Winnipeggers.  If they are all about the beer it may be that the brewery expands, or it might be that it’s a bar that serves only their beer and food.  Whatever it is, they are leaving it up to the market to help them determine the path forward.

“Everyone came into this project with it not being all about money or career, but about what you need to do for you and creating something special.”

A lot of people had a chance to give their first beer, a best bitter, a try at Flatlander’s.  I certainly found it to be quite tasty and I’ve heard a number of comments in agreement.  If this is a sign of what is to come from Brazen Hall, and their food can match, then they have a winning combination.  So, when will you get a chance to check the place out?  Well, they have a soft launch date counting down on their website right now: www.brazenhall.ca but for now, I’m going to say you’ll have the opportunity to check them out this fall.  They do already have some pretty sweet T-shirts available, so if you are interested in supporting them now, you can.

It’s been pretty awesome following the stories of the breweries that are looking to open.  To see this province’s craft beer community begin to thrive, one which I know our will be embraced, makes a lot of what I wrote a year ago seem surreal.  We are at that point, Winnipeg, where by this fall we could have as many as 4 new breweries to visit.  So, get out, support local, and keep trying new beers.

-Beer Winnipeg

Flatlander’s 2016

flat_header

This years’ Flatlander’s Beer Festival was by far the best one to date. With 72 booths and over 240 beers, it was the largest beer festival we’ve held in Manitoba.  The number of beers isn’t always important, but the quality, variety and style variations made this year pretty darn awesome. Not only that, the local breweries were out in force and brought their A-game, giving every single one of us a reason to be proud.

I had a unique opportunity this year. I attended all three sessions of Flatlander’s in different capacities. On Friday night I had the joy of being a patron, enjoying around 70 unique beers. On Saturday I participated in the “ask a beer geek” initiative and had a great time answering questions and helping guide people towards beers. Then, on Saturday night, I had the opportunity to pour for Brewsters’ Brewing Company.  Each of these experiences brought a different perspective of the festival and dang, it was fun.

As a patron, I was incredibly impressed with how well organized the beer festival was this year. They had multiple entrances that split up the crowd, they used the concourse as well as the ice, which helped spread the crowd out to make the beers more accessible, and they had fantastic volunteers who did an awesome job helping guide people where they wanted to go.

For me, the most exciting part was the fact the first 9 booths were all local.  Barn Hammer, Farmery, Fort Garry, Half Pints, Brazen Hall, Nonsuch, Torque, One Great City and the Winnipeg Brew Bombers were there with a lot of fantastic beer.

As I said above, these local breweries brought their A-game and provided a fantastic opportunity to not only try a huge number of delicious beers, but also connect with the brewers and breweries.  The local booths were packed all night long with patrons drinking, chatting, and buying the merchandise.  I got me a Torque hat, a Barn Hammer hat and a One Great City shirt… eventually I’ll collect them all!

I can’t wait to try more of the local stuff as it starts to trickle into the market. From what I had the opportunity to taste (every single one) I am excited to continue to support local brewers. This is what I was writing about last year, what I’ve been writing about since I started this blog: We are finally seeing the craft beer community in Manitoba grow…and it’s good.

As a beer geek, I had the opportunity to answer questions people had about beers, hand out some cool swag to patrons and help guide people who didn’t really have a plan. It was a great opportunity to use some of the knowledge I’ve gathered to help others better understand and enjoy beer. I found many people are becoming really well-educated themselves, and that people were just as excited about the local beer as I was.

IMG_5175

While I didn’t have many questions besides “Where is the local stuff” or “Where am I?”, I did have some fun ones. One group had tried a few beers and asked “What is it about these beers I don’t like?” which was a fun one to answer. Others were curious about the use of nitro in One Great City’s Milk Stout, or what a Randall was. Overall, I was working with some really smart people and had a great time getting to meet a lot of new folks, help them enjoy their beer, and learn a little bit more myself from talking with brewers.

As a pourer for Brewsters’, I had the opportunity to stand still while the festival crowd flowed around me.  It was hectic; the first hour flew past in what felt like five minutes. I spent the first bit getting to know the beers as best I could – tasting them on Friday night helped – and talking to Don about Brewsters’. We poured four beers: River City Raspberry Wheat, Honest Paul IPA, Hammerhead Red Ale, and the Hawaiian Coconut Porter. The night ended up being a lot of fun with me repeatedly saying things such as “this is a traditional English porter, finished with real coconut. It has chocolate and coffee notes in it as well” or “this is a big 70 IBU IPA with mosaic, Citra and cascade hops with a big late hop addition that bring big grapefruit and passion fruit notes.”

IMG_5176

This gave me a good barometer for people who knew something about beer and those who did not.  While two years ago Flatlander’s seemed to have a large number of people asking “what’s an IPA?” this year I didn’t have a single person ask that. There will certainly always be room for people to learn more about beer, but the amount of knowledge people showed Saturday night was great to witness. I’m so happy Manitobans are increasingly embracing craft beer, are excited about new beers and local beers, and want to try something they’ve never had.

Talking with Don, a man who has been in the beer industry for close to 20 years, was fantastic. This guy really knows his beer and his product and I really hope that we see some of it come to Winnipeg. The Honest Paul IPA was delicious and I’m a sucker for a good Coconut Porter.  We’ve already got their Brewmaster Collection in Liquor Marts, but we will also see a Peach Ale coming to town for the final flight of Coast to Coaster.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at the beer festival. It helped build excitement for the local breweries, something I’ve been working hard to do, and gave people their first sampling of what is to come.  Next year’s festival will be even better as the breweries here this year – most with the help of Half Pints – will be open and brewing on their own systems. They will have grown and we will have, hopefully, even more new breweries giving us a first taste side-by-side with those from this year. While we had nine local booths at this year’s festival, I really hope to see us take up 20 booths next year.

So, fellow beer fans, I encourage you to get out and enjoy local beer this summer. Of the new folks, Barn Hammer is already sending beer out the door; you can find it at Fools & Horses and Earls right now, and Torque will hopefully be coming up close behind. Many of us have been clamouring for more craft beer so now it’s time to put our money where our mouth is – and also beer where our mouth is.  It’s time to get out and show these places that we will support them.

Let’s end today’s post with a question.  If you attended Flatlander’s, what was your favourite beer? Answer in the comments below.

Brew reviews and news

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 991 other followers