Category Archives: Beer Review

Nonsuch – BU50

photo courtesy of the illustrious beercrank.ca

Every time I sit down to write one of these posts I take an opportunity to reflect on where we are. When I first started this blog, the beer community was in its infancy. Half Pints was the predominate craft brewery, and remain to this day the original. We now have more breweries than I know what to do with. And I love it.

Today I write about an fun partnership with Brandon University. Nonsuch brewmaster, and Brandon University Alumnus, Mark Borowski has brewed a special beer for Brandon University’s 50th anniversary. This “Marzen Style” beer is, like most Nonsuch Beers, a cranked up version of the Marzen style.

For those of you who don’t recall, Nonsuch is a local brewery that is made up of some pretty talented people. Take a read through my write-up on them here. They’ve run into some bad luck along the way and have had a difficult time finding a space of their own. Thanks to the amazing camaraderie of the local beer community, most especially Barn Hammer who has provided Nonsuch with space to brew, they’ve still managed to get beer out the doors. This bottle release represents the first beer they’ve packaged and sold at such a large volume.

It is somewhat auspicious that I am posting this write-up today. NONSUCH HAS A SPACE. They announced it this morning. They will be moving into the old Peg Beer Company site at 125 Pacific Avenue. This is a happy and a sad day. I am happy for Nonsuch to finally have a place to call there own. At the same time, this means there won’t be a return of Peg.

This “Golden Ale” brewed for the “Golden Anniversary” of Brandon University is crafted from a recipe inspired by a Marzen, a German festival beer that is traditionally served at Oktoberfest.  Before refrigeration, it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer due to the hot weather and bacterial infections. Brewing ended with the coming of spring, and began again in the fall. Most were brewed in March (Märzen). These brews were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months, or brewed at a higher gravity, so they’d keep. Märzenbier is full-bodied, rich, toasty, typically dark copper in color with a medium to high alcohol content.

According to the description, the unique BU50 Anniversary Ale uses a hybrid yeast to brings out more crispness, and further enhanced by the use of Saaz hops. The result is a refreshing and well-balanced strong beer that comes in at 6.8% ABV — intentionally chosen as a nod to 1968, the year the first graduates of Brandon University received their degrees. Previously, graduates from Brandon College received degrees from other institutions.

ABV – 6.8%
Appearance – Pours a clear golden/honey colour with a foamy head.
Smell – There is a biscuit malt character to the nose along with some hints of caramel and a bit of grassy hops.
Taste – This was a rather sweet beer. The sweetness from the malt came through strong and was only slightly cut by some crisp bitterness on the finish.
Mouth Feel – Medium bodied with good carbonation and a nice dry finish.
Overall Thoughts – Nonsuch is known for making ramped up beers. This was no different. The malt character really shone in this beer and, while I found it to be on the sweet side, it did have a crisp finish. I think that it hit on the characteristics one would expect to find in a Märzen while still maintaining something special that is worthy of the celebration.
Do I like it? – I did like this beer. I found that it brought a nice malt character. I found it to be a bit sweet for me, but I was able to move past that and enjoy it. I think this type of collaboration is really fun and I hope we see some more of it. The price tag on this beer, $19.68, is rather high. But, we know that Nonsuch’s overhead for there beers is already pretty high and if we consider they are donating a portion of this to the Brandon University’s BU Foundation, it makes a bit more sense.

The beer is already sold out in most of Brandon. Luckily, Nonsuch is currently brewing their second batch of the beer which should be ready in about a month. There are hopes it will be sold at rural Liquor Marts in Western Manitoba and eventually Winnipeg Liquor Marts as well.

Torque – Czech Please

My most sincere apologies to all of you out there in Winnipeg Beer Land. I’ve had a crazy month and it’s still going to get crazier. Work, family, starting a Ph.D program, all things that require my attention and I’m doing my best to balance.

I love writing this blog and really want to be doing my best here, but sometimes it’s going to take a backburner as I do it for fun.

There have also been some other updates in the beer community but I’ll save those for Beer News this Friday.

On to the Pilsner.

