Tag Archives: Winnipeg

Shrugging Doctor

To begin: when I went into this interview I didn’t know what to expect. Shrugging Doctor has intentionally kept their business under wraps and has done a good job keeping folks curious. Shrugging Doctor is not a brewery. They will not be producing beer at opening and so aren’t something I typically write about. Still, they have a unique idea that warrants a bit of exploration, even if there are some concerns.

Shrugging Doctor wants to innovate people’s access to booze. While it is possible to order alcohol delivery through the MLCC, this requires forethought and time. It’s not something you can do on a whim or if you realize you’ve run out of your favourite beverage. Shrugging Doctor seeks to fix this problem by taking the pizza delivery model and applying it to booze. They want to be your on-call source for booze in the city, with home delivery within 60 minutes.

What will they be selling? To begin, they will focus on sugar wine (a smooth and sweet 20% alcohol), coolers (made from the sugar wine), apple cider and mead. The target audience for Shrugging Doctor is 18 to 25 year olds looking for potent, sweet tasting booze at a reasonable price. This makes sense given the gentleman behind this company. Chris Willows, a 20-year-old entrepreneur, moved out at the age of 18 and found he had bills to pay. With a business mindset – something he says he had since he was nine – he decided to start his own business and solve a problem on the minds of his peers: how do I get cheap booze delivered to my home.

While Shrugging Doctor is going to produce their own product, which they hope to sell in 23 Liquor Marts around the city, the service they plan to provide is the biggest part of their business plan. Offering city-wide deliver of their products. The product is produced by Zach Isaacs. He has been making wine and other alcoholic drinks for several years, investing a great deal of time and money in perfecting his recipes. Willows told me many of his friends have stopped buying coolers because they’d rather drink Shrugging Doctor’s offerings. (I had the opportunity to try the sugar wine and it is certainly potent but incredibly sweet.)

While they do not plan on having beer at the beginning, Willows does respect the craft beer market and would love to add those drinks to their catalogue in the future. For the first nine to ten months, however, they will focus on producing their wine-based products. With four 500L tanks, the starting capacity is quite small, only 10HL, but as they start capturing profit they hope to expand capacity not only add beer but also partner with vineyards to move away from fruit and sugar wines to producing grape wines.

I had the opportunity to view their online ordering system, which will allow people to place orders for either a bottle or a box of their wine, coolers, etc. The wine starts at $10 a bottle and is $35 for a 4L box. The wine is packaged using a 10-plate filtering system, a semi-automatic bottler that fills the headspace with nitrogen for better shelf life, and capped using stelvin caps (the twist offs).

If Shrugging Doctor takes off, Manitobans who are buzzed and unable to drive for more drinks will have an option to top up their supplies. While this certainly solve some problems, it raises others. What assurances will there be that customers (and their guests) are of age? Or that they’re not at dangerous levels of intoxication? Since they are seeking to follow the pizza delivery model, they will be hiring delivery drivers who will be paid using the deliver fee and tips. How will these drivers be trained to recognize when they should or shouldn’t deliver the product? There is also a matter of theft and safety of the drivers that needs to be considered.

Chris Willows told me that their delivery drivers will all carry their “Serving it Safe” certificate and will therefore be trained to recognize when someone may need to be cut off. As for the insurance that all are of age, unfortunately that isn’t something as easy to accomplish. What they will ensure is that the person to whom they deliver the alcohol is of age. Chris also assured me that they would be trying their best to comply with all laws and regulations.

While I admit the convenience Shrugging Doctor offers is very appealing – and potentially the base of a lucrative business model – I am not sure if the pros outweigh the concerns. While I’m not in their target market, they’re likely to appeal to a younger demographic who could still be learning their limits. It’s my hope these young entrepreneurs factor safety into their business plans even as they enthusiastically fill an obvious service gap.

