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 all agree that craft beer is better than Bud Light.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Sometimes I don't know why I write about beer.. Sometimes writing on here just feels like the song Utilities by the Weakerthans. Aside from the Quebec beer scene, I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Then.. I remembered.. I started this blog as a way to keep my mind focused during one of the worst periods of my life. AND!! TO TRY NEW BEERS! Whenever I remember trying new beers, I get excited again.. so that's why I continue to write.
The other day I got a mysterious package in the mail, it was a toque and a bunch of beer labels from the folks over at Microbrasserie Le Trou du Diable, one of my favourite breweries! Unfortunately winter was basically over by then, but when winter returns in October, I'll be ready and strutting around town with the awesome toque! The last time a Trou du Diable beer was available here in Brandon was back in November with their La Buteuse tripel, so as you could probably tell.. I was craving for something new (to me) by the brewery. With the Manitoba election taking place, I was hoping that the Shawinigan Handshake would finally make its way into Manitoba.. no such luck but Sang d'encre stout made it into town today!
Sang d'encre loosely translates to "to be worried sick", and Jean Leloup has an awesome song with the same name.
Apparently I've never had Sang d'encre before, but I recall buying this beer a year or two ago.. so I guess one of my asshole roommates drank it on me. I love Trou du Diable's naming of styles on their labels, instead of the beer being "Irish Dry Stout" (which this beer is), it's being called an Epic Stout instead. To me, it's too late in the year for stouts.. but with there being snow every few days, spring may never arrive!
Appearance: Sang d'encre pours a very dark brown stout with a bit of a caramel/nutty brown hue to it. A bit of a light beige/cream head on top that's pretty frothy at first but then settles down leaving some residue on the side of the glassware. Heavy.
Aroma: The first thing that pops in my mind is how lactic this stout is, it reminds me of the milk stouts I've had recently - Charlevoix La Vache Folle and Black Bridge Milk Stout.. quite milky even though it's not a milk stout at all. There's also notes of roasted malt which gives it a bit of a coffee aroma to it and a hint of dark chocolate. Oh and just a hint of wet dog.
Taste: Burnt malt which gives it a bit of a char/smokey taste to it. Notes of dark chocolate, a good deal of coffee and it leaves a bitter metallic aftertaste on the tongue. Somewhat creamy for the mouthfeel.
Overall Thoughts: Quite a roasty stout with a bit of smokiness to it - though the smokiness dies down as it warms up a bit. Somewhat bitter. Not bad but if this came out two months ago rather than now, I'd probably enjoy it more. I want a wheat ale!
Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 4, 2014
Here in Manitoba, we live in Pilsner country, not as in Molson’s Old Style Pilsner country (the beer with the bunny on it) - that’s Saskatchewan, but as in prairie pilsner country. If you grew up in Manitoba like I did, you grew up around pilsener-style lagers like Labatt Blue, Kokanee, even Club and OV. When you go to a hockey or football game, a social, or your favourite bar or pub, generally they have lots of pilsner available. Pilsners have changed from your father’s Labatt Blue, lots of them now days are more true to the German style pilsners that use several varieties of hops, only the best malted 2-row prairie barley and a sweet citrus zest that makes you want more after a long hard day in the field.
Vancouver’s Steamworks Brewery now has their pilsner and pale ale available here in Manitoba. Their pilsner is rated one of the best pilsners in all of Canada and even won a gold medal at the 2012 Canadian Brewing Awards. I’m not a pilsner fan as they’re generally too light for me, and all the corny pilsners I’ve had over the years have done a toll on my stomach, my stomach turns at the smell of abundance of corn from some of the larger brewed pilsners out there.