Czech Please! – Bohemian Pilsner

Torque has become a fun brewery here in Winnipeg. From their start they’ve focused on producing a variety of beer options and have always made sure to keep their taproom stocked with some new small batches for people to try out. I’m always excited to see what they’ve got on the menu and they do not disappoint. They recently announced a potential expansion as well, so that means more awesome beer!

For this Czech style Pilsner, they went all out. Not only did they stick with the traditional ingredients, they spent a great deal of time and effort trying to get the water just right. They softened it up so that they could try and match the water that makes this style.

Pilsners are one of the most popular beer styles in the word and originate in the City of Pilzen in 1295.  While Pilsners are considered to be bottom-fermented beers now, they were actually top-fermented until about the mid-1840s.  The taste and standards of this older styles varied widely and in many cases entire barrels of beer were dumped out.  In 1839 the city of Pilsen founded a city owned brewery (now Pilsner Urquell) which was to brew beers and pioneer the Bavarian style.  Brewers had already begun to brew using bottom-fermenting yeasts that were fermented and stored in colder temperatures to be drunk later. This is where the term lager comes from. Lagern is the German word for storing and comes from this process.

Using Pilzen’s soft water, local saaz hops and this Bavarian style of lagering produced a clear, crisp and refreshing beer that became the standard for the style.  With the introduction of modern refrigeration there was no need to use caves for beer storage and this enabled the brewing of bottom-fermenting beers in many new places.  There are three styles of Pilsner:

  • German-style Pilsner – More bitter and earthy in flavour
  • Bohemian (Czech) Pilsners – tend to have lighter flavour
  • Classic American Pilsners – Brewed with more corn and rice as well as native cluster hops along with the noble hops when available.

All modern pilsners are very clear, very light beers that are pale to golden yellow.  All of them have a distinct hop aroma and flavor.  There are also Dutch and Belgian pilsners (not a separate style) which can be slightly sweeter.

ABV – 5%
Appearance – Golden in colour with an effervescent head that dissipates quickly.
Smell – Light malt notes, clean and bready, with light grassy hop notes.
Taste – Light, refreshing, a crisp bite at the finish along with some subtle hop bitterness. It has a semi-sweet malt characteristic to it.
Mouth Feel – Good carbonation with a coarse mouth feel and a nice lingering finish.
Overall Thoughts – Overall it was a really nice Bohemian Pilsner. I think it hit the highlights for me and over was a nice offering.
Do I like it? – Yes, I did enjoy this beer. I really like pilsners when it comes to the “lighter” beers. I think that they offer something interesting and flavourful. This one was certainly a very nice beer and I really enjoyed it. Just in time for this warm weather.

I’ve got some more posts lined up and look forward to getting them up. Thanks for following along.

-Beer Winnipeg

Torque – Fake News

The beer scene here in Winnipeg is exploding. Oxus has officially released it’s first beers with more on the way. Kilter has announced their location at 80 Sherbrook Street adding even more awesomeness to that neighbourhood, Trans Canada announced it’s first core beer with an Amber Ale (still hoping that Brett Pale Ale will make it to the list of cores) and breweries keep pumping out fun beers I want to try like Strawbarian Milkshake IPA coming out today from Barn Hammer.

I also want to take a quick opportunity to highlight a couple of upcoming events.

First, Joel Carleton of Bee’s Knees is partnering with Winnipeg Tasting Tours for a Beer and Chocolate tasting. It sounds delicious, so if you like those things and are curious about them being paired together, consider checking it out.

If you don’t have plans for this weekend, you should check out the Brandon Beer Festival. It’ll have a bunch of local breweries as well as others from outside of the province. It’s been growing as the years go on and it’s a fun event. Check out details here.

Now with that, to the main reason for this post. I’ve written about Torque on many occasions and feel that they are really pumping out some fun and unique beers. I wanted to take a chance to write about their Russian Imperial Stout.

Fake News – Russian Imperial Stout

Torque has become a fun brewery here in Winnipeg. From their start they’ve focused on producing a variety of beer options and have always made sure to keep their taproom stocked with some new small batches for people to try out. This Russian Imperial Stout is a different recipe from last years’ Konstantine but still brings the same rich, velvety approach to a Russian imperial stout. It also pokes a bit of fun at our neighbours to the South.

