Torque Brewing

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It’s been a little while since I’ve had a chance to post a new entry and I’m happy to be back at it. This past week I had a chance to sit down with Matt Wolff, Adam Olson and John Heim from Torque Brewing and get an update on how things are going.  Since the last time I spoke with them there have been some changes and a whole lot of progression forward.  They are getting closer and closer to opening and so it was good to catch up and hear all the news.

The team behind Torque is a quite a solid one. I got to spend a lot of time chatting with Adam, Matt and John so I can give some more details on what they bring to the team, but the other two members whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting, are: Phil Bernadin, a home brewer and mechanical engineer and Gilles Pinette, an entrepreneur and Torque’s VP of Business affairs.

Matt brings 15 years of commercial brewing experience to the Torque team. Having the knowledge and skill to run the plant and the day to day operations allows for Torque to hit the ground running.  He is anticipating being able to have a similar output to Fort Garry and is excited about the ability to ramp up their brew house and expand in the future as need be.

Adam Olson has only been home brewing for 3 years but in that time he has developed a name for himself and his award winning recipes. He came 5th overall in the brewer of the year competition and is excited to have Matt take these recipes and ramp them up to full brew scale.  As a microbiologist by trade he has a good understanding of yeast strains and is really excited to use this knowledge to start a sour program at Torque. He wants to experiment with barrel souring and wild strains.  Adam is also taking his CPA, as he will be the secretary treasurer for Torque.

John Heim is the vision man. He has the overall picture of where Torque is moving and the skill to help direct it to where the team wants it to go. With his PR expertise and sales background he is already ramping up excitement and anticipation for Torque. They have a full line of merchandise that they will be getting up on their website for sale soon and he has been working with restaurants already to help build that anticipation and is doing all the right social media things.

Even with such a strong team behind Torque Brewing, they still have a lot of work to do. They are still a few months away from having beer and are just in the process of outfitting their space with equipment and getting the test-batch system ready to go. While John didn’t want to confirm any specific beers, other than a Helles (German Lager), the team has a diverse range of beer preferences. Matt likes darker, heavier beers with good maltiness, Adam likes the oft overlooked styles like Dopplebocks, Wee Heavies and of course Sours, and John is liking heavier gravity beers like Russian Imperial Stouts and Barley wines. While this doesn’t tell us much more of the specific beers we can expect, it gives us an idea. John did say that we can expect the Helles, a higher gravity beer like a Barley Wine and of course some Sours.

So, one question I always like to get the answer to is “Why open a brewery?” It’s not an easy task, it costs a lot of money, and there is no guarantee that you’ll ever make any of it back.  Matt saw this a progression. He wanted to evolve. Matt doesn’t like being idle, he wants to keep working on beers and making them better and better. Being the VP of Brewery operations at Torque will give him the opportunity to direct the way the beer production goes, to always be striving to be better and to have more control over the creative aspects of the beers.  For Adam, it was a seed planted in a conversation that he thought about, talked about, and then took the leap. Most homebrewers have a dream to one day take their hobby to the next level, Adam just happened to get that chance.

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Torque will be located at 330-830 King Edward and with Half Pints and Barn Hammer makes a little bit of a beer triangle. They were looking for a place that was as logistically accessible as possible. With plans to put out 1 million litres of beer in year one, they needed a place that could get trucks in and out to take the beer where it needs to go. They were also looking for a high traffic space with a blank slate that would allow them to develop the brewery for their needs. The location they chose gives them all of this as well as the added advantage to being near the airport and a lot of different hotels.

So, 1 million litres of beer, that’s a lot. What they heck are they going to brew this on? Well, they have ordered a 2 vessel 30 HL brewing system that is capable of expanding to a 4 vessel system.  They’ve got mods on it that will allow for step mashing, concoction mashing as well as straight infusion. They’ve got Hot and Cold liquor support and best of all, the system is 100% Canadian made.  John told me that for Torque their motto is “whenever possible source local, then Canadian, and then US.” That’s an exciting notion and I’m looking forward to seeing it.

So, how do we get the beer? They are planning to be canning right off the hop. They are going to be doing 6 and 12 packs in 355ml cans, single 473ml cans, 4 packs in 473ml cans and then for the special occasion beers, 650ml bomber bottles.  As well, they are going to have a rather spacious tap room with growler fills. This is secondary at this point in time as they really want to focus on getting the brewery up and running. They’ve got a good ways to go but they are excited about starting.

