Review: Brasserie Vrooden Weizen White Ale

Quebec's beer scene continues to be overwhelming for me, I could give myself an entire month to try as many Quebec breweries as I possibly could and I would still somehow miss out on an obscure nanobrewery that just opened up last week. I may be located in Manitoba but as I've said to a few of my beer geek friends - I've spent substantially more time in Montreal in the past two years than Winnipeg. Sure, Winnipeg is only a two hour drive but when I'm in Winnipeg, I'm generally in the city for an hour or two at most. I don't feel like I belong in the Winnipeg beer scene but somehow I feel like I feel part of the Montreal scene if I'm only ever there maybe two full weeks per year.

Brasserie Vrooden is one of Quebec's newer breweries, located in Granby, Quebec. They pride themselves on doing mostly traditional German-style beers which may be a bit boring for a lot of people.. but German-style beers are generally very solid, so of course there's a market for that! I discovered Brasserie Vrooden's beers while in Ange-Gardien at Marché du Village, a rural grocery store that boasts one of the better beer selections in all of Quebec.. a cage with vintage aged beer, a good deal of hard liquor and even a walk in cooler if you absolutely need a cold two-four of Bud Light right now. I grew up near towns the size of Ange-Gardien and Marché du Village would only be a dream out here in Manitoba. *sigh*

Since I was heading back to Manitoba the next day, I only picked up a bottle of their Weizen because the brewery was too new for me so I wouldn't know if I liked it or not.. so here we go!

Appearance: Vrooden's Weizen pours a cloudy, ambery orange ale with a good deal of head to start off with - a beige head that gently diminishes leaving by a finger's worth of head later on. This is quite dark for your typical German style hefe but so far it looks great!

Aroma: The very first thing that I noticed when opening the bottle was the earthy banana aroma.. so yep, this is a hefeweizen! Very estery, some herbal notes, a bit of clove, earthy hops, great deal of wheat and sweet dough in the mix.

Taste: Clove makes the very first impression for the flavour but it's quickly dominated by the banana zest. A mildly sweet, bananay beer with a hint of caramel. It's very easy to drink, light creaminess, minimal aftertaste that's mostly a cracked wheat taste to it.

Overall Thoughts: Very solid hefeweizen. It's very easy to drink and doesn't have that fake banana candy taste in it that you see in a lot of hefeweizens (phew!). Fairly creamy, a bit earthy a bit of a breadiness to it. I like the natural banana taste in here and I appreciate that it's not over the top like many hefeweizens you see on the market - it lets you know that there's notes of banana the second it hits your palate but it immediately mellows out.

Review: Brasserie Dunham's Saison Rustique

Brasserie Dunham's beers have been available in Manitoba since September and I had the pleasure of visiting the brewery with Alex & Alexe back in June. So here I am wondering why I haven't reviewed this beer (Saison Rustique) sooner than I did. Well, for some reason whenever I bought a bottle of Saison Rustique, I ended up drinking it on a night where I was getting a bit too tipsy for my own good, and for some strange reason I felt that it didn't really taste like anything.. but I was drinking the beer straight out of the bottle, which isn't good if you want to actually experience the beer!

Dunham's Saison Rustique runs for about $8.50 per 750mL bottle which is reasonable considering I regularly spend $7 on Unibroue beers without blinking and there's the times I've spent $28 on a six pack of Dieu du Ciel in the past... The saison tops out at 6.0% ABV and 38 IBU.

Appearance: A cloudy light straw ale with a heavy amount of snow white head that makes it reminiscent of a big snowbank after a prairie blizzard. A light amount of fizzing, surprisingly not gushing considering the amount of foam I got out of it.

Aroma: The aroma takes me back to the brewery! It's a citrusy, barnyard, hay-filled saison that has a bit of clove/banana, lots of lemon and even a bit of pepper to it.. and a hint of Miss Vickie's Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar chips as well.

Taste: This is your typical modern saison. I'm more of a citrus/near witbier saison fan but I'm finally starting to enjoy the barnyard funk flavours many of the modern saisons have now days.. but it's likely due to the memories of where I am when I'm drinking those very saisons. The saison has a great deal of lemon zest, a hint of spice like pepper, a light amount of soap, fresh-from-the-grain-bin wheat and a bit of an earthy hop presence.

Overall Thoughts: Seriously underrated here in Manitoba, I need to buy this more seeing that nobody else is (unfortunately) but I don't have the money to buy it regularly! It's a great example of what most Quebec saisons taste like now days. It's pretty heavy on the stomach so it's best shared with friends.

Review: Sleeman India Pale Ale

It was Christmas 2005 when I first tried an India Pale Ale that wasn't an Alexander Keith's. The folks over at Sleeman introduced an IPA under the "John Sleeman Presents" line. I still remember the first time trying it - I found that it was a hard beer to handle.. even a bit exhausting. At the time I found Sleeman beers had a bit more maltiness/character to it so I drank a lot of their beer during that period, but with the IPA, I found it difficult because it had a flavour I just wasn't used to in a beer - bitterness. I still remember finding the beer very bitter and while I could generally easily drink a six pack of Sleeman, this one I could only handle one per session. Later on I became a fan of real IPAs, but I feel like this beer was the stepping stone for me back when hops were just an afterthought in an IPA. Now the IPA is back in their winter mix pack so I had to splurge and buy the case just for the IPA alone. Their Spiced Ale was interesting but I'd rather just stick to their Unibroue products now days.

Appearance: The IPA pours a light golden caramel ale with a light amount of carbonation and just a hint of beige head.

Aroma: With this being considered an English IPA, I do notice a light amount of hop bitterness that certainly gives it more bite than almost every other Sleeman product that has ever existed. It's a grassy, alfalfa floral bitterness with just a faintness of pine, sweet caramel malt with a bit of a scone breadiness to it. Light but it brings me back the memories of the times I had this beer from 2005-2008.

Taste: It's more malt forward than hop. It's a bit sweet and caramelly, bready yet has a light bitterness to it that gently tingles the tongue. It's more of a grassy profile here than pine. The hops are mostly present in the aftertaste more than anything so for the typical Manitoban beer drinker.. this would actually still be too harsh!

Overall Thoughts: I've tried hundreds of different IPAs ever since I last had this in December 2008 but this beer is one of those ones that just brings back memories of when I was someone who never expected to ever be called a beer snob.. nor did I think I'd be writing about beer only a few years later. I wish the hops were more present the second the beer hits the tongue but I do like that there's a noticeable bitterness lingering for the aftertaste. I don't think I'll be nostalgic in a few years about this beer again though..

5.3% ABV, 35 IBU

Big Rock Traditional Ale Review

My favourite thing about living in Manitoba in winter is that if you want to quickly chill beer but you don’t have enough fridge space, putting the beers out into the snow will help chill it at a quick rate, especially on the -25C evenings we’ve been having lately. However, you have to remember to bring the beer indoors or else the beer will… freeze. I had this happen to me tonight, I love to chill beer outdoors in the wintertime because it gives all beers a nice cold snap to the palate (tastebuds/tongue/whatever you want to call it). I kept my beer out in the snow for so long that the beer froze completely, which is never a good thing. Beer also loses flavour once it has been frozen, so it’s always best to check on your beer every 10-15 minutes, even if it means that you have to go outdoors

This week’s frozen beer is Big Rock’s Traditional Ale. Big Rock is already one of most popular and largest Canadian-owned breweries out there but lately the brewery has seem to hit quarter life crisis. First off, the brewery decided that it needed to open a second brewery in BC to compete with Canada’s biggest craft beer boom, which is understandable. For the rest of us, Big Rock re-designed everything from their beer label artwork to bringing in custom made 330ml beer bottles to show off a bit of uniqueness that we see from Sleeman and Moosehead. They’re also bringing new beers, with Fowl Mouth ESB coming to Manitoba in the coming days. 

Thankfully one thing Big Rock did not change is the recipe to their popular Traditional Ale. The Traditional Ale was a pub staple for me dating back to my days at BU when I would spend more time at SUDS than studying for exams. Traditional Ale was its own kind of beer, it was darker than the rest, it was sweeter and it was very easy to drink. 

