Is that an import? Nope, made in Canada!

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 7, 2015

Last week, MolsonCoors Canada announced that they were bringing in their popular American beer Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Ale to Canada, as a way to compete against Labatt’s American Shock Top and Goose Island brands. The thing I don’t like about this is that Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Ale is the exact same beer as Rickard’s White - which has been available in Canada since 2006. The beer was near identical to the point that Americans purchasing Blue Moon would regularly get beers labeled with “Blue Moon Brewing Co. Toronto, Ontario/Montreal Quebec” at the Molson breweries. One of the reasons why Blue Moon is coming to Canada (as Belgian Moon because the name copyright for Canada is owned by a brewery out of Toronto) is that the Rickard’s White sales have plummeted a great deal in the past year since Shock Top came to the Canadian market. Like it or not, Canadians love American beers. Molson’s PR team says they will continue to brew Rickard’s White alongside Belgian Moon for the meantime. Time will tell if Coors' Belgian Moon will be brewed out of Golden, Colorado like it is in the States, or rather be brewed at the Molson facilities right next to the Rickard’s brewing tanks. 

With this announcement, I did some quick investigating where our beer is coming from. Many beers we love to drink that we believe are from elsewhere: are actually brewed right here in Canada! In this week’s First Draught, I will be showing you what beers are in fact, made in Canada when you may believe that they are imports.

Made in Canada:
The first one that surprised me was Löwenbrau and its Löwenbrau Radler. The Löwenbrau beers were brewed in Canada between 1999 and 2002 but went back to Germany until October 2014, when Labatt received the Löwenbrau beer rights again. I found the standard Löwenbrau has less malty sweetness to it, a bit lighter and even reminds me of Labatt’s other Canadian products to a point. 

Farmery Lager - Of course Farmery is made in Canada, but the thing you don’t realize is where it’s brewed. Farmery Premium Lager may have great history in Western Manitoba, but the beer is brewed under contract at the Muskoka Brewery in Muskoka, Ontario. With all their publicity showing signs like “farm fresh”  and “brewed from the ground up”, I wish they would start brewing the beer in Manitoba as there’s nearly a dozen breweries within an 8 hour drive of Arden Ridge, Manitoba. I don’t know if full production will ever come to Manitoba, but I’ve heard they are looking into building an interpretive centre with possibility of a small brewery on site to show tourists how beer is made. I’ll believe it when I see it. (EDIT: Farmery will start brewing at their up-and-coming in Neepawa soon - by fall 2016)

Not a surprise, really but Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, Bud Light and some of their sister beers (ex. Rolling Rock and Shock Top) are brewed at the Labatt Breweries throughout Canada - it’s not considered a premium beer anymore. For Molson, Coors Light  and Coors Altitude are brewed at their Molson facilities throughout Canada. Interestingly enough, Coors Banquet Lager is produced straight at Coors’ main brewery over in Golden Colorado. Kokanee is also brewed at various Labatt facilities throughout Canada now as well. What's actually funny is that Labatt Blue for the US market is brewed by.. get this.. Molson at the Molson Brewery in Toronto!

Alexander Keith’s - Since we’re still on the topic of Labatt - Alexander Keith’s and their wide variety of flavours have been brewed at the Creston, BC Kokanee facility since 2009. When I see Keith’s on a “Premium” beer menu while Kokanee is on a “Domestic” beer menu, it makes me shake my head. Apparently the Keith’s available on the east coast is still good… but I don’t buy the beer anymore anyways.

Goose Island Goose IPA - This original Chicago beer is something you may have just noticed starting to pop up on tap and at local beer vendors and Liquor Marts over the past few weeks. Goose Island IPA is produced at the Labatt facilities. Unfortunately for me, I found Goose IPA to taste too bland for an American-style India Pale Ale.. though it is a tad bit better than your regular Alexander Keith’s. 

Lastly, Sapporo Lager - the most famous Japanese beer in the world is actually brewed at Sleeman’s Brewery in Guelph, Ontario. For Americans, when they purchase a can or case of Sapporo in their neck of the woods, it’s the Canadian version of the beer.. and to top it all off, it’s still listed as an Imported Beer, tricking customers into thinking it came from Japan, not Guelph.

In the United States, lots of foreign breweries are now moving their production to the United States as a reason to keep up with demand and to cut down on shipping costs. Beck’s Lager out of Germany is made in St Louis for the American market. The popular Stubbied beer from Jamaica’s Red Stripe is also now being produced in the United States, and there is a class action suit currently taking place because customers believed that the beer they were drinking Red Stripe straight from Jamaica - thankfully us Canadians get the real Red Stripe, for now. Corona plans on building a new brewery in Southern California in the next few years to cater the US market as the production just can’t meet the demand of consumers all over the world.

Next time you’re buying a beer at the store or at a bar, look and find where your beer is being brewed, it could possibly be brewed close to home, or as far away as Fort Worth, Texas.. or somewhere more international. 

Yukon Brewing's You'd Be Surprised Raspberry Citrus Ale

Yukon You'd Be Surprised Raspberry Citrus Ale

It's been a while since I last tried a beer from Yukon Brewing, but today I'm checking out You'd Be Surprised Raspberry Citrus Ale

Appearance: The beer is a somewhat clear golden/amber ale. The pour gives off a very carbonated fizziness, like a soda. Light white head that diminishes near immediately.

Aroma: Bit of raspberry to start off, hint of lemongrass, grassy alfalfa-esque hops, fairly sweet malt.

Taste: The beer starts off with a grassy vibe but then gives off notes of raspberry, lemongrass and a light hoppiness to top it off.

Overall Thoughts: Quite carbonated, notes of raspberry here and there but it tries to be a raspberry beer but also a citrusy, carbonated beer at the same time. Out of all the beers I've ever had by Yukon, I'm surprised how mediocre it was.

Ten great beers available in Manitoba (Part Five!)

It's been a few years since I've done the Ten great beers available in Manitoba column, but ever since I started writing for the Brandon Sun, I put Ten great beers on hiatus. Buuuut for one night only, I'm bringing it back. Here's my fifth edition of Ten great beers in Manitoba! My sixth edition will likely be popping out in the autumn or early winter once the new Manitoban breweries are canning and distributing to Liquor Marts, vendors and pubs across the province.

Battle of the band… beers!

Unibroue's coming out with a collaboration saison with the band Megadeth called À tout le monde. Here's a review I did for the Brandon Sun back in 2014 of two band beers - AC/DC's Australian Hardrock Lager and Iron Maiden's Trooper Premium British Bitter

Battle of the band… beers!

Beer and alcohol has become such a hot commodity in this era that musicians and celebrities have launched products to boost their brand. There’s the Dan Aykroyd wine and vodka products that are available at local Liquormarts - which he personally came to the 10th & Victoria Liquormart back in 2010 to promote! In Ontario, Tom Green has his own Imperial Stout brewed by Beau’s All Natural Brewing out of Vankleek Hill (near Ottawa) - which we will never see here, unfortunately. Closer to home, the folks over at Flying Monkeys Brewing out of Barrie, Ontario have released a few musician inspired beers, where the musicians themselves are involved in what they want to see in a beer.. Barenaked Ladies was their first (successful) experiment with BNL Imperial Chocolate Stout back in 2012 - which, to me, tasted like a chocolate fudge brownie squeezed in a 750mL bottle, it was incredibly decadent. Then more recently, they collaborated with City & Colour to release an Imperial Maple Wheat Ale, which I’ve heard was pure heaven in a bottle. 

AC/DC and Iron Maiden are two insanely successful bands that have also used the powers of the beer industry to market themselves in a new way, by having their names plastered on bottles (or cans) of beer! While they sure aren’t the first to do it, they may be the most well known to do it.

Let’s start off with AC/DC’s Australian Hardrock Lager, a lager brewed with 5.0 percent ABV, brewed in France at Brasserie Licorne SAS. This kind of scares me right off the bat - France is NOT known for good beer.. Belgium and Quebec on the other hand.. are known for some of the best beers on the planet, but France? They’re a wine producing country. The AC/DC beer pours a very pale straw yellow hay, A thin amount of spongey white head on top. The aroma is your standard North American pilsner aroma - scents of LOTS OF BARLEY!!! A bit of corn, light amount of skunk aroma and a bready aroma of what reminds me of fast food hamburger buns. For the flavour, it’s even lighter as it has a bit of a lightly barley grassy flavour to it, a bit of corn, a bit of some sort of corn syrup extract that gives it a bit too much of a sweet flavour to it. It’s lacking in the flavour department, it’s a bit too sweet and there’s no presence of hops. I was expecting at least a bit of a light floral bitterness tingling my tongue… eventually, but um.. it looks like that’s not going to happen… boo urns to that. 

