Review: Black Bridge Brewing's Smoked Porter

Review: Garún Icelandic Stout Nr. 19 (Borg Brugghús)

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun, July 24, 2015

If you have visited the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart lately, you would have noticed that a lot of your favourite spirits have been moved around. They are currently adding more shelf space to accommodate a larger selection of rums, whiskies, wines and beers.
So for the beer fan like myself, this means that more of Canada’s best beers will be appearing at 10th & Victoria! For me, this means that hopefully I don’t have to travel all the way to Winnipeg to pick up a one-off product by Phillips or Red Racer. With the single serve beer area getting more space, I’ve noticed a few new beers popping up already including Central City's Mayor Kolsch Ale, Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Lemon Chifon Crueller Ale (which is over $20 per 750mL bottle - don’t buy it unless if you like the taste of lemon throat lozenges) and Garún Icelandic Stout.

Iceland isn’t well known for their beer but they make one of the best stouts I’ve ever tasted - Lava Smoked Stout. Lava is a perfect example of all things Icelandic - it’s smokey, sweet, dark and mysterious yet welcoming. Unfortunately Lava Stout hasn’t been available in Manitoba for three years now. Garún Icelandic Stout may not be a Lava Smoked Stout, but according to sites like where it scored ratings as high as 98/100, I believe Garún will likely be a good replacement for Lava.

I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a stout because it’s summer! Summer is for all things citrusy, light and fruity! Garún tops out at 11.5% ABV so this is one of the strongest beers available in Manitoba, but since it’s in a 330mL bottle, I don’t think people are going to get drunk on it as easily as if it was in a 650mL bottle. Garún pours a thick, black beer with a cola brown hue to it.
The head is creamy, thick, frothy and yellowish-brown - reminiscent of cookie dough. The aroma is sweet, caramelly with notes of raisins, chocolate brownies, hint of roasted coffee beans and a hint of molasses. The chocolate brownie aroma is enough to make me want to dive in to the beer ASAP! When sipping on this, the first thing I notice is that the flavours are overwhelming and pungent, which I find a bit of a surprise because the aroma was fairly light for an Imperial Stout, but considering it’s 11.5%, the booze had to pop out somewheres!
The flavour has rich notes of roasted coffee beans, a strong malt presence that gives it the taste of toffee and raisins. Very sweet and boozey, almost reminiscent of a Barley Wine, in fact - the sweetness made me gag because I didn’t expect it. There’s also hints of dark chocolate, molasses, vanilla and a creamy mouthfeel.

So, was this a good alternative to Lava Stout? Of course! It’s easily one of the better Imperial Stouts I’ve had in my day. It’s strong, sweet, chocolatey and good amount of roasted coffee goodness. While it may not be a smoked stout like Lava, this is in its own category. With Gimli being New Iceland, I would love to see more products from Garún makers Borg Brugghús available in Manitoba. You can find this for $4.98 per 330mL bottle at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart. 11.5% ABV
4.5/5 Pints

Review: Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout

"Holy good!"
-Cody L. - October 3, 2014

That's all I had to say when I first tried Epic Brewing's Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout.. so it's got to be good! Unfortunately for me $19 CAD per 650mL bottle, Big Bad Baptist was a purchase that I couldn't justify paying because I'm simply just.. poor. Sure, if I cut down on my beer consumption and only had one or two beers a week instead of more than that, I could afford it.. but pft - I like some of my regular beers as well.

The cool thing about Epic's Big Bad Baptist is that on the bottom right corner of the label they tell you what batch number it is - which is great for those who plan on doing a vertical of various batches of Big Bad Baptist.. but those people are rich, lucky beer snobs! This batch of Big Bad Baptist is Release #73, which according on their website was brewed on October 12, 2015 and packaged on August 24, 2016, brewed in Salt Lake City, Utah. Malts: Maris Otter Malt, 2-Row Brewer Malt, Crystal, Light Munich Malt T1, 2-Row chocolate malt, 2-row black malt, roasted barley. Hops: Nugget, Chinook, Cascade. Spices: Blue Copper Coffee "Guatemalan Blend" and Cocoa Nibs... So it turns out every batch uses a different blend of malts, hops and spices.. huh, that's pretty damned cool!