The team at Torque wants to be the dominate craft brewer. They would like to be the Surly or Beau’s of Winnipeg. Not just through the production of great beer but as through all their actions. They want to be a respected part of the community and represent how great Winnipeg. They want people to feel their passion for craft beer from the moment they step foot in the brewery and the moment they taste their beer. They want to promote education about craft beer through Torque TV, a series of YouTube videos to help educate the public on various aspects of craft beer, by offering brewing courses and tours, and by generally being open and available to answer questions.  They want to have a team of employees who can be proud of the work that they do. The passion is really there when you talk to these guys. You can tell how excited they are.

Right now they are working with the Architects and Engineers to get the space ready. With the weight of their tanks they need to do some work on the flooring. With 6000L of beer plus the weight of the tank, you need a strong floor.  Once this is done they want to get brewing. Their hope is to have beer ready by the May long weekend as they would like to be able to participate in Flatlanders. The plan after that is to have a soft-opening to get the beer out the door and then start working on finalizing the tap room. As they grow they want to make sure they have beer for every palate and work on eating into the macro share of the market, then to expand to being at festivals, supporting beer gardens and taking an overall multipronged approach.

Since we have so many new breweries working on opening up I am always curious how the changes in legislation have impacted the breweries. What I am learning is that while the province is on board with making things like taprooms legal, they aren’t the ones who issues the permits. The City of Winnipeg and the Province aren’t on the same page as to what a taproom actually is. What rules need to be followed? What needs to be in place?  Having all these ideas and being told that “you can’t do that” has become a bit of a challenge.  As the market grows and the rules begin to get flushed out, it will become easier for breweries to open. John said that now when they call the permit department it’s a lot faster because they’ve been dealing with similar situations.

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(L-R) John Heim, Adam Olson and Matt Wolff of Torque Brewing

To finish, I want to give you all an idea of how Torque sees itself differentiating from the other breweries that are opening in the Province.  First and foremost, the sheer scale of the brewery will set them apart. They plan to have a massive scale equal to Fort Garry and be able to supply good quality beer. They also hope that the culture of the brewery and people first approach will help set them apart. They want people to feel like it is a family where everyone loves their job and the people who come into the space are met with this passion and love for craft beer.  Finally, they want to be a source of partnerships and work with likeminded companies through collaborations with other breweries and local businesses. Overall, the team at Torque are all raving fans of beer.

 

Winnipeg Brew Bombers

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This past week I had the opportunity to attend my second ever Winnipeg Brew Bombers meeting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the home brewing club, the Winnipeg Brew Bombers have been around for quite some time. Each year they average close to fifty members who have various levels of home brewing experience.  I decided to ask a few questions of their president, Rob Mieth, and do a write up on this really cool club.

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Brew Bombers President Rob Mieth

The meetings of the club take place on the second Tuesday of every month and rotate between being hosted at Half Pints or Fort Garry.  The two meetings that I’ve had the fortune of attending have both been at Half Pints.

While having no official mission statement, the goal the Winnipeg Brew Bombers main goal is to make each one of its members a better brewer and to create more awareness about good craft beer. One of the ways this is done is through sharing of knowledge, tasting of homebrew from members and providing feedback, and talking about craft beer and brewing in general.

My first meeting which I attended back in November, I had the opportunity to learn from some of these homebrewers. The conversation at the meeting was all about answering questions members had about a variety of brewing topics. Some of these were surrounding water chemistry, yeast strains, adjuncts, mashing techniques, basically anything members could think of. The more experienced home brewers stepped up and answered the questions. David Rudge, president and head brewer of Half Pints, was also on hand to add his two cents to the answers. This was a great opportunity to learn from those who have the experience and I found a great deal of value in it.

What was really exciting about this meeting was the announced competition. Each year there are typically 1-2 internal competitions held between the brew bomber members as a way of getting some feedback on a particular style of beer or giving people the opportunity to learn about brewing.  The competition announced in November was the “Supermarket Sweep”.

The competition had two main goals:

  1. Brew with someone you’ve never brewed with before
  2. Get ingredients from a non-traditional grocery store and brew with them

It was a great opportunity for me to learn how to brew from a very good and experienced brewery, Mister Jeremy Koop, and to go through the process of creating a recipe and buying some non-traditional brewing ingredients and trying to find a way to make a beer that tastes good.

This competition, getting people to brew with new people and try new things, is one of the most important parts of the brew bombers for Rob: “The friendship and networking aspect of being involved with a group of people who share the same passion for good beer.” For me, brewing with Jeremy was an opportunity to not only make a new friend but also learn from his experience and build my own personal knowledge for brewing.