AC/DC Lager is your typical lower quality Eurolager, a bit of a corny, lightly skunky golden lager that leaves a bit of a syrupy sludge on your tongue long after you’ve finished the beer is very unappetizing for this beer geek. I like a clean finish to my pilsners/lagers.. but that’s just me.  1.5/5 Pints

Now off to Iron Maiden's Trooper Premium British Bitter by Robinson’s Brewery out of the UK. Unfortunately this isn’t a Trooper.. the band themed beer.. for those who are here to raise a little hell, like this typical Canadian hoser. This is Iron Maiden’s own custom-made beer. I’m easily expecting this to beat the AC/DC lager as it’s insanely impossible to find this bottle in stores in the first place, every time one of the local Liquormarts stocks it on the shelves, the shelves are bare within a day or two! That must mean something good. Trooper Premium British Beer pours a nice caramel-honey amber ale, close to no foam on the head, which is actually quite normal for a British Bitter, though I prefer a beer with a decent amount of head! The aroma is actually quite welcoming - if you like a British bitter. There’s scents of sweet malted barley, giving it a bit of a caramel sweetness at first, a bit of a light nutty aroma to give it a light balance on the aroma, a very light touch of hops to give it a hint of a floral touch, all in all - this is reminding me of a British Bitter. For the flavour, it is a tad bitter.. get it… bitter?! Trooper is a bit of a standard amber ale with a hint of bitterness coming from the floral hops to give it a hint of alfalfa. A nice sweet ale with a touch of honey and breakfast cereal taste that reminds me a bit of Alphabets’ cereal, sweet and grainy! For this being a beer brewed in honour of one of the best heavy metal bands of all time, I’m impressed with how drinkable this beer is - it’s not too light, it doesn’t taste like a brewery avoided the hops and instead poured a bunch of corn syrup in the batch - the brewer (Robinson’s Brewery) took the time to brew a typical British Bitter that not only metal heads would love, but so would beer drinkers. The beer is 4.7 percent ABV. 3.5/5 Pints

Review: Collective Project: Gose

Collective Arts has been working on some interesting brews for a one-off beer series called Collective Project. In the project they are working on one-offs including a hefeweizen, black IPA, a papaya saison.. and what I'm about to review, a Gose. Collective Arts' Collective Project: Gose came to Manitoba yesterday as part of the Coast to Coaster beer event at the LC. Actually.. this is the very first time that a Gose has ever been available at the MLCC, ever. Every other time it was a one off at a pub or Half Pints.

I still remember going to Barley Bros back in November during the Grey Cup. My buddy Chris ordered an Anderson Valley Gose, when he ordered it he pronounced it the right way - gose-uh but the bartender was confused and went "you mean gose?" That shows you how well goses sell in Manitoba. Things will change.. now.

Appearance: The Gose (er Gose-uh) pours a straw yellow with just a hint of cloudiness, enough to make you go "is this clear or isn't it?" Good amount of carbonation to start it off but it just leaves off a hint of white foam round the rim of the glass.. less than minimal.

Aroma: Somewhat tart, a hint of salt, notes of vinegar.. er more like fresh cut potato chips with salt and malt vinegar. Somewhat grainy profile in the back.. I just can't describe that scent.

Taste: The taste starts off a bit sour, like salt and vinegar chips right in the middle of the tongue, followed by a very heavy sack of steeped barley water. Tastes like the farm. Some grassiness, hint of lemon but for the most part - what I described already.

Overall Thoughts: Not much really there. Salt & Vinegar chips hitting a specific part of my tongue and for the rest of the time.. steeped barley. Higher ABV than most Goses I've had at 5.2% ABV. Not great but not bad at all.

Evil Twin Femme Fatale Brett

I've had a few Evil Twin beers over the years.. a few of them being collaborations.. like hoser Ryan and the Gosling with Crooked Stave and a few others that I don't remember right now.. all I remember is BRETT! Right now I'm checking out Femme Fatale Brett, another of Evil Twin's brews made with Brett. I've been drinking a good amount of Brett beers lately so I'm slowly getting used to them, but I need to see a brewery in Manitoba brewing it regularly/seasonally or MLCC to bring a Brett beer or three... so I can finally get used to the barnyardness for once and all.

Appearance: Femme Fatale Brett pours a heavy, cloudy golden straw, there's not much carbonation taking place but there's a light amount of white head on top collecting at the side of the glass and a few bubbles here and there near the middle of the beer.

Aroma: Damn that Brett! It's your typical funky barnyard woody aroma, notes of lemon, other citrus notes including a sweet pineapple zest, and god damned.. this reminds me of clearing straw out of the barn when I was 4-5 years old.

Taste: Tastes like it smells, a good deal of barn yard here. Lots of straw, lemon, the taste of a wood cattle barn if it was made into a beer. Then there's notes of lemongrass, pineapple, a bit of breadiness to it, a hint of booziness that's getting me a bit buzzed and an aftertaste thats slightly metallic, slightly bitter from the hops being used.

Overall Thoughts: Actually, I know what a barn yard smells like as I've been shovelling cow shit since I was a toddler. This is a woody, citrusy beer with a bit of a tartiness to it, a hint salty like a gose.

New Belgium Le Terroir Dry Hopped Sour Ale (2015)

You know what pisses me the fuck off? A lot of things.. but a roommate stealing your hard earned beer is one of the very top of the things on the list. I had a bottle of Half Pints' Old Red Barn Sour Ale waiting for me, just to find out that the $14.95 CDN bottle of beer was stolen from me. No idea who stole it, but I have my hunches. It's hard to save up to buy such specialty beers when I only work 10hrs a week (yeah, I'm job searching) and my life seems to be going nowhere sometimes..

I picked up a bottle of New Belgium's La Terroir (2015) at Sobey's Liquor in Regina a few months back and surprisingly.. it wasn't stolen somehow, so instead of the jackass piece of shit drinking it and not actually enjoying it.. I'm reviewing it!

I love New Belgium, while they seem to be one of the larger micros out there, they still make solid beers time and time again, and anything in their Lips of Faith series is guaranteed to be beyond solid.

Appearance: La Terroir pours a lightly cloudy orange/golden in colour. Light to moderate amount of carbonation. A light but nice amount of off-white foam sprinkled on top and clinging to the side of the glass.

Aroma: Damn aromatic sour. I'm getting the notes of soury goodness. Notes of sour cherries, a hint of earthiness (peat?), a light amount of soap (ivory), a hint of wood, vinegar and a hint of bug spray (not that that's a bad thing).

Taste: Getting goosebumps from the first sip I take. A sour lemon vibe with notes of oak, vinegar, a light amount of bitterness from the hops, a good deal of fruitiness that gives off a medley of apricot, grapefruit and well.. as said before.. lemon. There's also a hint of caramel that pops up in the beer once in a while.

Overall Thoughts: Damn, that's a solid sour. While it's sour/tart and even gives me some goosebumps, it also has nice sweet fruit and caramel notes popping up once in a while. One of my old piece of shit roommates stole my 2014 bottle of Le Terroir, I'm glad I was able to save this before another piece of shit would've drank this. 7.5% ABV

Bière de Balcon by the Drunk French Canadian

Today we have a guest post by mon ami Oni Dèls, AKA THE Drunk French Canadian! It's been a long time since I had a guest post here, but Oni has been around the Quebec scene for a long time, and even even worked at the Molson Brewery at one time, so he's been around! Today he's giving a review of his favourite beer for summer 2016 - Bière de Balcon by L'espace public - brasseurs de quartier!

Bière de Balcon

I have to tell you a secret: I'm not a “real” Montrealer. That is.. I wasn’t born on this island, but rather on that other island. Anyways.. It’s of no real concern whether or not I come from a place that the local refers as “douchebag land”.