 

 

 

PEG has beer

For those who haven’t been following PEG Beer Co on twitter (what’s wrong with you!) the time has finally arrived. Yesterday, October 11, PEG Beer officially launched their beers and they are now ready for consumption.

It has been a long time coming. I’ve followed their progress since before their first soft opening. The delays have been numerous and some have anxiously wondered about this day. I can’t speak to the cause of those delays and I think it’s best we set them aside. While many, including the PEG team, had hoped for beer much sooner, let’s focus on celebrating: we can now finally enjoy a pint of PEG beer at the bar!

The beers that are now available include their Lifecoach ISA, Soundtrack IPA, Marlyn Red Rye Ale and the Countess Stout, (they have on their own blog, too) and now that I’ve had my first taste, I’ll be providing some notes in the near future. I hope that all of you will take the opportunity to get down and to give the beers a try.

Winnipeg has clamored for more craft beer and we’ve done a fantastic job of supporting the breweries who have opened so far. As another begins to produce beer, they also will require our support, feedback and comments. It’s through engagement that breweries thrive, grow and learn – and that requires the local beer community to come to the table if we truly want better beer in Winnipeg.

Congratulations once again to the patience, tenacity and effort of all those working at PEG Beer Co. Glad to have your beer.

 

Trans Canada Brewing Co

transcanada-exterior

I chatted with Matt Tallman, President and CEO of TransCanada Brewing Company this past week. He invited me to their space at 1290 Kenaston, gave me a tour and shared details about what you should expect from TCB when they open.

Matt has been working on this project fully since April 2015. It’s been a journey to get to this point and it was really interesting to hear Matt walk me through the process.

Matt has always dreamed of opening his own business. When he graduated high school in ’09 he took a business program at UNC. After a couple of years of traditional classes, he spent a semester at sea through a university in Virginia. The ocean-spanning classes gave him a chance to travel and see a lot of neat stuff.

He eventually transferred to University of Western Ontario’s ivy business program – the HBA. While digesting a lot of ideas there, Matt was exposed to Ontario’s rich craft beer scene. Though he took another semester at sea to get some more travelling under his belt, he returned to Canada with a purpose, having explored the beer industry in many different countries across five continents.

When Matt rolled back into Winnipeg he had a vision to expand local beer offerings. (At the time only Half Pints and Fort Garry were operating, with Farmery just starting.) Matt felt, like many others, there was a need for more local brewing in the city and he wanted to create a truly world class venue in Winnipeg. After setting his mind to this he spent a time working through vision and decided to start the project in April of 2015. Matt feels that there is a lot of opportunity in the market and that people are more interested in where their food and beverage come from, who makes it and how it’s made.

A lot of people are curious about the name behind the brewery. Matt said he is often asked “Why TransCanada?” Initially he went through piles of names and had lots of ideas. One day Matt just had TransCanada pop into his head and felt it was so uniquely Canadian that it fit what he wanted the brewery to embody. With its historic and modern usage and the fact that on an average day you’ll hear it mentioned in the radio or see it written on your drive, Matt felt this was a name that was timeless.

The branding for TCB is Canadiana, with design elements pulled from an earlier era (1950s-60s) to give a taste of nostalgia. While referencing the period, TCB’s branding is also meant to be timeless – something that won’t expire or go out of fashion.

As a local brewery, Matt is very excited to produce beers with local ingredients and work with local suppliers and producers. His brewery concept is very Canada centric and he wants to explore different Canadian symbols and events in history. Overall he hopes TCB will be a celebration of Canada

Matt spent eight months looking for a site before settling on 1290 Kenaston. He explained it had been a very long process and he is excited to finally get started. If all goes according to plan, TCB will open in Q2 of 2017.

transcanada-interior-3

The concept behind TCB is interesting. While they will have a taproom they are looking at doing pizzas and will have a dedicated pizza space, pizza oven and kitchen. Matt explained the plans were being discussed before recent taproom legislation came into effect. After looking at the legislation and taproom license, he decided it made more sense to do manufacturing, restaurant and retail. All components are part of one business. The idea is not to be a brewpub but a production brewery with a taproom attached. This is very casual meeting space with no assigned seating, servers, etc. It’s a place to come and hang out and chat, enjoy the beer from the brewery and have a pizza or a beer-related snack from a set menu.

