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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had the opportunity to go to One Great City’s invitation opening last night. It was nice to people there enjoying the beer and the food. The space came together nicely and I encourage people to get out and check the place out when they open to the public this Thursday.
Having had the opportunity to visit on a fewoccasions and see the progress, it was really nice to be able to see the place complete and with everything together. It hasn’t been easy, like with most, to get this place to where it is today. Jon and Tim stuck with it and with the help of their investors and supporters have managed to put together a really nice looking Brew Pub.
They had four of their beers on tap (I’ll get to this in a minute) as well some beer from Half Pints, Torque and Barn Hammer. The bar is made of reclaimed wood and most the furniture in the place was made by the OGC team. While it was a bit hectic and the servers were still working on getting everything figured out, the bartender who served me was knowledgeable and interested in the products that they were selling.
The food that I ordered was the charcuterie plate. I tend to go for this as I enjoy it when I’m tasting beers. It was a plate of meats, crostini and some Dijon mustard. The presentation of the dish was beautiful. The meats were nice and the mustard was really tasty. The rest of the menu looks fantastic and I’m looking forward to trying more food the next time I visit.
(Update June 11, 2017) – I went back for a second visit to try more of the delicious sounding food from the menu. I had the Burger with beer and cheese soup for dinner and the ricotta and brown sugar beignets with maple ice cream for dessert. Everything I had was spot on and absolutely tasty. I can’t wait to go back and try more.
I tried all four of the beers they had on tap. The flight boards are nice and the overall beer drinking atmosphere was great. The four beers they had were their Monkey Trail Pale Ale, Queen’s Best Bitter, Tipsy Cow Milk Stout and their Belgian Esprit (Wit). They have two other core beers, Falcon Blonde Ale and Mad Scientist Double Eye PA which were not currently available.
The Belgian was quite nice. It was smooth and has an addition of chamomile to it that results in this nice smooth beer with a subtle dry finish. Great traditional wit notes of citrus and pepper. The bitter was good and had that distinct malt sweetness. It was lacking on the bitterness component. It was a bit too malt forward. On the contrary, the Pale Ale was quite hoppy with a good lingering bitterness. The milk stout was very approachable with good lactose sweetness and that creamy characteristic you’d expect. It wasn’t done on nitro, and once it is, I think it will be elevated a bit and bring out the chocolate and roast.
I am interested to see how these beers progress as they’ve been brewed on Torque’s system. As they move over to their own system and work on the scaling I think we might seem some subtle changes in the beers. It also means they’ll get to brew their other core beers and start working on developing seasonal beers to put on tap and sell.
There are plans to do bottles and sell those from the brewery as well as howlers and growlers.
Overall, while there are certainly some opening night hiccups, the beers overall are good. While there will certainly be some modifications made, they’ve got things in a good place. I’m excited to see how things progress and to try future beers from OGC.
May is a ridiculously busy month for me with work. It seems to be a series of meetings followed by other meetings and a few trips away. It’s hard doing all this with a new baby at home as I just end up missing her and my wife that much more. But, the month of May is coming to an end, and I’ve got a few things to update on.
First, the second annual get to know a brewer event is coming up on June 6th. This year it will be held at Brazen Hall. Tickets are available here. Last year I had the chance to attend the event and it was a fantastic precursor to Flatlanders. You get an opportunity for a sneak peek at what will be coming and a chance to speak one on one with the brewers and other folks from the local breweries. If you’ve never been, I highly suggest you go. It’s a fantastic event and well worth it.
Second, as I mentioned above, Flatlanders Beer Festival is fast approaching. Last years saw our first glimpse at some of the upcoming breweries. This year, we have our newly established brewery folks joining with our long-standing ones and some potential newcomers. All this along with other brewers from across Canada and around the world. This is the pinnacle of beer in Manitoba as it brings together so much from so far. If you love beer, go to this event. Come say hi, I’ll be in a Yellow Beer Geek shirt.
Finally, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the fantastic launch event that Nonsuch held this past Thursday, May 25th.
I had the good fortune of meeting the guys from Nonsuch and chatting with them about their vision a while back. While they’ve had some trouble finding a location, they are very close. This hasn’t prevented them from doing what they set out to do, brewing beer, and we should see their beers showing up in the Liquor Marts by June.
Nonsuch has been brewing in collaboration with Barn Hammer to perfect their beers and get everything where they want it to be. At the launch party, they debuted their Old Ale, Belgian Strong, Saison and Biére de Garde. I had a chance to try each one of these beers and was overall very impressed with the quality and taste. I’m quite excited to see these beers start showing up in the Liquor Marts.