What I meant to say is that I moved roughly five years ago to a small neighbourhood called Hochelaga, and just a couple weeks after that, a new pub.. pretty much the first of its kind in this area, was opening: L’espace Public - brasseurs de quartier.

L'espace Public is a bar dedicated to fun beers for fun people made by people dedicated to making great beers. It didn't me take long until I became a regular there, and now I'm following their evolution in this local beer revolution that's happening throughout the neighbourhood. Lately, we're seeing more and more microbrew-focused restaurants and pubs opened up surrounding L'espace Public but none of them have the same following nor the same beer geeks who know what they wanted.

Now, they have reimagined their image and have launched their 3 first beers to take home: 3 sours in cans. Like many of their other popular beers, these 3 have odd and funny names, but I’m going to focus solely on their berliner weiß, the Bière de Balcon (aka the Balcony Beer). This sour is a mere 3% ABV and has a very lemony taste, but is brewed with raspberry and has a sweet aftertaste, not too syrupy and not too sugary.. like sour candy that you can drink! This perfect summer beer is great to be shared with friends on long evening in a packed apartment, celebrating life and such. But beware: it is a sour beer. It’ll take more than just a sip to get use to it, and some won't dare drink more than one. Shame though.. because the tongue gets used to it rapidly and beside the occasional cheeks going inward, you’ll see that the can is quickly empty.

But it is ok that you don't like it, a lot of crazy dudes and dudettes love sour beer, counting me amongst their rank.

Oh. But that's not all, while I won’t go in deeper details (for now) about the two other cans, let me whisper you sweet poetry about them: La Bière de coin de rue (aka corner street beer), a sour blonde with strong cereal taste, and the very peculiar Bière de ruelle (aka back alley beer), a hoppy sour that reminds us of west coast IPAs.

But that’s the canned ones. For their launch, the pub had a lot of sour on taps, many of their own recipe, like their “mon ami(e)...” series (my friend...)
Mon amie Maxime, another hoppy sour..
Mon ami Whiskey, a smoked rye sour..
Mon ami Frank, a sour stout that taste like heaven, but mostly chocolate­y citrus..
And others, that sadly as I am writing this, 4 days after launch, have already been erased from the beer menu board and replaced by more conventional (read: less sour) beers.

I’m obviously 300% biased, because I love this place and the people who work here, but they do brew really good beers, and if you happen to find yourself on Promenade Ontario, remember my not­so­-wise words and go for a pint, you will thank me later!

While so far the cans are only available in the greater Montreal area, we can only wish for it to be distributed on a greater scale, and perhaps this is the start of a great line of beers from our favourite pigeon brewers...

“Another pint, another story...” Cheers guys!
­ “Oni” Dèls, your favourite Drunk French Canadian. 

The Beer With No Name by Lake of the Woods Brewing

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, June 10, 2016

Last week, the second edition of “Coast to Coaster” launched at select Liquor Marts and beer vendors to show off some of the best beers Canada has to offer, especially beers never before seen in Manitoba. 
Last year, they did a large advertising blitz, making sure that everyone knew about the event. This year, the MLCC kept it fairly quiet for the most part, not really promoting it before it even began and also - expanding it from one month to two full months, and not only that - spreading the event out over the course of two months. So instead of a huge influx of beers arriving all at once, 8 beers will be featured for two weeks straight. This year’s retail participants for Coast to Coaster are the Liquor Marts at 10th & Victoria and South End, the beer vendors at Keystone Motor Inn and Victoria Inn, B & D Hardware in Onanole, Spud City Family Foods in Carberry and Kim’s Family Mart in Austin. I’m glad to see a good variety of locations promoting the Coast to Coaster event this year!

Kenora’s Lake of the Woods is one of the participants for this year’s edition of Coast to Coaster. To me, they are Manitoba’s first brewpub post-2003 because it’s so close to Manitoba that it might as well be part of Manitoba! Last year they expanded big time by bringing in a canning line allowing them to sell their beer in convenient 473mL cans, rather than just selling 50L kegs or 1.89L growlers. The biggest upside of the addition of a canning line is the product doesn’t spoil as quickly as a growler does - the shelf life of a growler is up to a month tops, and that’s if it’s refrigerated the entire time, while for cans, depending on the style, it can stay fresh for as long as six to twelve months depending on the style. I previously reviewed and raved about Lake of the Woods’ Forgotten Lake Blueberry Ale and now they have a raspberry ginger beer called The Beer With No Name Raspberry Ginger Wheat Ale. To me, raspberry and ginger are two flavours that seem to scream “SUMMER!” so I’m excited to see how Lake of the Woods did.

The Beer With No Name pours a heavy, cloudy, grapefruit pink with half a finger of creamy white head, to me - this is exactly what I expect in a fruit beer - the more unfiltered, the better! The aroma actually reminds me a great deal of Unibroue’s Éphémère Framboise as it’s a bready, yeasty beer with a good deal of raspberry sweetness to it. Light grassy aroma but for the most part - fruity! The flavour starts out with a large amount of sweetness from the puréed raspberries, followed by a hint of lemon, a hint of ginger but lacklustre on the ginger side. The more I drink the beer, I start to get a bit of a tingling sensation on the tongue, I am divided on rather it’s the ginger or the hops used because it could be either way but it’s certainly not a bitter aftertaste, just a tingling aftertaste.. if that makes any sense to you. 

As an unfiltered raspberry wheat ale, it’s pretty decent and surprisingly reminiscent of Unibroue’s Framboise, but the ginger aspect was lacking completely, I was hoping for a bit of heat from the ginger or even more than just a passing through hint of ginger. It’s a fair bit tart, but easily a patio worthy beer that’s considerably more natural than any Shock Top will ever be. $3.85 per 473mL can. 6.0% ABV. You should be able to find it at the retailers I mentioned earlier but act quick - stock is very limited!

3.5/5 Pints

Review: La Voie Maltée La Malcommode Hefeweizen

I like to consider myself a bit of an expert on the Quebec beer scene but it's a bit too hard for me to keep up with all the beers coming out of Quebec because.. well, I'm in Manitoba! Sometimes with that, I'll try a beer by a brewery years ago only to not ever try another one of their beers several years later. La Voie Maltée is a good example of that. I reviewed their Criminelle Stout Impériale 3.5 years back but haven't had any of their beers ever again until Mondial last month. I wish I had time to try every beer possible, but I'd die from that, there's just too many beers out there.. just in Quebec alone. With it being summer, I picked up their La Malcommode Hefeweizen because I just don't really ever drink German-style hefes because I tend to go for Belgian-style witbiers instead.. so maybe it's the banana aspect of hefes? Who knows.

Appearance: Somewhat cloudy with a dark straw yellow, a bit of an orange hue to it. The head is pretty depressing because I'm finding that it pours out a nice light beige foamy top only for it fizz into nothing within seconds, I love a good head.

Aroma: Bananas, clove, a bit of an earthiness to it from the hops, a hint of bubblegum and a light doughy presence.

Taste: Starts out a bit acidic the second I taste it but turns into a medley of banana and clove, a bit of a metallic aftertaste, the tomato sharpness you see in ketchup, bubble gum, a hint of coriander and a light grainy blunt flavour from the wheat. Not bad at all.

Overall Thoughts: This is a very straight forward hefeweizen with a natural wheaty, bananay, clovey goodness with no noticeable extracts that you see in some of the bigger hefeweizen brands out there. I'm finding it a bit too easy to drink.. which is exactly what I want when I'm dealing with this heat and humidity!

Review: Glutenberg Double IPA

I have to say that Glutenberg / Brasseurs Sans Gluten has done a damned good job at producing beer for those who can't consume food/beverages with gluten in them. Most gluten-free beers are frankly.. disgusting rice water but I've tried several products by Glutenberg that actually not only taste like beer but I actually enjoy. I absolutely love gluten, I'd eat pizza every day if it didn't make me fat but what I like more is breweries experimenting with different grains to create a beer like nothing else on the market because.. beer is such a wide category compared to wine. While checking out southern Quebec, I came across Glutenberg's Double IPA which I never knew even existed until then.