Between the taproom and the brewery there will be a wall featuring 20 ft. tall windows. These windows will stretch almost floor to ceiling. Matt wants people to see what’s happening live during the day or have a nice brewery backdrop in the evening. He plans on having some funky lights shining on the brewhouse and tanks to create an ambiance for the taproom.

At the bar area, Matt plans to have 16 taps. He would like one of these taps to be local/craft brewery rotating guest tap. As I hinted above, the taproom will be decorated with Canadiana. As well, there will be a private function room for events and parties. It will have the same taps as the main bar area to optimize its use for any event. This room, too, will have windows letting you see down into the main taproom and there will be A/V equipment for meetings.

Right now, Matt is the only employee of TCB but he does have two others helping out who will eventually join him full time. First is Thomas Schneider. This head Pizzaiaolo (pizza guy) has been in the pizza industry for a number of years. He’ll run a dedicated Pizza area within the taproom called “Timmy Toms Pizzeria” and produce a very unique hybrid pizza. It’s close to New York style but with twisted dough prepared for individual-size orders. When the team decided pizza was the way to go, they took a trip down to San Francisco to meet pizza guru Tony Gemignani. He runs the International School of Pizza where the guys took a week-long course on making, baking, serving and selling pizza. Matt is really excited about the pizza – both the variety the can bake and the special release combinations they can curate.

Also on board is Jeff Wirt. His future role will be accounting and administration but he is currently assisting with everything – a true renaissance man. Thanks to a lot of hard work, they’ve just posted the job to round out their team and hire a Head Brewer, with the ambitious goal of enticing a world class brewer to come and prepare the best beer possible.

On the production side of things, there will be an overhead door separating the taproom and brewery to allow for them to hold open houses and for easy movement of kegs to the taproom.

The main brewhouse is built by Specific Mechanical from Victoria, BC. It is a 35hl four vessel brew house with state of the art technology operated by touch screen controls. It has a 5 HL pilot system fully integrated into the one brewhouse.  It’s fully capable of any style of beer and can do decoction mashes, kettle souring and multi-stage mashes. There are essentially two separate brewhouses, fermenters and bright tanks at TCB. For the small batch system, Matt plans to have six 10 HL fermenters and two 10 HL bright tanks while there will be six 70 HL fermenters and two 70HL HL bright tanks for the big system.

This will allow for the production of small and large batches. Matt tried to automate some of the brewery to make it easier to flow and to expand in the future. To accommodate this, he is going to install a grain silo just outside with an auger through the wall that will go directly into the surge hopper and then feed to the malt cracker, grist case, and then into the mash tun. It’s a hands off approach for base malt and all of the spent grain will be augered to silo before being trucked out for feed. While specialty malt will have to be added by hand, this allows for some automation with the largest quantity malt.

The brewery is designed to be scalable, adding more tanks if there is a need. The space allows them to double capacity if necessary, following a flow pattern Matt designed to be sustainable in the future.


Matt really wanted the ability to produce sour beers. As part of TCB’s design a dedicated space has been set aside as “the barrel room.” This climate-controlled room, with closely monitored humidity and temperature, will house 40HL Foeders from France made from oak as well as additional barrels. A glycol system will allow for precise temperature control within the room itself as well as overall temperature control. The room will act as an aging and conditioning room where, thanks to the Foeders, TCB will have the ability to really experiment with sour beers and barrel aged beers. It’ll be a slow start, but Matt is very excited about the potential.

