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.
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.”
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.