Steamworks’ Pilsner pours just like your standard Canadian pilsner or lager, a clear, golden straw yellow body, decent amount of micro carbonation, but nowhere near as bubbly as a Kokanee or Blue. To top it off, it has a frothy off-white head. The aroma is a bit lighter than your standard Canadian pilsner but without that annoying corny aroma. It has aromas of quality Canadian barley that gives off a bit of a light straw and grassy tone to it, a hint of lemon, very earthy and a bit of a early morning summer dew vibe coming off it. The flavour is quite a bit reminiscent of what we know and love about Canadian pilsners, it has back notes of barley - the taste reminds me of going into a brewery right as the kettles are boiling to brew the beer, a very barley heavy pilsner, a pinch of lemon, quite grassy. To the average Kokanee/Blue/Canadian fan, this would be much more malty than your standard pils as there’s some sweet tones that leave a bit of an aftertaste to it. The hops are just as present as they would be in just about any other pilsner - not really there though it does owe some of its grassiness to the Hallertauer hops used. A tad bit less malty than Arden’s Farmery Lager, but a bit more hops than Farmery here.
Pilsners just don’t do it for me. I love them after a hot work day as they are incredibly refreshing and not heavy in any sense compared to a Belgian ale or a stout, but I like a bit more citrus or hops in my pilsners. My current favourite pils is Half Pints’ Phil’s Pils out of Winnipeg, that’s a very floral and flavourful pilsner that would be a bit too much for the average beer drinker out there, but for me, I can’t get enough of it. I like the medium amount of sweet maltiness coming from the 2-row malt, but I’d like more hops please! What’s surprising is that Steamworks’ Pilsner is actually more bitter than Alexander Keith’s at 30 IBU compared to Keith’s at 20 IBU, so in a way.. this beer is more of an India Pale Ale than Keith’s! 5.0% ABV. Available at Liquormarts in Brandon and Virden. $3.25 per 500mL can.
Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Brewing is coming out with some new treats in the near future, some that will shock and awe you.. if it gets past the experimental stage! Fort Garry’s Big Buddha Lager will be hitting Liquormart shelves in Brandon in the next few weeks. Big Buddha is an Asian inspired lager that has notes of ginger and lemongrass giving the beer a bit of a bite as well as a citrus zest that’s perfect just in time for the “not quite autumn” season. I tried this one the other day and if you are a ginger ale fan and tend to drink lighter lagers or pilsners, this will be the best of both worlds for you. When it comes to town, it will be $2.97 per 473mL can.
Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 8, 2014
France isn’t known about their beer, well.. I don’t honestly blame them when their wine industry is considered one of the best wine regions on the entire planet. When you’re insanely good at something, it’s hard to focus on being amazing at other things too. Beer isn’t a beverage that ever became a local staple like it has here in North America. Instead of drinking beer with a great steak dinner, it’s usually with a glass of wine. All that said - the French CAN brew beer if wine is their craft.
I’ve had several beers from France before, most of them tasted almost as bad as anything over at Minhas Creek, remember them? While most French beers make me wish I was drinking a Bud Light Chelada, not all French beers are horrible - French-Belgium and Quebec alone are considered some of the best beer-producing regions on the entire planet. Also, in France, I’ve had some decent French beers, including a smoked ale, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Kronenbourg 1664 is the most famous brand of French beers on the planet, you can find it at your local liquor store, you can sometimes find it at pubs and it’s affordable as well! Kronenbourg 1664 is your standard European lager, a bit skunky, quite grainy and some notes of corn, not an overly appetizing beer in my tastes.
Then… there’s Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, the newest beer by les Brasseries Kronenbourg. 1664 Blanc is a French take on Belgian-style witbiers. Witbiers are beers brewed with malted wheat and barley, generally unfiltered which gives the beer a cloudy appearance and a flavour of orange peel, coriander and lots of yeast. Witbiers have been a staple at Brandon pubs since 2006 when Rickard’s White came to town and now there’s several varieties of witbiers available due to demand.
Brasserie Kronenbourg’s 1664 Blanc seems to be your typical Belgian-style witbier, except for the fact that it comes in a blue bottle, that’s right! When’s the last time you had a beer from a blue bottle? Probably not recently. 1664 Blanc pours like a standard Belgian witbier, a cloudy light yellow (straw) body, thick amount of creamy white foam to give it a beautiful head (topping). From the aroma, I’m getting scents of peaches, fresh oranges and even a bit of a spicy cinnamon! Mostly, sweet tropical fruits dominate the beer’s aroma more than anything else. Taste-wise, 1664 Blanc unfortunately doesn’t live up to the aromatic hype as the beer is lacking the sweet tropical fruitiness in the taste. What I’m tasting here is a bit of a watered down wheat ale with a hint of orange peels, lots of coriander, yeast and too much sugar. It’s sweet, but not in the natural tropical fruity sweet way that I was expecting. I get an aftertaste of mostly yeast and sugar more than anything else that I notice.