There are numerous styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite Imperial Stouts.  Russian Imperial Stouts are a style that I’ve really started to enjoy and appreciate.  These beers age incredibly well and change over time.  This style of beer was originally brewed in the 1800s by Thrale’s brewery in London England for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. This same beer is brewed today now under the Courage brewery name and is called Courage Russian Imperial Stout (RIS).   Ranging between 8%-12% alcohol with strong malt notes of coffee, caramel, chocolate and dark fruit (plums, prunes or raisins for example), it is a perfect beer for a winter night.

ABV – 10%
Appearance – Pours a deep dark black with a nice tan head.
Smell – Smell roast malt, cocoa and some subtle vanilla.
Taste – There is a nice roasted malt flavour here as well as some of that cocoa and malt sweetness. The flavours are a bit disparate right now. The beer was good, but I think it will get better with some time.
Mouth Feel – Good carbonation with a velvety mouth feel.
Overall Thoughts – Overall it was a pretty good Russian imperial stout. I’m a fan of this style and I wasn’t disappointed.
Do I like it? – Yes, I did enjoy this beer. As I said above, the flavours are all there but they don’t quite work with one another yet. I have more than one bottle and I am going to let the others sit a bit. I look forward to trying it with a bit of age.

I am a bit late getting this out, so I am not sure if you’ll find this anywhere. They only produced a limited number of bottles. If you got some, good on ya. If you got more than one, I’d set one aside.

I’ve got some more posts lined up and look forward to getting them up. Thanks for following along.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Torque – Borealis Gruit

Well, it’s official, there are a ton of interesting beers being made locally. I am having a hard time keeping up. The amount of new stuff happening in Winnipeg is truly awesome. Today I want to take an opportunity to do a write-up of a unique local beer. Torque Brewing brewed a Gruit. This is a unique and interesting style of beer and I want to write about.

I’ve written about Torque on many occasions and feel that they are really pumping out some fun and unique beers.

Borealis – Gruit

Gruits are an ancient style of beer that finds it origins somewhere around 700 CE. The Gruit reached the height of its consumption between the 9th and 13th centuries. Like many other ancient beer recipes, it was the women from whom this ale was produced. The recipe would be passed down through the generations. As time progressed, it shifted to being a task done within monasteries. The monastic communities gained economic prowess, having the best harvests, the best fabrics, etc… and they soon moved into producing beer.

During this time the gruit was a lot different than what we find today. Being made of an often-top-secret blend of herbs and spices. During the height of its popularity, the Gruitier was held in high regard and often had body guards to help protect the recipe. Holding positions of high regard and often luxurious houses, gruitiers all proclaimed their recipe to be the best and often boasted healing or medicinal properties. The use of the herbs and spices had a more practical reason, to keep the beer from spoiling. As hops were not used, these beers needed some other means of keeping for longer periods.

Today, a Gruit is a top-fermented ale that will still use blends of herbs, spices, or citrus. Most gruits produced today do use some level of hops but do so in a way that it imparts no hop flavour on the beer itself. Rather, these beers focus on being clean and imparting flavours from the use herbs, spices and botanicals. The Borealis gruit from Torque that we are trying today uses spruce tips (I love spruce tips), bog myrtle, yarrow, and juniper.

ABV – 6.5%
Appearance – Pours an amber with a slight haze, with a small bit of white foam that dissipates quickly.
Smell – Easily identifiable notes of spruce tips. Juniper is present on the nose as well. I am not familiar with the aroma of Yarrow or Bog Myrtle.
Taste – Malt sweetness on the front of this beer with a nice taste of those spruce tips and some juniper. The beer is clean and finishes nicely.
Mouth Feel – Good carbonation with nice bubbles and a dry salt finish.
Overall Thoughts – I’ve had the opportunity to try several gruits due to the availability of many this international gruit day. I found this one to be right up there and brought a lot of nice flavours to this unique style. When using botanicals over hops in a beer you rely on them to bring the balance, and this certainly was nice.
Do I like it? – Yes, I did enjoy this beer. I found the use of spruce tips and juniper to be really pleasant. I feel a need to get more familiar with yarrow and bog myrtle after drinking this and am overall impressed.