So that brings us back full circle to the second meeting I attended. This was the one where we all got to share our different beers and see who’s turned out the best.  There was a huge number of people participating, it was actually very impressive. I’d say abouIMG_4834t 16 teams of two which makes up the better part of 3/5ths of the entire club.  There were a
ton of different styles of beers ranging from IPA, Saison, Stout, Winter Warmer, and Lagers.  Each team was required to give a presentation about their beer and this brought out some pretty funny presentations. The atmosphere of the meeting was incredibly friendly.  Great comradery, friendship, and a lot of laughs.  There were some really good beers that came out of this competition including the winner, a Winter Warmer made with Manitoban wild rice.                           IMG_4833

For me, this club provides a unique opportunity to meet with people who are passionate about beer and who work very hard at brewing for the sake of brewing.  There are people of all ages and levels of experience and it’s a great way for a brand new brewer to learn and grow and become better.

 

For those interested in joining, Rob has a message: “We’d love to have you!”

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Advent Calendar 2015 – Wrap-Up

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Sorry this took so long. I had a great time travelling and am now back and ready for the New Year. It’s a pretty exciting time to be writing about beer. While last year when I started it was all about what might come, it is now about what is coming. I met and interviewed a lot of up and coming breweries last year. This year, I get the opportunity to write about them opening. Like I said, exciting. I’m in the midst of setting up follow-ups and looking forward to Winnipeg’s craft beer community growing.

Once again I’ve been really impressed with the craft beer advent calendar.  While I know there are qualms and concerns with the beers sitting for so long, having a chance to try unique and one-off beers is well worth it.  So, let’s wrap up with some statistics.

  • Once again we had 24 beers, this time from around North America.
  • There were 15 from the USA and 9 from Canada
  • States and Provinces represented:
United States Canadian Provinces or Territories
–          California (3)

–          Washington

–          Massachusetts

–          Colorado

–          Montana

–          North Carolina (2)

–          Maryland

–          New York

–          Connecticut

–          Michigan

–          Kentucky

–          Alabama

–          Yukon

–          British Columbia (2)

–          Ontario (4)

–          Alberta

–          Saskatchewan

  • One of the beers, Evil Twin’s Smoked Pilsner, technically doesn’t come from anywhere in particular as the brewer uses other breweries. That particular one came from Connecticut, but he is based out of Brooklyn, NY.
  • 62.5% of the beers came from the United States and 37.5% from Canada

I’m a bit disappointed that most came from the United States, but I suppose they were the ones who chose to participate. I’d like to see a more Canadian advent Calendar and I’m actually hoping next year there will be enough breweries here in Manitoba I can just build my own local version. Or maybe we will get a collaboration pack for Christmas…hint hint.

Over the 24 days there were some hits and misses. Out of all the beers though, my favorite came to us from:

Spider Bite Brewing Company, Holbrok, Long Island and was Boris the Spider Russian Imperial Stout

Once again it’s been a lot of fun doing this blog-a-thon of beers from the advent Calendar. I brought some pretty interesting ones back from my trip and I’m looking forward to trying those.  As for this blog, I’ll be returning to my focus on beer in Manitoba. I can’t wait.

  • Beer Winnipeg

Day 24 – Du Claw Brewery – Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter

Day 24 - Du Claw Brewery - Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter

Well, it has been quite a trip.  The beers have been good, bad, and decent overall.  I’ve enjoyed learning about the different styles, reading about the breweries, and hopefully helping you all understand a bit more about the beers and breweries.

This is the last post on this adventure.  I’ll continue to be blogging about the regular goings on in Beer in Winnipeg.  I’ve got some follow up interviews to do with the local folks opening as well as getting a chance to actually blog about their beers.  Looking quite forward to that.

I’m in Hawaii on Vacation and then some work until January. That’s why my posts have been wonky. So, I won’t be doing much or saying much after this except maybe the beers I’m enjoying going out on untappd.

I should also say it’s been just about a year since I’ve started this blog. I want to thank everyone for reading.  I really appreciate it and I hope I’ve been helpful at least in a little way.

So, the last beer is from Duclaw brewery and is called Sweet Baby Jesus.  It’s a Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter and sounds pretty tasty.

In 1996 Duclaw brewery opened its doors in Bel Air.  Within one year it had been dubbed Bel Air’s hippest establishment by a local newspaper. The founder, Dave Benfield, had one central pillar of his mission: to be cool.

Today, Dave and brew master Jim Wagner are the ones responsible for the wide array of craft beers made by Du Claw. Through the experimentation they have created over 35 unique beers and countless variations and blends.  They’ve got quite the write-up on their website, check it out.

Porters are a dark style of beer that was originally developed in London from well-hopped beers made with brown malt.  Originally this style of beer was created by mixing an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown or pale ale) and a weak one (mild ale) to combine and create a new beer altogether than balanced the flavours and left a pleasing beer that was neither like the new nor the old.

