Category Archives: Winnipeg

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 – 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

 

Stone Angel – Follow-Up

Stone Angel Logo

Stone Angel (1875 Pembina Avenue) is a new Winnipeg brewery that is opening up their taproom this Friday (September 22nd, 2017). Patrons will be able to enjoy two of their finely crafted beers starting at 3:30 pm. Their first seasonal – Nocturne, an English Dark Mild and Red-Handed an Irish Red will be available. Following this opening, Stone Angel will then be open from Thursday-Sunday. Be sure to check their website for hours.

With the taproom opening, the focus shifts towards producing beer. While they have two ready to go, they hope to get their other two core beers, an IPA and a stout, ready to go. Luther’s Folly, their Kolschist Blond will also be returning.

They are also diving right into seasonal beers and planning to get a unique seasonal style ready for Halloween. Their Samhain (pronounced “sowen”) is a smokey porter with dried fruit. From what I’ve been told it is inspired by the Halloween traditions in Ireland.

When it comes to beer production, they will currently be reliant on what they can sell at the taproom until they get their canning line in place which they hope will be in the new year.

As for the taproom, the space is beautifully done. Currently taprooms are restricted to 50 people despite the size. Stone Angel boasts a large space and five bathrooms and could easily accommodate twice that. With such a large area, they hope that they might be able to do some renovations in the future and expand the seating. There is some hope from them, and others in the Manitoba Brewers Association, that some changes in how occupancy is determined can be made.

Paul Clerkin from Stone Angel is also hoping to get the website updated. As a web-developer he is quite skilled at putting together websites and wants the Stone Angel website to help people find where they can get their beer and drink it. The idea is to have the website be intuitively designed for use on smartphones so that one can easily find where to get Stone Angel’s beer and get directions.

I’m looking forward to visiting Stone Angel once they open and getting to taste more of their beer. It’s always an exciting time when a new brewery opens. The culmination of an incredible amount of hard work, time, and dedication. These events should be celebrated so I hope everyone will head down to Stone Angel at 1875 Pembina Avenue this Friday (September 22nd, 2017) after 3:30 pm for a pint.

-Beer Winnipeg

Winnipeg Beer Festival

Winnipeg Craft Beer Festival

The first annual Winnipeg Beer Festival was held at Fort Gibraltor this past weekend. A combination of beer, food, and spirits together on the grounds of the beautiful Fort. The evening was beautiful and the company was fantastic. Overall, the event was well attended and a heck of a lot of fun.

I wrote about the event leading up to it and I wanted to write a follow-up for those who couldn’t make it.

The Winnipeg Beer Festival is an event that was put on in support of the KIDS initiative. Supporting youth in Kenya and providing a fun opportunity for folks to enjoy local beer, food, and some games and prizes. As I said, this is the first year for this event and I must say that it was overall a successful endeavor.

Many local brewers were in attendance. I’m disappointed that more couldn’t make it, but those who did attend were well received. The beers presented were standard fare for the breweries which was a bit disappointing. Often festivals like this are a chance to present new beers or offer up something unique. Being the first festival, breweries brought what they had available. I think in the future should this event continue, and I hope it does, breweries will see it as an opportunity to present fall/winter offerings and build some hype for beers to come.

The event was also a bit of a competition between the breweries. Patrons could vote, using bottle caps, for a beer that they felt was the best. While this provided an opportunity to narrow it down to a specific beer, it also disadvantaged breweries with fewer beers. While not commenting on what is better/worse, the styles were so varied it was apples to oranges to pears, having less beer available meant the vote for you wasn’t split quite as much. In the future voting on the beers at a brewery might be a better way to go rather then a specific beer.

Taking home the first every Gold for this event was PEG with their GT Gose. Little Brown Jug took silver for 1919 and Torque took bronze for Witty Belgian.

As this was the first year for this event, tickets were handed to limit beer consumed by patrons. Each patron was given 20 tickets for beer and 4 for liquor. While at first this might feel like it’s not enough, for many it proved to be too many. I think that given the event is four hours, 6-10pm, having it be in the same vein as Flatlanders would provide people an opportunity to enjoy beverages without feeling as if they must use all 20. Even though I don’t go to these events trying to drink as much as possible, I left feeling like I had wasted some tickets. I do think if this route is taken, limiting hard liquor would still be valuable.

