Tag Archives: Winnipeg

Torque Brewing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Winnipeg Brew Bombers

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

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Brew Bombers President Rob Mieth

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

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

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

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

The competition had two main goals:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Interview with Barn Hammer

Barn Hammer

This is a really exciting time for craft beer in Winnipeg.  With changes to the liquor laws making it more appealing for breweries to open, making brew pubs possible, and expansion of the growler bars, craft beer drinkers have a lot to be revved up about.

I spoke with Nicole Barry from Peg Beer Co. last week and this week I had the opportunity to sit down with Tyler Birch and Brian Westcott, the small but mighty team behind the new Winnipeg brewery Barn Hammer.

Tyler and Brian are an excellent team, bringing two important strengths to the brewery – business and craftsmanship.  Tyler owns and operates a fencing company with his father Ted.  TnT Fenceworks has been successfully operating for the past 10 years successful.  While working there, Tyler became interested in home brewing and spotted the low number of breweries in Manitoba compared to other provinces.  With his sincere love of beer and interest in brewing, Tyler wanted to do something to fill that gap and began working through the process to create Barn Hammer Brewin Co.

When the laws began to change, it made it more appealing and helped Tyler get his plan off the ground.

By chance, Brian Westcott, former production manager for Alley Kat Brewing Company in Edmonton, was looking to move to Manitoba.  Brian started brewing in university with about 6 or 7 carboys on the go at any given time.  His first degree was in Biochemistry and when he got a job in Fort St. John he found himself with a lot of time to read about brewing and decided to become a professional brewer.  He was hired by Alley Kat Brewing, but after about 18 months on the job, he wanted to learn more.  So, Brian headed back to school and as a graduate of Scotland’s M.Sc. program in brewery science worked for another 7 years at Alley Kat but was always hoping to move back to Manitoba.  (His wife is a native of northern Manitoba.)

The timing on their move couldn’t have been better.  After meeting with Tyler to discuss the vision of the brewery, Barn Hammer officially had a head brewer and a partner to round out Tyler’s home brewing knowledge.

While Tyler has not been involved in the brewing industry at all, he has a strong business sense from running TnT for the past 10 years.  This combined with Brian’s extensive experience working in all aspects of brewing make for a dynamite combination.  Add the fact Tyler’s wife Sable is an accomplished graphic artist and this three person team has a lot of the bases covered for getting a brewery up and running.

Tyler started planning about a year ago- again, mostly due to the fact Winnipeg is so far behind the rest of the country in the local craft market.  Now he gets to work with Brian to create beer “I want to drink” while using his already honed business skills to get that beer into the hands of Manitobans.

One of the biggest challenges Tyler and Brian faced was finding a good location.  They wanted an industrial site that wouldn’t be so far away people would be hesitant to visit. They also needed a landlord who was willing to lease. Plus there was an extra self-imposed condition:  it had to be close enough Tyler could bike to work.

Luckily they found this location at 595 Wall Street and have begun renovations for their planned opening in December.

When it comes to the actual beers they will be producing, the team at Barn Hammer has some ideas, names and concepts but are really only in the test brewing stage.  With Sable on board, they have a unified label design in mind but still have to finalize their beers.  When they open in December the goal is to have two beers canned with a seasonal on tap at their brewery.  Brian told me he was just getting a Winter Ale test batch underway – a little weird being summer, but something they hope to have ready when they open.  At the brewery opening they plan to give the public an opportunity to try some of their beers on tap – an activity they want to continue as they try new things out and experiment.

Barn Hammer will be running a 15 barrel system and plan to be producing a little over 1000 HLs in the first year with the goal of moving up to 5000 H/L in a few years.  Both Tyler and Brian want to grow to a comfortable size where they can produce beer they like while still experimenting and staying truly small and local.  With their plan of having a couple of mainstays and constant experimentation, I think Winnipeggers and Manitobans will welcome this newcomer and be excited for the new brews as they become available.