Appearance: Pours a thick, dark as night stout with a very very light amount of burnt caramel head on top - there's a light amount of head mostly around the rim but in the middle it's mostly sporadic bubbles here and there.

Aroma: A well spiced stout.. spicier than I anticipated. I get notes of deep, rich roasted coffee, a hint of roasted pepper which gives off a mild/kind of liberal amount of heat on the nose. A hint of dark chocolate aaaand that's about it. Not noticing any barrel aging here but we'll likely see that coming up. The aroma makes me think that I'm going to have a bit of acid reflux later on.. but I'll live with that.

Taste: Would I call this "Holy good?" It's good, actually really good.. but I feel a bit disappointed for some reason. Perhaps it's the $19 price tag? Nah, I just need to pick this beer apart a bit more.

So for the flavour, the first thing I noticed was that it wasn't as intense and in your face like the aroma led me to believe.. thank goodness. In fact, the barrel aging does make its way into the taste. I get a great deal of the cocoa nibs up front on nearly every single sip with a light to moderate amount of roasted coffee flavour (yet not as strong as your typical Imperial Stout with coffee) and a subtle but certainly noticeable amount of barrel in the background which gives off that oaky goodness and that typical vanilla flavour that completely compliments the initial chocolatey goodness. Not overly bitter chocolate but bitter enough that for the aftertaste you know that you just had a bit of chocolate in your liquid barley diet.

Overall Thoughts: Would I buy this again? Hell yes I would! At $19 it's too pricey for now but I'd buy two more bottles - one to age and one to send to one of my beer buddies in Quebec. I'm surprised that the spiciness from the aroma didn't pop over in the flavour, but for those who don't like spiciness.. that's a good thing. As I keep drinking this.. the 12.7% ABV is really creeping up on my body.. so share this at a bottle share if you're an awesome friend.. or drink it on a night when you don't want to go out and just watch hockey on TV.

Photos: A visit to Hill Farmstead Brewery

Dogfish Head ApriHop IPA

Oh god.. I'm bad at hoarding beer - I do it too often. This is one of those beers.. I bought this during my bièrcation in Vermont last year but just remembered now that I had this in my fridge. 

I remember a few years back when Dogfish Head was regarded as the best of the best of American craft beer. Since then.. a bunch of breweries have taken over the position of being the best, according to RateBeer and Beer Advocate. Today I'm checking out their ApriHop American IPA - brewed with Pilsner and Crystal malts, massively hopped (Amarillo) and complimented by the addition of apricot juice.

Appearance: ApriHop pours a cloudy caramel amber ale, moderate amount of beige head and a light amount of foam lacing the side of the glass.

Aroma: Mostly bitter with a light touch of apricot sweetness to it. The bitterness gives off a heavy pine aroma, notes of grass and a hint of caramel malt. I was hoping for more fruity apricot popping out but it's alright.

Taste: The pine and grassy hops pop out first and foremost with a light amount of tropical apricot sweetness at the very end which ends up lingering for a few seconds and then disappearing completely. The hops have held up really well here but compared to your typical popular IPAs now days, this one is nowhere near as tropical as say.. Lawson's Sip of Sunshine.

Overall Thoughts: Fairly easy to drink, not as bitter as I'd expect (even when I first tried it), the apricot could be more dominant but it's only a secondary character in this beer. 

Review: Half Pints Le Temps Noir Batch Two

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 11, 2016

Ever since Gimli's Crown Royal Northern Harvest won the award of “World’s Best Whisky” according to a spirits author out of the UK, Northern Harvest has sold out almost immediately at almost every Liquor Mart. Is it the world’s best whisky in my opinion? No, Lot 40 Rye Whisky out of Ontario is even better, but with this being Manitoba and all - it’s great to see a made-in-Manitoba product selling off the shelves the second they arrive to stores. I finally picked up a bottle of Northern Harvest Rye last week upon hearing the news that the Gimli Crown Royal plant is going on strike, time to stock up! By the time you read this, the entire provincial supply of Northern Harvest has likely been completely depleted by now - again.