Glutenberg's Double IPA tops out at 8% ABV, making it consistent with most DIPAs on the market today. The beer is brewed with water (well, duh), millet, buckwheat, quinoa, candi syrup, maltodextrin, hops and yeast. 360 calories per 341mL serving, making it an anti-Molson 67!

Appearance: It pours a cloudy copper-brown which is reminiscent to quite a few DIPAs as it is, a thin amount of yellowish/beige foam that just stays put.. and that's about it.

Aroma: Moderately hoppy but the millet is the front runner in this beer as it's giving off a sweet, somewhat woody aroma with a hint of a diaper aroma. Notes of syrup, raisins and a bit of a cascade piney/floral bitterness in the background.

Taste: I'm getting the taste of diapers in here just like I got in the aroma but it eventually transitions into a piney hop flavour. There's a bit of syrupy sweetness that makes it a bit too much for me. Somewhat fruity but honestly, I'm not really enjoying it. The weird diaper-like taste is just too much for me. A bit of a hoppy bitterness for aftertaste that lingers a bit after... as well as leaving a bit of a hop burn in the throat.

Overall Thoughts: Not a fan. When I reviewed their IPA, I felt the same way in some aspects. When I get past the weird diaperness to it, it's actually somewhat enjoyable but I don't think I'm going to get this again. I prefer Glutenberg's Pale Ale Américane much more and I'd love to see a liberally hopped Imperialized version of that come to market. Their Blanche made an appearance at Flatlander's last month and hopefully it will be showcased at liquor stores soon because that's easily one of the best witbier-style beers I've had in a long time.

Review: Brasserie Dunham Saison du Pinacle Réserve Batch no. 6 Vrai

Last month I finally got to visit another one of Quebec and Canada's best breweries, this time Brasserie Dunham in Dunham, Quebec. While I didn't go on a personal tour like I did at Unibroue, I got to try many of Dunham's various brews at their brewery taproom with Alex and his wife. It was an absolute blast! I wanted to buy all the beers they had available but seeing that I had very limited space for beer in my luggage, I had to settle on two beers, so one of them is this one - Saison du Pinacle Réserve Batch no. 6 VRAI, a hoppy saison, which was bottled on April 28, the day before my birthday!

Appearance: La Saison du Pinacle started out foaming the second I opened the bottle, while not quite a gusher.. it's never fun to lose out on every sip of amazing beer. The saison pours heavy, cloudy golden/orange with an off-white frothy head. The head isn't going anywhere! I poured the beer about 15 minutes ago and the foam hasn't moved one millimetre! 

Aroma: The first thing I notice is the typical barn yard musky aroma you see in a lot of saisons lately, especially in Brett-based saisons. For a saison, it's hoppier than usual but for it being a "saison houblonnée", I expected more bitterness.. but I do get a bit of a hint of cascade pine bitterness. The hoppy aroma is more so a fresh cut grass scent. Also notes of lemongrass and a bit of tart notes reminiscent of kriek here and there, but don't think it's supposed to be as this isn't doesn't appear to be the regular réserve aged in wine barrels. A saison with aromas from all over the spectrum.

Taste: Yep, there's definitely some Brett in there, and I'm still not used to beers brewed with Brett (which I say every single time I review a beer brewed with Brett). It's a heavy barn yard flavour that actually pairs well with the hops, giving it a true "hoppy saison" theme to it. A bit of a lemongrass flavour, light amount of bar soap and for the most part - musky and bitter. A bit of a bitter/metallic aftertaste. There's also a hint of creaminess in there somewhere.

Overall Thoughts: Bitter, Bretty and interesting. While this isn't the kind of saison I would drink on the patio in the summer, it's something I would drink again and bring to a bottle share. 

Review: St Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale

FINAFUCKINGLLY! It only took a bajillion years for A St Ambroise (McAuslan) product to come to Manitoba. I don't know what took so bloody long seeing that Saskatchewan Liquor Stores have had sold their beers for at least a decade now. Unfortunately for me, it's only one beer - St Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale.. and it's only available for the Coast to Coaster event at the MLCC. So.. that means once this event is over, no more St Ambroise.. or actually - the event is not even done yet and the beer sold out within a few days in Brandon, making it impossible to find it. Ah well, at least I was able to pick up enough to do a review, finally.

Appearance: Pours a light honey orange/yellow in appearance, a finger worth of light beige foam with remnants of the foam sticking to the side of the glassware. Incredibly carbonated, more carbonation than your typical macro lager.

Aroma: Apricots! Peaches! Actually, I've never had an apricot before but I still remember trying it for the first time in 2012, all I remember about it was HOLY FUCK THIS IS TASTY! IT SMELLS AND TASTES LIKE PEACHES! The aroma alone has a very fruity, summer time patio essence to it. There's a light amount of whole wheat breadiness from the malt and yeast.. and yeah.. apricots!

Taste: The sweetness isn't as powerful here as it was in the aroma, it's more neutral but you still get a nice fruity apricot flavour to it. The wheat bread flavour is much more dominant here but what's surprising me is that there's a good amount of earthy, peppery spiciness coming from the hops (I assume), but it doesn't hurt the beer at all.

Overall Thoughts: A very solid product by Brasserie McAuslan, but I may not be able to savour this again anytime soon unless if the MLCC starts full on pushing McAuslan's products in the near future.. bring on the Oatmeal Stout!

Skunksworth's Barleyslime: Alberta Genuine Draft (AGD) (Big Rock)

It's been quite a while since I've done a Skunskworth's Barleyslime post, but how fitting to have it right on one of the most humid days this summer.. so far.

I always say that no brewery can have only amazing beers, even the best breweries on the planet are bound to have piss poor products once in a while.. even if the brewery ends up drain pouring it themselves. Big Rock Brewing has been mostly miss for as long as I can remember. If I was comparing macro beers, Big Rock would be one of the better big breweries in Canada, but since they are still considered a microbrewery in this day and age.. they have a lot of products that I wouldn't waste my time checking out.

With all that being said, summer is here - that means bonfires and camping. When I'm camping I don't like to bring a 12 pack of Unibroue.. I always tend to pick up a 12 to 15 pack of a lager or pilsner in cans. When I first heard about Alberta Genuine Draft several years ago, the label alone made me cringe thinking that it was a Minhas product. Now, Big Rock revamped the product design to have an appearance that's reminiscent of the 1970s with a pop top that turns the can into an aluminum glass.. pretty cool, but at $21ish per 15-pack, the beer left a lot to be desired.

The appearance is your typical Canadian prairie adjunct lager, a very pale straw yellow, minimal foam and a slight bit of fizz to it. The aroma might as well make it a Minhas product - it's giving off creamed corn, a strange vegetal aroma to it and to top it all off, way too sweet. The flavour is pretty much how it smelled, the cream corn really pops out there, little to 0 hop presence and I'm getting a light medicinal yet metallic aftertaste that lingers momentarily... thank goodness not for long.

To top it off, it attracts all the bugs to the yard. Right as I was about to go in for another sip, there was a massive fly in it. I hope the fly enjoyed the beer more than I did.

If it was 5.5% rather than 5.0%, I'd give it some leeway, but for the most part it's just Alberta horse piss. Ha! Actually, with everything I've stated, this is actually tastier than: Coors Light, Kokanee, Bud Light, Budweiser, OV, Club and Labatt Lite. So, that's a plus I suppose.

Review: Central City Red Racer Super Stellar IPA

This grumpy, depressed, anxiety-filled asshole always wonders how the hell Central City Red Racer sells out so often. The second anything branded "Red Racer" in Brandon.. it just sells out within a day or 3. I do kind of miss the times when I was the only one buying the craft beer, but I cant afford to be the ONLY one buying craft beer. In the first edition of this year's Coast to Coaster event at the MLCC, vendors, pubs and rural convenience stores - Central City's Red Racer Super Stellar IPA seems to be quite the popular treat. In fact, when I first had it on tap at Barley Bros in Winnipeg two years ago, the staff told me they were running out of the beer on tap. It's just that popular

Appearance: Super Stellar pours a bright amber ale with a bit of a caramel hue, a slight amount of cloudiness. The foam is gushing up with a thick and frothy beige, but it gradually dissipates to nothing at all.