As I said before, Tyler and Brian hope to have two beers in cans to start with the rest in the tap room and growler area.  Their focus for the opening will be the brewery itself, but they told me with 100% certainty they’ll have a growler fill area when they open, so we’ll be able to head in and try things out right from the get go.  I was really excited when Brian told me they would be keeping things experimental and “interesting” -Tyler and Brian don’t’ want to get complacent, they want to stay small and focus on the craft of brewing beer.

I am always interested in how those involved in brewing view beer.  It’s something that has come up in a number of my interviews and the answer, I find, is very telling.  Brian reiterated what I’ve heard from those passionate about beer when he told me beer is a “beautiful meld of science and art. Beer is one of those things where you can be as scientific as you like, but at the end of the day there is some art to it”.  Tyler said beer is a “gathering place. Everyone has different tastes but the debate and discussion unifies beer drinkers.”

The name for the brewery comes from Tyler’s experience out at the lake. Their cabin has an old Barn on its land and one summer his father, Ted, decided to try and pull it down using his truck.  The truck was not up to the task and as a joke Tyler started calling it the “Barn Hammer” and the name stuck.

Barn Hammer plans to open in December of this year with two beers ready to be canned with at least one seasonal on tap for growler fills.  Be sure to follow them @barnhammerbeer on Twitter and add them to your list of breweries to visit once they open.  I’m really excited to see what beers they have in store for us.

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.

Half Pints – Doc Emmett Brown Ale

Half Pints - Doc Emmett Brown Ale

Today’s review comes to us from a local brewery of which I am very proud to be able to support.  Their creativity and attention to detail allows for some really tasty and unique beers to be produced.  The introduction of growlers in Manitoba has only allowed for this creativity to increase and they have gone so far as to produce 50 litre test batches of a beer that they wanted to try out.  Yes folks, I am talking about Half Pints Brewing Co from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

When I first moved here from the maritimes I felt like there was something missing, a creative craft brewery.  There were two local breweries around when I first arrived, Fort Garry and The Agassiz Brewing Company. Both were good, but they produced their beers and didn’t really stray outside that box.  When Half Pints came along I was incredibly happy.  They brought with them some unique brews as well as a penchant for coming up with some fun and seasonal beers as well as some event specific brews (like Peddle Power for example).  This has continued and increased I’d say and I’m always interested to read what they’ve got coming next.

Now, knowing that I will be talking about Half-Pints more than once, I’ll give a bit of a backer on how they got started.The head brew master/president of Half Pints Brewing is David Rudge.  David started his path towards Half Pints in 2000 when he enrolled in the American Brewer’s Guild Craft Brewing Science and Engineering program.  After finishing this program he began searching for a job as a brewer.  He began he career as the Assistant brewer in BC at Backwood Brewing Company (now Dead Frog) where he started learning the practice of brewing at a full scale brewery.  After finding that the lower mainland didn’t agree with them, he packed up and headed to Regina where he worked for 3.5 years as the head brewer for Bushwakker brewing company.  A variety of twists and turns along life’s road brought him to Winnipeg Manitoba in July of 2005.  Having all this experience under his belt the plunge was taken and after A LOT of work Half Pints Brewing Co opened its doors in February 2006 and started selling their delicious brews that July.

I’m always incredibly impressed with the creativity of the brewing coming out of Half Pints as well as their involvement in the local Home Brew scene and willingness to assist others.  I’m hoping to sit down with Mr. Rudge should I get the chance so I can chat with him a bit more, we shall see if I am lucky enough to snag that chance.  The beer I’ll be reviewing is their most recent 1000 litre growler batch, aptly named for 2015 the Doc Emmett Brown Ale.

Brown ales are a style of beer that get their name from their color, mostly.  The term was first used by brewers in the late 17th century and was used to describe a more mild ale.  This term is rather different than how we use it today, but originally these brews were lightly hopped and brewed with 100% brown malt.  Today these beers are brewed in a variety of different regions and are used to describe a few different flavor profiles from sweet, low alcohol beers, medium strength amber beers of moderate bitterness, and malty but hoppy beers.

