Tag Archives: Half Pints

Beau’s/Half-Pints – Killer Kvass

Killer Kvass
Huge thanks to http://www.beercrank.ca for permission to use this SWEET picture.

Beau’s keeps sending new beers out our way and I’m happy about that. While I am mostly focused on what’s happening here locally, and what beers we can get from our local folks, I do enjoy reviewing these beers from Beau’s. Luckily, this beer is both! It’s a beer brewed in collaboration with Half-Pints Brewing Co. as part of the nationwide collaboration brews Beau’s is doing for Canada’s 150th.

I did a pretty in-depth write up about Beau’s when I met with co-founder Steve Beauchesne, but I do want to reiterate a bit about the brewery. Founded in 2006 in Vanleek Hill, Ontario by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s is an employee-owned and completely independent Canadian craft brewery. They are also the official beer of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The Killer Kvass from Beaus is starting to pop up on shelves in Liquor Marts and beer vendors around the city. So now is the perfect time for a writeup of this beer.

*Writer’s Note: I did receive this beer review free of charge. This did not influence my write-up. *

Killer Kvass

The Kvass has been a common drink in Europe since the middle-ages. It is comparable with other grain based fermented beverages, like beer, but was invented by the Slavs and became a popular drink among this group. The word “kvass” first appears in 996 C.E. following the Christianization of the Kievan Rus. The first mention of Kvass in an English text wasn’t until 1553. In Russia, under Peter the Great, it was the most common non-alcoholic drink in every class of society. In Russia, the Kvass has been touted as a more “patriotic” alternative to drinks like Coke or Pepsi.

A Kvass is a style that I had never heard of before Beau’s and Half-Pints announced they’d be brewing one. A Kvass is a traditional Slavic beverage that is typically made using Rye Bread. The colour of the chosen bread will affect on the colour of the beer. Much like other fermented beverages like Kombucha, a traditional Kvass is classified as non-alcoholic typically having between 0.5%-1% alcohol content. In many instances, the Kvass is flavoured with fruit or herbs.

This Kvass is a “Killer” Kvass. The folks at Beau’s and Half-Pints have amped it up and produced a whopping 2.5% alcohol. This Kvass was brewed using 70kg of organic rye bread croutons, organic lemon peel and organic raisins. A portion of the sales of this beer will go towards supporting D’Arcy’s Arc in Winnipeg. For that reason alone, I encourage you to give it a try.

Beau’s did a really great video introduction of this beer with Chris from Half-Pints. I’d recommend checking that out if you haven’t seen it already. You can view it here.

ABV – 2.5%
Appearance – Pours a hazy golden colour with a nice amount of head that dissipates quickly leaving on a little bit of foam.
Smell – A nice bready aroma combined with some herbal notes and a hint of citrus. You can certainly tell it was made using rye bread as this comes through on the nose.
Taste – A lot lighter than I had expected but with a good amount of flavour. The rye bread notes come through along with a noticeable yeasty character. There is a nice raisin sweetness and that subtle lemon citrus just at the end.
Mouth Feel – Light bodied, clean drinking, good finish and rather refreshing.
Overall Thoughts – Having never had this drink before, I was rather impressed with it. It is an easy drinking beer that brings a nice punch of flavour for only 2.5%.
Do I like it? – I did enjoy this beer. I found that it brought a lot to the table for being only 2.5%. As someone who enjoys drinking Kombucha, a Kvass might be right up my alley.

I hope that this write-up was informative. I encourage you to get out and try as many new beers as you can. Broaden your horizons and your palate.

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

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Get to know a brewer – Jeremy Grisim

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It’s a great time of year around my place. We are getting ready for the holiday season to begin, our daughter is starting to grow, and it is almost time for me to crack into the craft beer advent calendar. I’m hoping folks will enjoy reading about each one of the beers and breweries as much as I enjoying learning about them.

Today I am starting a series that I hope to continue for as long as I am able. “Get to know a brewer” is something I thought of when I was last chatting with Jeremy Grisim from Half Pints. When I first met Jeremy, he was doing me a favour and picking me up a test batch from Half Pints. Over time, I started seeing him at Half Pints more often and later learned he had joined the Half Pints team. Now, he’s accomplished a goal he set for himself of becoming a brewer. So, who better to start this with than him.