The main packaging line from German company Markl will allow them to bottle their main beer in open carriers of 355ml bottles and 650ml bombers. They’ll also have the ability to do cork and caging on a specialty packaging line they will use exclusively for 750ml bottles of beer from the barrel room. While Matt said they don’t plan to can, they do have the ability to add a canning line.

When I was walking around the space, everything was nice and open now, but it will be quite full when all the equipment is in. You just have to use a little bit of imagination.

As for the beers, Matt wants to brew many styles of beer. Obviously a lot will depend on the Brewer who joins the team, but the brewery is designed to produce a diverse array of beers including barrel aged beers, experimental beers, and mainstream styles. It’s a flexibility that matches its owner’s tastes in beer, though go-to styles for Matt to drink are American Pale ales and German Wheat ales (hefeweizen/dunkelweizen).

The beer will be distributed to Liquormarts, beer vendors, as well as sold on site from their retail section. Some specialty beers and those produced in the small batch system will only be available on site.


It was a great opportunity to chat with Matt. I’ve known about TransCanada for quite some time and I’ve been trying to get him to give me some details. Having the opportunity to hear about the plan is exciting. I can’t wait to see how things progress and to have the opportunity to visit along the way. Matt has a pretty swanky T-shirt he’s made, and if you’re interested, just contact him through their website and he’ll give you the details on how to get one of your own.

 

 

Little Brown Jug

Little Brown Jug Logo

As I prepare to head out to the East Coast to celebrate family and enjoy the burgeoning craft beer community in the Maritimes, I have one more post to do on a local Winnipeg-based brewery looking to open in September.

Little Brown Jug, located at 336 William Avenue, graciously opened their doors to me for a tour and chat about their brewery. Founder Kevin Selch and brewmaster Bernie Weiland are hard at work getting construction finalized on their beautiful Exchange District location. The site was once the transportation depot for Red River Motor Coach before becoming a wallpaper shop, a printing business, and now the new digs of Little Brown Jug.

Some Winnipeggers may recognize the Bernie Wieland from his brewing work at Half Pints over the past year. While this was his most recent position before becoming head brewmaster at Little Brown Jug, Bernie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in brewing. His first job in 2000 was with a brewery at Gilde Braurei in Hanover, Germany. Producing over 600,000 HL a year.  This was one of northern Germany’s top 10 breweries.  After spending some time there he gained even more brewing experience at Fort Garry, the Vancouver Island Brewing Company before getting his brewing certificate from the Siebel Institute. He then went to get his Master’s diploma from UC Davis before taking the role as brewmaster at Lake of the Woods in Kenora. He came back to Winnipeg for his stint at Half Pints before moving over full time to Little Brown Jug at the beginning of June. This Brandon-born, Winnipeg/Neepawa-raised globetrotter is excited to be back full-time in Winnipeg.

Kevin Selch is also originally from Winnipeg. He had spent the last 10 years based in Ontario working as an economist with the federal government.  He worked with Industry Canada on all kinds of economic and policy plans, including telecommunications policy, intellectual property policy, the defence procurement strategy, and the Nortel bankruptcy. Before this he worked as a trade economist and was involved in negotiating free trade agreements in Geneva, including work on the Canada-EU agreement. Kevin has always had a passion for urban development, urban manufacturing and the repurposing/redevelopment of old buildings. Having taken an old Victorian home and renovating it from studs up, he has excels at taking the old and making it new while still keeping the character.

For the past three years, Kevin has planned to open a brewery. While recent changes to the liquor laws was certainly a help, the decision to open Little Brown Jug was a natural step in his business plan: he’d arrived the point where he couldn’t plan anymore, he just had to take the leap.

Having spent the past 10 years in Ottawa, Kevin had the chance to explore the southern Ontario, Quebec and Vermont craft beer scenes. He loved the social aspect of these breweries and wants to use the tasting room at Little Brown Jug as a community space to bring more people to the downtown. Kevin hopes that people will come to Little Brown Jug before heading out to dinner at one of the other local establishments. Working in partnership with other exchange businesses to help benefit them all.

