Tag Archives: Beer News

Surly Comes to Manitoba

Surly Logo

So, Surly Brewing has come to Manitoba. I’m sure people have probably heard this as it’s been widely promoted through social media, the liquor marts, and even in the news. Now here I am writing a post about this one brewery making its way to Manitoba. Well, it is a pretty big deal.

Surly Brewing Company was founded in 2004 by Omar Ansari. Omar was an avid homebrewer and decided that he wanted to get involved in the brewing industry. He proposed converting his parents Abrasives factory into a brewery, and with their go ahead, hired accomplished local brewer Todd Haug  and got to work building a brewery.

Omar and Todd - Surly Brewing

In 2005 Surly Brewing Co. brewed it’s first batch of beer. It took over 14 hours as the fermenter controls weren’t working and Todd’s heavy metal music soundtrack made things a big difficult to communicate, but they accomplished the goal and were officially on there way to becoming one of the top breweries in the United States.

It wasn’t until 2006 that Surly sold it’s first kegs of Furious to local bars. Omar had made various sales calls to bars and had bartenders spit out the samples of the beer. Only 16 months after selling the first kegs of Furious, Rate beer named Surly Brewing the best brewery in America and named Surly’s Russian Imperial Stout (Darkness) the best American beer in the world.

In 2011 Surly realized they needed to build a new brewery to meet the demand for their beer. They wanted to be able to sell their own beer on site. They faced a similar problem to Winnipeg where a prohibition-era law prevented breweries from selling pints of their beer at their breweries. Omar set out to change this law and with the help of Surly Nation standing behind him and a heck of a lot of work, they managed to get legislators to make the change. Surly’s Destination brewery is now a fantastic site to visit with food, a huge variety of beers, a state of the art brewing facility and many events for folks to enjoy.

In 2016 Todd Haug left Surly to go work with 3 Floyds Brewing Co in Munster, Indiana. I’m sure he is missed, but he has left the brewhouse in the capable hands of co-lead brewers Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith.

Surly’s Philosophy: Our philosophy? Make great beerHave funGive a Damn about your community. Be independent. Don’t be a dick.

One of the most amazing things for me is how Surly involves the community and how involved they are in the community as well. Always doing what they can to give back. The annual release of their Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness, has become an event that people travel from across North America to join. There is music, food, beer, and eventually the release of the beer. Only about 10,000 bottles are brewed each year and each person is limited to six. I’ve been lucky enough to get some, but these beers are coveted. Surly partners with artists each year to design the label for Darkness and it’s always super impressive. Surly produces dozens of beers each year from year-rounds to seasonal brews. Every beer I’ve had I’ve enjoyed.

Surly has chosen to expand across the border into Canada and have chose Manitoba as their first foray beyond their own borders. This is a big deal. Surly’s beers are considered top notch in each of the categories they brew. Them coming to Manitoba is not only a huge boon for Manitobans, but it’s a big push to the local brewing community. It can only raise the quality of beer we have access to here in Manitoba. Many of us in the beer community would make treks down to North Dakota to pick up cans of Surly. Now, we can put them in our fridge along side our favorite locals.

While Surly is initially starting with Kegs, they do have plans to start sending cans to Manitoba in the Fall. There is some work to do in getting the cans “Canadianized” (adding milliliters, putting Biére Forte, etc.…) but we will be able to stock our fridges with cans of Todd the Axeman or Furious at some point down the road.

In conversation with Rick and Omar from Surly, Rick shared that Surly is in Manitoba because of the work of Cheryl Thompson at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries wanted Surly in Manitoba and helped make the logistics side of things work. So, I want to give a big shout out to Cheryl and everyone else who worked so hard to get Surly into Manitoba.

So, check the Liquor Marts website here to see where you can try something from Surly and add them to your list of beers alongside your local and other craft favorites. While I know that I’ll be stocking my fridge with many Surly items, it’s not going to stop me from supporting my favorite local and craft folks. I think everyone in the beer community, including local breweries, would join me in saying “Welcome to Manitoba Surly. We’re glad you’re here”.

Flatlanders Surly Brewing
Surly Crew at Flatlander’s Beer Fest – 2017

-Beer Winnipeg

Flatlander’s Beer Festival – 2017

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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

Brew News

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It’s been awhile since I had the opportunity to sit down and write. As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I’ve been travelling for the past 4 weeks. While I certainly had a fantastic trip – enjoying a variety of interesting and fantastic beers – I felt a bit disconnected from what was happening back in Winnipeg.  While I still have breweries from back east to write about in my “second dispatch” I want to write about some of what happened in the ‘Peg while I was away.