What’s impressive is that they have been sticking to their original plan of brewing with spring water and selling in caged and corked 750ml bottles. The bottles look sharp and with the beer inside being darn good, I think they’ve got a product that many people in the city will enjoy.
Courtesy of beercrank.ca
Courtesy of beercrank.ca
While I don’t want to write a full review of the beers I tasted, I do want to say that each one of the four beers were top notch. Mark has a unique ability to adjust his beers on the fly and come up with a result that is tasty and enjoyable to drink.
As we approach Flatlanders and the Manitoba Brewers’ Association event, there are numerous opportunities to meet those brewing our beer and taste what they’ve got to offer. There are sure to be some special ones so be sure to get out and give them a try.
Thanks again for following, and be sure to check back for more
It’s been a little while since I had the chance to head down and visit Trans Canada Brewing Company. The last time I was there the place was a vast open space of a warehouse with only one’s imagination to help fill in the blanks. Matt Tallman walked me through and described his vision of a large production brewery doing a huge number of different beers, having an ambitious cellaring program and being the first brewery in Manitoba with foeders.
This last visit shows a lot more of the bones and structure of the place. Tanks are in place and the 35hl brewhouse and 5hl pilot system were getting installed. The framework of the brewery, taproom and Timmy Tom’s pizzeria are all but in place and they seem well on track to hit the target of opening in late summer.
What’s even more, the core team is now in place and boasts some pretty fantastic people with a huge amount of experience. That team will be the focus of this piece as you can read about the brewery and plans here. I will, however, have some pictures of the space throughout this piece.
Morgan Wielgosz will take on the role as head brewer of Trans Canada. She will be the first female head brewer in Manitoba and she brings a huge amount of experience from her previous role as brewing supervisor at Amsterdam brewing in Toronto.
So, why come to Manitoba? According to Morgan, Manitoba is gaining some national buzz in the brewing scene for being a hotbed of new development. This was exciting for her and hearing Matt’s vision of the brewery it was an opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. To be able to get involved with something like this at the start was just too good to be true. Having access to the type of equipment that will be at TransCanada, working under a vision of “if it’s not perfect, we don’t sell it” and having a large amount of creative freedom means that Morgan will be able to shine.
She started home brewing after university and decided to move to Toronto. She ended up living across the street from Amsterdam and asked if she could volunteer. Eventually she got hired and had a ton of on the job training. Working through pretty much every gig you can have from filter operator, cellar master and their experimental pilot system, Morgan brings a plethora of experiences and knowledge to her role. While she was born, and raised in Ontario, she is happy to be in Winnipeg and is here to stay.
Josh Adler will be taking on the quality assurance role at TransCanada. Coming to Winnipeg from Propeller brewing in Nova Scotia and Victory brewing in Philadelphia. Originally from Toronto he did his undergrad at Dalhousie university in Nova Scotia. While doing his undergrad he became really interested in researching yeast. He had been homebrewing while doing his undergrad and was given the chance do a master’s degree in brewing science. Around the same time there was a job posting at Propeller brewing for someone to come start a quality assurance program. Josh started their lab and helped in a variety of other roles around the brewery. He had the chance to do brewing, packaging and eventually took over as the production manager doing some large-scale beer brewing.
Josh wanted to get back into the quality side of brewing and could take on a job at Victory brewing in Philadelphia. What was interesting about Victory is that while they were very art focused in their recipe development they also had a huge science and quality focus as well. Josh wanted to come to Manitoba for many of the same reasons as Morgan. The buzz around the city and the opportunity to work in the brewery Matt is looking to open where you make the best quality beer possible with the be possible ingredients possible from day one, was just too good to pass up. Josh is excited to be here and is looking forward to laying down some roots. Having a wife who is originally from this area means it’s a little bit like coming home as well.
Thomas Scheineder who I’ve previously mentioned will be the operator of Timmy Tom’s pizzeria making the food for the tap room at Trans Canada. Originally from Winnipeg, Thomas started working with pizza at age 16 and continued to work at the same pizza restaurant all through university. He always had a dream of opening his own pizza place, but the timing wasn’t right. Instead, he opened two Papa John’s franchises in Dallas-Fort Worth. He lived in Texas for four years running these franchises before selling them in 2015.
Partnering up with Matt he began getting training from Tony Gemignani’s school in San Francisco. He’s been certified through this school in Neapolitan, Italian and American style pizzas. Tom got into making pizza because he always feels like he is creating a work of art. Not being very artistic in his ability to draw or paint, this is a creative outlet that allows him to create something people will enjoy.
The name Timmy Tom’s started out as a joke when discussing his dream of opening a pizzeria. The name really grew on Tom and they ended up deciding to use it. We can expect Timmy Tom’s to be making gourmet style pizzas that are along the Italian/New York style with an eventually expanded menu.