Little Brown Jug Inside

For Kevin, transparency is a big part of the business model. They want to be honest in their advertising, transparent in their brewing practices, and community oriented in their business outcomes. They want to focus on quality ingredients and brewing practices and plan to pace themselves, launching the brewery with one beer, a kräusened Belgian Pale Ale. On open they also only have two fermenters – another good reason to focus on their Belgian pale ale before brewing other beers as they add equipment.  Bernie hopes that they will be able to add another beer starting in January or February.  As for capacity, they are starting with a 20 hectoliter system, brewing 40 hectoliters a week. Little Brown Jug will only use Canadian-made equipment and they worked directly with the engineer to help develop their brew system.

Focusing on one beer will allow for Little Brown Jug to be picky when it comes to sourcing ingredients for their beer. Belgian Pale Ale being Kevin’s favourite style of beer, and standing on Bernie’s experience brewing, they are excited to launch with a beer people will be keen to seek out.

Little Brown Jug’s ideal tasting room is more than a space for people to come, drink a beer and leave. They want the space to be usable by community groups, be a meeting place before heading out for dinner, and to be a spot where you can see the brewing process first hand, ask questions, and learn about the beer. Starting with kegs, growler fills and signature 750ml little brown jugs, people will have a few options for bringing beer home. While they do hope to can in the future, this is a more of a long-term plan; Bernie says he can see LBJ start canning two to three years down the road.

Kevin and Bernie really wanted to be a part of Winnipeg’s downtown atmosphere and the urban renewal happening in the Exchange District. It was important to them to be able to bring their brewery to this area, both benefitting from the surrounding renewal and contributing to it. While opening a new company is challenging no matter what it is, Kevin has said the process thus far has been good.

Kevin and Bernie have been incredibly busy with the construction phase of the brewery. When they came in, the space had to be completely gutted and while there hasn’t really been time to look back on all they’ve accomplished, Kevin did say that seeing how far the space has come is starting to make the dream of opening a brewery seem like a reality.

Kevin really wants LBJ to embody the grain to glass experience and told me having Bernie as part of his team is a huge asset. Bernie’s knowledge about brewing and the brewing industry, his input and his expertise bring a lot to the table. Forming a business team requires tremendous trust and Kevin feels they are a great fit as they trust one another’s opinion completely.

With a goal to open in September, I’m excited to visit again when I return from the East Coast to see the progress they’ve made and, of course, I’m looking forward to trying their beer.  For now, they do have a really nice ¾ sleeve T-shirt for sale.

Little Brown Jug Tshirt

This is my last post before I head out East.  Be sure to follow me on twitter @beerwinnipeg if you’re interested in following my East Coast adventures. I’ll try my best to visit breweries and do some posts from the Maritimes where the list of breweries keeps growing, so be sure to follow along. As always, thanks for reading.

-Beer Winnipeg

Follow-up with Torque

Torque Tag

 

We are halfway through the summer months and getting closer to having two new breweries begin selling their beer. PEGbeer has written they‘re close to starting to brew while Torque is inching ever closer.

I had the opportunity to follow up with John and Adam from Torque earlier this week to get an idea of when we might get to taste some of their beer in a commercial setting. They’ve been working very hard these past months, doing a wonderful job of updating their Twitter followers, and have their tanks installed and are pretty much ready to go.

Torque Brewery - Long

Adam said they hope to have interim occupancy this week and they would like to be brewing August 2. The goal is to get beer out the doors as soon as possible, so the focus will be on producing, canning and selling beer with the taproom opening pushed to early September.