One of the most exciting things involves the guys from Torque. Over a year ago when I first sat down with these guys I was excited, curious and a hesitant about their plan. They wanted to be big, and can right from the get go. I thought this was ambitious and wasn’t sure if they would be able to do it. I should never have doubted! Not only has this team hit their production mark, but they’ve done it while producing some really fantastic beers.

You can get Diesel Fitter American Stout, Witty Belgian Wit, and Red Line IPA at a variety of places around town including King’s Head, Barley Brothers, and The Common at The Forks to name a few. The only place you can get their beer to take home is the Quality Inn Craft Beer Market  who have Torque’s, as well as other local beers, available on growler/howler and in cans. They are the first place in the city to have Torque’s cans in stock. This place has made a name for itself as one of the best spots for craft beer in the city. Along with Barn Hammer, Fort Garry and Half Pints, we can now add Torque to the list of local breweries pumping out beer.

Speaking of which, the second piece of exciting news is that Peg Beer Company has all of its permits and is working on producing this week. According to their Twitter account, 100% this week. I’m pretty excited about that and I’m anxiously awaiting a chance to try their beers.  With Le Burger Week underway, now is the best time to get out to places around the city and try some of this new local beer while enjoying some fantastic eats.

One Great City continues to progress forward and have started on the renovation work in their space. This will be a lot of hard work for the folks behind OGC, but with the posts they’ve been putting on twitter, they seem up for it. With an initial hope of being open in October, I’ll be working to follow up with them again soon.

Brazen Hall continues to progress forward. They’ve got a nice big sign up in front of their space on Pembina and the count-down on the website continues to tick downwards. They also hope to being opening in October and so I’ll be following up with them again soon as well.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned before Beau’s All Natural is distributing cross Canada and it seems like we may be seeing a few more beers arriving in Manitoba before too long.  With Tom Green coming to perform at Rumors Comedy Club from September 22-24, it seems he might be bringing some beer with him.  I’ve heard The Tom Green Beer (Milk Stout) will be the next to show up in Manitoba with their Oktoberfest Mix Pack next on the list.  Watch the Liquor Marts website and Twitter to see when they arrive.  As well, watch this site for some write-ups about the beers as I try them.

It’s an exciting time in Manitoba right now with a number of other breweries on their way to opening. I’ll be meeting with Trans Canada brewing soon, I hope, and following up with Little Brown Jug.  Follow me on Twitter and follow the blog for updates.

-Beer Winnipeg

Barn Hammer Open

Barn Hammer

Yesterday was a pretty special day for the craft beer community here in Manitoba.  Barn Hammer became the first brewery to open since the government changed the regulations.  I’ve been following Barn Hammer since I first heard about them over a year ago and to see this accomplishment is truly awesome.

I went down there for the first day and was surprised that even though I was arriving at 12:50, there were already quite a few people there.  Tyler told me that it had been pretty steady since they opened at noon and from what I heard it got pretty busy there as the day went on.

BH Taproom

They are serving beer in 10oz or 16oz for you to enjoy in the taproom, and then they have their 32oz and 64oz growlers that you can take home.  They have a few baked goods and snacks available and have been working with local food trucks to try and have something available to eat.  The Walleye Wagon was there yesterday serving up some delicious food.

While there have certainly been challenges along the way, delays, and even a few hiccups, it was good to see Tyler and Sable Birch behind the bar seeing their hard work come to fruition.  Brian and assistant brewer Adrian were in the back brewing up a storm to keep up with the demand.

So, get down there to 595 wall street, they are open from noon-9pm again today. Let’s do our best to support local.

Craft Beer Events – June 2016

It has been a little while since I’ve posted anything, it’s been a crazy time of year. Luckily things are returning to a bit of normalcy, just in time for some really fun craft beer opportunities here in the city.

First off is the Coast to Coaster event put on at the Liquor Marts across the city.  This year they are doing 4 separate flights about 2 weeks apart.  Beers from across Canada will be brought into the liquor marts for people to try.  These are beers that we do not normally have and are brought in special for this event.  Some of these are ones we can expect to see on the shelves (hopefully) while others we may not see again.  This event will be running from June 1st – July 31st.

I’m a little disappointed in this years Coast to Coaster. The majority of the beers coming in on the “flights” are lagers, blondes, or pale ales.  I understand that these are great summer beers, but they don’t give an opportunity for Manitobans to try a variety of styles and experiment with what they might or might not like.  There are some interesting beers coming in, and I’m certainly going to try a number of them, but it’d be nice to see a bit more of an adventurous nature in the lists rather than the “safe” choice.  In any case, See the image below for all the beers coming out and which week they will be available.

Coast to Coaster Beers

Second up, The Manitoba Brewers Association is hosting a “meet your local craft brewer” event at Fort Garry Brewing Company on June 22nd. The event is from 5:30pm-8:00pm. This is a great opportunity to sample a few of the beers from these local breweries before getting to try them all at Flatlanders’.  More so, it’s a great opportunity to chat with the breweries who are on their way to opening or still in the planning process.