Jeff Wirt will be working at TransCanada as the accounting and administration officer. He is also originally from Winnipeg and has spent the past 14 years working with a large retail outlet in the city. He spent several years earning his Business administration degree followed by a Financial Management Accounting degree through the university of Manitoba. While having worked in accounting for the past 14 years, moving to TransCanada gives him the opportunity to use more of his project management skills. He will be doing a little bit of everything around the brewery. I suppose you could call him the “renaissance man” of TransCanada.
He loves the idea of working with a small team and thinks that it is incredible important to be a team player and chip in where he can. While he admits, he has not acquired the same passion for beer as the rest of the team (yet) this was a step outside of his comfort zone and an opportunity to take on a new challenge. Jeff is most excited to be working with this team and providing a fun and safe working environment for them. He also believes it is incredible important to provide an enjoyable experience for customers and will bring much of his past retail experience to the customer experience side.
I have to say that I am quite excited about this team and seeing what they will be able to create at this brewery. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, they have ambitious goals but it looks like they are on track. Now just to wait and see what Beer we get out of them.
I asked them about their beers and while they said they have formulated some recipes, they are not ready to share anything yet. Hopefully soon and I’ll let you know as soon as I know (also follow them on twitter).
What they did say is that no style is off the table and they are looking to produce a huge number of beers with great variety. Having a pilot system to do experimental beers, a cellaring program and foeders means that we will see everything. At one point Josh said that while at Victory they did 85 beers in one year and that he thinks TransCanada might be able to give them a run at some point down the line.
So, expect sours, ales, lagers, all with beautifully illustrated artwork (had the chance to see some of it) and top quality. Josh as the quality guy at TransCanada said that they will not be putting out beer they do not think is good. He’d rather dump it then put out a bad beer. That sounds promising.
Thanks for following along. Things are starting to pickup around here and I expect to have much more to write about as time moves forward.
It’s spring! I just got back a little while ago from a trip to the Maritimes. It’s always fun to see family and spend some time trying the new beers that have come out in that region. While away, there were several happenings and it seems to be getting busier around Manitoba in respect to beers and breweries.
Torque has new beer coming out and have be consistently putting interesting stuff on at the taproom. The MBBA released a social pack containing a collaboration India Pale Lager along with beers from other local breweries. Half Pints has been making great use of their taproom and have consistently been releasing new beers and test batches. Barn Hammer and PEG have been doing much the same with taproom only releases and experimental beers. Frankly, it’s hard to keep up but a lot fun to see everything happening.
I made a short little post about the opening of Brazen Hall a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to make certain to do a more thorough post, so here we are.
Brazen Hall is a new brewery and kitchen located on the site of the old Round Table and Brogue pub on Pembina highway. I had the opportunity to stop in during the construction period and have written about the plans for the Brewpub at that time. I must say that while slightly delayed from their original target, the space is well redesigned. It has some flare connected with the “Brazen” concept and the Viking theme. The door handles at the entrance doors are mock swords which I think is a neat little touch.
When I visited, there were three beers available on tap, an amber ale, experimental bitter and a dark IPA. What was a bit surprising was that the ABV on these beers. While the amber ale came in at a pretty standard 4.9%, the experimental bitter and dark IPA were at 2.8% and 3.2%. These low ABVs seemed a bit off and at first I thought was a mistake. Overall the beers were good. While they weren’t exactly what I was hoping for and I found the IPA to fall a bit flat for me, I enjoyed them all the same.
The food is a pretty eclectic mix of options with some remnants of the old Brogue (candied bacon and a burger with crispy cheese) as well as the star of the round tables menu, prime rib. There were a few menu options not yet available as they are waiting on a smoker. Look at the full beer and food menus.
I spoke with Kristian during my visit and he told me that they are going through about 3000L of beer a week. They are having a tough time keeping up with demand and have ordered another fermenter to try to keep up. This means that until they have their own house taken care of, they won’t be doing any commercial sales of their beers. It’s still early days and they are still nailing down some of what will be their “staples” so this makes sense.
Overall my experience there was enjoyable. The food was great, the beers were good, and the space itself was fantastic. I’ll be visiting again to see how the beer options progress and to try the food again once they get that smoker installed.
I’ll be trying to check in with a few other breweries soon. TransCanada, Oxus, and Nonsuch are on the list. I’m also working to setup my next “Get to know a brewer” interview with Adrienne Johnson from Barn Hammer. So, keep following along. We are entering the Coast to Coaster and Flatlanders seasons before long and I expect we will be seeing some interesting things happening/arriving here in Winnipeg over the coming months.