This beer is available at liquor marts, the Quality Inn Craft Beer Store, and at the brewery itself. Get out there and pick it up (along with a few others to try out). 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.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Merry Christmas – Beau’s New Lang Syne is Perfect for New Years Eve

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.th.

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.

This New Lang Syne is already available in Liquor Marts and beer vendors 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. *

New Lang Syne

The style of beer we are drinking today is a Beligan Tripel. The name Tripel comes from the brewing process of this beer.  Essentially it means you are adding three times the malt as you would in a Beligan “simple”.   This increases the sugar content in the beer and results in a highly alcoholic beer.  The best Belgian tripels hide this strong alcoholic flavor making them delicious but dangerous.  They have a surprisingly light color, typically bright yellow to golden, which is a result of the addition of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose).  Tripels are the most brewed of the Belgian styles and are highly adored due to their deep color, soft maltiness and unique yeast flavors.  Even with their high ABV (usually 8-12%) they are highly approachable when done right.  Let’s get to the beer.

What’s unique about this beer is that it has been aged in pinot gris wine barrels for 4 months and then blended with an unaged batch of the beer to provide an interesting meld of beer. It is a bottle-conditioned beer and has been described to me as bridging the gap between beer and wine. I’m excited to give it a try.

ABV – 9%
Appearance – Pours a slightly hazy golden with a nice frothy white head.
Smell – The nose brings some citrus zest, some nice sweet malt notes, along with an interesting white wine character and some oak.
Taste – This beer has a lot going on. With the use of a Belgian yeast you are getting some nice yeast esters bringing some bubblegum, apricot and pear. This works incredibly well with the white wine character which compliments these notes. There is a candied sugar sweetness that is slightly cut by the oak on the finish. The finish is a blend of this oak and yeast spice along with some tannins from the wine.
Mouth Feel – Medium bodied, nice carbonation, and very little sign of the 9% alcohol.
Overall Thoughts – Nice beer. It makes a good representation for the Tripel and brings a lot of those characteristic notes including a unique yeast character, nice maltiness combining with the white wine and oak notes from the barrel aging.
Do I like it? – I did enjoy this beer. It was unique and did bring some wine characteristics to the beer. I felt it could be described as bridging the gap between beer and wine. Overall I really enjoyed this beer and think it would make an excellent beverage for you on New Years Eve!

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.

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

To those who celebrate – MERRY CHRISTMAS!

And, to those who will be celebrating it, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

-Beer Winnipeg

Nonsuch – Saison

Nonsuch-Logo-on-Water

Local beer business is booming. We are seeing more in the way of beers being brewed, distributed and consumed. So, I’m pretty excited that Nonsuch has gotten their first beer into their beautiful bottles.

For those of you who don’t recall, Nonsuch is a local brewery that is made up of some pretty talented people. Take a read through my write-up on them here. They’ve run into some bad luck along the way and have had a difficult time finding a space of their own. Thanks to the amazing camaraderie of the local beer community, most especially Barn Hammer who has provided Nonsuch with space to brew, they’ve still managed to get beer out the doors. This bottle release represents the first beer they’ve packaged and sold at such a large volume.

Saison’s are a sturdy farmhouse style of beer. Originally brewed in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, it was a beer 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 be able to last but also 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 earthy yeast notes to the beer. They tend to combine nice fruity notes with spice and a subtle sourness or tartness. Usually lots of spice with mild bitterness and a dry crisp finish and only a hint of sweetness. At one point in time Saison’s were an almost extinct beer style but they have seen a great resurgence and are commonly brewed by a number of craft breweries across Canada.

Nonsuch has brewed what could easily be called an “Imperial” or “Double” saison in that it comes in at a whopping 8.5%. While the style traditionally was one to have on nice summer day to refresh and quench your thirst, I wouldn’t recommend drinking many of these or your day probably won’t be very productive. I’d also forewarn folks that their beer is highly carbonated. The two bottles I’ve opened immediately started foaming from the top and so I’d suggest opening them in the kitchen sink so as not to make a mess.