For it being a beer from France, this is one of the better French beers on the market today, it’s an easy drinking wheat ale, incredibly smooth and light, tropically aromatic and a beer best enjoyed with salad, fresh fish, shellfish and Monterrey or Pepper Jack Cheese.
1664 Blanc is certainly not the best wheat ale out on the market today, but for me, being someone who loves to try beers from all over the world, it gives the beer drinker a bit of insight of how beer styles differ by region by region around the world! I’ve had this beer on tap at a pub in Winnipeg once and on tap, it was a bit more fruitier, perhaps because it served by keg instead of a blue bottle? BUT - Kronenbourg’s blue bottle really pops out at me!
Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc is 5.0% alcohol by volume, available in 330mL bottles at Liquormarts in Brandon, Neepawa and Russell for $2.26 per bottle.
Phillips Bottle Rocket India Session Ale - Described as being packed with bright, hoppy bitterness sure to ignite your tastebuds. This beer is light in colour and medium bodied but packs a hop blast sure to satisfy the most seasoned Hoprotechnician. 5% ABV. 355mL can for $2.69 at the Brandon 10th & Victoria Liquormart.
Dead Frog Classic Nut Brown Ale - This beer was previously available in Manitoba but didn’t sell well. Not only that, Dead Frog Brewing was hemorrhaging money. In 2012, the brewery asked Virden’s own Jim Treliving for help them stay afloat through CBC’s “The Big Decision”. The brewery didn’t end up partnering up with Treliving to save the brewery from closure. Instead, the brewery was restructured, stopped brewing beers that didn’t sell and tweaked the recipes of beers that were selling in the first place. The new revamped version of Classic Nut Brown Ale is a great treat for those who like a dark ale, but find stouts just a bit too thick and creamy. 5.0% ABV for a 355mL bottle. Available at the Brandon 10th & Victoria Liquormart and the Liquormart in Roblin.
It's here! It's finally here! After several years of waiting, Microbrasserie Charlevoix's world famous La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout has made its way to Manitoba!
La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout is highly regarded as one of the world's best milk stouts - in fact, imperial milk stout. I don't know what took me this long to finally try the beer.. I've had the opportunity to purchase this in Quebec several times during my bièrcations.. But for some reason never did. I had the pleasure of sampling this at the family farm - only 100 metres away from some crazy cattle!
Appearance: La Vache Folle pours a very thick, dark as night black stout, a bit of a cola brown hue and a creamy yellow-beige cookie dough foamy head on top. I expected the foamy head to be more of a burnt caramel hue, but this is great too!
Aroma: Reminiscent of most stouts I've had, it has a rich roasted malt aroma to it which gives off a burnt coffee vibe to it. Hint of dark chocolate, but most of all - it has that typical milky/lactose scent that is in every single milk stout out there.. Which is a bit of a milk aroma with a light sourness to it.
Taste: This is sweeter than your typical stout. The first thing I taste is roasted malt, giving off a heavy coffee taste to it followed by a rich chocolate milk sweetness to it. Since the stout is a whopping 9% ABV, you better bet that this has a booze burn to it.. It's a bit of a syrup sweetness with a booze burn which quickly burns the throat immediately. Somewhat acidic yet creamy - the main flavours I'm getting are roasted coffee and chocolate milk.
Overall Thoughts: Solid Imperial Milk Stout.. But with it getting as much rave reviews as it has from my beer geek friends over the years, I was expecting it to be more chocolate milky and creamy as hell on the palate. I would say that this is very comparable to Saskatchewan's Black Bridge Milk Stout for the most part. I will be buying this again!
I broke the first rule of drinking Alchemist's Heady Topper Double IPA - I poured it into a glass rather than drinking it straight from the can as the can suggests.. ah well, what a badass I am!