Jeremy became interested in brewing while he was working on a chemistry degree. He had taken some biology and chemistry courses that talked about fermentation sciences and as he had tried various craft beer and was being exposed to new styles of beer, Jeremy decided to try home brewing. He started small, buying a kit from Grape and Grain, and from that point he was hooked. While he had initially thought of being a chemistry teacher, he felt a calling to one day open a brewery and decided that he would follow that dream and work towards it.

Having a good background in science, Jeremy felt as though he needed to get some more knowledge surrounding the brewing process and the science/art of brewing beer. He took the executive overview of brewing from the Siebel institute and began communicating with as many brewers as he could across Canada seeking their advice and direction on further education. From this advice, Jeremy decided to do the 1-year associate degree in brewing technology from the Siebel institute. While this provides some great learning, it lacks in practical experience. Really wanting to get this practical knowledge, Jeremy and his wife had been ready to move their family wherever they needed to go. Luckily, he was hired on at Half Pints as a brewery assistant in May 2015 and began chasing his dream.

While working as a brewer assistant at Half-Pints, Jeremy also took on the task of conducting brewery tours. Half Pints already had a full slate of brewers and while Jeremy was happy to help and felt he was learning, he ultimately wanted to be brewing beer. This past summer, 2016, two of the brewers from Half Pints left to pursue other goals which left Half Pints with space for a new brewer. Dave Rudge, President of Half Pints, sat down and asked Jeremy about his goals. Jeremy said he wanted “To one-day be the best brewer in Winnipeg and to brew beer until I can’t brew anymore.” Dave offered him the chance to get trained on the brewing equipment and Jeremy has brewed full-time ever since.

Jeremy loves all styles of beer but has a ton of respect for the old-world breweries. He has a Czech background himself and deeply respects the skill required to brew and the history behind old world beers. He takes great joy in drinking beers from North American breweries as well of course. Jeremy said that he feels breweries are moving away from the tendency to brew to style and are no starting to brew to inspiration. Instead of trying to replicate a style of beer they are trying to create a beer. While Jeremy didn’t really give me an answer on his favorite style, the first beer he has developed and brewed at Half Pints is a California Common. We can expect to see this on the test batch system before too long and Jeremy hopes the beer will be scaled up into a bigger batch.

In the next 5 years, Jeremy sees himself strengthening his brewing skills, increasing his knowledge, and immersing himself in the burgeoning Winnipeg brew scene. For now, he’s brewing 40-50 hours a week and using this as an opportunity to begin dialing in and improving his skills. Jeremy is completely immersing himself in beer.

I also took this opportunity to catch up on what’s new at Half Pints. The tap-room is up and running and looking darn fantastic. This has given Half Pints’ the opportunity to expand the use of their test batch system as they can put it on tap in the tap-room. This is something they are looking to do as often as possible, both to scale up and just for the fun of it. Some of the things in the taproom and will not be available anywhere else.

What Jeremy was able to share is that we will be seeing a test batch of Ol’ Glory (American Barley Wine) and a Count Chocula Stout coming soon. As well there is a Winter Spiced Red Ale that will be on the growler bars around the city as well as 1000 litres of Humulus Ludicrous (Double IPA) that’ll be on draft and growler only.

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Throughout the year, we can expect to see a bunch of brand new beers and old favourites making their return. Given the tasting room, it’s given Half Pint’s the ability to have a beer with their customers and talk to them in a way they haven’t had the chance before. Aside from the test batches, Half Pints is also hoping to play around more with casks and pins to put twists on their beers for the tap-room. With the taproom, fully operation, I think it’s a good time to get into Half Pints and taking advantage of the tap-room.

I’ve got a follow-up with Little Brown Jug still coming this week and it is almost time for my Marathon month of posting on the Craft Beer Advent Calendar. Check out last years’ wrap up. This year, it’s Old World Breweries, New World Beers. Exciting.

Local Fall Offerings

Local Fall Offerings

We’re into October and thus comes the arrival of many fall beers – mostly pumpkin spiced yam and pumpkin beers from around the country and the United States. For some, these represent something wrong with beer, while for others they are as comforting as the first pumpkin spice latte of the season, a warm embrace of comfort and joy. As our craft beer community continues to grow (we now have four active Winnipeg-based breweries) I thought I’d write about what they are offering this fall.