Aroma: For the most part, I'm getting notes of pine, grapefruit, a strange bite of black pepper, mild notes of caramel malt and a hint of alfalfaesque floral notes from the hops. Pretty just out there as it is.

Taste: Hmm.. the first impression I got from the beer is that it's giving off a bit of a woody characteristic, followed by a liberal amount of caramel malt sweetness, a light amount of grapefruit, a light soapy vibe on the palate which is actually.. quite usual for an IPA, and last off.. a bit of a metallic aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: Just your standard Red Racer Ale in the end, lots of flavours all over the place, but in the end of the day, it's not as good as the typical Red Racer IPA... but Red Racer disappears within moments of appearing in Manitoba.

Review: PEI Brewing Gahan Blueberry Ale

For the Coast to Coaster event at MLCC, they have brought in a bunch of PEI Brewing's beers and damn.. PEI Brewing is pretty damned amazing lately! Not only that, this is the second blueberry review in a row! Right before this review, I reviewed Unibroue's Éphémère Bleuet, which finally showed up to Manitoba just the other day.

Appearance: PEI Brewing's Gahan Blueberry Ale pours a bit darker than straw yellow, cloudy, and a light to minimal amount of white foam, that.. as you can see.. diminishes immediately.

Aroma: Full on Ocean Spray Blueberry Juice, fruity and a fair bit of a tartness to it. Notes of wheat straw, hint of caramel and a light hint of bread.

Taste: The first impression is a very sweet, tart taste of blueberry juice. Once the initial kick of flavour dissipates, it's mostly a grassy, straw ale with a bit of a light blueberry aftertaste that kicks around for a bit. A hint of yeasty breadiness in there as well.

Overall Thoughts: Nowhere near as fruity as Unibroue's take on blueberry ales, but this is a solid summer time fruity concoction. With all the fruity beers that are coming out this summer, it appears that breweries want to win over the fruity cooler market, and in some cases.. it's working! 4.5% ABV

Review: Unibroue Éphémère Bleuet (Blueberry)

A few months ago Unibroue released their newest beer in their popular Éphémère fruit beer series, this time, the Éphémère Bleuet (Blueberry). Around the same time it was launched, they also brought back their Éphémère Framboise (Raspberry) as part of the Unibroue Sommelier taster pack.. I will be reviewing the raspberry beer shortly, but back in 2006, it was one of my favourite beers but it disappeared off the shelves not long after.

Éphémère Blueberry tops out at 5.5% ABV and has a whopping 7 IBU, so it should be an interesting brew. I've had a good amount of blueberry beers over the years and either they are too sweet, too tart or they're just simply too bland. The Bleuet was supposed to be on shelves almost two months ago but according to the Sleeman rep for the region, the beer was held up at MLCC warehouses for several weeks due to labelling issues. 

Appearance: As you can already tell, Éphémère Bleuet has an appearance of a very pink/reddish ale with a very liberal amount of beige foam and carbonation. More reminiscent in colour to the old Ephemere Cassis (or Framboise), but at least it doesn't have a faux blue food colouring to it to make it look more like blueberries.

Aroma: Holy hell, this is by far Unibroue's sweetest and fruitiest beer I've had yet. The first impression I got was BLUEBERRY JUICE! Compared to quite a few of the blueberry ales I've had over the years, this one has more of a natural blueberry aroma rather than the typical sugary, syrupy blueberry extract that we all know and love. There's also notes of cardboard, Belgian yeast (which gives it a bit of a hint of bread) and a hint of sour candies.

Taste: Hmm, the taste of blueberries isn't as sharp as the aroma led to make me believe. For the taste itself, it's a moderately subtle blueberry taste with the Belgian yeast taking up most of the flavour here, which gives off a bit of a sour dough taste to it, very very yeasty. As for the aftertaste, it's a hint of a tartness from the blueberries, it lingers a decent amount after drinking the beer. Oh! And a hint of pepper lingers on the tongue too, which comes off as a bit of a surprise.

Overall Thoughts: The aroma of blueberries makes this a true summer beer, but the taste is mostly sour dough in my opinion. I was hoping the aroma would transfer over but that's not the case here. By far, this is easily the sweetest Unibroue beer I've ever had.. just from the aroma alone. It beats out the Cassis, Framboise and even the Cerise for aroma. Better than most blueberry ales I've had, but as you can see... it could be even more noticeable in the flavour profile.

Quebec beers shine at Montreal festival

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, June 17, 2016

Last week was Festival Mondial de la bière in Montreal and being the beer geek I am, I went! Some of you are going “but Cody, you’ve written about your trips to Montreal several times already!” Yeah, I have but this time it’s all about the festival! My original intent was to showcase the top beers at Mondial that you can find in Manitoba, but honestly.. Central City’s Red Racer IPA doesn’t need any more publicity at this point, it’s almost always sold out at local LCs and vendors, and not only that - the Red Racer we get in Manitoba is several months fresher than the stuff they get in Quebec.

Mondial de la bière is one of the largest beer festivals in the world with an attendance of over 100,000 each year. This year the festival happened to be going on during Montreal Formula Grand Prix, so I really wouldn’t be surprised if it was over 150,000 seeing how jam packed the entire city was for the Grand Prix. Mondial had special imported beers from as far away as Brazil and local beers from local brewpubs as close by as a few blocks down the street. Some of the non-Quebec breweries that made an appearance at the festival include Beau’s Brewing out of Ottawa, Bomber Brewing out of Vancouver, Rogue Ales out of Oregon and a good amount of Labatt/Molson subsidiaries such as Labatt’s Goose Island and Mill Street as well as Molson’s Mad Jack, Creemore Springs, Granville Island and Rickards. To me, it was the Quebec variety of beers that lured me in - while Unibroue no longer makes an appearance, Quebec’s super-popular breweries Trou du Diable, Dieu du Ciel, Brasserie Dunham and Les Trois Mousquetaires all had hopping beer stations with very long lines, but once you paid four dollars in tickets to get a 4 oz sample of a Belgian style saison, India Pale Ale or cask barley wine, it’s just all worth it.

What made it even better for me is that two great friends of mine actually had their own beers being sampled at the event. My buddy Alex, who took me on a craft beer trip all over southern Quebec on Saturday, he collaborated with the new brewpub Brasserie Harricana to create a rich, hop forward Double IPA simply called “42”. This was easily one of the top beers of the festival for me, it was floral, lots of fresh pine and citrus notes, very reminiscent of a West Coast style IPA, if it was available in cans or bottles, I would have purchased a few to take home! One of my other friends, David, a popular beer podcaster/blogger in Montreal has his beer “La King Cogne” Rye IPA on tap at a Quebec Oktoberfest booth but unfortunately I didn’t try any of his beer while there. David recently wrote an article in Quebec’s go-to beer magazine “Bières et Plaisirs” discussing the top beers he’s had in his life - he stated that Half Pints’ Le Temps Noir was the best “outside of Quebec” beer he ever had in his life, and it’s all thanks to me that he got to try it, 3 years ago! 

Frankly, I tried a lot of beers while at Mondial because I have no idea when I’ll be back in Quebec next, but likely not for at least a year. My absolutely favourite beers and treats I had at Mondial has to be the Barleywine Germanique Cask by Les Trois Mousquetaires, a delicious, creamy, raisin/dark fruit sweetness of a barley wine that just loves to tingle your palate and belly at the exact same time. Saint-Maurice by Trou du Diable was an amazing saison that ended up being a great refresher between beers, a bit carbonated, fairly light yet citrusy and tasty, but Saint-Maurice may have been influenced on me as my old beer buddy Mathieu from Quebec City was the bartender for Trou du Diable for the weekend, I hadn’t seen him in over two years, so I know I drank more Trou du Diable last Friday than any other time in my life. There’s far too many beers from Brasserie Dunham to list that I fell in love with, but their L’assemblage #1 and No Tahoma Farmhouse Saison were frequently sampled by me, but thankfully Alex took me to Dunham on Saturday to try their beers in a a more intimate pub setting at the brewery’s own pub in Dunham, Quebec.. I wanted a Dunham t-shirt but they didn’t have anything larger than a large! Darn..