Over the years Traditional Ale didn’t sell as well as other beers at pubs when Alexander Keith’s, Bud Light and others started dominating the market more while Moosehead and Big Rock saw lacklustre sales. Now it’s 2014 and Big Rock wants to get back its beer drinkers of the past by rebranding the product and hoping the brand-spanking-new bottles will attract a new group of beer drinkers.

I tend to buy Traditional Ale when the Victoria Avenue LC has an Air Miles event for the product because hey.. beer + Air Miles = possible beer vacation (beercation or bièrcation pour les francophones) one day. Since Big Rock decided to move from the standard long neck 341mL bottles for an embossed 330mL bottle, you do lose that 11mL of beer, but most of us won’t notice that, but the main thing people will notice is that you will need a bottle opener to pry off the top! As for taste and appearance, the beer pours a clear honey red with a decent amount of carbonation taking place. I taste notes of caramel, lightly bitter from the grassy hop flowers, a bit of a toasty breadiness and just a hint of vanilla & toffee. It’s not too strong on the taste buds so if you are looking for a full bodied ale that’s not heavy on the stomach, has a slight British tavern sort of taste to it AND tastes great alongside ribs and wings this is a great beer that I know will be popular on chilly Saturday nights in front of the TV or at the pub. Costs $11.64 before taxes for six 330mL bottles. You can find it at your local beer vendors and most Brandon Liquormarts. 

3/5 Pints

New beer release:

Fort Garry has released their newest ale, Big Bison ESB, a sweet, malty English-style bitter. This is the newest beer in Fort Garry’s popular Brewmasters Series. The beer will cost $6.55 for a 650mL bottle. The beer is an exclusive to Manitoba Liquormarts, so keep an eye out for the beer as the beer won’t be around for long!

Review: Garrison & Beau's Sweet Rye'd Collaboration

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, October 21, 2016

Review: Torque Diesel Fitter Stout

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, October 7, 2016

Last week, Torque Brewing’s canned beer made their very first appearance in Brandon! Torque’s not distributing to Westman yet but they are hoping to be available on tap and in cans throughout Westman ASAP (meaning next year, maybe). Instead, an awesome MLLC rep brought several dozen Torque beers to Brandon to be sold at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart to give local beer geeks another sample of the brewery’s beer for those who missed out on the partial tap takeover a few weeks back! Torque’s Witty Belgian witbier, Witching Hour Dark Pumpkin Ale and Diesel Fitter American Stout all made it to Brandon. Witching Hour is already out of stock and Diesel Fitter and Witty Belgian are the only remaining beers at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart until Torque starts distributing to Brandon in the near future, which hopefully is sooner rather than later.

The days are getting shorter and colder so it’s the perfect time to review Torque’s Diesel Fitter American Stout. The stout tops out at a modest 6.5% ABV and a surprising 65 IBU which makes it more bitter than many India Pale Ales out there. The stout pours a rich, dark as night black stout that’s heavy and with a nice full cookie dough beige head that just screams “winter is coming!!!” The aroma is roasted malt forward giving off notes of coffee, chocolate/cocoa powder, vanilla and a surprisingly liberal amount of earthy hops. The flavour profile starts off with a rich roasted maltiness that, like the aroma gives off a good coffee and chocolate flavour to it, just like a mocha - rich and creamy. There’s a great deal of earthy hops popping up giving off a taste that I can only describe as what reminds me of “dead grass and leaves right before the first snowfall of the year”.. yeah, it sounds weird but it just has a flavour profile that forces you to accept that winter will be here in a few weeks. The stout is quite a bit more bitter than your typical stout.

The only complaint I’ve heard about this stout was “this stout is too bitter”, which is a valid comment but they’re going a different direction than most of the other stouts you can get in Manitoba. The stout still has that rich, creamy, roasted malt & chocolate profile that you see on just about every stout but with the incredible 65 IBU (bitterness rating), it’s going to intrigue some people but likely annoy others. For some reason whenever I savour this beer, it reminds me a lot of another beer.. then I realized it.. it reminded me of a mashup of Fort Garry’s Kona Stout and Half Pints’ Stir Stick Stout.. which shouldn’t be much of a surprise as two of Torque’s brew technicians created and worked on Fort Garry’s Kona Stout for many years. I was lucky enough to try Diesel Fitter at Flatlanders Beer Festival in Winnipeg back in June and I have to say that the beer has come a long way since then.. to the point where you probably won’t be able to buy any Diesel Fitter Stout at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart this weekend because I liked this beer a bit too much that I bought six cans over the past week. In coming weeks, if we're lucky.. you will find Diesel Fitter, Witty Belgian, What the Helles Lager and others becoming permanent fixtures at Liquor Marts, beer vendors and bars throughout Brandon and Westman so this is a sneak peak of what to expect. For now, you can find this on tap at many of Winnipeg’s pubs including Barley Brothers, Peg Beer Co and in can at Liquor Marts throughout Winnipeg and at beer vendors such as the Quality Inn Beer Store off of Grant and Pembina Avenue. $3.71 per 473mL can

4.5/5 Pints

Molson Canadian Cider

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, April 24, 2015

Our taste buds are evolving at a fast pace — to the point that in order to retain as many of their once loyal beer drinkers, large breweries such as Molson, Labatt and even Big Rock have had to expand their product portfolio, test out new flavours and styles of beer, and even bring out products that aren’t even beer at all. In Canada, cider is slowly gaining drinkers and various breweries are starting to catch on.

Big Rock’s Rock Creek Dry Cider is among one of the first big cider brands to be brewed in Canada, and to this very day it’s one of the most popular ciders in the country. Molson brought out Molson Canadian Cider last autumn, when cider demand tends to be at its peak and it appears that the product is here to stay. I’ve seen several Molson products come and go (Molson Kick, Molson M, Molson Canadian Wheat) over the years due to lack of interest but cider is a beverage that I can only see becoming more popular over time.

I don’t usually review Molson products because hey.. everyone has tried them. I like to be fair and since this is a newish product that I haven’t even tried before, I’m as intrigued to see how it turns out.

Molson Canadian Cider pours a clear golden straw yellow, just like your standard Molson Canadian, or apple juice. There’s a decent amount of carbonation taking place giving it a bit of light foam on top. The aroma of the cider is quite strong, I get a big whiff of various Canadian grown apples like McIntosh or Granny Smith, it’s sweet, it’s aromatic and has a light tart aroma in the background. It also has a bit of a sparkling champagne zest as it slowly warms up. The flavour is surprisingly mellow with nice sweet apples coming off top here. There’s a hint of tartiness to give it a bit of bite, but all in all: Molson Canadian Cider is very easy to drink, not overly bitter or tart, has a great homemade apple juice flavour to it that I like. Sweet, goes well on the patio and since it’s not as bitter as some European ciders available locally - it’s very easy on the palate.

I’m judgemental about Molson, but Molson Canadian Cider is easily one of their better products I've had. I can see one day ciders being a lower calorie alternative to fruity alcohol/malt coolers.. and with natural ingredients - it’s only a matter of time ciders will catch on. I’m not an expert on ciders at all so it’s great to try something that not only I enjoyed, but I believe those wanting to try ciders for the first time will also enjoy this. I just wish their beer was as flavourful as this. 5.0% ABV and available in 473mL cans at most Liquor Mart locations for $3.95. 3.5/5 Pints

What’s new at the LC? 
Amsterdam Fracture Imperial IPA - An intensely bitter, hoppy Imperial IPA with notes of grapefruit and pine. A whopping 9% ABV and $3.25 per 355mL bottle at Liquor Marts in Brandon.

Cannery Anarchist Amber Ale - My favourite brewery from the Okanagan is now back in Manitoba after a three year hiatus. Cannery’s Anarchist Amber Ale is a full bodied amber ale with notes of sweet caramel and lightly roasted barley. $6.25 per 650mL bottle at Liquor Marts in Brandon.

Tree Captivator Doppelbock - Another treat from the Okanagan. This is a sweet, caramelly, dark fruity beer. 8% ABV and $5.06 per 650mL bottle at Liquormarts in Brandon.