I wish people talked about beer like they would talk about whisky. I’ve had the pleasure of trying 20 of the 2015’s top 100 beers in the world and what I find surprising is that some of them were available here in Westman at one time including the Westvleteren 12, which is rated as the holy grail of beers to many beer geeks.

Back in 2013, Winnipeg’s Half Pints released a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout called “Le Temps Noir”. Brandon LCs got a few cases of it and it sold out almost immediately. I saved four bottles for myself to taste and age and sent one off to my beer buddies in Montreal. According to my beer buddies out of Montreal, Le Temps Noir was one of the best Imperial Stouts they ever tried, it was liquid gold to their taste buds. I laughed it off because, well.. Quebec’s beer scene is constantly rated the best beer scene in Canada. Well, in 2014, Half Pints’ Le Temps Noir was rated the Number 1 beer in Canada that wasn’t made in Quebec, according to the folks over at To this very day, Half Pints’ Le Temps Noir is rated as the 17th best beer in Canada, only getting defeated by ice ciders by La Face Cachée de la Pomme, Dieu du Ciel and a few other ice cideries. That shows you that we have amazing beer in our own neck of the woods.. let’s savour it!

In January, the Second Batch of Le Temps Noir was released with lots of fan fare. For myself, I bought an entire box of 12 pack (650mL) just so I could hopefully age it without roommates stealing it from me. Le Temps Noir, as said above, is a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. Le Temps Noir tops out at 9.6% ABV, so it’s a boozy treat, so share with friends!

The appearance of Le Temps Noir is a rich dark chocolate stout with a hint of nutty brown for hue, there’s a minimal amount of carbonation and for the head on top, it’s a nice light burnt caramel brown head that’s simply clinging to the side of the glass. The aroma is a dessert in a bottle for me, the first thing that pops out for me is chocolate brownies!!!! Following the brownies is even more chocolate and a moderately rich and spicy American bourbon whisky that’s not anywhere near as strong as your typical bourbon aged ale, but it gives off a nice aroma of oak, vanilla and a hint of caramel malt. To me, the aroma simply reminds me of freshly baked brownies with a bourbon chocolate and caramel sauce on it, my goodness I love it! The taste itself is much more in-your-face than the aroma. The very first notes I get from the taste is a kick of Tennessee Bourbon, it’s immediately burning my throat, just like a strong whisky/bourbon would.. damn that’s strong! Following the Bourbon I’m getting a very buttery influenced butterscotch sweetness. Then there’s a roasted maltiness giving off a hint of caramel, freshly roasted coffee and dark chocolate. Here, the bourbon is the star of the game, especially as it warms up I’m getting more of the typical oak, vanilla, nutmeg and.. a lot of the bitterness that you typically get from a whisk(e)y. Oh, it’s strong and I like it that way!

For a price of $12.52 per 650mL bottle, it will seem excessive to those who tend to buy six-packs for that price, but this isn’t your Bud Light, this is Le Temps Noir: easily one of the best barrel aged beers that’s ever been sold in Manitoba. People don’t blink an eye at $20 bottles of wine, so why is a $12.52 bottle of barrel aged stout considered expensive? Well, the people who tend to think that it’s expensive in the first place would likely take one sip of Le Temps Noir, make a funny face and then pour the rest of the beer down the sink. This isn’t your father’s beer, this is the beer snob’s beer, the whisky, bourbon, scotch and even wine connoisseur’s beer. This is something that has to be shared with friends because at 9.6% ABV and in a 650mL bottle, it’s meant to be shared as a dessert beer. If your idea of an amazing stout is Guinness, you will be disappointed - but if your idea of an amazing stout is a roasted coffee stout aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels, then you will be in for a serious treat!