Aside from food, Mondial de la bière also had a great selection of food carts and stands ranging from gourmet pretzels, bison sausage, fresh cheese, barbecue, fresh baguettes and of course.. poutine! You would think I’d be eating ALL the poutine at Mondial, but I only ended up picking up a cone of fries with a side of homemade mayo over at the Frite Alors tent, something about their fries scream summer to me, maybe it’s the fresh cut, chip truck vibe?

On the weekend Mondial also hosted “Master Class” seminars featuring people in the brewing industry discussing their craft, how craft beer has changed and even how wild and experimental strains of yeast are becoming more popular in the industry. The main seminar I went to was about finding the right hops in times of hop shortages by Brett Porter, the brewmaster of Goose Island Brewing. He discussed the difficulty Goose Island and various Labatt’s “crafty” products have experienced in sourcing the right type of hops over the years and how he was able to use different strains of hops to replicate the flavour he wanted. Also, that if you are home brewer or have a brewery/brewpub, become friends with the local hop farmers because they’re always wanting to produce hops that the brewers absolutely want, even the experimental varieties.

To me, Montreal has a true beer culture but Winnipeg is quickly developing a craft beer scene which will influence a smaller craft beer scene here in Brandon eventually. Next weekend, June 24 and 25, Flatlanders Beer Festival is taking place in Winnipeg at the MTS Centre, the most exciting thing about Flatlanders this year is that all the new breweries that are opening up this summer are going to be using the beer festival to showcase the beers that they will be brewing once Winnipeg City Hall gives them the approval. At the festival, thew new breweries include Barn Hammer, Nonsuch, One Great City and Torque. Barn Hammer is the only brewery of the four that is now brewing beer at their brewery site, while the others are still doing test batches for now. I’m excited to see how the Manitoba beer scene will be. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling early batches of Barn Hammer and Torque beers in the past and we are in for a real treat!  Tickets range from $39.95 and $49.95 and can be purchased at Winnipeg Liquor Marts or through Ticketmaster. 

Review: Bridge Brewing's Lemon Gin Saison

I hate the taste of gin. There's something about gin that just makes me cringe to the point I want to gag, so for the thought of me picking up a Lemon Gin Saison.. makes me a bit scared, I LOVE saisons but if the gin is too much, I'm going to be gagging quite a bit. That being said, this is the first Bridge Brewing beer I've ever tried, and seeing that this is one of the last beers Miguel Cloutier worked on before moving back to Manitoba.

Appearance: The Lemon Gin Saison pours a honey golden ale, for the most part filtered and clear, a very good amount of beige foam on top that doesn't go anywhere. The fact is that I'm lettting the beer set because as I said.. I don't like gin, 10 min later, still full on frothy!

Aroma: For the most part I'm getting a lemon grass aroma starting off the beer. A hint of Belgian yeast, very crisp, a hint of pepper, no noticeable "barn yard" smell murking around, and only a hint of gin so thankfully the gin's not overpowering... now after several minutes of letting this beer sit, time to sip up!

Taste: Well the gin makes an appearance first and foremost but it's not as bad as I would have ever believed. It gives off a bit of a grainy, lemony taste to it with a moderate amount of floral piney hops to it. Smooth mouth feel on the palate aside from the light alcohol burning sensation from the gin itself. As for the aftertaste, a hint of gin, slightly metallic but very muted for the most part.

Overall Thoughts: The Lemon Gin Saison is better than I expected, in fact, as soon as I finally started sipping on it nearly 40 minutes after opening the beer, I've already drank a good deal of the beer almost instantly. More of the traditional style saison I like, it's not that easy to find in Manitoba except for a few LCs, so I might not have this again until next year. 5.5% ABV

Review: Fuggles & Warlock's The Last Strawberry Wit

I believe that Fuggles & Warlock's The Last Strawberry Wit is Chris Dion's favourite beer, in fact - he has checked into this beer on Untappd, 67 MORE times than the next closest person on Untappd! When he discovered that it was available in Manitoba, he was telling me to drink it ASAP! Well, I did. Turns out that many others here felt the same way. Within 3 days of it being introduced in Manitoba for the MLCC's Coast to Coaster promotion, it was already gone almost province wide! I managed to save a spare bottle exclusively for this review.

The Last Strawberry is described as being a refreshing Belgian Wit brewed with fresh strawberries and sweetened with lactose, delicately sweet and slightly tart.

Appearance: The Last Strawberry pours a strange peach/orange/mango colour, which surprised me as I was expecting a bright, overly saturated ruby red or grapefruit pink appearance to it. Very thick, a hint of creaminess and a light amount of white head exclusively attached to the side of the glass.

Aroma: Strawberry Frappuccino. That's exactly what it smells like. I get the aroma of puréed strawberries, a rich lactic aroma - heavy cream or yogurt and a hint of Belgian yeast.

Taste: Seeing how fruity the beer is, I honestly expect strawberry seeds popping out once in a while getting in my teeth! It's a very creamy, rich witbier with a liberal amount of puréed strawberries to it. A lot of fruit beers I've had over the years either have an artificial taste to it, or have an "off" flavour that ruins the fruitiness completely. In this case, the fruit really pops out and eff.. I love it! Like the aroma, it tastes like a Strawberry Frappuccino from Starbucks.. with a bit of a bready Belgian yeast to it. The beer gets a tad sweeter as I continue to drink it, but considering it's Summer solstice today.. BRING IT ON!

Overall Thoughts: Sweet, creamy, hint of Belgian yeast. So smooth and creamy on the palate. I wish this was a regular available beer in Manitoba for the summer

Review: Budweiser Prohibition Brew Non-alcoholic beer

"Cody, why the hell are you reviewing an Anheuser Busch InBev product? And why the hell are you reviewing a non-alcoholic 'beer' at that? You sure seem like a sellout to me." Eff that. The point of this Cranky Beer Blogger's blog in the first place is to try anything new that I get my hands on. In cases like AB-InBev products, usually I'd relegate them to Skunksworth's Barleyslime. However, this is the very first non-alcoholic beer I've reviewed since AB InBev's O'Doul's Amber beer. I feel like non-alcoholic or extremely low alcoholic beers will be more commonplace in the next few years seeing that breweries are constantly trying to innovate and test something new. 

Today, I'm taking on Budweiser's Prohibition Beer. Apparently Budweiser's Prohibition is currently only available in Canada through Labatt, so time will tell if this will hit Anheuser Busch's home market in the States if this does well here in Canada. Prohibition is rated as being 0.0% ABV, so not a hint of alcohol at all, but I'm not sure how they're able to make it completely alcohol free as most other non-alcoholic beers top out at a max of 1.0%

Appearance: To me, this looks like your typical Budweiser beer. It's a crisp, yellow straw beer with a lot of microcarbonation, a thin amount of white creamy head, just like a regular Bud.

Aroma: First thing I notice is a bit of a sweet corn aroma with a bit of mashed barley, a bit grassy, a light malt hint in the background. For the most part, they were able to replicate the Budweiser recipe to a great extent, sans-alcohol. Hint of bubble gum.

Taste: What I'm finding here is that there's a sweet creamed corn taste to it, a hint of bubble gum, grassy, grainy barley, no noticeable hop presence. The creamed corn taste seems to linger around for a very long time, eventually turning into an annoying metallic/cream corn after taste (leaving behind a bit of a film on my tongue). A bit sweeter than your typical Budweiser.

Overall Thoughts: What surprises me is how much it tastes like an actual can of Budweiser, so serious props to the folks over at Labatt, if someone poured this in a glass only to tell me it's a Bud, I wouldn't have thought it was anything else. That said, Budweiser sucks. I do recommend those for those who do like the taste of Budweiser. Seeing that Labatt's products are nearly on every single tap in every bar and restaurant in Canada, I'm expecting to see this available on tap in the near future. It's priced identically to their alcoholic version at $2.61 per 473mL can so that's a bit excessive. $9.69 per 6-pack of 355mL cans, so only 40ish cents cheaper than a 6-pack of Labatt Extra Dry.

Ingredients: De-alcoholized beer, malt extract, natural flavours, hop extract, phosphoric acid. 

200 calories per 473mL serving - twice the amount of calories Molson 67 for those who want to diet and still drink beer. 

PEI Brewing - Vic Park Pale Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, May 27, 2016.