Unibroue Éphémère Poire (Pear) - Coming soon to Brandon LCs, a pear flavoured wheat ale that will be a thirst quencher on hot summer afternoons. 5.5% ABV and $5.70 per 750mL bottle.

Review: Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker Wheat Ale

With a name like Passion Fruit Kicker, it sounds more of a summer time vodka cooler rather than a tropical Wheat Ale, but hey - Green Flash Brewing makes some damned good beers, so here we go!

Appearance: Passion Fruit Kicker pours a completely cloudy pineapple juice yellow ale with a minimal amount of white head keeping in touch with only one of side of the glass - less than minimal at best.

Aroma: Very tropical and fruity. I'm getting notes of passion fruit, pineapple, a hefty amount of wheat, lemon and a hint of raspberry. For the hop presence - zilch. For some reason I thought this was going to be an IPA, so I guess I'm not disappointed by the lack of hop presence here.

Taste: I'm getting the sweetness of the passionfruit in here big time, pineapple, raspberry, lemon, wheat and a bit of banana.

Overall Thoughts: Very straight forward, it's a full-on passion fruit and tropical fiesta in a beer bottle. Great for summer time patio drinks and would easily be loved by those who love radlers and by those who love putting orange wedges in their wheat ales. Quite sweet, very fruity and makes me wish I was on a beach in the Caribbean right now.

Review of Beau's Oktoberfest Mix Pack (2016)

Today I'm taking a look at Beau's Oktoberfest Mix Pack which features four beers, their Vienna Style Lager, Return of the Mummeh ale, Ginger Wolf Hopfenweisse and One Ping Only Baltic Porter

Farm Table: Vienna Style Lager
4.7% ABV

I'm a hard sell when it comes to lagers because I just love a beer with overwhelming qualities - hops, malt and even other ingredients to give it a zing to it. So you almost never see me going to the LC to buy a lager.. but once in while I will go and pick up a bottle of Lug Tread because there's a certain kind of mood I get in where Lug Tread just fits the needs. First off tonight is Vienna Style Lager from their Farm Table series.

Appearance: Pours golden orange with a very minimal amount of carbonation in the beer itself but for the head itself it gives off a nice moderate snow white head at the beginning but quickly diminishes to a bit of a white skim on top. It leaves behind a good amount of lacing on the side of the glassware as it's being reviewed.

Aroma: Smells like what I expected from a Vienna-style lager.. it smells like a Vienna style lager. It has a sweet malt to it with a sharp yet hint of nuttiness, some herbal notes, a bit of earthy autumny aroma, hint of honey and a bit of grassiness. Stronger than your typical lager but not something I would seek out so far.

Taste: The taste starts off with the nuttiness again with a toasted barley flavour to it. Fairly sweet with honey, a crispness reminiscent to a typical North American lager, faint hop aroma that's mostly a grassy flavour to it and a very light woody finish.

Overall Thoughts: Not my style as you already can tell but I didn't dislike drinking this beer, in fact - it was a bit complex at times where I had to second guess myself on what flavours and aromas I was trying to taste/smell.

Wild Oats: Return of the Mumme
5.8% ABV

I've never had a Mumme style beer before so this is a new game to me! Beau's describes it as a medieval-era ale with a bouquet of botanicals including red clover blossom, mugwort, dandelion root, black tea, applewood, this beer is spice-forward with balancing residual malt sweetness.

Appearance: Incredibly murky like watery mud but if you put it against a light, it's more of a reddish caramel brown with a bit of translucency to it. A light amount of tan/beige head on top, decent amount of micro-carbonation.

Aroma: This beer is perfect for the season - it's an herbal yet spiced ale that just screams AUTUMN! I'm getting notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, an herb that I can't describe.. so I'm going to assume it's mugwort - but it does give me an aroma that's reminiscent to some plants that I see fairly commonly in the pasture at my parents farm... all I can compare it to is something that has notes kind of like mint. Fairly spicy to the nose and just a hint of tea.

Taste: The first thing that pops out is that it's very herbal and hits your right in the mouth. There's notes of black tea, a hint of various flavours that I can only describe as various plants you would find in the boreale forest. Honestly, it's hard to describe and I've never tried anything like this before. To me, this reminds me of some sort of homemade herbal tea that's supposed to heal whatever problem you're having. Other notes I can pick up on include cloves, thyme and very earthy.

Overall Thoughts: This is something that I just couldn't describe.. it's simply interesting and something I've never really experienced before. It's incredibly herbal, good amount of tea and rich amount of earthiness to it. Some notes of what reminds me of mint, cinnamon and nutmeg as well. I don't know if I could drink more than one in a day.. it's pretty heavy but worth trying.

Wild Oats: Ginger Wolf Hopfenweisse
6.5% ABV

Hopfenweisse ales are becoming the new trend in Canadian craft beer.. I remember trying Half Pints' Hoppenheimer a few years back and ever since that beer came out.. I'm seeing them more and more now days! This one from Beau's Wild Oat series takes a bit of a spin on it.. it has organic ginger as well to give it a bit of a kick!

Appearance: Ginger Wolf pours a bright yet somehow very cloudy orange wheat ale with a good amount of white head on top, leaves a thick amount of residue, a light amount of carbonation, looks like your typical hefeweizen... or in this case.. hopfenweisse.

Aroma: I'm coming across a really bad cold so my senses aren't up to snuff today. There's a rich doughy breadiness from the yeast that makes its way through the beer immediately. Notes of ginger but not a strong spicy ginger I was hoping for, banana peel, a hint of butter and somehow a lack of hops to this sick boy's nose.. maybe something grassy but I'm not smelling it.

Taste: Very very easy to drink, it's a smooth German weisse with a bit of ginger to give it a different profile than the typical clove/coriander game we always see. The ginger gives off a slight bite to it and really compliments the doughiness of the yeast and wheat. Thankfully the hops are much more prevalent here, giving off a more of a combo of earthy/simply bitter hoppy bite to it, hint of pine needles.

Overall Thoughts: If this was available in individual bottles in Manitoba, I'd buy this again - it's a nice weisse with a ginger bite to it (yet no heat for those who hate the spicy ginger beers), the hops do finally make an appearance in the final round but a bit too late for my liking. Bit creamy, notes of banana and clove, easy to drink.

Wild Oats: One Ping Only
8.5% ABV

I waited to try this one last because when I told friends I was buying the Oktoberfest mix pack, everyone went "holy hell.. let me know what you think of One Ping Only!" I assume it's going to be damned good. Well, it's a Baltic Porter, a style I've only seen in Manitoba less than a handful amount of times in my life, so I'm giddy to try it out!

Appearance: One Ping Only pours a thick black-as-night porter with a thick burnt caramel head at the beginning. The head eventually diminishes into almost nothing leaving behind just a light ring of tan head on the side.

Aroma: The very first thing that popped in my head as I was opening up the bottle was "this smells like a milk stout" with very lactic notes as well as notes of coffee from the roasted malt, chocolate, somewhat sour with a hint of dark fruit (raisins) in there. At this point my sinuses aren't at their best so I'm giving it all my all!

Taste: Very rich and creamy for the mouthfeel, incredibly sweet and chocolatey with rich roasted notes, some sour notes of dark fruit, caramel. It's moderately bitter, leaving behind a very subtle bitter aftertaste. There's a subtle note of something that reminds me of black liquorice, but I just can't put my finger on it. At 8.5%, it's not as boozey as you would think.. it just sneaks up on you!

Overall Thoughts: Great Baltic Porter, very smooth and creamy so it's disappearing from my glass faster than I can write this review!

Booze-infused iced teas to look for

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun - May 20, 2016

In the past several weeks I’ve checked out the beer scenes in Regina and Minot and one thing I noticed is that craft sodas are now a thing but not only that - boozey sodas are becoming incredibly popular. Breweries are making boozey and non-boozey versions of root beer, ginger ale and other various drinks. I feel that malt-based alcoholic root beers will be more of the norm in the next five years. Speaking of boozey sodas, I’ve been feeling incredibly bored lately and trying new fruity coolers because there are times when a full-on-hoppy IPA just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve been drinking a great deal of alcoholic iced teas in recent days because.. well.. iced tea is delicious, and not only that, beer/malt based iced teas may become the next Bud Light Lime.. even though Coors Light Iced T failed miserably a few years back. This week is all about my absolute favourite alcoholic iced teas available in Manitoba.