WPG Beer Fest 10.JPG

Overall the evening was incredibly enjoyable. The community of beer drinkers is easy to chat with and while waiting in the lengthy lines it was nice to chat to pass the time. As more breweries open up locally, this event will grow and bring more options and more competition. I for one am excited about a completely local beer event and I really can’t wait to see what it’s like next year.

Thanks for following this blog and please subscribe and follow me on twitter. I am going to keep working at following the craft beer scene here in Manitoba and I might even expand it a bit to cover what’s happening with local spirits as well. With some of the new breweries on the cusp of opening, Surly bringing more beer to Manitoba, and lots of brewers to interview, it’s gonna be a good year.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Quick Update – Trans Canada Brewing

TCB

I had the great pleasure of being invited to a pizza tasting, yes, a pizza tasting, at Trans Canada Brewing last week. They had invited friends and family and a few other folks to come and taste 13 different pizzas made by head pizzaiolo Thomas Schneider. I took the opportunity while I was there to get a quick update and some pictures of the almost fully complete brewery.

Let me start by saying the pizzas were awesome. I love pizza, but I tend to be traditional in the pizzas I order. Sure, I like to try new things, but you don’t always have the opportunity when catering to a large group or going for the classic that you love. Thomas starts his pizzas with a fantastic crust that is used across the board and then tops with various sauces ranging from a black bean sauce, to garlic butter, to a cream sauce. While I didn’t find all the pizzas to be something I’d consistently order, they were all delicious. My favorite of the night was the Lambza which is almost like a lamb gyro turned into a pizza. Coming in a close second was the pesto pizza which was very simplistic but the pesto was out of this world. If the beers are anything like the pizzas, I’m going to really enjoy Trans Canada.

Now, onto the brewery. Like I said above, the brewery and tap room look fantastic. They are near completion and there are only some minor cosmetic issues as well as some final trades work to complete. The tans are installed with trades work mostly complete. The last task to be completed is the glycol system for which they’ve constructed quite the tower. Matt also indicated that there are still some matters to deal with in respect to grain handling, especially the spent grain. They are also working on getting the kegging machine up and running which will be followed by the bottling line.

When it comes to beer, Trans Canada is is still working on setting up their core beers. They do plan to have something for everyone ranging from pales ales, to Belgians, to malt forward beers. They are working to open the taproom with their own beer followed by volume brews once the bottling line is setup.

Probably the thing I’m most excited for are the six French oak foeders that have been installed in a climate controlled room and open endless opportunities for the brewers to create unique and interesting beers. I am very excited to see what they come up with and to try the beers.

As I said, this was just a quick update, but based on the setup and the amount of work left to complete I think that Trans Canada should have beer in September. I certainly hope I’m right.

I want to end by saying that the Winnipeg Beer Festival is coming up on August 19th at Fort Gibraltar. They’ve released another set of weather dependent tickets which can be purchased here. I will be doing a write up this week on the festival itself and look forward to doing a follow-up after attending. This is a new festival and I’m excited to see what it brings.

Thanks for following and follow me on twitter @beerwinnipeg

 

Community Brewing

community-green-marker-word-32981846.jpg

The summer has been busy for me thus far. I’m off work and spending time with my daughter and wife. This has kept me from posting as often as I’d like, but it’s well worth it. With the number of new breweries starting to increase at a steady rate and with places like Oxus, Trans Canada, and Stone Angel just around the corner, I wanted to write about something I’m seeing increasingly. Community Brewing.

Community brewing is the term I’ve been using to describe breweries engaging in the community through social outreach, fundraising, and other charitable actions. When I wrote about “defining craft beer” a while back, one of the things that was apparent in most peoples attempts to define that term is the community aspect of the brewery. Local breweries are just that, local, and while it’s not mandatory, supporting the local community is welcome and growing.