You can find Half Pints’ Le Temps Noir at Liquor Marts in Brandon (10th & Victoria, Corral Centre, South End) for $12.52 per 650mL bottle. If the Corral Centre location is sold out, the South End location has the largest stock of Le Temps Noir outside Winnipeg.
9.6% ABV
5/5 Pints

I reviewed Le Temps Noir back in 2013 when it first came out as well, here's the original review.

Review: Parallel 49's Jerkface 9000 Wheat Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, January 13, 2017

Next week will mark one year since I went to Vermont and Montreal for my craziest bièrcation yet. Right over the Quebec border in Winooski, Vermont is a bottle shop that boasts one of the best beer selections I have ever seen. Winooski’s Beverage Warehouse has an overwhelming selection of local, national and international beers that makes Manitoba Liquor Marts look like a corner store. The one thing I found interesting was seeing Canadian craft beer at the bottle shop - the bottle shop had your typical Molson and Moosehead products but as well as UnibroueTrou du Diable, Glutenberg and a few other Quebec beers. There were a few beers from Vancouver that I never knew that were in the US market as well including Central City (Red Racer) and Parallel 49. The bottle shop also showcased a “wall of fame” of random beer bottles from all over the world including a retro bottle of Manitoba’s own Half Pints’ Little Scrapper IPA!

Parallel 49 has some of the beer distribution out of all the Canadian craft breweries but lately I haven’t seen many of their products on the shelves at local Liquor Marts. Currently the only two beers Parallel 49 has available in Manitobe are Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale and Jerkface 9000 North West Wheat Ale, while I’d love to see their seasonal beers in stock - those two beers are pretty tasty. This week I’ll be taking a look at Jerkface 9000.

With a name like Jerkface 9000, either the name and label will appeal to you immediately or it will make you bypass it immediately - For me, I like an interesting name and label so it appeals to me! Jerkface 9000 is a North West-style wheat ale brewed with Mosaic hops. It is described as being juicy, citrus, tropical and floral with a flavourful hop punch and light refreshing body.

Jerkface pours a mildly cloudy, pale golden ale with a light amount of white head on top and a great amount of film from the remnants of foam on the side. The aroma is moderately hoppy with notes of pine, grapefruit, tropical fruity pineapple, nectarine and mango. There’s a light amount of bready aroma coming from the wheat. Jerkface 9000 tastes better than the name would lead you to believe, in fact - it’s delicious! The very first time I ever had Jerkface 9000, I blindly expected it to be an India Pale Ale and it does have flavours reminiscent to your typical North West IPA with a great deal of pine and grapefruit notes. This isn’t an IPA so you get a medley of other flavours on top of the hops as well, mostly tropical fruity flavours like pineapple, orange, nectarine and mango. At the very end, there’s a blunt bready flavour with a hint of pepper spiciness.

Does this beer match up with the brewer’s description? Yes, it does! The beer has a medley of flavours ranging from bitter hops to sweet tropical fruitiness that makes you want to be on a beach in Hawaii. In a way it’s a bit reminiscent to Maui’s Mana Wheat Ale that I reviewed last year but without a tonne of fruit juice added to it. I feel that this beer would be better suited in the summer time but I’m finding this is helping dealing with my winter blues a decent amount as it is. You can find Jerkface 9000 on tap at the Dock on Princess in Brandon as well as in cans at Liquor Marts in Brandon, Dauphin, Russell, and Virden for $3.05 per 473mL can. 5.0% ABV

4/5 Pints

Review: Little Brown Jug's 1919 Belgian Pale Ale

Until the next brewery opens up, Little Brown Jug will be the newest brewery in Manitoba. I checked out Little Brown Jug for the first time on Christmas Eve and was very surprised by the brewery's atmosphere/tasting room. LBJ was the first brewery where I've seen the brewing operation in the same room as the tasting room.. In fact - the only thing that separates the brewing equipment from the taproom is a rope! So if you're lucky enough to be visiting Little Brown Jug on one of their brewing days, you'll be able to watch them producing the beer as you're sipping on their only beer - 1919 Belgian Pale Ale with a side of charcuterie and Quebec cheeses.