Local Creative Communications Student and beer lover Clayton Winter has produced a really good 10 minute documentary about the growing craft beer scene in Manitoba.
I had the good fortune of being interviewed for it. This project was for his independent profession project Creative Communications. A year-long project in between semesters three and four in the program.
“I had a lot of fun making this and I hope you have a lot of fun watching this.”
As I continue to delve into those who are part of the craft beer community, I continue to be curious about why brewers got into brewing in the first place. What is becoming rather clear is that a passion for beer borne from home brewing, consuming and learning seems to be the Launchpad. From here, a desire to do more and to take that passion further resulting in turning it into a career.
This week I had the chance to sit down with another such person, Jeff Wiebe. As lead brewer at PEG Beer Co, Jeff has taken the passion he had for beer and turned into his career. At the age of 27 he has accomplished a lot and has become an integral part of our craft beer community. So, who is Jeff?
Jeff describes himself as pretty random. It’s obvious from talking to Jeff that when he isn’t brewing beer he loves to be out doors. He rides BMX, skateboards, rock climbs, and basically does anything outside that involves hanging out with friends and grabbing a few beers afterwards. He was born and raised in Manitoba and developed a strong work ethic growing up on a farm. After high school, Jeff spent a year living in the Netherlands on a work-vacation program. It was here that he had the chance to expand his beer consuming horizons. You couldn’t get MGD or Bud. Instead, being so close to Belgium and other fantastic beer brewing countries, Jeff had his fill of excellent beers.
After returning to Manitoba from this experience, Jeff became interested in home brewing. He had read a lot of stuff online but, like most of us, had some concerns about delving into. Luckily for us, Jeff’s friend’s roommate was a n avid homebrewer and took Jeff under his wing. He and Jeff brewed his first beer together, a west coast pale ale, and this gave Jeff the opportunity to connect his read knowledge with the hands on experience and make those connections.
From this point, Jeff couldn’t stop brewing. After 2 ½ years of home brewing, Jeff knew that this was something he wanted to do. He applied to Olds college and Niagara College for their brewing programs. Accepted to both, Jeff took off for Niagara where he spent the next 2 years honing his knowledge of beer and brewing. Having the opportunity to delve into sensory courses, water chemistry, brewing, and brewery management, Jeff was able to build a knowledge base that was combined with hands on experiences. They’d brew four batches of the same beer making slight variations and then break them down in the sensory courses. Overall, Jeff feels it was a fantastic learning experience and a great learning environment.
Between semesters Jeff had the chance to work for Half Pints in all capacities. From brewing to bottle washing to delivery, Jeff got to try it all. This gave him a taste of what it’s like to be in each of these capacities and helped him get a better idea for the overall brewery operations. This opportunity to put theory into practice and work on a large scale commercial system helped set Jeff up for what would be his first brewing gig, Lake of the Woods. Jeff spent six months working at Lake of the Woods before he got the nod to move over to PEG where he would setup his home.
Being brought on to a brewery in construction was really neat for Jeff. It gave the team an opportunity to put the blood, sweat and tears into actually building a brewery. This experience not only gave a sense of ownership and pride, but it also helped build a strong team dynamic that exists at PEG to this day.
As a question I always want to know what beers a brewer always has in their fridge as well as their favorite style. For Jeff, he always has Muskoka Detour (though he’d love to have Ballast Point’s Sculpin) as it’s an easy drinking, hop forward beer that his girlfriend also enjoys. When it comes to favorite style, Jeff jumps across the pond and chooses Flanders Red Ale. Certainly a tasty style as well but quite different from Muskoka Detour.
Jeff also updated me a bit on what’s happening at PEG. They just got a new shipment of hops come in which means that Life Coach will be coming back onto the menu. It also means that Soundtrack, their shifting IPA, will brewed again with two new hops.
There is also an English Pale Ale in the fermenter that will hopefully be coming on soon and Jeff dropped that they are looking at “having more fun with sours”. Since Peg doesn’t have any barrels, we know this will be Kettle Souring, but it’s exciting to hear.
I plan to continue to chat with brewers around the city as I get a chance. I know it’s a long term commitment, but they are interesting folks. I’ve got plans to follow-up with One Great City and Brazen Hall in the near future. I am also planning to check in with Little Brown Jug. Jeremy Grisim, the subject of my first get to know a brewer, has made the move over to Little Brown Jug. I’m excited to follow-up with these folks and to continue to bring you stories from the craft beer community.
Also, a reminder that this Sunday (January 29th) is the charity raffle in support of Winnipeg Harvest. It’s a chance to win some great prizes, including one of five bottles of Westvleteren 12. Hope to see you there.