Heady Topper is considered one of the best beers in the world according to RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com (#5). Whenever The Alchemist does their weekly limited releases at the local beer stores in Vermont, people travel from all over the United States (and Canada) to line up before the stores open to buy a four-pack or a few flats of the DIPA. If people are willing to travel from all over just for a weekly beer release.. it has to be good!
Appearance: Heady Topper pours a very cloudy orange-golden ale which has an appearance that reminds me a bit of a Belgian witbier, perfectly unfiltered. Good amount of carbonation and it pours a thick snow white head that gradually goes down leaving a finger's worth of foam in the glass. Sorry folks - I drank this mostly from the glass (except from the remnants in the can).
Aroma: My goodness! There's an incredibly rich hop presence here. Rich notes of pine, pepper, tropical citrus notes (grapefruit with a hint of pineapple). There's an insane amount of hops in here.. something I haven't seen in an IPA for a while. Somewhat acidic and oddly spicy.
Taste: For those who haven't tried Heady Topper before, this double IPA tops out at 120 IBU.. now thaaaat's bitter! It is frankly way too bitter for my tastes but hey.. when in Vermont! I'm tasting a lot of pine, moderate amount of alfalfa, a hint of rosemary and a nice presence of pineapple and grapefruit for tropical vibes. I've sampled this cold and room temperature and when it's cold, I find it's very heavy on the stomach and burns the esophagus almost immediately. At room temperature, it's easier for me to handle because I actually had to drain pour one can of Heady Topper because it made me gag to the point that I actually barfed.. that's not good!
Overall Thoughts: I'm a bit surprised that this is rated the #5 best beer according to BeerAdvocate.com, but that being said.. this is an insanely delicious IPA if you can handle the 120 IBU bitterness. Will I ever wait in line to get another four pack of this? I couldn't tell you but if I'm in Winooski and it happens to be a Heady Topper day, I probably will.. or else I will just get one of my Montreal buddies to pick me up a can. My esophagus is starting to feel the burning.. hello there hops! 8.0% ABV
Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 4, 2016
Among the new releases, Molson has released a John H.R. Molson & Bros 1908 Pale Ale — brewed according to the brewmaster’s recipes dating back to 1908 and using hops from Oregon, Canada and the U.K. to give it a light bitterness reminiscent to beers savoured back in 1908. The 1908 Pale Ale is easily one of the best Molson products I’ve had in a long time. Microbrasserie Charlevoix’s award winning La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout is now available in Brandon! La Vache Folle is rated among one of the top milk stouts in the world. Out of Ontario, Sawdust City Brewing has two beers available including a Skinny Dippin’ Oatmeal Stout and Ol’Woody Altbier, this marks the first time that Sawdust City’s beers have been available in Manitoba. My favourite saison, La Saison de la Ceinture Fléchée by Winnipeg’s Half Pints is back in Brandon. You can actually find La Saison on tap at SUDS at Brandon University as well!
The most interesting new release to me is a beer I had four years back - Route des Épices by Quebec microbrewery Dieu du Ciel. Route des Épices is one of the top five strangest beers I’ve ever had in my life. Essentially, Route des Épices is a rye pale ale brewed with black and green peppercorns. So, you’re probably already thinking “eww Cody, that’s just weird, who would want peppercorns in their beer?” Well, I’m not sure who would, but that’s what I love about beer - it can be just about anything you can think of!
Route des Épices’ body pours a rich nutty brown with a nice cherrywood reddish hue to it. For the head, it’s a minimal amount of beige foam with a good deal of carbonation taking place. The aroma is a combination of rye malt and.. pepper. Rye malt is already known for being a bit spicier grain than barley or wheat, so to add black and green peppercorns to the mix just makes it a spice-filled ale. The aroma is a bit reminiscent of Rogue’s Chipotle Ale that was readily available in Manitoba until two years back. Aside from the aroma of rye and pepper, I find that there’s a faint note of ginger and caramel as well. The initial thoughts on the taste was that it was for sure a rye pale ale as it had grainy, moderately sweet and caramel flavour to it. However, the peppercorns quickly overtook the rye almost immediately, so here I’m getting the taste of freshly ground pepper, a moderate amount of burning sensation on the tongue from the peppercorns and even a lingering aftertaste of pepper. So as you can tell, this is a spicy, peppery beer with a bit of a rye bite to it.