I'm surprised that they only have the one beer.. but seeing that for four years, Neepawa's Farmery Brewing only had one beer until they released their Canadian Pale Ale, so it's not completely unreasonable for a small up-and-coming brewery to concentrate on only the one beer.

Appearance: The cool thing about Little Brown Jug is that unless if you're getting a typical growler re-fill, they sell their beer in little 750mL jugs.. which to me is the perfect "single serve" portion of beer. The 1919 Belgian Pale Ale pours a caramel amber with a moderate amount of carbonation and a good amount of white head to start off but diminishes to a few bubbles here and there. Being the Belgian ale snob I am, I was thinking that the beer looked too dark compared to most Belgian Pale Ales but actually it's pretty comparable to most of the Belgian Pale Ales (leave the strong Golden Strong Belgian Pale Ales) out there.

Aroma: Caramel malt, earthy hops, a hint of a peppery spice to it, mild dark fruitiness. Minimal Belgian yeast presence here but I do get a bit of a sweet doughy aroma in there. So far it's reminiscent a bit to Unibroue's Raftman before they turned it into a Smoked beer last year.

Taste: A lightly roasted wheat beer with a good deal of caramel sweetness as well as a bit of a light peppery flavour that meets a leafy yet earthy hop presence. Eventually I start to get a bit of a nuttiness in there as well as hints of juniper, but it doesn't really change its complexity as it warms up because it's mostly a fairly easy to drink pale ale during the entire time I drink this.

Overall Thoughts: Very easy to drink Belgian Pale Ale that wasn't what I was expected - for some reason I was expecting more of a lower ABV La Fin du Monde rather than an older recipe Raftman. This one has flavours and aromas of what I remember from Unibroue's Raftman from years ago before they turned it into a smoked beer. It's growing on me slowly so I'll be ordering this more and more once it's more available in Brandon. Very easy to drink and not discriminating on the palate so it's going to be a great beer for food pairings with friends.

Review: Beau's 80 Shilling Scottish-style Ale (Farm Table Series)

It's not every day that I get to try a product before it hits my market! Thanks to Jack over at Eclectic Beverages, he got me an early sample of Beau's All Natural's 80 Shilling Scottish-style Ale weeks before it's launching here in Manitoba! From the label, the story of 80 Shilling originates in the 1800s, Scottish ales were classified on a “shilling” scale based on their alcohol strength, typically ranging from 60 shilling (“light”) to 90 (“wee heavy”). In the midst of these extremes are 80 shilling ales (“export”), classic crowd-pleasers and a style that has stood the test of time. The tasting notes description: 80 Shilling pours a deep copper colour. The malt character is predominant, with a few esters, and just enough hops for balance. This classic Scottish ale possesses a toasted flavour and dry finish, with a mild-to-moderate caramel presence.

Appearance: 80 Shilling pours a reddish brown (burnt caramel) with a good amount of carbonation and a moderate amount of yellow-beige head on top - the head leaves behind a good amount of beige lacing - almost like as if the foam is gently painting the side of the glass.

Aroma: Fairly reminiscent to your typical Scottish ale - I get notes of caramel sweetness, a very earthy/dead leaf sort of hop presence to it, very bready and reminiscent to a box of fresh fried yeast donuts. A hint of mahogany woodiness in there somewheres.

Taste: Not as heavy as a wee heavy Scottish ale but it's somewhat getting there. It's a sweet caramel ale with appearances of peat, a grain storage bin, a hint of woody/earthy hop presence, lightly roasted but no burnt coffee/dark chocolate notes popping up in here.