John said they want to get their beer on the shelves in Liquor Marts and beer vendors soon, so people will be able to bring Torque home with them. They will launch with four beers: Diesel Fitter (American Stout), Witty Belgian (Belgian Wit), Red Line (Red IPA), and What the Helles (Helles). Each style will be available in a 473ml single serve, with a 12 pack of the Helles and a 12 Variety Pack also available in the 355ml size.  Their beer will also be available on growler bars around the city, so you’ll have a few options for bringing home some of their beer.

“We’ll also be supplying a 473ml size Witching Hour Dark Pumpkin Ale for the Liquor Marts’ Pumpkin Pod fall promotion”, says Heim.

One of the things they are still waiting on is the loan program announced by the NDP and committed to by the PCs. They haven’t heard much on this program lately but hope to soon as it will help them get their beers out to Manitobans and possibly expand in the future.

The taproom itself will be limited to a 49-person capacity. They have two long tables made from beautiful elm, some stand up tables which are being made from wood recovered from old grain silos, plus a nice long bar. They plan on partnering with food trucks to feed patrons as well as laying out Torque beer nuts and baked goods from local bakeries. They also plan to have local foodie tours starting in the fall, partnering with the Winnipeg Trolley Company.

Torque Tables

One of the things on John’s radar are Manitoba’s rules regarding taprooms. He’d like to work with other members of the Manitoba Brewers’ Association to push for changes. Right now the occupancy limit is 49, they can only be open from 9am-9pm, and beer options are limited to in-house brews. He’d like to see hours shift to 11am-11pm, so folks leaving a Jets game could visit the taproom. And he would also like to see the option of a guest tap to expand the variety of beers.

While there is still a lot to do at Torque before they hit their ideal state, they’re prepared to put in the effort to “do things right.” They’ll take extra time if it is needed to get details perfect in both the brewery and the taproom. They’re even willing to take this approach in their brewing process: if the product is not up to snuff, they won’t send it out the door until it is.

Beyond that, the guys are looking forward to building some play into their project. Torque aims to a community brewery, with charity brews available early on. They also want to do brewing events like “learn to brew” and even have some homebrewers lined up to guest brew batches of beer. Adam is also really excited about their barrel program. They’ve got a 50 wine barrels from Mission Hill winery in BC and, while it won’t be any time in the near future, they have big plans for their barrel program.

Torque Brewery - Barrels

All in all, the folk at Torque’s hard work is steadily moving pieces into place so they can deliver some fantastic beer. If the quality is anything like what we tasted at Flatlander’s, expect some great brews soon.

-Beer Winnipeg

*Torque Brewing is located at 330-830 King Edward Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba*

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.

Brazen Hall Brewery and Kitchen

Brazen Hall Logo

It’s the summer time, it’s warm outside, there is project work to do, and it’s a great time to have a beer.  With the progression of the craft breweries here in the city moving steadily forward, there is much to be excited about.  Barn Hammer opened their tap room for growler fills this week and officially open on Wednesday.  For me, my excitement this week was sitting down with the team behind Brazen Hall Kitchen and Brewery.

The interviews that I have done are each different in their own way. What has never happened was that almost 30 minutes has gone by and I haven’t even gotten to ask a question. He spent those minutes telling me how he got to where he is, and man it’s an interesting story.  The passion that Kristjan Kristjansson has for this project is astounding.

Kristjan started off working in the telecom industry in sales. He loved work, seeing himself as a problem solver, but wasn’t overly excited about the company.  After having a great deal of success in his first business venture, running the company he used to work for, he took a few years off.  His next project would be the one he will be the most well-known for, his foray into the restaurant business. When Kristjan purchased the Round Table it wasn’t just about making money or running a business.  He saw real estate as a good investment but more so, he wanted to secure a future for his family.

Having accomplished these goals, in 2010 Kristjan faced a dilemma of either shifting the focus of the Round Table or changing it to another business.  The Brogue was an attempt to shift the focus of the Round Table and get more sales from the bar.  Kristjan explained that he actually said no to the Molson and Labatt folks when choosing his beer and decided to focus on more local and different beers. This helped him realize that something with a focus on craft beer was a viable option.