Thank goodness that this horrible take on Iced Tea is long gone!

Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer - Mill Street’s Lemon Tea beer predates the flop Coors Light Iced T by several years. In fact, Mill Street’s Lemon Tea beer may be one of the first tea based beers on the market. The beer pours a rich orange/amber ale with a good amount of cloudiness. The aroma is very much tea forward as I find it to be a rich combination of Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey aroma with notes of lemon, a bit of a graininess from the malted barley and wheat, a bit of a sugary sweetness but more Orange Pekoe tea than anything. The taste has the complexity of a wheat ale with the complimenting flavours of tea. The flavour gives off a gritty wheat that’s more common in a Belgian witbier or a German hefeweizen, a decent amount of lemon. For the most part, Mill Street’s Lemon Tea Beer comes off as an ale with tea and lemon flavours, not overpowering and not overly sweet. $3.06 per 473mL can at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart and beer vendors around Westman. 4/5 Pints

Boston Beer Co Twisted Tea Original - Who would have thought that Boston Beer Company’s (AKA Sam Adams) most popular product in Manitoba would be a barley malt based iced tea cooler? I sure as heck didn’t! Twisted Tea is a camping and Country Fest tradition in Manitoba for the past few years now for those who are tired of Bud Light and want something sweet. Twisted Tea Original pours a clear orange/amber with just a hint of carbonation. The aroma is very much the typical summer time picnic in the park iced tea you get served from a plastic water pitcher, very sugary, a moderate amount of tea and a hint of malted barley which gives it a bit of a hint of booze and grain. When tasting Twisted Tea, the first thing that hits my tongue is the booze burn from the malt which is reminiscent to a typical vodka cooler booze burn. I’m a bit surprised by the booze burn but the iced tea and sugar follow up giving off that typical summery iced tea taste to it, but I feel like it’s missing a bit of lemon.. so feel free to use a lemon wedge for this malted barley based iced tea cooler. Looking back, it has a hint of a flavour that reminds me of Sam Adams’ popular amber Boston Lager, but I don’t have the lager on hand to taste test. $2.34 per 355mL bottle at most Liquor Marts and beer vendors around Western Manitoba. 3/5 Pints

Snapple Spiked Rasp Cherry Tea Vodka - This is the only non barley/wheat based beverage of the bunch. I felt that it only made sense that if I was going to promote boozey iced teas, that my favourite iced tea brand would make the list! Snapple is known for some of the best bottled/canned iced teas out there, their owner Canada Dry Motts has licensed out the iced tea to be turned into boozey form. This isn’t the first time that Canada Dry Motts has done that.. they also have a decent variety of Mott’s Clamato Caesar products at the LC and vendors including Mott’s Clamato Caesar Original, Lime and even Spicy! Back to the iced tea, Snapple’s Spiked Rasp Cherry Tea Vodka beverage pours a slightly cloudy orange-golden lager, in fact - this is the most beer looking beverage I’ve had all night! The aroma is a medley of raspberry, cherry and loose leaf paper.. for some strange reason. Snapple’s iced tea tastes like your typical Snapple iced tea right at the beginning, it has a floral tea flavour followed by fruitiness of raspberry and cherry. Then.. the booziness factor from the vodka kicks in and leaves a light burning sensation on the palate. For the most part, this drink is all about the iced tea and retains that famous “Snapple” taste.. but the hint of vodka makes you realize that this isn’t a non-alcoholic beverage at all. I know a lot of people tell me that they don’t know when there’s vodka in their beverage because it’s “neutral”, but for me - I get a bit of an acidic bitterness on my tongue any time I taste anything with vodka in it. This is pricey for a Snapple product, but if you are an iced tea aficionado, the Rasp Cherry Tea Vodka is worth trying because it goes down so well! $2.99 per 458mL can at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Dauphin, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Roblin, Russell, Swan River, The Pas and Virden. 3.5/5 Pints

Feel free to take out my take on boozy Root Beers!

Review: Farmery Prairie Berry Ale

It only took five years but Farmery Brewery is FINALLY up and running in Neepawa, making it the very first brewery to open up in Western Manitoba since Empire Brewing was in Brandon back in the 1930s. I've been waiting patiently for a very very long time to finally review a beer brewed and bottled IN Western Manitoba..

Date with Destiny for an IPA fan

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun - September 9, 2016

Pop the cork on Manitoba's booming craft beer industry

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun - August 19, 2016

I’ve been writing about beer on and off since 2005 just as a way to cope with my boring life. I remember thinking that it would be awesome if a brewery that made great beer (sans-Fort Garry) opened in Manitoba. The following year, Half Pints opened up on Keewatin Avenue in Winnipeg and soon later moved to Roseberry Street in St James neighbourhood. Last week Half Pints celebrated their 10th anniversary with an invite-only party (which I wasn’t invited to) but I wasn't in town to buy a growler to get me an invite, so that's my fault! Since 2006, Half Pints remained the “newest” brewery in Manitoba.. that is until Barn Hammer opened back in July.

Review: Coney Island Hard Root Beer

Review: Unibroue Éphémère Framboise (Raspberry)

Torque Witching Hour Dark Pumpkin Ale

Another day.. another pumpkin beer. Today's pumpkin beer is Torque's Witching Hour Dark Pumpkin Ale. Torque's not distributing to Brandon yet but one of the MLCC reps brought in a few flats of Torque's beer to Brandon so people could actually get to try the beer without having to go to Winnipeg. Torque's only been canning and kegging for just over a month now and I've been satisfied with everything they've made so far.

Driftwood Entangled Hopfenweisse

Prior to Driftwood's Entangled, the last time I had a hopfenweisse-style hefeweizen (liberally hopped wheat ale) was Half Pints' Hoppenheimer, and that was just under a year ago at my old university's pub. I absolutely enjoy everything Driftwood makes so I've been meaning to review this beer for a while.. but I keep drinking it before getting a chance to even type down my thoughts!

Appearance: The photo didn't turn out how I expected because of shit lighting. First off - absolutely love the artwork on this label, it's colourful and simply fun and tells a story. The beer pours a cloudy golden straw/orange in appearance and has a very minimal amount of head - simply a light amount of white head clinging to the side of the glassware.

Aroma: There's a hop note that comes out first that has a not-so-fresh vibe to it.. but seeing that this beer was bottled back in July, that's likely it. It gives off a moderate bitter cascade pine/floral aroma to it.. but with that "not so fresh IPA" vibe just lingering all over. Notes of lemongrass, somewhat fruity with hint of banana, pineapple and clove.

Taste: Like the aroma, the hops aren't fresh in this beer.. and it's a shame as this beer just arrived at local liquor stores within the last couple weeks. There's nice medley of fruity and floral flavours taking place in here - pineapple, hint of banana, alfalfa, clove and pine. An aftertaste of tangerines, pineapple and pine. I still wish the beer was fresher but hey.. what can I do? It's still pretty damned tasty otherwise.

Overall Thoughts: A solid hefe with not-so-fresh hops as you can see me bickering about here. I really like this beer though because I keep buying this beer ($6.75 per 650mL bottle) and somehow it ends up empty in a blink of an eye. Hopped hefeweizens will be more common in the future.. just like "Belgian IPAs" are pretty big now days. Now it's only a matter of days until I review their Cry Me A River Gose!

Review: Glutenberg Blanche (White)

I thought I did a review about Glutenberg's Blanche beer back in January.. but apparently I haven't. Glutenberg's the first gluten free brewery I've tried that makes gluten free beer that actually tastes like beer. Their witbier-style blanche was no exception.

Appearance: The Blanche has a cloudy golden orange body, a moderate amount of carbonation and a good amount of white head that diminishes pretty quickly.

Aroma: Note of buckwheat which gives it a bit of a woody character, a good deal of coriander, lemongrass and bubble gum for sweetness. Fairly straightforward.