Half Pints

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Every year around this time we see the release of Half Pints Oktoberfest Lager. It’s a traditional German style of beer, also called a Marzen. Before refrigeration it was nearly impossible to brew beer in the summer time due to bacterial infections caused by the increased heat. This meant most brewing had to be completed by the end of spring (March/Marzen). These beers were kept in cold storage over the spring and summer months resulting in a darker, amber colored lager with a higher alcohol content than average. They would typically be rolled out for Oktoberfest celebrations.

This is also the beer that often is transformed into “Punknfest” with pumpkin and spices added to become the “typical” pumpkin fall beer, but this has not been announced yet, nor is it a guarantee. For now, the Oktoberfest is Half Pints’ fall offering.

Appearance:  Dark amber-brown pour with a slightly off-beige head
Smell: Caramel notes, dark fruit, slight earthy hop aroma
Taste:
Nice malty sweetness brings great flavours that are kept from becoming overly sweet by some nice earthy/grassy hop notes

Torque

Even though they are the new kid on the block, this brewery is hammering their beers out of the park. I’ll be doing a write-up on their all-year offerings in the near future, but for now let’s tackle their fall offering, a Dark Pumpkin Ale called “Witching Hour”.

While called a Dark Pumpkin Ale, this beer is brewed in the catch-all style of a spiced/herb/vegetable beer. This means that while it can be brewed in a similar fashion to another style of beer – in this case an ale – the main tastes highlights are found in the additions. This style of beer can take on numerous different variations depending on the choice of malts, hops, and additions made. What I can say about this particular beer is that it is heavily malted providing a very nice caramel rich backbone to compliment the addition of pumpkin (or yams) and spices.

Appearance:  Dark brown, bordering on black, with a slight red hue with a tan head.
Smell: Dark malt, caramel sweetness, pumpkin pie spices (nutmeg, clove, allspice, cinnamon) and some roasty notes.
Taste:
The sweetness from the dark malt comes through strong and is complimented by the spices. While sweet, it does have some roasted notes to the malt that cut the sweetness just slightly making this beer not overpoweringly sweet. The cinnamon and nutmeg come through with a bit of clove.
Barn Hammer

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Barn Hammer has taken a different route altogether and has brewed a Smoke Pumpkin Saison. This was one of their first test batch beers and they’ve now produced a full run of it for sale at their brewery. Through and through this a saison.

Saisons are a sturdy farmhouse style of beer. Originally created in Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, it was traditionally brewed at the end of the cool season to last through the warmer months before refrigeration was common.  It had to be sturdy enough to last but not too strong so it would quench your thirst in the summer months. This style of beer is very complex with a lot fruit notes, spices, and earth yeast notes to the beer. They tend to combine nice fruity notes with spice and a subtle sourness or tartness. Usually there’s lots of spice with mild bitterness and a dry crisp finish and only a hint of sweetness.

This particular saison uses both beechwood smoked malt and locally sourced roasted sugar pumpkin combined with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and ginger to bring a little bit of smoke, spice and funk to the beer.

Appearance:  Pours a cloudy copper with an off-white head
Smell: Some spice notes from the additions, smoke notes and a bit of pepperiness.
Taste:
The beer is lightly spiced and the smoked malt comes through as the star. The spice is subtle backing up the pepperiness from the saison. There is a bit of funk to this beer.
Fort Garry

Fort Garry has once again released their Happy Jack Pumpkin Ale. This is another beer brewed in the catch-all style of a spiced/herb/vegetable beer. The main tastes highlights are found in the additions. This style of beer can take on numerous different variations depending on the choice of malts, hops, and additions made. This has additions of real pumpkin, traditional spices and then it is aged with oak. Another take on the traditional fall “pumpkin” beers being offered both locally and from afar.

Appearance:  Amber coloured with an off-white head
Smell: Roasted malty scent with an interesting almost rum aroma from the oak and vanilla that is complimented with pumpkin spices.
Taste: The vanilla, spices and oak come through well. The beer has a lighter body than expected. There are some savoury/bitter notes and the spices leave you with a bit of an aftertaste.

I always encourage people to get out and try new beer. I hope that you do and expand your beer horizons. I’m working on some other write-ups at the moment and have many folks to follow up with. So lots more to come.

As always, I appreciate everyone following.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

 

 

 

Flatlander’s 2016

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This years’ Flatlander’s Beer Festival was by far the best one to date. With 72 booths and over 240 beers, it was the largest beer festival we’ve held in Manitoba.  The number of beers isn’t always important, but the quality, variety and style variations made this year pretty darn awesome. Not only that, the local breweries were out in force and brought their A-game, giving every single one of us a reason to be proud.