Overall Thoughts: This isn't something I would go out and get at the LC for the most part but it's easy to drink, a nice brown ale with a caramel/woody presence to it that would be perfect for something like Robbie Burns Day. A good deal of nuttiness and pleasant to drink after a long evening of work - great for this time of the year if you want something a bit darker but aren't really wanting to go for a stout. Thanks Jack!

From the archives: Review of Double Trouble's Fire in the Rye Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, November 25, 2015

It’s Grey Cup weekend and there’s a lot of new treats available in time for the Sunday evening kickoff by local breweries and distilleries! First off, Half Pints and Fort Garry Brewing teamed up to create a collaboration taster pack called the “Manitoba Social Pack” featuring the most popular beers by Half Pints and Fort Garry as well as a Route 90 Vienna-style lager that was brewed in collaboration with Half Pints and Fort Garry, this marks the very first time that Half Pints and Fort Garry have worked together to create a beer for public consumption. You can find the Manitoba Social 12-pack for $22.74 at Liquor Marts in Brandon (South End and 10th & Victoria) and Virden (somehow). The Manitoba Social Pack is easily one of the better beer variety packs I’ve seen available in Manitoba, so get it before it’s gone! Fort Garry has also released their latest version of Portage & Main IPA this week. Portage & Main is the first India Pale Ale to use Manitoba hops to give it its earthy, hoppy aroma and flavour. This year’s version is more mellowed down than previous years but I believe it will sell out completely within a few weeks. You can find Portage & Main at the Liquor Marts in Brandon (South End and 10th & Victoria).

You have likely already heard that Crown Royal's Northern Harvest won the title of “World’s Best Whisky” for 2015 in the Whisky Bible. Gimli’s Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whisky is a Canadian whisky that contains 90% malted winter rye grain. I haven’t had a chance to try the Northern Harvest Rye Whisky yet as it is completely sold out province-wide and I’ve been putting off trying new whiskies for the past few months now. Talking to my whisky connoisseur friends, they were surprised how tasty the Northern Harvest Rye turned out, so that makes me want to try it more! In the coming days you will see Northern Harvest Rye back on shelves, and you may even see local restaurants and pubs starting to serve it. It’s great to see whisky distilled in our own province win such a prestigious award!

Speaking of rye, my favourite Rye Ale by Swift Current’s Black Bridge Brewing is surprisingly still in stock at the Keystone Motor Inn beer vendor. Black Bridge’s Rye Ale is a sweet, nutty, caramelly rye ale with a hint of roastiness and has a great balance of rye and amber ale. Pick up a few cans while it’s still around!

Lastly, on to the review! This week’s theme will continue to be about… rye! Double Trouble Brewing out of Guelph, Ontario has been one of my favourite up and coming Ontario breweries as they’ve consistently brought out solid products with great names and great labels such as Hops & Robbers India Pale Ale and Prison Breakout Pilsner. Their newest beer, Fire in the Rye Ale is now available in Manitoba. Fire in the Rye is described as being unfiltered and containing the smouldering aroma of rye with the floral notes of centennial hops. Who doesn’t love a great rye? How about a RPA (Rye Pale Ale)?!

Fire in the Rye pours a medium heaviness with a hazy nutty brown appearance, a hint of floating sediment throughout the glass, a good amount of micro-carbonation and a yellow to beige creamy head on top. The aroma certainly is reminiscent to rye for me as I’m getting a rich toasted grain scent followed by caramel, light amount of burnt wood chips, a slight peppery spciness and last but not least, well roasted grains. The spiciness from the rye reminds me of your typical Canadian rye whisky like Lot 40 by Corby Distillers, but don’t be fooled - even though that this is a rye ale, you’re not going to smell or taste whisky in this beer as a lot of the notes we associate with whisky are from the barrel aging process. The flavour is very similar to the aroma as you get a moderately spicy yet roasted rye graininess to it followed by a bit of sweet caramel. In this instance, my palate was believing it was getting fooled into drinking rye whisky rather than beer, so I had a bit of gagging at the beginning of sampling this beer.. but that’s over now! To compare this to another style would be difficult as the rye grain is what gives this beer the punch. It reminds me of an unfiltered red ale with moderate hop bitterness that gives off an earthy bite to it, but in all fairness - this is nothing like a red ale in my opinion. The closest thing I can compare this to is Unibroue Raftman, but wait.. that’s another Rye Ale! So all in all, I think this is more of an earthy ale than most ales on the market and it’s quite thick and almost chewy to the palate, perhaps it’s from the rye sediment? Who knows!