They range from deep amber to brown in colour and typically have caramel and chocolate flavours evident in their profiles.  This is a North American Brown Ale differ from their English counterparts.  Instead of using exclusively brown malts, American Brown Ales tend to use American Crystal Malt, which gives a sharper edge to the beer, as well as often roasted chocolate or coffee malts.  They are also often hopped, unlike the English ones, which tend to make them drier than their English counterparts and give a citrus accent and medium body due to the American hop varieties.  Let’s get to this particular beer tho and see what we’ve got!

Appearance:  Luscious dark brown with a nail’s width of head that retains well and provides some rimming around the glass.
Smell: Definite chocolate notes right up front with some almost hickory notes hidden away on the back end likely from roasting or perhaps something added I’m not aware of.  Notes of hop are there as well possibly a cascade or Amarillo.
Taste: That chocolate malty flavor comes through right on the first taste which then flows into a slightly bitter dry finish which is really rather nice.  It cuts the initial sweetness and leaves you wanting more. That hickory smell doesn’t come through in flavor but there are some bitter notes from the hops. Not a ton of complexity in there, but it was solid flavor wise.
Mouth feel: A little heavy on the carbonation with a coarse mouthfeel.
Overall: Excellent example of a North American brown ale that seems to almost draw from the bitterness of some of the English folks while still maintaining that North American dry finish.  Described as being made with 1.21 Jigawatts of deliciousness, this Brown ale does not disappoint. My only complaint really was the higher carbonation, though not a huge detractor for me.
Do I like it: I’m not usually a huge fan of brown ales.  This one was pretty good though and I’m not upset to have an entire growler to consume.  The carbonation was a little bit high for me on this one but overall I was really impressed with the flavours brought out in this one, even if I didn’t find huge complexity, it was nice and well-rounded. The bitterness cutting the sweetness from the malt was good making this a beer that is good for those who may not be huge fans of overtly malty beers.  Overall I like it and I’d buy it again.

Manitoba Craft Breweries Stratgey

Well, it seems like there are some things happening here in Manitoba in respect to Craft Beer.

For a long time we have been pretty behind when it comes to craft beer and breweries.  We currently have three breweries in Manitoba.  When you compare that to a small province like New Brunswick which is home to 7 that I can think of off the top of my head (likely more) it’s not really that great.

So, to have the government announce a “Craft Breweries Strategy” is a very promising step that when combined with the Growler system and the work being done on the Liquor laws here may result in some actual change and growth.

According to the press release the Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection Minister Ron Lemieux announced the first step as the creation of an advisory committee which will be made of of the following people:

MANITOBA CRAFT BREWERIES STRATEGY INDUSTRY ADVISORY COMMITTEE

  • Robert Holmberg, vice-president, liquor operations, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, and chair, Craft Brewery Industry Advisory Committee
  • Jim Baker, president and CEO, Manitoba Hotel Association
  • Noel Bernier, president and CEO, FB Hospitality
  • Bill Gould, president, WETT Sales and Distribution Inc.
  • Orest Horechko, general manager, Fort Garry Brewing Co.
  • Scott Jocelyn, executive director, Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association
  • Dwayne Marling, vice-president, Manitoba–Saskatchewan, Restaurants Canada
  • David Rudge, brewmaster and president, Half Pints Brewing Company
  • Darren R. Wanless, president, Wanless Geo-Point Solutions Inc.
  • Lawrence Warwaruk, owner, Farmery Estate Brewery
  • Kerry Wolfe, senior executive director, strategic gaming and liquor development, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries

Quite a number of people there who, I hope, will bring some good insight to the table.

At the very least this is a start.  We are in a sorry state for craft brewing here in Manitoba in comparison to the rest of Canada and I am hoping that we will begin to see some change in the quality and quantity of craft brewers we have.

I want to finish by saying the breweries we do have are excellent.  I’m always excited by their creativity and their willingness to put out special beers and try new things.  I hope that Fort Garry, Half Pints and Farmery will continue to do this and will help grow, not stifle, the craft beer competition in this province.

-Beer Winnipeg