Taste: For the most part, it's just like the aroma. There's a liberal amount of coriander in here that gives it that typical North American witbier vibe to it. A bit woody/gritty from the grains used, a bit of a pickle juice flavour which may not be for everyone and a nice amount of lemon zest in there.

Overall Thoughts: Easy drinking gluten free witbier-style beer. This is something where if I didn't know this was gluten free, I wouldn't notice either way. Easy drinking, liberal on coriander, perfect for summer weather.

Review: Fernie Pumpkin Head Ale

When the topic of pumpkin spice comes up, there's a big circlejerk about how the trend needs to die in a fire. I hear more about the negativity towards pumpkin spice more often than actually seeing someone savouring something with pumpkin spice. In beer, I wouldn't miss pumpkin spice ales if they no longer existed but since they still exist, I'll still check out the pumpkin spice beers I've never had before.. as I see it, brewing beer is about experimentation in this day and age. As a picky eater, I absolutely hate the taste of pumpkin so it's weird that I don't mind pumpkin spiced ales.. but hey, it reminds me of autumn. 

Tonight I'm checking out Fernie's Pumpkin Head Ale. Fernie's beer has been growing on me lately so whenever something new comes out, I have to try it. Pumpkin Head tops out at 5% ABV and 13 IBU.

Appearance: Pours a heavy dark brown with a bit of an orangey-caramel hue to it. Not really carbonated but leaves a really nice layer of beige head with a fine amount of residue on the side of the glass.

Aroma: The very first thing that pops out at me is a moderate roasted malt smell that gives off a light roasted coffee aroma.. which is welcoming on the first official day of fall. A hint of cinnamon, nutmeg and an aroma that all I can describe as Starbucks' White Chocolate Mocha.. yep, it's fall! Sort of sweet but fairly light for the most part.

Taste: Toffee. A good deal of coriander which I wasn't really expecting, lightish notes of cinnamon and nutmeg. Light roasted malt notes and only a light roasty aftertaste for the most part. Fairly toned down compared to many pumpkin spiced beers on the market, but it's incredibly smooth and easy to drink.

Overall Thoughts: As I just said, incredibly smooth and easy to drink. For those looking for that overly spiced cinnamon and nutmeg taste, this isn't it - instead this is a nice dark ale with nice notes all over that just balance it out really well. On a chilly day like today, it's appreciated!

Might as well go for a soda!

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 26, 2016

Review: Tyskie Gronie

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, September 2, 2016

It’s been a long time since I had a beer from Poland, in fact - the last Polish beer I ever had was Black Boss Porter, a rich, roasty, heavy porter that was not only affordable but made Guinness look like swill.. but unfortunately MLCC stopped carrying the porter two or three years back. I tend to stay away from beers from Eastern Europe because the selection of Eastern European beers we get here in Manitoba is minimal and generally are only imports that are made at breweries owned by AB InBev, SABMiller or MolsonCoors, rarely the rare craft beers that truly show off a region. 

Today I’m checking out Tyskie Gronie lager made by Tyskie Browary in Poland, but in reality.. a SABMiller import. The appearance of Tyskie is clear straw yellow with a moderate amount of carbonation, a light amount of snow white head that leaves behind a light amount of residue as the beer is being sampled. To me, the aroma of Tyskie is what most Eastern European lagers seem to be for me - malt heavy, sweet and skunky. The second I opened up the bottle, a huge whiff of skunky beer poured out intoxicating the room. As I poured the beer in the glass, the aroma went away for the most part just to leave behind the smells of not-so-fresh hay, overly sweet malt and a hint of grassy hops. The flavour is too sweet for my liking, a bit too much sugar.. but it’s mostly in the malt. I get flavours of soaked straw, a flavour that tastes like what paint smells like and a metallic aftertaste. Somewhat bitter but in the usual hoppy bitter sort of way, it’s more of that soaked straw taste leaking out. It’s fairly watered down so it’s easy for me to drink even if I’m shaking my head as I’m writing this up.. there’s so many better beers out there, especially Polish beers! At least Tyskie isn’t annoyingly skunky as Heineken or Stella Artois are because to me.. the taste of skunk in beer shouldn’t even exist unless if some hipster brewer wanted to make that “a thing”. 

As you can tell, I’m not a fan of Tyskie.. but with the beer being a whopping $2.88 per 500mL bottle, it’s not exactly breaking the bank, in fact - it’s pretty cheap for an import, so I can’t be too harsh here. It’s pretty easy to drink but the flavours of “paint” and “soaked straw” aren’t exactly pleasant, and the malt sweetness is leaving a sugary film on my tongue.. yuck! You can find Tyskie at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Killarney, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Russell and Virden, as well as the Keystone Motor Inn beer vendor. 2/5 Pints

Beau’s is back in town! After a quick sellout of Beau’s organic Lug Tread Lager, the beer is back in stock at the Corral Centre and 10th & Victoria Liquor Marts. The beer is also now available at the Liquor Marts in Minnedosa and Virden. Beau’s is also bringing their Tom Green Beer and Oktoberfest Mix Pack to Manitoba in the coming weeks. The Tom Green Beer is a milk stout with notes of espresso, burnt caramel and a creamy chocolate milky finish.

Beer scene in Minot, North Dakota - 2016

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, July 29 2016

I just got back from the North Dakota State Fair in Minot and I just find it interesting to see a beer scene boom in a city with a similar population and demographics as Brandon. While I was talking with the locals, the biggest thing mentioned was that the oil price crash has affected the local economy to the point where restaurants and pubs were closing down due to lack of business. Two years ago I wrote about Souris River Brewing, a booming brewpub that had nearly all tables full whenever I visited.. but in my most recent visits this year, there were usually three or four other patrons at any given time… So has the craft beer bubble bursted in the Magic City?

Actually no, while Minot’s economy is more focused on the oil industry than Brandon’s economy, the craft beer scene has actually scene a boom since I first wrote about about Souris River Brewing back in 2014. For Souris River themselves, their original brewmaster/part owner of Souris River recently visited the guys over at the always amazing Rebellion Brewing in Regina to create a Canada/USA collaboration beer. Unfortunately since then, the brewmaster left the brewpub and Souris River Brewing is now under new ownership, and with that - they have a new brewmaster. According to the staff over at Souris River Brewing, the new brewmaster has a microbiology background, which could mean that Souris River is planning on creating their own strains of yeast, creating more sour beers (they had two on tap when I was there) and changing their beer lineup. The beer lineup while I was there were the beers from the old brewmaster - Sour Vice - an incredibly sour ale that makes your mouth puck up, Funk Farm - a sour saison that appears to have notes of Brett yeast which gives the beer a flavour that I can only describe as “barn yard flavour” - which was actually being worked on when I visited the brewmaster back in April, so I was glad to be able to try the beer before it was gone for good! Now, Souris River’s first “new brewmaster beer”, a German-style hefeweizen wheat ale is being released today, just in time for near the end of the North Dakota State Fair. Unfortunately I’m not able to try it out but next time I’m in Minot, I’ll be back at Souris River to see how the beers have changed with the new brewmaster.

If you’ve ever gone down to Grand Forks or Fargo, you’ve likely heard of JL Beers, a regional chain pub is all about serving the best craft beer available and keeping the menu very simple - only fresh made burgers, fries and fresh cut potato chips. I’ve now been down to Minot’s new JL Beers location three times since it opened up and I have a blast every time I go down. This past weekend JL Beers had a tap takeover by Founders Brewing out of Michigan. This is more of a tap takeover than Liquor Mart’s Barn Hammer tap takeover at 10th & Vic (2/4 beers is not a takeover, MLCC). While the beer tap takeover wasn’t a full tap takeover, Founders Brewing had seven beers on tap! If you’ve never had Founders’ beer before, they are regarded as one of the best breweries in the world. Founders’ delicious Breakfast Stout actually got banned in a few states for the label depicting a toddler eating breakfast. Founders’ Kentucky Bourbon Stout is rated on as the 12th best beer in the world, and it is freaking amazing.. but the staff flat out laughed at me when I didn’t think I wanted more than a sample of it.. but I obliged and at $8.75 USD for a 12oz tulip glass, it may seem like I was getting ripped off.. the beer is 12.4% ABV. Before going for a full 12oz glass of the beer, I had a flight of five other Founders’ beers ranging from a Raspberry Wheat Ale to a strong Double IPA that tops out at 12%. I discovered that with the beer tap takeover, they were giving away swag to anyone who ordered the beer, so I ended up with a Founders bottle opener, pint glass and a tshirt! How sweet is that?! I hope we see a pub like JL Beers in Brandon one day, but for now we do have Barley Brothers in Winnipeg - their Pembina Avenue location boasts the largest beer tap list in the entire country at 150 beers, though much of their stock is beyond its best before date.