I had a unique opportunity this year. I attended all three sessions of Flatlander’s in different capacities. On Friday night I had the joy of being a patron, enjoying around 70 unique beers. On Saturday I participated in the “ask a beer geek” initiative and had a great time answering questions and helping guide people towards beers. Then, on Saturday night, I had the opportunity to pour for Brewsters’ Brewing Company.  Each of these experiences brought a different perspective of the festival and dang, it was fun.

As a patron, I was incredibly impressed with how well organized the beer festival was this year. They had multiple entrances that split up the crowd, they used the concourse as well as the ice, which helped spread the crowd out to make the beers more accessible, and they had fantastic volunteers who did an awesome job helping guide people where they wanted to go.

For me, the most exciting part was the fact the first 9 booths were all local.  Barn Hammer, Farmery, Fort Garry, Half Pints, Brazen Hall, Nonsuch, Torque, One Great City and the Winnipeg Brew Bombers were there with a lot of fantastic beer.

As I said above, these local breweries brought their A-game and provided a fantastic opportunity to not only try a huge number of delicious beers, but also connect with the brewers and breweries.  The local booths were packed all night long with patrons drinking, chatting, and buying the merchandise.  I got me a Torque hat, a Barn Hammer hat and a One Great City shirt… eventually I’ll collect them all!

I can’t wait to try more of the local stuff as it starts to trickle into the market. From what I had the opportunity to taste (every single one) I am excited to continue to support local brewers. This is what I was writing about last year, what I’ve been writing about since I started this blog: We are finally seeing the craft beer community in Manitoba grow…and it’s good.

As a beer geek, I had the opportunity to answer questions people had about beers, hand out some cool swag to patrons and help guide people who didn’t really have a plan. It was a great opportunity to use some of the knowledge I’ve gathered to help others better understand and enjoy beer. I found many people are becoming really well-educated themselves, and that people were just as excited about the local beer as I was.

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While I didn’t have many questions besides “Where is the local stuff” or “Where am I?”, I did have some fun ones. One group had tried a few beers and asked “What is it about these beers I don’t like?” which was a fun one to answer. Others were curious about the use of nitro in One Great City’s Milk Stout, or what a Randall was. Overall, I was working with some really smart people and had a great time getting to meet a lot of new folks, help them enjoy their beer, and learn a little bit more myself from talking with brewers.

As a pourer for Brewsters’, I had the opportunity to stand still while the festival crowd flowed around me.  It was hectic; the first hour flew past in what felt like five minutes. I spent the first bit getting to know the beers as best I could – tasting them on Friday night helped – and talking to Don about Brewsters’. We poured four beers: River City Raspberry Wheat, Honest Paul IPA, Hammerhead Red Ale, and the Hawaiian Coconut Porter. The night ended up being a lot of fun with me repeatedly saying things such as “this is a traditional English porter, finished with real coconut. It has chocolate and coffee notes in it as well” or “this is a big 70 IBU IPA with mosaic, Citra and cascade hops with a big late hop addition that bring big grapefruit and passion fruit notes.”

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This gave me a good barometer for people who knew something about beer and those who did not.  While two years ago Flatlander’s seemed to have a large number of people asking “what’s an IPA?” this year I didn’t have a single person ask that. There will certainly always be room for people to learn more about beer, but the amount of knowledge people showed Saturday night was great to witness. I’m so happy Manitobans are increasingly embracing craft beer, are excited about new beers and local beers, and want to try something they’ve never had.

Talking with Don, a man who has been in the beer industry for close to 20 years, was fantastic. This guy really knows his beer and his product and I really hope that we see some of it come to Winnipeg. The Honest Paul IPA was delicious and I’m a sucker for a good Coconut Porter.  We’ve already got their Brewmaster Collection in Liquor Marts, but we will also see a Peach Ale coming to town for the final flight of Coast to Coaster.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at the beer festival. It helped build excitement for the local breweries, something I’ve been working hard to do, and gave people their first sampling of what is to come.  Next year’s festival will be even better as the breweries here this year – most with the help of Half Pints – will be open and brewing on their own systems. They will have grown and we will have, hopefully, even more new breweries giving us a first taste side-by-side with those from this year. While we had nine local booths at this year’s festival, I really hope to see us take up 20 booths next year.