This is when the idea of opening a Brewpub started to take hold in Kristjan’s mind and he began looking at numerous other locations while still trying to figure out what to do with the Round Table. While doing this he met Kris Kopansky, another person interested in opening a brewery.  After talking with him, things just clicked and the location on the old site of the Round Table was chosen.

The team working with Kristjan is quite impressive.  Steve Watson will be the brains behind the kitchen and the menu at Brazen Hall.  He is a chef instructor at Patal International College.  The college is a level 1 certified program through apprenticeship Manitoba and Steve is a red seal chef himself.  The college works with international and indigenous students to help them find good work in the community.  Steve loves the work he does, it’s something he is proud of and gives him time to spend with his family.  What he was lacking was a creative outlet.  When Kristjan called him up to help develop the menu at Brazen Hall he jumped at it.  Not only that but he can involve his students in helping to design the menu because of the schools private status. Steve had originally helped open Brogue and has quite a lot of experience with quality assurance and creativity.  He can be given a food like buffalo wings and improve on it, or create a bacon appetizer that people love.  Steve’s passion for food and attention to quality bring an ability to make boring food exciting and crazy food amazing.

The third member of the team is Kris Kopansky.  For the past 24 years he has been working in the restaurant sector.  He first opened the Green Gates back in 1992.  He’s spent time working at Pasta la vista, Fuzion grill and was finally recruited by Earl’s where he has spent the past 14 years.  All of this experience has helped him understand the restaurant business, profitability, but most importantly consistency. Kris was looking to do something different.  Tragically, he lost his daughter last year and was looking to create something of his own, something he could develop and develop the people around him.  Kris got involved with Brazen Hall to be a part of something that he sees as special.  The concept, the design, but especially the people.  He wants to help create something special that will make a difference in the community.

Head brewer Jeremy Wells.  Jeremy has worked at Half-Pints for the past 8 years.  He started off doing labelling, deliveries, cleaning tanks, kegging and bottling.  Eventually he became the delivery driver but the folks at Half Pints decided he was more valuable in the brewery than on the road.  He was trained on how to brew and has been brewing there ever since.  One of the things he loved about Half Pints was that creativity is encouraged.

Brazen Hall

Jeremy loved bartending and felt a desire to get back into the brew pub concept.  Through a mutual friend he met Kristjan a few times, keeping Half Pints in the loop all along, and while Half Pints was interested in keeping him, he needed to do what was best for him.  Now he gets to create his own beers and see the response.  At Flatlander’s he was seeing people excited about a beer was really cool for Jeremy.

“It’s about being able to be excited about going to work”

Kris Kopansky chimed in at this point to say that while everyone is passionate about the task ahead, that they are all excited for the opportunity to do something special and to bring both great food and great beer to Winnipeg, he made clear that “We are not in kumbaya mode. We hold each other accountable and make sure that we are all moving towards the goal of doing something awesome.”

The plan for the brewery and kitchen is pretty straight forward.  Each will be its own entity with the brewery brewing their beers and the kitchen bringing the same laser focus to its food program.  The restaurant will produce awesome food and servers who explain the food, beers, and pair them together. Both of these entities will be making the best possible product they can.  It’s called a Brewery and Kitchen for a reason. For Kristjan, too many pubs decide to try their hand at food, or a restaurant trying to bring business in with a brewery.  Both of these models can struggle when the commitment isn’t real. The plan for Brazen Hall is to be awesome at both and have experts, Jeremy and Steve, acting as the leaders for each while Kris leads the entire team.

The team behind Brazen Hall want to write a great story, make a place that develops great people, produces quality products and supports the community.  They plan to use as much local product as possible.  In fact, the group wants to look into whether they can raise their own cattle for beef, grow their own hops for beer on Kristjan’s ranch, and use local farmers as much as possible. In every instance Brazen Hall wants to try their best to give to the community and support local industry.