This is one of the more interesting beers I’ve tried here at First Draught. First off, it’s part of a style I’m not that familiar with, and secondly - it has lots of notes reminiscent of a solid rye whisky, but without the oak and vanilla that we know and love. I love the slight spiciness from the rye malt, the caramel sweetness and that this is something I could drink on a cold winter night like tonight. If you’re a rye connoisseur, this is certainly something I would suggest trying. You can find Double Trouble’s Fire in the Rye Ale at the 10th & Victoria Liquor Mart for $3.05 per 473mL can. 6.1% ABV

If you find any Crown Royal Northern Harvest Whisky between now and Grey Cup Sunday at your local Liquor Mart or rural liquor retailer, consider yourself lucky! Cheers!

4/5 Pints

Review: Surly Todd The Axe Man IPA

I reviewed Surly's famous Furious IPA a few hours ago, now it's time for my review of their Todd the Axe Man!

What is Todd the Axe Man? From the description: Our version of the West Coast Style IPA first brewed in collaboration with Amager Brewery in Denmark. Brewed with one malt, Golden Promise from the UK, with Citra and Mosaic hops. If you think Todd is a good brewer, you should hear him play his axe (guitar)! Named by Amager’s marketing director Henrik Papsø.

Appearance: Todd has your typical bright West Coast style IPA right off the bat with a nice cloudy orange body and a light to moderate amount of beige head on top - the head is absolutely glistening as I'm looking at it! There's a good deal of sediment in this beer but it's nothing I haven't experienced before.

Aroma: The first thing that comes to my mind is tropical fruitiness - notes of pineapple, grapefruit and a hint of cantaloupe. There's a good deal of hoppy bitterness in here such as a sharp pine aroma, a faint amount of sweet wet barley graininess but not really noticing a strong malt profile compared to Furious.

Taste: Until recently I've never heard of a beer being described as juicy, but after visiting RateBeer and BeerAdvocate more, I'm seeing that term used on a lot of IPAs like this... in fact, this is pretty damned juicy - It's a tropical fruit sweetness up front with pineapple, grapefruit and other various tropical notes. The hops are very prevalent in here giving off a bitter pine flavour to it but the sweet tropical fruits almost want to be the dominant flavour in this beer. A bit of a honey-like sweetness is popping up on my palate the more I'm drinking this.. but for the most part.

Overall Thoughts: The IPA reminds me of a combination of West Coast IPA meets Sip of Sunshine. I do notice a bit of a hop burn in my esophagus but nothing that's really irritating me so far. Very enjoyable IPA - I can never get enough of IPAs with a great tropical zestiness with a great bitter hop presence. I will be buying this again next time I'm in North Dakota. 7.2% ABV.

Review: Surly Furious IPA

Friends of mine have raved about Minnesota's Surly Brewing for a few years now - Heck, they're the brewery that single handedly changed Minnesota liquor laws to make it easier for the brewery to sell their own beer to the public. They've recently started selling their beer in North Dakota, making it easier for people like me who aren't planning on going to Minnesota anytime in the next 3-5 years to actually try the product. I usually end up picking up the beer in Minot and it's actually pretty easy to find at bottle shops and pubs alike. Later I'll be reviewing Surly's Todd the Axe Man but first off - it's time for me to review Surly's most popular beer, their Furious IPA!

Appearance: Surly's Furious pours a very thick, heavy opaque caramel brown with a light to moderate amount of beige head and a moderate amount of lacing on the side of the glass.