So, fellow beer fans, I encourage you to get out and enjoy local beer this summer. Of the new folks, Barn Hammer is already sending beer out the door; you can find it at Fools & Horses and Earls right now, and Torque will hopefully be coming up close behind. Many of us have been clamouring for more craft beer so now it’s time to put our money where our mouth is – and also beer where our mouth is.  It’s time to get out and show these places that we will support them.

Let’s end today’s post with a question.  If you attended Flatlander’s, what was your favourite beer? Answer in the comments below.

MBBA Event

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Manitoba Brewers’ Association (MBBA) meet and greet event that was held down at Fort Garry Brewing Company.

 

MBBA Shirt
The sweet MBBA Tshirt

The event was incredibly well attended and it was nice to see so many people come out to support not only local craft beer, but the Winnipeg Jets True North foundation.  This was the kickoff, if you will, for the Flatlanders’ Beer Festival happening this weekend.  If you don’t have your tickets yet, they are still available here.

The event provided an opportunity to give a try to some of the beers the local breweries have been working on.  Most only brought one to sample, leaving room for excitement at flatlanders, but the beers that they brought were all quite good.

Torque brought their American Stout, One Great City their Pale Ale, Barn Hammer brought their Double IPA, Nonsuch had their Saison, Half Pints had the MBBA collaboration brew and a Coconut Milk Stout, and Fort Gary had their Black Pearl and Buddha Lager.

The big surprise of the night was the new comer, Brazen Hall Brewery and Kitchen, who are going to be opening at the site of the Round Table.  It was an opportunity to meet them and to have a taste of their first beer, a Best Bitter.  Kristjan Kristjansson, who I hope to sit down with again, was saying that they want to combine his Icelandic heritage with the British heritage of their head brewery, Jeremy Wells.  The bitter was nice and I’m excited to hear more about them.

Brazen Hall

While this was just a first opportunity to try some of these beers, I was pretty impressed with what I tasted and I’m excited to be able to try the beers as a final product.

So, I hope that you will all try to make it to the Flatlanders’ Beer Festival this weekend. I’ll be there Friday night enjoying myself, Saturday afternoon as a Beer Geek (come ask me questions) and Saturday Night helping out pouring for Brewsters (come by and say Hi).

On one final note, the Manitoba Bartenders Guild has organized a self-guided brewery tour event that sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll be going along with them and anyone else interested in joining, come on out.  See the image below for details. It should be fun.

Brewery Tour

Thanks for reading as I follow the changing climate of beer here in the province of Manitoba, I’m pretty excited to keep following these, and other, breweries as they start moving closer to opening their doors.

-Beer Winnipeg

Half Pints – Black Galaxy

Half Pints - Black Galaxy

Today’s review comes to us from a local brewery of which I am very proud to be able to support.  I’ve talked about Half-Pints in the past so for more information about the brewery itself please read those here and here or check out their website here.

The Style

The beer I am tasting from Half-Pints today is there highly rated Black IPA, Black Galaxy.  A Black IPA is a specialty style of an IPA.  Like an IPA, they are meant to be hop forward and drinkable. One of the biggest differences is that they bring a darker colour and often roasted or burnt flavours from the use of different malts.

When drinking this style one can expect to get a lot of different hop notes from the variety of hops used in the brewing of the brewer that are melded with a variety of different malts that would not normally be used in the brewing of an IPA.

This beer is a variation of the IPA style and was first commercially produced by Greg Noonan as Blackwatch IPA around 1990. It began to grow in popularity through the 2000s and there are many varieties of this style which can be found.  This beer is also known as a Cascadian Dark Ale.  Overall the style is similar in many respects to a traditional IPA but bringing with it some more complexity in the malt profile to compete with the diversity of hops.

The Review

Appearance:  Black with a slight red hue when held up to the light. A persistent 2 finger off-white head that leaves lacing as it dissipates.

Smell: Piney notes, citrus, passion fruit, roasted malt. Soft notes of pineapple and coffee also.

Mouth feel: Medium body, medium carbonation that leaves a bit of tingle on the tongue.

Taste: Passion fruit and pineapple come through on the taste with a nice bitter finish that balances well with the sweet fruit, light caramel, and roasted dark malt backbone.