Tickets are for sale right now and are quite limited.  They are $25 a piece and you can get them here.  I’d really recommend going if you are interested in having a chance to speak with some of the new breweries and find out a bit more of what you can expect.  I’ll be there for sure and you can expect a write-up of all that I learn.

Finally, the big one, Flatlanders’ Beer Festival is coming up on June 24th and 25th (afternoon/evening). Three opportunities to get in and try out some of the new beers coming to Manitoba, especially those from local breweries not yet open.

With over 160 beers from around the globe for people to try, it’s a great opportunity to taste something you’ve never had and to venture out beyond your comfort zone and try something new.  It’s especially great that this year we will see a large number of the new local breweries (Torque, One Great City, Nonsuch, Barn Hammer, and more) offering a chance to try their beer for the first time.

Tickets are still available and I recommend going to this event. In addition to the opportunity to try some local brews no one else has had, there will be beer geeks (I get to be one!) on hand who will be there to answer questions you may have about beers and styles.  As well, there will be education sessions put on by members of the Manitoba Brewers Association, and there will be a lot of beer to try.  You can get tickets here and you can check out the full list of featured beers here.

Hopefully you get the chance to check these events out. I’m certainly going to be enjoying all the opportunities I get to enjoy some craft beer (especially the local stuff).  Also, watch here, as I am going to posting an update on Barn Hammer soon.

One Great City

OGC Logo

I can’t believe one year ago I was sitting down and writing about all of what was to come. Last year was one in which the possibility of new breweries seemed a distant hope – a glimmer on the horizon.

One year later we are finally starting to see much of what we hoped take shape.  With PEG halfway open, Barn Hammer and Torque well on their way to opening their doors and Flatlander’s Beer Festival giving us our first chance to taste some of these new beers, it’s a good time to be a beer lover in Manitoba.

One brewery that I’ve known about for some time – but only recently got to sit down with – is One Great City Brewing Company (or “OGC” as they call themselves). Co-Founders Tim Hudek and Jon Burge were kind enough to meet with me and give some details on their brew-pub, progress and, of course, their team.

Tim and Jon are both Winnipeg boys.  Born here, they love this city. Sadly, their career paths took them to other destinations. Tim went to Toronto for law school before opening a practice in the city while Jon went to the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts to hone his skills as a chef.

After completing his culinary arts program, Jon worked around Vancouver at a variety of different venues. He worked at high-end restaurants, bistros, and was even responsible for opening one of the first gourmet food trucks in the city.  Eventually he expanded his horizons, travelling up north and further refining his culinary skills. All through this time he hoped to one day return to Winnipeg.

Enter Tim Hudek, a graduate of the Osgoode Hall law school and a fellow Winnipegger. Tim wanted to return to Manitoba as well and saw there was a brilliant opportunity to start a business in the city. He contacted Jon and asked if he wanted to team up to open a brewpub to help fill the gap in Manitoba’s lacking craft beer market. In 2014 the two began planning to open One Great City Brewing (OGC) here in Winnipeg.

While neither of them have a great deal of experience in brewing, they both have a passion for beer and an eye for business. Jon will be the creative mind behind the food at the brew pub and Tim, who hopes to be called to the bar in Manitoba soon, will act as general counsel and business administrator, while also helping in the brewery and with anything else that needs to be done.

Heading up the brewing itself will be Josh Berscheid, a graduate of Olds College who is currently working with Half Pints until the brewery at OGC is ready to go. When it comes to beer preferences, Jon is a Stout and ESB fan who is slowly opening up to IPAs while Tim likes stouts as well as IPAs – the hoppier the better.

“Our goal is to have adventurous yet accessible beer and food”

So why open a brew pub? While living in large metropolises like Toronto and Vancouver, they saw a void existed in Manitoba. They saw this as a great market opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a very underdeveloped market. Tim describes it as “the opportunity of our generation.”

Their brewpub will have three separate areas: a restaurant that seats 123 people inside with room for 50 more out on the patio; a retail space where they will sell merchandise and do growler fills; and a with 10HL brewing system, 20HL fermenters and brite tanks, they have an annual capacity of 3000 HL for the restaurant, growler bar and distribution. All this will be located in a 7,000 sq/ft space at Madison Square Polo Park (1596 Ness Avenue.)

Choosing a location is not an easy feat and a lot went into this decision. You want a space that has high traffic both at lunch and dinner, has the infrastructure in place to support the weight of the brew system at capacity as well as room for parking. They found all this at Madison Square and are in the process of getting the space ready to go. Jon told me we can expect the décor to be “Industrial Chic” with an open concept and the ability to see the brewery exposed behind glass walls.