Porters and Stouts are of the same stock.  In fact, when Guinness first launched its world renowned stout it was as a focus on the mass-production of Porter.  At the time there were two strengths of porters, either X or XX.  Stout at the time simply referred to a strong or robust ale, it has since developed due to the advent of coffee roasters and many of the malts that they could use to impart both colour and flavor, but originally this was its meaning.  Porters were part of this thread.

I’m ready to give it a try.

Rating:  81/100

Appearance: Jet black with a tan head about 1” that fades quickly leaving some lacing.
Smell:  Smells of chocolate and peanut butter. Roasted malt and some sweet caramel.
Taste:  Tastes like chocolate, peanut butter and some bready yeasty notes. It also has an alcohol warming and soft bitter finish.
Mouthfeel: Very fine carbonation. Slightly bitter finish with alcohol warming.
Overall:
Very tasty. Really lives to the name and is really quite delicious. Not outrageously sweet which is a plus and it is really nicely balanced with full flavours coming at you.
Do I like it: Yeah, it was rather tasty. I think it had a lot going for it.

Day 23 – Sound Brewery – Yonder Star English Strong Ale

Day 23 - Sound Brewery - Yonder Star English Strong Ale

Sorry for the late post.  Here in Hawaii it’s 4 hours behind Winnipeg, so it isn’t always easy to remember that. I’ve been enjoying some good local island beer, and also, some of the great American stuff they have. But, as for the Calendar, only one left after today.  I hope it’s going to be a good one.  So far this has been a pretty solid advent calendar and I’m happy I managed to get it.  I hope next year they will have the packaging issues sorted out.  There are a lot of interesting calendars coming out.  Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be reviewing a collaboration pack from the new local Winnipeg breweries (here’s hoping.)

Today’s beer comes to us from Sound Brewery in Washington State and it is called Old Yonder Star and it is a Yorkshire Style Christmas Ale.

Unfortunately, their website does not really provide a whole lot of details on them.  I can’t seem to find much in general.  Maybe I’m not looking hard enough because I’m on vacation, so if you have better luck, let me know.  What they do list is their beers and there are a number of them.  They have some good info on each one so that is at least worth a read.

This beer is brewed in the style of an English Strong Ale.  Now, English Strong Ales are somewhere in between a Pale ale and a Barleywine.  They are strong, complex, and rich in flavours.  Typically, with a colour between deep amber and reddish copper, they usually have bold fruity flavours and a malty mix of toasted and chocolate malt. Hops can vary depending on brewer but they can have full blown hop potential to a subtle bitterness.  Alcohol is usually evident with even some solvent taste to it depending on quality.  Many of this style are unfiltered and bottle conditioned.

I’m interested in trying it, so let’s get to it.

Rating:  79/100

Appearance: Jet black with a really thin dark brown sliver near the edges.
Smell:  Molasses, alcohol, black cherry notes
Taste:  Roasted malt combines with malty sweetness and finishes with a slightly bitter oily finish.
Mouthfeel: Very fine carbonation. Oily slightly bitter finish with alcohol warming.
Overall:
Overall, not bad. It doesn’t have the full body and depth that a barley wine might have nor does it have the light hoppy notes of a pale ale.  Overall it’s a good balance between these two.
Do I like it: It’s alright. I’m not a huge fan of it. I think it could be doing a lot more.  Overall it’s not bad, just not really right up my alley right now.

Day 22 – Yukon Brewing – Longest Night Cascadian Dark Ale

Day 22 - Yukon Brewing - Longest Night Cascadian Dark Ale

So, the beer made it through a plane ride just fine.  I had them wrapped well and no breakage, super awesome.  As I’m on holiday and don’t really have a lot of time to be writing these given there is so much to see and do, I’ll be keeping these last ones a bit shorter. I also don’t have my photo editing program, so, no titles on the pictures unfortunately.

Today’s beer comes to us from Yukon Brewing based out of Whitehorse in the Yukon.  It’s called the Longest Night and is a Cascadian Dark Ale.

Yukon Brewing originally opened its doors in 1997, but under a different name.  Originally it was called Chilkoot Brewing Co. Ltd. The owners, Allan and Bob, came up with their idea for the brewery around a campfire on a canoe trip.  Being from Ontario originally, they have both lived and worked in the Territory for most of their lives.

The plan was to open a quality brewery while keeping jobs in the Territory and service the north with good beer. Over a decade later, this is still the main goal of the brewery and they now employ over a dozen staff and support many local events every year.