One common discussion I overheard customers discussing at both Souris River and JL Beers was “Have you gone to the ‘Pour House’ yet this week?” The Pour House is Minot’s newest craft beer pub, a small pub two blocks over from Souris River Brewing that gives you the right to pour your beer, just like as if you were filling up a soda at a fast food restaurant. The ability to pour your own beer is too liberal for Manitobans, but it’s common in places like the West Coast in the United States and especially in Europe. So at the Pour House, you show up, show some identification and a credit card (for legal reasons), you get an NFC enabled tap card that you use to turn on the tap for the beer you want to drink. The cool part about this is that you’re not paying for a pint or a glass or a small pour, you pay per ounce and the general going rate was approximately 40 cents per ounce. I went with a 10 ounce pour of a very foamy Belgian-style witbier from the ever great Oskar Blues Brewery out of Colorado followed by an amazing Double IPA by Fulton Beer out of Minneapolis. In fact, when I was deciding between two Double IPAs, one of the customers told me not to bother with the other Double IPA as she felt that Fulton’s Double IPA was pure heaven, sure enough - she was right! The Fulton Double IPA was tropical, very bitter, yet easy to drink. I had a very brief chat with the bartender/owner and he told me that the Pour House has been open for only two months now and while Minot’s economy is tanking, he’s consistently getting a great turnout night after night, in fact - I saw him changing kegs no less than twice in the 45 minutes I was there. 

For off-sales, most of you know that the Marketplace Liquor right off of Broadway is one of the best places to get beer, whether it’s tall cans, craft beer or two fours of Bud Light. Minneapolis’ Surly Brewing is now available in Minot so their beer is well worth picking up when you’re in town. Marketplace Liquor actually has some real competition now with Cashwise Liquor on 16th Street SW (near Gordman’s), not only does Cashwise have every single one of their beers available in their wall-to-wall coolers, they also have a selection of beers that you can’t find at Marketplace, and not only that - their staff is incredibly passionate about their beer. I purchased a six pack of Surly Furious IPA at Cashwise and had a 5 minute chat about the brewery, and this isn’t the first time it’s happened there - last time it was a five minute chat about Belgian-style ales I should be checking out. The big upside to Cashwise was that they had a larger wheat ale selection in stock, which was a huge plus for me as I was getting sick of IPAs during my entire trip, but Marketplace on the other hand was promoting the heck out of IPAs.. which isn’t a bad thing, especially when their staff told me that the six pack I was picking up of Oskar Blues’ Dale’s Pale Ale was available fresh and cold in the cooler.

If I had the money and time, I’d spend more than two or three days just checking out the beer scene in Minot. One place I miss out every time I’m in Minot is the Tap Room - a pub/restaurant that’s more catered to the Cody's in the world - heavy influence on Belgian imports (not Stella) and beer that pairs well with a fine meal. Maybe next time!

Review: Sub Zero Imperial India Pale Ale (Mortal Kombat X) - Sound Brewing

Right after work yesterday I went to the liquor store across from my workplace just to check out what was new in stock, as well as pick up a bottle of Beau's Lug Tread Lagered Ale. A few new treats popped up that I didn't expect - turns out that there's a beer series promoting the Mortal Kombat X game by Sound Brewing out of Poulsbo, Washington. The imperial-style beers were launched in time for Comi-Con - Sub Zero Imperial IPA, Scorpion Imperial Stout and Raiden Imperial Saison. Well, I haven't played Mortal Kombat in 20 years.. since Sega Genesis days, but I knew I had to check out the beers! The downside is that each 650mL bottle costs $11.10 CDN.. which is incredibly pricey for this poor guy, but hey.. if I don't buy it, someone else will.

Right now I'm checking out their Sub Zero Imperial India Pale Ale. 8.5% ABV, unknown IBU.

Appearance: Incredibly rich reddish brown ale, almost a ruby in the shitty room lighting.. but more a caramel amber in reality. Thick beige head to start off, diminishes to a bit of a film and leaves behind a moderate amount of foamy residue on the glass.

Aroma: Not sure if this is supposed to be a malt forward Imperial IPA or if it's past its best before date. If it's more of an English IPA, then I get a lot of caramel malt, hint of mint, light toasty grains, hint of wet laundry right before you put it in the dryer, aaand hint of lightly burnt toffee and a hint of when you're licking a tootsie pop and it's in between the point where it's solidified corn syrup and faux chocolate insides.. that smell. If it's supposed to be hoppy, then this is likely past its prime.. but it's not bad if it's supposed to be more malt forward..

Taste: The bitterness makes a big appearance in the flavour department as I'm getting a heavy taste of bitter hops.. not quite piney but has a bit of a hint of earthiness to it. Leaves behind a bit of a metallic hop aftertaste. The Imperial IPA has a bit of a caramel malt sweetness, light bready and that's about it. I'm finding that it's giving off a bit of a cool sensation on the palate.. kind of like a cool spearmint gum.

Overall Thoughts: It was certainly alright, good amount of hop bitterness in the taste profile but it missed out completely in the aroma. I won't be spending $11.10 on this again. It's alright but coming from the Pacific North West... there's a million other Imperial IPAs out there that are substantially tastier.

Edit: From the beer description - Refreshing cooling on a warm day, yet also warming in cool weather. An Imperial India Pale Ale that's not all about the hops, or all about the alt, but a whole ot of both fighting it out for supremacy. Drink icy for more hops, warmer for more malt.

Review: Brasserie Dunham Berliner Melon Weisse

I've been dreaming for months now to see a Brasserie Dunham beer in Manitoba, but hey... this is Manitoba - the province of mediocrity. I'm content with trading awesome Manitoban beers to Quebec for stuff like Dunham, but to find out that a distributor is bringing Dunham to Manitoba.. it made me giddy! Dunham was once available on tap at Barley Brothers in Winnipeg two years back, but that was a one time thing. Berliner Melon Weisse is Dunham's very first bottled beer to come to Manitoba. Dunham's Berliner Melon Weisse is just over $8.00 per 750mL bottle which.. at first seems a bit pricey for a beer that's 3.9% but we have to remember that this is Brasserie Dunham! Their own bottled beers at their tasting room in Dunham are just as pricey.. and insanely worth it!

Appearance: The Berliner Melon Weisse pours a pale golden straw with a light amount of cloudiness to it. There's a minimal amount of snow white head but it seems to retain itself pretty well, leaving a bit of residue on the side of the glass.

Aroma: The very second I opened the bottle I got a liberal aroma of sour and funky notes.. this is a very sour Berliner weisse! So yeah.. sour, a light lemon juice tartiness, the barnyard funkiness you come to love from the folks over at Dunham and a mild fruitiness from the melon.

Taste: Like the aroma, quite a sour beer with barnyard funk, a combination of lime and lemon to give it an almost cringe-worthy sourness to it, a bit of fizzy carbonation on the tongue and again, a light melon flavour to it.

Overall Thoughts: In this beer, the melon compliments the medley of flavours more than most beers, rather than it trying to be the main flavour of the beer. It's incredibly sour but at 3.9% ABV and 8 IBU, holy hell.. this is a freaking delicious beer! I'm going to be buying another bottle tomorrow. It's only a matter of days until the beer will disappear completely from shelves here in Brandon.. so if I want it again (like Dieu du Ciel's Grande Noirceur or Charlevoix's Dominus Tripel), I'll have to trade with buddies in Quebec.. not that I mind or anything.

Speaking of Dunham.. I still have to post pictures of my visit to the brasserie back in June!