“We want to be very interactive and develop our beers to fit what Manitobans want to drink.”

While the philosophy of the brewery is to be “adventurous yet accessible” they want to make sure they are listening to their customers. They want to be very present on Twitter and social media, getting feedback on the beers they brew. Tim said they don’t want to “make beer only we want to drink” but they want to “involve their customers and make food, and brew beer that Winnipeg likes”.  The plan is to allow for growler fills at the retail shop right now. They are still deciding whether they will go with 16 ounce cans or if they will do Bombers (650ml) and standard (355ml) bottling.

So, when can we get our first taste of their beer? Very soon. They have two beers they will have at the Flatlander’s Beer Festival this year: Tipsy Cow Milk Stout and Monkey Trail Pale Ale. If you needed any reason to go to Flatlander’s, besides all the other beer, take this one – the first opportunity to try some beer from a new brewery and give the team your feedback.

Besides these two beers, they don’t yet have any others to announce. They said they will certainly have a stout, and IPA and a more approachable beer, but nothing is nailed down as of right now.

“Two beers we will be sampling at Flatlander’s are Tipsy Cow Milk Stout and Monkey Trail Pale Ale”

I always am curious about the long-term plan for a brewery and where they see themselves in five years. Both Tim and Jon said they are very fluid with their growth and will move where the market takes them.  If the restaurant is a huge success it might mean opening a second location. If the brewery is taxed to its limit due to demand, it might mean opening a stand-alone brewery. At the end of the day, they want to stay flexible and listen to the market and grow with it.

Overall, the process has been very positive for Jon and Tim.  While they expressed similar concerns around communication between the city and province, they also said how grateful they were for the support from Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.  They have a ways to go before they open their doors, but they feel they have had more good days then bad.

What do they hope to accomplish? They want to bring great food and great beer to great people.  Jon and Tim want to build something Manitobans will be proud of. They want Winnipeggers to have civic pride and build an institution that helps show off how great this city is. They are called One Great City because of their love for this town. They want to elevate the community, use local products, build up other local businesses and support local charities. One Great City wants to embody the concept of a community brewery and do what they can to build this city up.

“’I’ve lived in Toronto and the Philippines, traveled throughout Asia and South America, and there is no place I’d rather be then here in Winnipeg.”

The biggest measure of success for Jon and Tim will be opening the doors to their brewpub, which they hope to do by the end of October. I wish them the best of luck and look forward to trying their beer at Flatlander’s and frequenting their brewpub when it opens next year.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

 

Flatlander’s Beer Festival

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Well, it’s that time of year again folks. The Flatlander’s Beer Festival is coming to town.  This year it will be held on June 24th and 25th with two evening entries (7 pm-10 pm) and one matinee (1 pm-4 pm) on June 25th.

So, what is Flatlander’s Beer Festival? Flatlander’s Beer Festival, is just that, an opportunity to try a variety of beers and ciders (over 160 in fact) at over 70 booths.  This is all done in support of the Winnipeg Jets Foundation and is a major fundraiser for this charitable organization.  The event is put on in conjunction with the Manitoba Liquor Marts and provides patrons a chance to try beers that are on their way, or already, onto Liquor Mart shelves.

Having attended this event last year, it was a great opportunity to connect with the reps from the various breweries and distributors, try a variety of interesting beers, and talk with fellow beer lovers.  This year will have an added bonus of giving us the opportunity to try some of the yet to open breweries.  One Great City (watch for my write-up this weekend) has two beers they will be sampling at Flatlander’s.  I expect that this year’s event will give us our first chance to try some of the beers from the new breweries coming to Manitoba.  Watch the website of Flatlander’s as they will be posting the list of beers soon.

There will be a few changes this year, compared to last.  Specifically, the event is bigger.  It is expanding beyond the ice level and up onto the concourse.  The plan this year is to offer educational opportunities for patrons so that they can learn more about beer.  The Manitoba Brewers Association is involved in this year’s festival and we can expect that they will have a role to play in some of these sessions. There will also be 5 food trucks giving you the opportunity to snack on some delicious food while you sample your beers.

While details are still coming on Flatlander’s for this year, hopefully this post will wet your appetite.  I’m certainly going to be there, as last years’ event was great.  I’m excited to give some of the new beers a try, talk to the brewers and reps who are there, and sample some of the beer from the new breweries coming to our great province.

I’ll be posting more details as I get them.

Tickets are on sale now! You can buy Tickets at Ticketmaster or at Liquor Marts.  The cost for the evening events are $44.99 while the matinee on Saturday is $39.95. This includes all samples, a program and a sampling cup.

I hope to see you there!

Beer Winnipeg