Overall: I haven’t had many Black IPAs to compare this too but overall this is a great beer. It is well balanced and brings a depth of different flavours (passion fruit, pineapple, caramel, coffee, roasted malt) that all seem to balance well together and with the 60 IBUs.

Do I like it:  Yes. This is a beer that I really enjoy. Half Pints does a great job with this beer bringing both balance of malt and hop. The flavours in this are really good together and I’d be happy to drink this any day of the week.

Interview with David Rudge

I had the opportunity to visit Half Pints and speak with the president and head brewer David Rudge.  I had been curious about the brewery itself, their plans for this upcoming year as well as how the growler bar and his appointment to the provincial “Craft Breweries Initiative” were going.  He was kind enough to give me his time and for the entire visit I did not feel rushed or as if he had somewhere else to be – quite nice from someone who has grown such a successful brewery, not what I expected.

About the Brewery

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Image of the brewing room at Half Pints. Casks are available at the Grove Pub!

I have already given a rundown of the history of Half Pints in my review of the Doc Emmett Brown Ale. I won’t go over all that again.  Rather, I was able to learn about where the brewery stands today.

At present Half Pints has a brewing capacity of about 6,000 Hectalitres.  They have a number of fermenting drums and numerous storage ones as well and are able to produce a variety of beers at any given time.  Typically their 4 main beers on the go (Little Scrapper, Bulldog Amber, St. James Pale Ale, and Stir Stick Stout.)  As well, they tend to have at least one seasonal in progress with another in the pipe to come up shortly. On top of that, their growler brews for the growler bar and any test batches that they may be working on could be bubbling away.  All in all there are around 8 or 9 different beers on the go in the brewery at any given time.

This year David told me he plans to switch things up a bit.  He doesn’t like doing the same thing over and over again and so this year of the 15 beers that will be produced, 9 will be new beers.  He wants to bring back some of the beers they brewed in their first year (2007) as well as some new ones.

Half Pints is made up of 12 full time staff members who do a variety of tasks from brewing to filling/bottling to repairs and technical work on the equipment.  David told me their bottling technician had souped up their Meenans bottler to be not only fill industry standard bottles, but also to be able to fill the 650ml bottles they use for seasonal beers.

What’s really interesting about their staffing is that in the summer, David will hire a brewing student.  The only requirement is that the student be a Manitoban.  It’s a move that’s really important to David and something he has been doing for a while.  In fact, one of the brewers at Half Pints is a former student who was introduced to the brewery in this way.  David told me that you “don’t go to school to learn what to do right, you go to school to learn what to do when everything goes wrong”.  Giving people the opportunity to work alongside experienced brewers is a great way to build capacity and allow for internal creative growth. He told me the crew at Half Pints are like a family.  I can see from his supportive attitude where this stems from.

Growler Bars and Creativity

One of the main reasons I wanted to sit down with David was because of the introduction of growler bars to Manitoba.  I wanted to find out what sort of impact this had on his ability to be creative with the beers they brew and what overarching impact he felt it might have on brewing in Manitoba.

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The growler bar at Half Pints

The implementation of the growler bars has allowed for a different group of people to access the beers from Half Pints.  He told me “It’s a different set of people” who seem to be coming in for the growlers.  It’s giving Half Pints the opportunity to hit a different market than they would hit with their bottled beer. What David had noticed was that there are a lot of younger people coming in to buy growlers.  It is likely a university and young professional crowd who are seeking to get a better bang for their craft beer buck.

The growler bars have also seemed to have had an impact on distribution.  Since the opening of the growler bars, Half Pints has pulled a lot of its export back.  They recently stopped shipping beer to Alberta which, according to David, was a big deal given they had been shipping beer there quite a while.  What was interesting was that the decision wasn’t due to lack of popularity but more due to the fact they don’t have enough extra beer to send.

Along with this ability to reach a different customer group, the growler bars have also allowed Half Pints to venture into more creative territory.  “Before, we would have to be ordering labels 6 months in advance for beers.”  Now, beers do not need to be labelled if they will be sold at growler bars.  Instead, Half Pints just needs to indicate the value of the ingredients to MLCC and then, using a formula, MLCC gives them the price at which they need to sell the beer.  This allows for them to come up with new beer ideas on the fly and gives the opportunity to really let the creative juices flow.

I asked David whether they would be doing things like Test Batch Tuesday or experimenting with beers if the growler bars did not exist.  His response was a resounding “No.”  This creativity is really important to David and the Half Pints crew.  He told me he doesn’t really understand why some breweries will see a beer made somewhere else and try to emulate it.  He thinks that the creativity of a brewery and the ability to come up with their own ideas is really important.