Nonsuch - Saison
Courtesy of beercrank.ca

ABV – 8.5%
Appearance – Pours a hazy straw coloured with an incredibly active and vibrant carbonation. The head filled 90% of my glass did not dissipate. Pour slowly or let it expend some of its excess energy before pouring.
Smell – Nice fruity esters, notes of bubblegum and dried fruit.
Taste –It has a very nice fruity character to it with yeast esters coming through nicely and bringing a bubblegum note along with some pleasant sweetness. Alcohol is noticeable and has a warming character.
Mouth Feel – Highly carbonated, light bodied, alcohol warm on a dry finish.
Overall Thoughts – While I certainly don’t feel that this is what you’d expect in buying a saison (more a dubbel or a Belgian strong) it did bring some typical saison notes in the smell and taste. If you typically like other lower alcohol saisons, this is not like those.
Do I like it? – Yes. I like this quite a lot. Whatever you choose to call it, or however you choose to try and classify it, it’s a solid beer. The two bottles I opened, despite having ridiculous carbonation, were tasty and I enjoyed them both.

I’m really excited that Nonsuch has started bottling their beer. Not only does it mean they are moving forward, it also means that I can now start drinking it. The bottles are beautiful and I’m excited to see what else they come out with. They’ve got a Tripel on down at the Forks, and their Oud Bruin was stellar.

Congratulations Nonsuch. Well done.

Surly – Furious Black IPA

It’s been a busy month, that’s for sure, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. My daughter turned one, new beers have been pumping out from the local breweries, we are seeing more announce they are looking to open, and it’s almost advent calendar season. I hope you’ve been enjoying my Friday Beer News and if you have anything you’d like included in that, let me know on twitter, in the comments, or via email @ beerwinnipeg@gmail.com

For those of you not familiar with Surly, I did an in-depth write-up of them <here> when they first announced their coming to Manitoba. This is big. They have a waiting list for expansion and have chosen to come to Manitoba. What’s more, we are going to be seeing some of their seasonal offerings, including Furious Black IPA, Damien, and both the 2016 and 2017 vintages of their Russian imperial stout Darkness.

The beer I am reviewing today is their Furious Black IPA. This beer is currently available at Liquor Marts and some beer vendors around the city. Furious Black was originally introduced as a Darkness Day beer for the 2015 release. Building on the Furious IPA’s citrusy hops, it also brings a deeper malt character with roasted malt notes and, obviously, the darker colour. Black IPAs aren’t new to the Winnipeg beer scene. Black Galaxy has been a favorite from Half Pints for quite some time and we will be seeing Torque’s Rabbit Punch Black IPA coming to liquor marts this week.

Black IPA is a variation of the American IPA style and was first commercially produced by Greg Noonan as Black watch IPA around the 1990s. It’s become popular around the Pacific northwest and southern California and is also known as a “Cascadian Dark Ale” or CDA. Typically, a drier beer with a hop-forward balance and a darker colour. The roast from the malt is not expected to be overwhelming but rather play a supporting role to the hops. You can read more about the style here or, as always, in the BJCP guidelines located here.

ABV – 6.60%
Appearance – Pours a deep dark colour with a subtle red hue when held up to the light. Nice medium brown head.
Smell – Citrus and pine notes as well as a subtle malt roast. Nice aromatic hop on the nose that stands out from the malty notes.
Taste –The taste if very like the smell. There are good citrus and pine hop notes that are certainly up front and centre. You can certainly taste the malt in this beer, it brings a subtle roasted malt characteristic that is a bit more forward than on the nose but does not detract from the hop characteristics. Less sweet than the regular Furious IPA but still with citrus forward hops.
Mouth Feel – Medium bodied with a hop forward front and a bitter finish.
Overall Thoughts – An overall tasty Black IPA. It is not just an IPA that has been darkened using Carafa 3 (although that is a malt in the beer). It brings a nice hop forward character that is supported by a subtle roasted malt character.
Do I like it? – Yes. I like this quite a lot. It’s a strong Black IPA that I rather enjoyed. This is a style that I find to be very tasty when done right, and this certainly was done right.

There are still more beers coming our way from Surly. We’ve Damien, son of Darkness, coming on November 18th and the final beer in the “Embrace the Darkness” run, the 2017 vintage of Darkness on December 2nd. Watch for those.

Thanks again for following along. Beer News is out this Friday.

– Beer Winnipeg