If you are adventurous about beers like I am, go out and buy a four-pack. If you aren’t adventurous about beer at all, do NOT buy this beer. Why? Well.. When’s the last time you had a peppery beer? Exactly. I’ve known people who took one sip of this, gagged and poured the rest down the drain. If you want to try it, which I do suggest to the more adventurous beer drinkers here in Westman, buy the four pack, give the other three bottles to other adventurous beer drinking friends and just try to pick out the different flavours you notice in this strange peppery rye pale ale. This is why I love Dieu du Ciel, they make beers that they want to make, beers with interesting and outlandish flavours, not beers that will sell by the flat within minutes. Do you love spicy food and love great beer? Well, then this beer is for you! Route des Épices is available at Liquor Marts in Brandon for $10.93 per 341mL four-pack. 5.3% ABV
He's just some random photos of the beers I've tasted back in 2008. Some of them were done here back in Manitoba, many were while in Quebec City. This seriously brings back some serious memories
|Big Rock Winter Spice Ale|
|Corona y lime|
|Triple fisting beer|
|Unibroue Éphémère Framboise (Raspberry)|
|Unibroue "U" Blonde Pilsner - REVIEW|
|Unibroue Quatre Centième beer released for the 400th birthday of Quebec's founding|
|Cheap as hell for swilly swill|
A few years back, the folks over at Dépanneur Peluso celebrated their 30th anniversary. To celebrate 30 years of being awesome, they worked with Les Brasseurs Illimités and introduced the Peluso 30 Imperial Stout for the anniversary. Now days, Dépanneur Peluso is highly regarded as one of the top beer stores in all of Canada and it's no surprise because they carry over 400 beers brewed in Quebec and have staff who absolutely love talking about beer day and night.
I picked up a bottle of the Pelsuo 30 Imperial Stout aux Griottes when I was in Montreal last April, so it's probably aged and changed a bit in the 11 months since I got it. That's what imperial stouts are about!
Appearance: Pours a rich black with a light cola brown hue to it. The foamy head starts off a burnt caramel brown but gradually changes to a light cookie dough brown as the foam settles a bit.
Aroma: I'm getting a rich, dark roasted stout with hints of campfire smokiness, a hint of dark chocolate/cocoa.. and for it being a cherry stout, there's only a hint of cherry sweetness (no tartness).
Taste: A woody flavour is the first thing I notice which actually turns into more of a roasted malt flavour as I'm letting the stout warm up. It's a bitter roasty stout with notes of dark chocolate/mocha, fairly watery mouthfeel on the palate compared to your typical creamy imperial stout and unlike the aroma, I'm getting faint sour cherry notes here and there. I don't know how to compare the sour cherry flavour as it's not your typical kriek/Belgian sour cherry sort of tart/sourness, it's more of a dried cherries in a granola bar sort of tartness. The cherries really don't play much of a role in this stout, the roasty maltiness is front and centre.
Overall Thoughts: Comparing it with reviews all over the internet, I'm the only one that seems to notice a bit of a smoky/campfire vibe in the stout. Of course, this stout has been aged for a bit, but I absolutely love smoky stouts so can't go wrong with that. I wish the griottes (cherries) made more of a presence in the stout, but since it made a presence in both the aroma and taste, that's fine by me. Peluso 30 tops out at 9.3% ABV.. which actually makes it the 3rd strongest beer/mead I've had tonight!
The folks over at Molson came out with the John H. R. Molson & Bros 1908 Historic Pale Ale which is described as being a strong and unfiltered historic pale ale from a recipe found deep in the Molson archives. Seeing that breweries like Sleeman have been open to using old centuries old recipes for quite some time now, it looks like Molson is doing the same. I think this will possibly turn into a new series for Molson where they bring recipes that our ancestors were drinking over a century ago. As it is, Molson's sales are slipping compared to buyout hungry Labatt and beer geeks my age aren't going out of their way to drink Molson Canadian or Coors Light - or any beer that our parents drank when they were our age, so of course it makes sense that they would bring back recipes that would cater to this generation's beer geeks? Most beer geeks won't be drinking this beer anyways but for me.. I have to check it out because.. well.. people want to know!