The past month has been crazy for new beer releases in Manitoba. Some great American beers such as Deschutes Fresh Squeezed Hop IPA, Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale and two beers by up and coming BC Brewery Fuggles & Warlock has made it quite difficult to try every single beer release that’s coming out lately. In the next few weeks, the popular Coast to Coaster Beer event will be returning to Liquor Marts and beer vendors throughout Manitoba, just in time for Flatlanders Beer Festival in Winnipeg. This year’s Coast to Coaster event is going to be more staggered than last year - instead of releasing an insane amount of beers all at once, the releases will come out every few weeks so that people aren’t overwhelmed. Looking back, thanks to Coast to Coaster and MLCC’s desire to bring in new beers from all over Canada, and this week we see Prince Edward Island Brewing (Gahan House) out of Charlottetown, PEI making an appearance in Manitoba. As of now, every province and territory except for Newfoundland & Labrador, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have had their beer featured at Liquor Marts in Manitoba. One day we will see beer from Nunavut in Manitoba as the Nunavut Brewing Company has been approved by Nunavut legislatures back in the fall, so time will tell!

I’ve tried PEI Brewing before thanks to a buddy who did a true cross-Canada road trip visiting breweries and brewpubs in almost every major city in Canada back in 2012. I was lucky enough to get to try their Gahan Iron Bridge Brown Ale and Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale. The Iron Bridge was quite reminiscent to a Fort Garry Dark and the Honey Wheat Ale was a light sweet ale with just a hint of honey. For the most part, their beers were mostly British style, which isn’t bad at all because 95% of Canadian breweries prefer to brew American or Belgian style recipes, so it’s good to have a traditional British style ale once in a while.

Vic Park Pale Ale is the first PEI Brewing beer to be available in Manitoba. it's described as being a bold yet easy drinking American Pale Ale with a silky malt profile, clean bright hop flavours, and just the right amount of bitterness to finish. So.. as I said, 95% of Canadian breweries brew American or Belgian styles, so of course PEI Brewing isn’t excluded!

Vic Park pours a golden orange ale with an incredibly light amount of snow white foam on top, good amount of carbonation inside the beer itself, but what surprises me is that this beer has a good deal of sediment, so you can tell that this isn’t a filtered pale ale! The aroma is frankly.. delicious smelling! It’s a tropical hoppy aroma that has notes of pineapple, grapefruit and lemon that’s consistent with Deschutes’ Fresh Squeezed Hop IPA that I had the other day, and surprisingly fresh hop vibe! The flavour is pretty much a hop forward Pale Ale, when they described it as an American Pale Ale, they weren’t kidding. The notes of pineapple, grapefruit, lemon and pine are very present. The malt profile in the beer is simply overpowered by the hops, but the malt I do get is a bit of a grassy/grainy prairie barley flavour to it. Surprisingly minimal aftertaste, just a hint of pine on the tongue.

For a brewery that I remembered for brewing mostly British-style ales, they also know how to make a great American Pale Ale as well. Vic Park is sweet and tropical, good presence of pine and is a great summer style Pale Ale. Surprisingly only 5% ABV, I expected 6.5% from the hop presence alone. 4/5 Pints

New Government: What will happen in Manitoba?

Last month, a new Progressive Conservative government was elected in Manitoba after NDP ruling the province for 17 years.

I've been asked time and time again "When will the PC Party dismantle the liquor commission's stores?"

Honestly, I don't believe that will happen anytime soon. In this election campaign, only the Liberal Party under Rana Bokhari contemplated any changes to the status quo for Liquor & Lotteries.

Last week, Brian Pallister's new government announced the board appointments for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. Stuart Murray, who was the PC Party leader from 2000 to 2006 and Mavis Tailleu, who was MLA for Morris from 2003 to 2013. The new board members alongside Murray and Tailleu are staunch PC Party supporters  - which is generally expected when a new government takes over.. a new government certainly doesn't want remnants of the old government.

Will we see Manitoba Liquor Marts privatized? Possibly. If so, when? At first we will see the Pallister government holding town hall meetings about the idea. Brian Pallister, to me doesn't come across as a beer drinker so I don't feel like he's going to be overly pushing for MLCC store privatization yet, so that will likely start happening in 3+ years from now. I find that the main goal for the next two years will be developing and promoting a Manitoban craft beer strategy that will push for more breweries in Manitoba... which will help develop a craft beer tourism scene, hopefully bringing people who would never EVER visit Manitoba to Manitoba just because our beer tastes damn good!

So, say that Manitoba goes the Saskatchewan route and awards new liquor store licences to existing Canadian retail chains. I had a very mediocre experience in Regina at a Sobeys Liquor Store where the staff didn't know squat all about the product they were selling, they were sampling Minhas Watermelon and the cashier was snarky as hell. Sometimes the MLCC staff can be just as cranky as the Sobey's Liquor staff, but at every MLCC location I've ever gone to, I've come across a staff member who is insanely passionate about beer... EVEN in rural Manitoba! That said, I've gone to private beer stores in Quebec and the States with staff with just as much knowledge on beer - or even more. When/if privatization does happen, we won't likely see beer next to the soda section, instead we will likely see a separate brick & mortar liquor store like what Sobey's Liquor has in Saskatchewan or what Marketplace Foods has in Minot, ND. Well, then there's rural Manitoba - small towns like Pipestone, Souris, Glenboro, etc have small town convenience stores that sell liquor and a very limited beer selection AT the convenience store when there's no MLCC located nearby. So, there's that, but that won't likely make a difference in policy discussion in a few years time.

Will we see cheaper beer prices under the new government? No. The amount of tax markup to Manitoban breweries is going down, but we won't see the price tag change but breweries will be able to put the money back into the business - allowing them to do awesome one offs, upgrade their equipment and the like. But honestly.. $22ish for a 12 of Half Pints or Fort Garry is pretty damned good in this day and age, priced pretty competitively against Bud Light/Keith's anyways.

It will for sure be an interesting four years and I just hope that Manitoba's new government will be openly supporting the new craft beer scene - and hopefully even pushing for a craft distillery industry in the near future. I do know that politicians and political supporters of all stripes and affiliations agree that craft beer is better than Bud Light.

Review: Driftwood Twenty Pounder Double IPA

By Manitoba standards, there have been an insane amount of new beer releases lately - THREE Deschutes products, Arrogant Bastard Ale, a few beers from all over Canada and now even a Double IPA from Driftwood Brewery. Driftwood gets a lot of rave reviews for their Fat Tug IPA, which is considered one of the top West Coast IPAs in all of BC.. and all of Canada. So as you can tell, it will be interesting to see how well they pull off a DOUBLE IPA.

Driftwood's Twenty Pounder Double IPA is described as being "an agent of delivery for hops! As always, we believe in balance, so the double-shwack of hops is supported by a dense-but-clean malt base. Huge fruit in the form of mango, passionfruit, guava, citrus and pine makes this a hop head’s delight."

Appearance: This bottle of Twenty Pounder was bottled on April 7, so it's not quite fresh but by Manitoban standards - it's fresh enough. One thing I wish we would see at Liquor Marts in Manitoba is that fresh hopped IPAs like this get the fridge treatment so that the hot store won't screw around with the hops as quickly as if it's being chilled.  A moderately orangey/straw yellow with a light-moderate amount of carbonation. It has a beautiful head of creamy beige foam that gently diminishes leaving behind a trail of residue on the side of the glass.

Aroma: The aroma is your typical West Coast Style IPA, it's a full-on-hop IPA with a tropical pineapple and grapefruit juiciness to it. Good amount of pine, a bit of lemongrass and a sweet caramel boozey aroma that's lingering waiting to sneak up on me once I start sipping on it.

Taste: Not quite fresh as it's giving off a bit of that weird slightly paper/nut like taste that non-fresh IPAs tend to get. Thankfully it's still good enough for me to drink - it gives off a powerful pine bitterness, a good deal of metallic aftertaste that's lingering, a good mount of pineapple and grapefruit presence and a hint of boozy burn to show that it's freaking 9% ABV.

Overall Thoughts: Not quite fresh, but still fresh enough to drink - still has a rich pine kick to it alongside tropical fruity notes. Surprised by the lack of the hop burn in my throat but it'll likely kick in when I'm finishing the glass. Not bad but if it was under a month old, it would've likely been better. Only 75 IBU, so no where near as bitter as a Heady Topper!