“Being a Brewery and Kitchen is like having two chefs.”

Brazen Hall will be a 200 seat restaurant and a 10 hectoliter system.  There will be tank to tap for the restaurant as well as bottling in 650ml bottles for sale from their retail store on site and later, Liquor marts.  Brazen Hall will also have growler fills available at the bar so that people are able to take the beer they love home in many formats.  What was clear was that they don’t want to focus on commercial sales until they know they can produce enough beer to help fill their customer’s fridges.  They want their beer to be available to their consumer base first.  Focus isn’t on commercial sales, but butts in the seats of Brazen Hall.

While at this point they have made a number of test batches; a best bitter, an ale, a saison, and others, they are looking to let the market decide what will become “their” beers.  They plan to launch with a number of different options, listen to the feedback on the beers, and make their decision from there.  They are well aware that there are a number of people in the city who still gravitate towards the yellow water, but Jeremy brews beers he would like to drink so the options provided will still be good, unique and delicious.  Of course they will also be leaving room for seasonal beers and are hoping to brew fun beers that are not only great but will have customers wanting more.  To continue the excitement, the team has a 70 year old lager specialist consulting with them as well.

What is exciting is that Brazen Hall is already looking to the future.  They are plotting out possible locations for a second site.  What will go on this site has a lot to do with the reception from Winnipeggers.  If they are all about the beer it may be that the brewery expands, or it might be that it’s a bar that serves only their beer and food.  Whatever it is, they are leaving it up to the market to help them determine the path forward.

“Everyone came into this project with it not being all about money or career, but about what you need to do for you and creating something special.”

A lot of people had a chance to give their first beer, a best bitter, a try at Flatlander’s.  I certainly found it to be quite tasty and I’ve heard a number of comments in agreement.  If this is a sign of what is to come from Brazen Hall, and their food can match, then they have a winning combination.  So, when will you get a chance to check the place out?  Well, they have a soft launch date counting down on their website right now: www.brazenhall.ca but for now, I’m going to say you’ll have the opportunity to check them out this fall.  They do already have some pretty sweet T-shirts available, so if you are interested in supporting them now, you can.

It’s been pretty awesome following the stories of the breweries that are looking to open.  To see this province’s craft beer community begin to thrive, one which I know our will be embraced, makes a lot of what I wrote a year ago seem surreal.  We are at that point, Winnipeg, where by this fall we could have as many as 4 new breweries to visit.  So, get out, support local, and keep trying new beers.

-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.

Self-Guided Brewery Tour

Wow, Flatlanders’ was awesome.  While I work on my post about that, I wanted to post a quick update about a couple of other things.

First, as the title suggests, the Manitoba Bartenders’ Guild has organized a self-guided brewery tour. It looks like it’ll be fun, the folks from the guild are pretty awesome, and I’m planning on attending as well. It costs $10 and you can get more details about booking a spot and the plan for the day by emailing: wpgjoel@gmail.com. They also do things like this pretty frequently so join their Facebook group to be updated on future events. 

Brewery Tour

A second piece of exciting information is that Barn Hammer’s beers (updated website, looking sweet) are finally starting to show up in restaurants around town.  While they aren’t able to do growler fills yet, they are able to sell to licensees.  Fools and Horses had the Saturday Night Lumberjack Double IPA on tap this weekend, and Earl’s is carrying Le Sneak Belgique Wit.  The time to start enjoying local beer is now my friends. Hopefully this is the flood gate opening and we will see Torque and others coming out soon as well.

Finally, Flight #3 of the Liquor Marts Coast to Coaster event starts on Friday.

Coast to Coaster Beers
That’s it for today. I’m working on my Flatlander’s write-up which you should see soon and I’ll be trying to meet up with Torque, Brazen Hall and Oxus for updates in the near future.  This is going to be a great summer. Grab a beer and enjoy it.

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.

 

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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