Three non-alcoholic beers worth checking out

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 12, 2016

The most common request I get from people around Westman is that I should review Bud Light. Most of the time people say it in a jokingly manner as it’s the top selling beer in the region. A recent request I’ve been getting from a few people was that I should do a review of a non-alcoholic beer. Non-alcoholic beers are likely going to be the next trend with the big multinational breweries ever since Labatt introduced Budweiser Prohibition earlier this summer (See my original review HERE). At your local grocery store or Liquor Mart, there’s already between two and eight non-alcoholic beers at any given time, but the problem is that they taste horrible. The problem with non-alcoholic beer is that sure they’re brewed to have a very low alcohol content, but in most cases - it tastes pretty bad. So when you go to the grocery store, you always see those two fours of Molson Exel collecting dust because nobody’s wanting to spend money on beer that tastes worse than Minhas Boxer Lager. Even in the craft beer scene, breweries are constantly coming out and experimenting with low alcoholic beers while seeing if they can keep the product flavourful and comparable to the full alcohol brews they make, with this we have a category of beers called “Session beers” which top out at generally 4 to 4.5% ABV.. which is still pretty far from being low alcohol. Then there’s the popular summertime treat - the Radler, a 50/50 combination of wheat ale and grapefruit juice which ends up topping out around 2.5 to 3.5% on average, making it closer to low alcohol content. How about non-alcoholic beer that tastes like beer? Well, it’s my duty to go out and see if I can find any non-alcoholic beers that actually taste like beer!

Budweiser Prohibition - While I’m not going to review Bud Light, I’m trying out Budweiser Prohibition because this beer has single handedly rejuvenated the non-alcoholic/low alcohol beer market to the point that it’s only a matter of time until we see the beer on tap at local pubs from seeing how well it’s selling out at Liquor Marts around Brandon. Budweiser Prohibition is rated at 0.0% ABV containing de-alcoholized beer, malt extract, natural flavours, hop extract, phosphoric acid and hop extract. The thought of extract being used rather than the real ingredients kind of annoys me but considering how big of a scale Labatt brews their beer in each facility, they have to keep the product as consistent as possible. Prohibition pours a light straw yellow with a good amount of carbonation, reminiscent to your typical Budweiser. The aroma gives off sweet creamed corn, hint of rice, typical light sweet and grainy prairie barley malt aroma you see in most North American lagers, hints of grass from the hops and bubble gum. The flavour has a bit of a cracker/frozen pizza crust taste to it, quite a bit of sweetness from the malt extract, creamed corn, light metallic aftertaste, a hint of rice and a hint of bubble gum. The flavour isn’t as crisp as your typical Budweiser but does it taste like it could be a Budweiser product? Yep. It has a lot of the same characteristics as your typical Bud but without any alcohol. Very easy to drink but priced higher than most non-alcoholic beers with it being around $2.65 per 473mL can at Liquor Marts around Manitoba and between $9.60 to $13.00 for 6-341mL bottles at Liquor Marts, beer vendors and grocery stores.. so it's incredibly accessible. While I’m not a fan of Budweiser, Labatt deserves serious props for making a non-alcoholic beer taste consistent with their main brand. 2.5/5 Pints

Krombacher Radler Alkoholfrei - A few Liquor Mart employees recommended this beer to me when I was asking how well the sales of Budweiser Prohibition was doing. I rarely ever say no to a beer recommendation, except for the time when someone suggested that I’d love Bud Light Lime.. no thanks. The first thing I noticed about this beer is that there’s no English translation on the label, which means that Manitoba may be one of the only markets outside of Germany that currently gets this beer. The radler pours light golden straw, incredibly fizzy/carbonated like a soda. There’s a thick amount of white head that quickly yet gradually fizzes away. The aroma has sweet grapefruit with a hint of something herbal that appears to be either ginger or green tea. I’m not noticing any beer-like aromas such as bready or grass aromas from the wheat/barley used. The taste is sweet and mild grapefruit, a bit sugary, hint of lemongrass and a hint of beer somewheres.. mostly in the aftertaste, which gives off a grainy bitterness. Krombacher Radler Alkoholfrei tops out at no more than 0.5% ABV and can be found at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Minnedosa, Neepawa, Roblin, Swan River and Virden for a whopping $1.49 per 330mL bottle. 3.5/5 Pints

Erdinger Alkoholfrei - Another non-alcoholic beer out of Germany. Many of you are likely familiar with Erdinger’s beers already as their Erdinger Weissbier is one of the top selling German beers in Manitoba. Their alkoholfrei pours a cloudy golden wheat ale with a very thick amount of fluffy white foam on top that gradually goes down. The aroma is sweet, citrusy with a bit of a skunkiness meets a light grapefruit vibe to it, light grassy hops and a bit of an aroma that can only be described as the smell of being in a brewery on a hot summer day. The taste starts off with a strange roasted, almost coffee-like maltiness that’s more common with darker ales, has a bit of a skunkiness to it as well as a light grapefruit sweetness, light lemongrass flavour and the taste of saltine crackers at the end. Unfortunately it’s pretty disappointing considering that Erdinger generally makes pretty decent beers. The beer tops out at no more than 0.4% ABV and can be found at Liquor Marts for $2.79 per 500mL bottle. 2/5 Pints

It’s only a matter of time until breweries like Molson will introduce a new generation of non-alcoholic beers and I can already predict the future with Molson Canadian .0067, which wouldn’t be that hard for them to do seeing that their regular Molson Canadian 67 is only 3.0% ABV already. That being said, I can’t really see smaller craft breweries getting into the non-alcoholic trend as smaller breweries tend to stay away from those sort of trends.. just like how most craft breweries stayed away from the caffeinated beer trend of 2005, the lime beer trend of 2009 and the malt based fruit cooler trend of 2015.

Fernie Eldorado Single Hop IPA

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, May 6, 2016

I feel that 2016 beer trends are pushing towards Belgian-style farmhouse saisons and incredibly tart/sour beers that taste more like a wine than a beer, but one trend that doesn’t seem to be dying down is the classic India Pale Ale. One of the biggest complaints I get from local beer drinkers is that too many breweries have their own IPAs and that they’re always too bitter. The trend for overly bitter IPAs is currently on the decline so instead we are seeing more releases of IPAs brewed with one strain of hop to show off the characteristics of what the hop is supposed to smell/taste like in a beer. Alexander Keith’s had a lukewarm “Hop Series” of pale ales that did just that with five single hopped beers. In the end, Keith’s drinkers simply preferred the lack of hop presence of the traditional Keith’s “IPA” so they have, for the most part, abandoned the project.

The folks over at Fernie Brewing in Fernie, BC have a “Bucket List” series of IPAs that are mostly experimental IPAs that range from a tropical citrusy IPA to a full on Rye IPA. Their newest (to me) IPA is their “The Eldorado Single Hop IPA”, an IPA brewed with lemongrass. I’m not familiar with the Eldorado strain of hops so I get to try something completely new to me!

The Eldorado pours the typical IPA pour, it’s a cloudy orange beer with a nice amount of creamy beige head on top, the head quickly diminishes into just a thin layer of sediment clinging to the side of the glass. The aroma is first, and foremost a lemongrass aroma, it’s fairly moderate and citrusy, grassy, gives off a bit of an herbal… almost tea like essence to it. Hint of pine and grapefruit in there as well.  The flavour starts out all tropical, which is great with the heat we’re getting right now, there’s a quench of pineapple and grapefruit that make an appearance right out the gate. The hops aren’t as bitter as your typical cascade “bitter” hopped IPAs, so this one gives off more of a lemongrass summertime patio vibe to it. With all that being said, it does still have that typical IPA bitterness that most of you know and hate, I love it! 

I’ve had a bunch of beers from Fernie’s IPA Bucket List and I feel that this may be their best beer yet as it’s a nice citrusy, grassy India Pale Ale that’s not overwhelming in any fashion. It’s light to mildly bitter and has a bit of a creamy feel on the palate. This is truly a patio worthy IPA in my opinion! You can find Fernie Brewing’s The Eldorado Single Hop IPA at all three Brandon Liquor Marts for $6.50 per 650mL bottle. Tops out at a surprising 6.8% ABV, certainly stronger alcohol content than your typical 5-5.5% IPAs on the market today.