Mondial de la bière 2016 - Here I come!

One of my biggest bucket list things I've wanted to do since I lived in Quebec City back in 2008 was go to Mondial de la bière. On my beer bucket list back in 2011, I wrote that I wanted to visit a beer festival, specifically Fête des bières et saveurs and Mondial de la bière.. in fact, it's the very first thing I list off on the beer bucket list. Since 2011, I've been to a few beer festivals, only in Manitoba so far. To me, the beer scene in Quebec is one of the best beer scenes on the entire planet.

What's weird is that the Quebec Government's archaic liquor laws that until recently (with Beau's and Central City now in Quebec), the laws made it incredibly costly for breweries outside of Quebec to sell their beer in Quebec. So you saw a huge beer scene develop locally to cater to the beer geeks that wanted the styles of beers they had in Ontario, United States and beyond. This kind of entrepreneurial spirit gave birth to Brasseries McAuslan and Unibroue well over two decades ago, but also gave birth to cutting edge breweries like Auval and Le Castor today.

 I'm excited to finally go to Mondial after 8 years of wishing I could go.. but usually I was unemployed or had to work while Mondial is going on, so I'm excited to finally get to go to an event where I can see where the Quebec beer industry is going, but seeing what the locals are enjoying for new beers.

If you are heading to Mondial this year, let me know - we should meet up! June 8 to 12 at Le palais des congrès de Montreal!

Review: Mill Street West Coast Style IPA

Yesterday I tried Mill Street's Cassis Belgian-style ale, now I'm trying their West Coast Style IPA. This is actually the very first IPA I've ever tried by Mill Street, seriously.. the first.

Mill Street's West Coast Style IPA makes me excited if it's executed properly.. or else it will be meh, at best.

Appearance: Pours a cloudy lemon yellowish/orange, heavy and a thick amount of white creamy foamy goodness.

Aroma: So far.. surprisingly better than expected. There's notes of pine, pineapple, grapefruit and a hint of lemon to top it off. It's not as bitter as the typical West Coast IPA but it seems to retain a great citrus balance as if it was brewed just last week - huge plus.

Taste: Tropical vibe meets piney bitterness. Grapefruit is abundant here which I love and lemongrass, and of course... pine!

Overall Thoughts: Citrusy, easy to drink IPA with a good amount of hoppy bitterness. Nowhere near as bitter as most West Coast IPAs, but I like it a moderate citrusy/hop medley of an IPA.

Review: Mill Street Cassis

Labatt's Mill Street Brewery has brought out a new taster pack featuring a bunch of beers that are well known staples here in Manitoba, but also a few treats that haven't been sold in Manitoba before including a West Coast IPA and a Cassis (Black currant) beer. It's been a long time since I had a cassis beer.. 4 years in fact! So that alone makes me excited to try a new cassis beer

Appearance: The Cassis pours a heavy pink watermelon, creamy and almost looks like a fruity cocktail and not so much a beer. There's half-a-finger's worth of creamy white/beige head on top that simply isn't going anywhere.

Aroma: A light fruity tartness from the cassis, hint of raspberry, a Belgian yeastiness, a bit of a graininess and a hint of perfume. Fairly straightforward and sweet.

Taste: The first thing I notice is that the tartness of the cassis pops out immediately giving off a sweet yet sour/tartiness bite to it. A heavy yeastiness is making appearances all over. Hint of dough, raspberry and tastes like summer patio weather.

Overall Thoughts: Hmm.. like a Unibroue Éphémère Cassis from way back when, it's fairly faint on the fruitness so I wish there was more of a cassis appearance.. but I'm happy to see a new cassis beer on the market. Certainly heavier than an Éphémère but this beer immediately reminded me of Éphémère the second I started pouring it. Pretty decent fruit beer.

Review: Arrogant Bastard Ale

It's been quite a while since I've done a review - I've been busy for the past while and just haven't been able to keep up to date with all the new beers coming into Manitoba. One of the many new beers available in Manitoba is Arrogant Bastard Ale by Arrogant Bastard Brewing. Arrogant Bastard is one of Stone Brewing's most popular products of all time but in this case, Arrogant Bastard Ale is being contract brewed by Great Divide, Maui Brewing, Brew Dog, and Maine Beer Company, so it's tough to say where this is is being bottled - likely Maui Brewing as they already have a presence here in Manitoba.

Appearance: Arrogant Bastard pours a nice ruby red ale, close to no carbonation and a thin head of beige foam barely touching the side of the glassware.

Aroma: Sweet caramel malt, light-to-mild hop presence that gives off a hint of pine and grassiness. A hint of bread dough, and a hint of fruitiness.

Taste: The hops are more prevalent in the flavour as it gives off more of a piney bitterness that leaves a bit of a bitter metallic aftertaste. Mildly roasted malts to give it a nice red ale bite to it, sweetness from caramel and just a hint of booziness making an appearance.

Overall Thoughts: Kind of reminds me of a bunch of different beers I've had over the years. It's supposed to be aggressive in flavour.. but to me, it's actually pretty easy to drink. The most aggressive part about the beer is the metallic aftertaste, but other than that - it gets a bit sweeter the more I drink it. At $9ish, it's not bad.. I likely won't buy another one anytime soon but I'm glad I finally tried Arrogant Bastard after all these years.. and to think I almost bought a bottle down in North Dakota last month!

Lake of Bays' Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 18, 2016

Spring is here(ish) and that means that out east, so that means that maple syrup farmers out in Ontario to Nova Scotia are tapping trees to turn liquid gold sap into heavenly maple syrup! After brief stints living in Quebec over the years, I try to avoid faux syrups like Aunt Jemima’s and “table syrup” when having pancakes, crêpes or waffles. Once you’ve had tire sur neige (maple syrup taffy on snow ice-pops), you will never go back to the generic corn syrup pancake syrups ever again! The folks over at Lake of Bays Brewing out of Muskoka, Ontario have just introduced their Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale, a Belgian-style Pale Ale brewed with maple syrup sourced by the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association. I find Lake of Bays beers, including their staples such as the Crosswinds Pale Ale and Spark House Red Ale, as well as their seasonal selections such as their 10 Point IPA are simply just average, nothing special - but better alternative than the insane amount of Labatt/Molson products on the shelves today.

Lake of Bays’ Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale tops out at 7.0% ABV, which is, in my opinion pretty average alcohol content for a Belgian -style Pale Ale before being classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. The appearance of the Spring Maple is a clear golden, yet caramel body with a hint of haze, minimal amount of carbonation and just a hint of foam on the side of the glass. The aroma intriguing me a bit, the very first thing I’m getting is a bit of a rich nutty aroma that’s reminiscent to a high quality nutty peanut butter sandwich. The maple notes are somewhat sweet, more of a woody scent to it, moderate sweet maple scent to it, but not as mapley as I was expecting and a hint of caramel maltiness. The taste is giving off that peanut butter sandwich flavour again, but as it warms up, I’m beginning to notice those flavours mellow out and turn into a dark maple syrup sweetness. The maple syrup isn’t overpowering or even as syrupy as many maple syrup focused beers out there. The beer is fairly sweet and reminiscent to what a Belgian Pale Ale should taste like with notes of bubble gum, rich bready yeast, bit of a boozey burn and a hint of pepper. 

One thing I have to say though is that I’m finding the Belgian yeasts are clashing a bit with the maple syrup, which is why it had that peanut butter vibe to it, but who knows? I’m not someone who is by the book when it comes to beer styles so while a Belgian style Pale Ale with maple syrup doesn’t really make much sense, it’s certainly a great tribute to the French Canadian voyageur traditions of yesteryear that led to the popularity of Cabane à Sucres (Sugar Shacks), so cheers to that!

I like that the pale ale’s maple flavours become more noticeable as it warms up, but I just can’t get over the peanut butter notes.. but as someone who loves Belgian Pale Ales and maple syrup, it’s a nice pale ale that’s not overpowering to the palate, easy to drink and would be best savoured with a tourtière or poutine. You can find Lake of Bays’ Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale at the Brandon (Corral Centre and 10th & Victoria) Liquor Mart locations for $9.95 per 750mL bottle. 

4/5 Pints