Appearance: The 1908 Historic Pale Ale pours a bit of a somewhat cloudy amber ale, bit of an orange hue. Good amount of whiteish-beige head.
Aroma: A very grainy pale ale. There's some notes of a barley grainery, a hint of caramel malt sweetness, as well as a bit of a angel food cake bready sweetness, grassy hops, hint of lemon and a bit of a musky yeast.
Taste: This is a bit reminiscent to the Fort Garry 1930s Frontier Pilsner that was available in Manitoba a few years back - very grain forward. As this is an unfiltered pale ale.. of course the grains would stand out more than in a "typical macro" take on the beer. Notes of saltine crackers, a mild grassy hop bitterness, lemon, hint of pepper and French baguette. Surprisingly bitter for aftertaste as it was much more neutral and grassy in the aroma.
Overall Thoughts: Not your father's beer, for sure. While I'd love to bash this beer and make this a "Skunksworth's Barleyslime" post.. but this is a solid pale ale with a good amount of noticeable grassy hop bitterness and a medley of different flavours that make it very enjoyable to drink. I appreciate that Molson has been making some effort to open up and brew styles of beers that today's beer geek wants to try. Your average beer geek will walk past this beer and never try it.. but at under $3.41 for a 625mL bottle, it's really affordable. It tops out at 6.8% ABV, stronger than the typical Molson non-malt product. Will we see more offerings from the John H. R. Molson & Bros line? Probably. I'd like to see a porter.
I'm slowly reviewing the beers I brought home from my beercation in Vermont. Let's start off with Sip of Sunshine IPA by Lawson's Finest Liquids out of Warren, Vermont. Sip of Sunshine is brewed for Lawson's by Two Roads Brewing out of Stratford, CT.
Appearance: Sip of Sunshine pours a cloudy orangeish with a bit of a hint of an amber hue to it. Bit foamy as it's being poured but it goes down fairly gradually, leaving a quarter of a finger's worth of foam as it warms up a bit.. though this beer is recommended to be drunk cold. Thankfully it's still cold!
Aroma: A parfumic IPA with notes of pineapple, tangerine, grapefruit and pine. Sweeter than most Double IPAs on the market.. and at 8% ABV, I feel this should be classified more as a double IPA than a regular IPA.
Taste: Wow is how I can describe it. The name "Sip of Sunshine" truly describes the beer. It's a hoppy IPA with a large malt focus in it. It's sweet, it's bitter, it's a party in your mouth. I'm getting the same notes as I found in the aroma - pineapple, tangerine and pine. It's also a bit soapy and I'm finding that the aftertaste is a bitter pine and metallic taste. Somewhat creamy for the mouthfeel.. and quickly getting a bit of a hop burn in my throat.. time to get out the TUMS!
Overall Thoughts: I rated this 4.5/5 on Untappd.. this is a remarkable IPA. It's high in hoppy bitterness but it allows for the tropical notes to come out as the star of the show. No wonder why people rave about Lawson's Finest Liquids.. this is simply a masterpiece in a can! Tops out at a whopping 8.0% ABV and surprisingly only 65 IBU.
Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, January 15, 2016
Remember back when everyone was predicting that this would be a warmer than average winter? Yeah, so did I! Well, we haven’t had any full on -40C days yet, so I’m thankful for that! Winters in Manitoba are cold, long and even depressing and gloomy - but hey.. we’re Manitoba! That being said, every winter I crave a nice hot vacation or a strong heavy Belgian ale that tops out at around 12 percent ABV. Unfortunately I’m too broke for a hot vacation - even though I’m heading to Montreal and Vermont on Monday for poutine, smoked meat sandwiches, beer and iced cider. I wish there was a tropical paradise that had a rich craft brewing history.. oh wait, Hawaii has several! Not only that, Maui Brewing out of Kihei on Maui Island in Hawaii has two completely opposite beers that you can find locally - CoConut Porter, a rich robust porter that has rich notes of toasted coconut, freshly roasted coffee and a hint of dark chocolate. I sampled this beer at Torque Brewing’s Brewmaster Matt’s place on New Years Day and enjoyed every sip of it.. though I wish it had more of an abundance of toasted coconut as it was slim to nil. Then there’s also Mana Wheat, a wheat ale brewed with pineapple juice to give it a sweet, citrusy zest.