The Maritime Blueberry Ale War by the Drunk French Canadian

Oni Dèls, the Drunk French Canadian is back! He had his own bièrcation recently with visiting the Maritime provinces and wanted to write a bit about some of his favourite beers he had on vacation, blueberry beers!

Gather around kids (at heart.. because you know, beer), uncle Dèls is going to tell you a fabulous story.

Actually, it’s not really fabulous. I did a 4 day road trip in the Maritimes just to go buy beers I didn’t have access to in my neighbourhood. I ended up coming back home with 57 different beers, so I was glad my fridge was empty when i got back.

Aaaaanyway, now I will pit Moncton, New Brunswick's Pump House Blueberry Ale against Charlottetown, PEI Brewing's Gahan House Blueberry Ale.

First off, the main difference, aside bottle vs can, is that Pump House is a blueberry flavoured ale, while Gahan is a wheat ale brewed with blueberries. Of course both NB and PE are renowned for their blueberries, nice people.. and long bridges. The longest covered bridge is in NB and of course the confederation bridge that links PE to the mainland. But this is slightly off track.

Back to our beers, the colour/smell/taste description:
My little eye sees...
Pump House has a clear, crisp gold, with some nice bubbles. While Gahan has a thicker blonde orange/­amber and barely any bubbles.

My little nose smells...
The Pump House is simply.. only blueberry. It literally smells of candy and fruit, with no beer aroma to it, which is common in flavoured beer. On the other hand, Gahan’s a typical ale smell, with a subtle sweet aftersmell (is that a thing? I’m making it a thing.)

My little tongue tastes...
Well, nice of you to skip straight to the taste test. You didn’t miss much, besides the part about me wrestling a bear while wearing a kilt. So... the taste...
Pump House is very fruity, without being syrup­y or sugary. It doesn't have much of an alcohol taste, nor aftertaste, nor.. you know, taste of anything else but blueberry. It’s not a bad thing, but this is clearly a summer beer, made for hot, humid days. A beer you can easily drink 5 or 6 in a row without complaining. For the Gahan, with it being an unfiltered wheat beer, you have a nice cereal taste with a very subtle blueberry taste that is chase away by a nice aftertaste of alcohol.

So all this being said, I’d say while the two beers are very different style of blueberry beers, they both have their pros and cons. Maybe you should check them both out and decide for yourself, but I rate them both 4 out of 5 pints. Although in the “right now”, I prefer Gahan’s. I guess I prefer the all natural vibe to it.

So to settle this fight, I decided to pour both beers in a glass filled with actual blueberry, and this unholy alliance makes an awesome fruity cocktail akin to a bubble tea.. but with beer!
Anyway, I will have more story about my Maritimes trip, more comparisons of beer (that will most likely end up in a beer fusion again...), And obviously, some more Québec’s beer, if I can find some that Cody hasn’t talked about already... (Cody's note: Oh, I've already had both of the beers featured in this review!)

Kruhnen & La Décapsule's King Cogne Rye Pale Ale

What happens when a popular beer blog teams up with a brewery to create a collaboration brew? King Cogne happens! Two years back, my buddy David and his brother Alex over at La Décapsule teamed up with the folks over at Brasserie Kruhnen to create a Rye Pale Ale called King Cogne. In fact, according to Untappd, King Cogne is Kruhnen's most popular beer to this very day! As a lover of Rye PAs, I'm excited!

Appearance: King Cogne pours a thick, very cloudy blonde ale with a nice, thick, frothy snow white head on top. Moderate amount of fizziness taking place and a hint of foam residue left behind on the side of the glass.

Aroma: First off I'm getting a bit of a sweet, light tropical/fruity aroma of tangerine and grapefruit. Moderate amount of hop bitterness giving off a bit of a pine aroma and just a hint of rye. So far... so good!

Taste: When I was opening this bottle, I entirely forgot that this was a Rye PA until I took my first sip. The rye makes a dominant presence at the beginning, giving off a rich, bitter rye flavour to it (a hint of a woodiness), pepper spice, slight amount of graininess, a nice compliment of tangerine/grapefruit zest and a moderate pine hop presence that leaves a light metallic bitter aftertaste. For a Rye Pale Ale, the rye isn't as bitter/in your face as most Canadian Rye Pale Ales, rather the rye works with the hops and malt to give off a bunch of great flavours.

Overall Thoughts: Incredibly solid Rye Pale Ale, I love a good Rye Pale Ale and it's unfortunate that rye beers aren't as common as they should be.. but it's getting better. Not overpowering like many I've had over the years, very easy to drink and even has a bit of spiciness to it. 6.5% ABV/60 IBU

Now if only I knew how to brew beer.. I'd love to have a BeerCrank themed saison s'appelle La Saison de Crank. The folks over at Double Trouble Brewing suggested a Cranky Cody Cascadian Dark & Bitter. Ha!

La Voie Maltée - Session IPA (Série Frimée)

Back in June when I was on my bièrcation with Alex from Le Malt Incarné, we took a tour of rural southern Quebec, checking out places like Brasserie Dunham and various brewpubs in the region. We stopped at Marché du Village in Ange-Gardien, Quebec. According to Alex, this grocery store - in a small town no less - happened to have one of the best beer selections in all of Quebec. Not only that, they had a locked cabinet dedicated exclusively to aging beers (but unfortunately the person in charge of the beer aging display was not there).. oh and the super market also acted as the local SAQ agent as there wasn't a nearby SAQ, making this one of the best damned liquor/beer stores in all of Quebec! We spent about 20 minutes just going through beer, I was loopy as hell because I got minimal sleep that week, but I picked up as many beers as I possibly could carry. La Voie Maltée's Session IPA from their Série Frimée popped out at me, so I decided to pick a can of that up.

Appearance: The Session IPA tops out at a whopping 3.7%, making it a true session, not a "4.8%" session like many I see on the market already. As soon as I open the can, it's quite foamy - thick white head. The beer is a moderately cloudy and straw yellow/lemon peel.

Aroma: Decently hoppy and tropical. Notes of cascade hops giving it a nice pine aroma, bit of lemon grass and tropical notes of grapefruit, hint of pineapple and somewhat herbal. Very solid aroma.

Taste: Starts off with a bit of a gritty barley graininess followed by lemongrass, a moderate amount of cascade for hoppy bitterness. A light amount of soapy aftertaste, hint of nuttiness and a light amount of grapefruit citrusness. Good deal of various cereal bitterness lingering on the palate.

Overall Thoughts: Solid session IPA but I've never had a bad beer by La Voie Maltée so it's not a surprise at all! Even at 3.7%, they still packed in a good deal of hops in the brew - to the point where I'm getting a moderate hop burn in my throat!

Photos: A visit to Torque Brewing

Seeing that Torque Brewing is officially canning their beer sometime this week, it only made sense to post photos of my trip to Torque from a week ago! This summer has been busy for new breweries in Winnipeg... and this is just the beginning!


They were starting to brew their Witty Belgian witbier when I arrived. I can't wait to see how the final product turns out!

Barrels for future barrel aging projects!

Brew Technician Matty "Cool Beans" Wolff! It's been a year since I last visited him at Fort Garry.

With the guys over at Torque being the "mechanics of beer", you better bet that they have wrenches all over the place in many different sizes!

Dried orange peels from California for Witty Belgian

Not only that.. they also add fresh orange, lemon and lime peel shavings for the Witty Belgian

Lots of room to grow.. assuming that the pallets of cans don't end up taking up lots of the space

Adding the yeast

"Cold Beer"

Next time I'll be there, the tasting room will be up and serving fresh beer on tap. They're canning this week and selling kegs to beer vendors/pubs/restaurants this week. I hope we see Torque in Brandon available at pubs on tap.. a beer culture is developing and I don't want to see the Wheat City 15 years behind like always. If you're in Brandon, demand your local restaurants, pubs and beer vendors to stock Torque, Barn Hammer and other made in Manitoba beers. Let's keep beer dollars in Manitoba!