I had contacted all the breweries and asked for a quick rundown on some of the activities they’ve done. While I am aware of many of them, I wanted to know specifically any that were coming up. I did not hear back from all the breweries and so I’ve done my best. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but it is meant to highlight some of the ways the local breweries have been engaging in our community. If I get more details I will certainly update this post. 

Barn Hammer has been running a monthly “Barn Raising” event where they donate all the profits from the sale of beer in the taproom that night to a specific charity. This happens every third Wednesday. The next event is on July 19th and is in support of Klinic community health centre. In a similar vein, Peg Beer has done a community tap where all profits from the sale of a specific beer go towards a charity. The last one they did was for International women’s brew day and they donated profits to the Women’s health clinic. Torque has also collaborated with Habitat for Humanity and are donating $4 of proceeds from the sale of 12 packs and $1 of proceeds for each pint of Foundation (their APA). So far, they have raised over $5000 with a goal of reaching $10,000. Torque even went as far as to help build houses for Habitat. Really putting their sweet into supporting the charity. This “community tap” concept is one that works very well and creates a direct line of donations to charities. I love the idea and I am certain that we will see more of this community tap concept from other breweries in the future.

Breweries have also engaged the community through being hubs of community activity. This is done in a variety of ways that range from using local artwork or hosting other artistic endeavours, to social outing, and charitable functions. Little Brown Jug has made community a part of its values. They’ve really taken this upon themselves to become a community space. Kevin Selch explained that “it is about our investment in the heart of the city, about partnering with other business and groups, and creating a space for the community to meet.” Little Brown Jug have hosted a huge range of activities from Yoga in the brewery, moderated community discussions, WSO performances, and even a five-course meal. Currently they are doing Hearts & Roots Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). For 16 weeks out of summer, folks can pick up their fresh fruits and vegetables that they contract with directly with the farmer. This is an cool concept and addresses the issue of the Exchange not having a full-service grocery store.

Peg Beer Co. has had theatre performances, hosting groups like Bravura Theatre and their Shakespeare in the Pub, hosting after show theatre talks on important issues, hosting charitable events and fundraisers and being a fantastic place to eat during the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Barn Hammer has used their space to help sell local artist work by having it on display and for sale as well as engaging home brewers in the community to produce test-batches. Half Pints has been a consistent and constant support for community events through donations/creations of kegs and beer or merchandise, and has hosted numerous activities at the brewery and in their new taproom.  Fort Garry has also been a good go to for support through donations of kegs and beer or merchandise for events and they will be participating in the Brew at the Zoo and at the Winnipeg Beer Festival coming up later this summer along with others.

Outside of their own breweries, there has been community engagement with various groups. Whether it be sponsoring a hole for a charitable golf tournament like Brazen Hall, Torque and Stone Angel have done, or whether it be creating a special beer for events like Half-Pints’ Queer Beer and Bikey McBikeface for Pride and Bike Week Winnipeg. I’ve also noticed an increase in keg donations to help support charitable functions. For Art City’s Annual Fundraising Ball (this past May) – Barn Hammer donated a few kegs to them and they sold the beer at the event. All proceeds they received for the beer was a direct donation to them. Barn Hammer is also involved with the Rainbow Trout Music Festival as one of the sponsors for this year. One Great City, Barn Hammer, and PEG Beer Co have all collaborated with the Lake Winnipeg Foundation to release special lake-themed beers in support of our beautiful lake.

With the growing number of craft breweries, I am seeing a growing number of charitable and community activities. The support that has flowed from these breweries, even before opening, to the community in creative partnerships is awesome. So, there are a few events coming up that I want to highlight so that, fi you are inclined, you can get out and help support them

This write-up was about taking a break from talking beer and highlighting some of the good work the breweries in Winnipeg have been doing. I am sure that there is more that I could add, and a lot of things that I’ve missed but this gives you a sample of some of the actions taken to make our community a better place.

Thanks for reading. Beer Winnipeg.

 

Flatlander’s Beer Festival – 2017

flatlanders-header

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

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

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

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

Flatlanders 2017 Bowl

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

Flatlanders Surly Brewing
The Surly crew

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

Flatlanders Pro Am Booth

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

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

flatlanders-concourse.jpg

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

-Beer Winnipeg