This week I’m taking on Mana Wheat because.. well, I wish I was in a tropical destination with the roar of the ocean in my sight. With the slogan “Where’s my ukelele?” on the can, this is a beer that’s meant to enjoy, relax and savour. Pouring the Mana Wheat, it’s showing as a light, mostly-filtered wheat ale with only a hint of cloudiness in it. There’s a good amount of carbonation taking place with the beer leaving a thin amount of snow white head on the top of the glass. The aroma is like being at a small ocean side café for breakfast as it has a bit of a fruit salad with mostly pineapple, apple and I think a hint of pear. I’m also getting some wheat husk graininess in the aroma as well as a very light grassy hop note to it, making this a very easy to.. uh.. smell beer. The taste gives off more of the graininess of the wheat as it’s giving me a bit of a light biscuit flavour, as well as a hint of pepper from the yeast being used in this beer. The tropical flavours are kind of mixed for me as I’m getting a great presence of pineapple juice in the beer.. but I’m also getting a bit of a medicinal bitterness for an aftertaste which makes me cringe… but the bitter aftertaste is only there momentarily.
There’s a lot of fruity wheat beers available in Manitoba ranging from Belgian witbiers (orange), German hefeweizens (banana) and radlers (grapefruit), but this is one of the few fruity wheat ales I’ve had that actually uses pineapple as one of the main aspects of the beer recipe. Aside from the hint of medicinal aftertaste, this is a very easy to drink wheat ale that would be best suited on a beach on a hot 30C afternoon. You can find Maui’s Mana Wheat at Liquor Marts in Brandon (10th & Victoria), Dauphin and Russell for an affordable $2.75 per 355mL can. 5.5% ABV
If you would also like to try Maui’s CoConut porter to help with the wintertime shivvers, you can find it at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart for $3.49 per 355mL can. 6.0% ABV
I've wanted to visit Unibroue for several years now but unfortunately - they don't give tours. I've contacted them in the past and each time I got the same response: "Sorry, but we don't give tours at this time." So with that.. I never thought I would ever get a chance to visit the Unibroue brewery in Chambly. On the Monday of my bièrcation, mon ami Alex texted me as soon as I arrived at the Winnipeg airport to head my way to Montreal asking me if I was still in the city on Wednesday.. yeah, I was. He told me that Sylvain, the beer sommelier at Unibroue was available and wanted to give me a personal tour! As you could tell, I was ecstatic!
Here's my visit to the Unibroue brewery in Chambly, Quebec. There's a lot of similar photos, but I just had to upload whatever I had!
Here's Unibroue's Beer Sommelier Sylvain getting a bottle of Blanche de Chambly ready to be made into a Blanche de Chambly mimosa.. a great way to start off the morning!
Here's a few things I learned about Blanche de Chambly on my visit:
- It was the first commercial Belgian-style witbier brewed in North America, introduced in 1992. It would pre-date Coors' Blue Moon (Belgian Moon) by three years and Shock Top by fourteen years!
- It's naturally carbonated in the bottle and keg without the help of CO2. This means that the beer sticks around in the warehouse for two weeks or longer fermenting to give it a good natural carbonation. This is also one of the reasons why you sometimes see certain batches gushing if it's not chilled to the proper temperature.
View of the tasting room. This is the kind of atmosphere I love for pubs. Too bad it's not open to the public.