Bob and Allan still act as the chief officers and now Yukon distributes its 9 brews outside the Yukon to Alberta, BC, Manitoba and some finding their way into Quebec and even all the way over to German. They’ve got a good blog on their website and chat a bit more about their beers.  Take a look if you have a chance.

The style of beer we are having today is called a Cascadian Dark Ale.  Now this style of beer has raised a bit of controversy over what it should actually be called.  Some say it is a Black IPA, others an India Black Ale while, like this one, others call it a Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA).  The US Brewers’ Association accepted it as a style in 2010 and dubbed it the “American Style India Black Ale”. Whatever it is called, it is essentially a dark hoppy beer.

The style has been described in a couple of different ways and this site has a pretty good exploration of that.  Essentially what it comes down to is that it is a darker beer with between 50-90 IBU and good combination of malt characteristics and hopiness.  I’m looking forward to it, so lets give it a try.

Rating:  78/100

Appearance: Deep amber with little head that fades quickly leaving some minor lacing
Smell:  Roasted malt, chocolate, bit yeasty, slight hop notes and toffee notes.
Taste:  Resinous hop flavour, slight chocolate and roasted malt. Very little else.
Mouthfeel: Finishes with resinous bitter note that lingers. Medium-light bodied not withstanding how dark it is.
Overall:
Overall, not bad. Decent dark ale but would likely be better with food. Something to bring out the subtle flavours of the malts.
Do I like it: It’s pretty decent. I’d be happy to have it again if I was at a friends but I’m not going to go out and buy it.

Day 21 – Clown Shoes Beer – Bombay Berserker Indian-Stlye Chocolate Stout

Day 21 - Clown Shoes Beer - Bombay Berserker Indian-Stlye Chocolate Stout

Only a three beer left after today.  It’s been quite a run.  I can’t believe it’s already almost over.  I’m heading out of town shortly too, but I’m bringing the beers with me so that I can still get my posts up.  It’ll be a sweet trip and I’m hoping to manage to get to some of the breweries in Hawaii so I can try some of the beer.  I’ve already scoped out a sweet pub near where I’m staying that has a ton of beer on tap from all over the USA. Should be fun.

Today’s beer comes to us from Clown Shoes Beer and it is a variation on a Chocolate Stout called an Indian-Style Chocolate Stout.  The name of the beer itself is “Bombay Berserker” and it sounds pretty tasty.

Founded by Gregg Berman and a group of friends after losing a beeradvocate naming contest.  They decided that they could make Clown Shoes beer themselves and they didn’t need Beer Advocate to be the ones to use the name.  They started off thinking it’d be one brew, just for fun.  After getting some good feedback on their beers, they decided what the heck, let’s keep going.  While they don’t provide too many details about the formation, brewhouse, or anything at all really on their website, they do at least give us a look at the variety of the beers that they make.  They’ve got a ton of special releases, seasonal bombers, 4-packs, and a whopping list of retired beers.  As the name might suggest, while clown shoes represent humility and humour, the brewery itself represents producing beer without pretension while being free to be a little crazy.  They put a big focus on experimentation and the list of beers on their site point to a lot of that.

This is another stout, although a different variation on the style. There have been a lot of stouts in this advent calendar.  This likely has to do with their ability to age. Now, I already did a write up on stouts on Day 2 and so if you are interested in reading a bit more about the Stout style, feel free to take a look at that one.  Like I indicated on the first chocolate stout we tried, they are beers which have noticeable dark chocolate notes both in flavor as well as in colour.  This is done through the use of darker, more aromatic malts.  Specially, chocolate malts, malts which have been roasted or kilned until they develop a chocolate colour.  This beer is a variation on this variation.  While still using the same malts in the beer they have added a number of spices including: chai tea, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla. I’m pretty excited about this one, it sounds tasty. So, enough about it, let’s get to it.

Rating:  79/100

Appearance:  Pours solid dark brown.  1” of puffy foam with tan head.
Smell: Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, star anise, some caramel malt as well as some chocolate malt.  Some earthy hop notes are present as well.
Taste:  Bready caramel malt, toffee, chai spice, cardamom is really present, ginger is noticeable but as a bitter lingering finish.
Mouthfeel: medium bodied, smooth, some creamy notes as well.
Overall:
Pleasantly spiced with a lot of layers and different notes coming through along the way. It’s got a good body to it that carries these flavours overs the threshold. Good sipping beer for sure.  Only complaint is that the spices overpower any of the underlying stout and I don’t really get to taste the beer, just the spice.
Do I like it: I enjoyed it.  I think it had a lot of interesting characteristics going for it.  I’d be interested in trying it again but I’m not going to seek it out.

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