So, what about Test Batch Tuesdays?  

For those who don’t know, this year Half Pints has started a more regular test batch tasting opportunity.  Tuesday mornings a 50L keg (about 25 growlers) will be tapped.  Inside it will contain a test recipe a staff member wanted to try out.  They tweet out when they tap the keg, so if this interests you make sure to follow @halfpintsbrewco and @halfpintsbrucru on twitter.

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Test Batch Tuesday – Rum Soaked Oaked Stout

The idea came from just wanting to try out different things.  Using 50L batches they will either use a Magic Brew System to brew something totally unique from scratch or pull some of an existing beer out during different stages of brewing so they can experiment with it. The idea behind this is not only to give some creative freedom to the brewers but also to actually test out different recipes to see if they might want to take it further to a larger batch in the future to sell at the growler bars or perhaps even bottle.

They started out doing these on Saturdays but ended up with too many people lining up for a taste and being disappointed when the batch ran out.  The shift was made to Tuesday morning’s but a similar issue has arisen.  I asked David if he might try alternating times and he said that in the future they might look at shifting the times to allow for different groups of people to get out and grab some of the test brew.

What was nice to hear is the test batch might not be the last chance to try the beer.  It might show up in a larger batch in the future.

The amount of respect and trust David has for the crew at Half Pints is really admirable. He has really let them go with the creative aspect and opened the door to trying new things.  He told me that when Half Pints opened, the expectations for beer was so low people were fine with the status quo.  Since opening and pushing the creative boundaries, other breweries in the MB market are needing to step up their game and start considering some creative options.  I think we can really see this in action with Fort Garry starting to expand outside their main brews.

Craft Breweries Initiative

As well as all the work that David does at Half Pints to keep the beer flowing, he has also recently been appointed to the Manitoba Governments Craft Breweries Strategy.  As the only brewer on the committee he brings a really unique perspective to the table.  We had a really good conversation around the recent changes to the laws here in Manitoba and how it has opened the doors for new breweries to start up.  In fact, David was one of the people who fought with the MLCC to allow for growlers to be sold.  He didn’t do this just so that he could benefit from them but also so the next person in Manitoba who opens up a brewery doesn’t have to be beholden to bars and contracts for selling beer.

With the laws as they stand today, a small guy could open a brewery tomorrow and not have to worry about bottling, canning, or selling his beer to bars.  He can sell 100% of his beer to growler bars and still be profitable.  He told me the amount of equipment and labour required to run a small brewery requires about 2 people and that given the laws today it can still be profitable.

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Another shot of the brewing room at Half Pints

David hopes in the near future the laws can be further expanded to allow for taprooms to be opened in Manitoba.  For those who don’t know, taprooms would allow for pints of beer to be sold in the same location as growlers.  This would allow for small breweries to essentially sell 100% of their beer at the brewery and not be reliant on any other party for the sale of their beer.  According to David this opportunity for growth is necessary to the survival of the local craft beer industry.

I was curious whether David was concerned about the creation of competition within the province.  His response really told me a lot about his character: he doesn’t consider it competition.  He doesn’t even consider Fort Garry competition.  If he had the choice between getting Fort Garry’s tap at a bar or no tap at all, he’d prefer no tap.  He wants to be taking Molson’s tap or Labatt’s tap and wants to see local craft beer grow and prosper.  Given the growth in demand for craft beer and the government’s willingness to support and grow the industry, I can see this type of shift happening.

Will they ever go to Investor’s Group Field or the MTS centre?  I asked David and he told me that it likely won’t happen in the near future.  Labatt’s and Bud sign contracts with these venues and typically take a hit on cost so that they can advertise at the games.  Given the fact people are willing to pay $9 a beer, he doesn’t think there will be any quick movement on behalf of these venues to swap out brews.

Overall, I’m really excited about the conversation I had with David.  Not only is he a really down to earth guy who loves beer, he has some really solid ideas and a really good plan for the next year.  I’m excited to see what he and the folks at Half Pints come up with this next year and I am going to do my darndest to try as much of the new brew they put out.  Overall, Half Pints is a brewery that makes buying beer in Manitoba not just about the quality but also about the people who brew it.  I for one am proud to support Manitoba craft beer.