As soon as we were done our Chambly mimosas, Sylvain took me on a tour of the brasserie. I knew the Sleeman Unibroue plant was big, but it was larger than any brewery I've ever been to. When I showed up, they were just about to start working on their newest batch of Blanche de Chambly. The Mash & Boiling room smelled like being at the farm, a dank, grainy, oatmeally aroma. Like most other breweries, if their suppliers run out of their preferred style of hop or malt for their beer, they have to improvise and brew accordingly. Generally I find Unibroue's beer tastes consistent batch to batch, but it does make sense as I've noticed subtle changes of the recipe for Don de Dieu and Blonde de Chambly over the years.
Also, Unibroue has their own lab dedicated exclusively to working with new strains of yeast. Of course with beer geeks loving everything Brett lately, I asked if they've been working on recipes with Brett yeast, yep.. they have been. I'm still not used to Brett yeast though.. being in Manitoba there's a grand total of zero Brett beers at the liquor store.
In the mash/boil room, I got to try a sample of the coriander and ground orange peel that they use for the Blanche de Chambly.. it was very very rich.
I was absolutely floored when I saw the fermenting room, the tanks were larger than most grain bins I see back on the prairies.. they were about (I guessed) 4-5 stories tall.
Do you know why most Canadian beer bottles have that white line near the bottom? That's to indicate that the bottle has been re-used several times already. The whiter the line, the more it's been used. The average 341mL bottle lasts up to 15 fills, mostly less. With Unibroue's beers, the lower ABV beers, the discount brands and the macros use re-used bottles, while the higher ABV beers like Maudite, Trois Pistoles and La Fin du Monde use brand new glass bottles. Here's an image to show it.
The Sleeman Unibroue plant also washes empties that were returned to them from dépanneurs from all over Quebec. They remove the label, make sure the bottles are in perfect condition, don't have items stuck in the bottle, wash the bottles out and inspect the bottles again to make sure they are perfect. Following that, the bottles head to the bottling line where the beer of the day will be filled.
|Filled to capped within seconds|
On a given day, Unibroue can bottle up to 20,000 (1,666 12-packs) bottles of beer per hour. While I was there, they were bottling Old Milwaukee and Old Milwaukee Light. Whenever the bottling line needs to switch from 341mL capped bottles to 750mL corked bottles or vice versa, the whole operation to switch the bottling line only takes about half an hour to change over.
|Unibroue 750mL corked cage topper|
A few years back, Sleeman Unibroue purchased a million-dollar kegging machine that cleans, sanitizes, fills and even helps stack the kegs. Before the keg machine was purchased, Unibroue was filling about 100 kegs per day. Due to spillage and inconsistencies (ie bottom of the batch of beer), they lost 16 kegs (16 20L kegs) per day... which adds up to an insane amount of money.. quickly. With the new system, they can do several hundred kegs per day and there's 99% fill rate.
Since Unibroue's top brands are naturally carbonated in the bottle, once the beers are packaged, they are sent to the warehouse for up to several weeks before being shipped all over North America. Every day the quality control team meets up to test the batches of the one, five, fourteen and beyond day old bottles to see how the beer has turned out. Once it passes their tests, it can be sent out to be sold.
I mentioned to Sylvain that I seem to have bad luck with gushing bottles of Unibroue once in a while. He honestly never heard of that being an issue with Unibroue products - except if the beer was too warm (ie room temperature) when being opening. Oddly enough, as soon as Sylvain opened up a bottle of cold La Terrible, it started gushing like I explained. So now he can't say "our beer doesn't gush!" La Terrible was absolutely amazing.. I haven't had it in 3 years, so having a sample of a three year old bottle was a real treat!
I never thought I would say that I enjoyed a bottle of Old Milwaukee Light.. but I actually did! Sampling a bottle of Old Milwaukee Light that was fresh from the bottling line was actually.. decent.
Honestly, I really never ever expected to get to visit the Unibroue brewery.. and get a tour! After the years of "sorry, we don't give out tours" emails I've received.. I really didn't expect to ever get a personal tour. I don't know how much Unibroue I've sampled in my life.. but according to Untappd, 670 of the 3,700 beers I've checked in were all Unibroue beers. I guess I really really like their beer that much?
Thanks to Alex for getting in touch with Beer Sommelier Sylvain, and for Sylvain for going out of his way on his insanely busy schedule to show me around the brewery and sample beer first thing in the morning!
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