Aroma: I'm getting notes of very bitter hops right at the beginning, a bit of grapefruit, pine, floral notes, very sweet caramel, hints of citrus (lemon) pop up once in a while. The beer starts out furious to the nose at the beginning thanks to the beer's bitter hops, but it eventually makes way for the other notes here. Lastly, a hint of grass pops up at the very end.

Taste: As soon as it hits my palate, it gives off a bitterness from the hops reminiscent to a medley of pine and various teas. There's a light amount of lemon citrus following the hoppy bitterness and then a sweet burnt caramel flavour at the end. Very liberally hoppy but not as overly bitter as Alchemist's Heady Topper. It's hoppy and malty at the same time and doesn't leave a burning feeling on the esophagus.

Overall Thoughts: A very satisfying IPA, the kind of IPA that mellows you out after a stressful day of job searching. It's not overly bitter to the point that it hurts you but it's bitter enough for hop heads feeling satisfied. Good malt backbone that gives it a decent caramel sweetness and drinkable enough that I wish I had another four-pack of this beer. 6.6% ABV/100~ IBU

Three Beers for New Years

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, December 30, 2016

Review: Unibroue Lune de Miel

I've been waiting a few months for Unibroue's À Tout le Monde to come to Manitoba but at this point I don't think it will ever come out west. I heard about Unibroue's newest beer, Miel de Lune (Honey Moon) a few weeks ago and one of the liquor store employees said "you're going to want to buy this!" as I was looking for a beer just to savour last night. I knew the beer was going to come to Manitoba but seeing that the product isn't even listed yet on the Liquor Marts website, I didn't expect it yet. This isn't the first honey beer I've had by Unibroue, I've had their "U Miel" in the past but that one is a discount honey lager. Miel de Lune is a Belgian style amber ale inspired by the old tradition where father of the bride would give mead to his new son-in-law for the first month of marriage. Let's try out the beer!

Appearance: Lune de Miel pours a bright honey orange with a thick cloudy body to it, several lines of micro-carbonation are swimming from the bottom of the glass towards the top, reaching the head. The head itself is a very thick off-white frothy head, it gradually diminishes into the body but even after leaving the beer to settle for 10 or so minutes, there's still about two and a half fingers worth of foam still on top.

Aroma: You can't deny that this is a Unibroue product, it just has that smell to it. The aromas I'm getting remind me of a combination of Blonde de Chambly meets Don de Dieu, it's a somewhat pungent scent of lemon, Belgian yeast, a moderate amount of honey and a nice aroma of wildflowers - while this isn't in any way meady, there certainly are notes that remind me of various Manitoba wildflower meads I've had over the years. The beer is fairly sweet, a light to moderate grassy hop presence and a hint of peppery spice at the end.

Taste: The honey is the very first thing I can taste in this beer - Right as the beer initially hits my mouth I get a sweetness I don't tend to see in most Unibroue beers. The beer is dominated by the honey at first but then I get the notes of wildflower and then notes of your typical golden Unibroue beers such as bubble gum, a doughy Belgian yeastiness, lemon, coriander, a light hop bitterness that leaves a bit of a grassy aftertaste and a hint of pepper for spiciness. The mouthfeel is very smooth and silky, reminiscent to a good white mead. Somewhat boozey but really easy to drink.

Overall Thoughts: So.. what do I think? You already know that I'm likely one of the biggest Unibroue fans in the world so you should take this review with only a grain of salt but honestly.. I really really really really like this beer. It's a very sweet honey ale that is very easy to drink, has a great floral aspect from the wildflower honey. I would consider this both a dessert beer and a savouring beer. It's not overly sweet but it's certainly sweeter than most Unibroue beers (sans-Éphémère line). The aroma reminds me of Blonde de Chambly meets Don de Dieu but the taste itself is a beer of its own. At $6.99 per 750mL bottle, that's a great price.. but knowing Liquor Marts.. if this beer catches popularity, they'll likely up the price in a few months time.

Christmas and general gift ideas for your favourite beer geek

Review: Picaroons Blonde Ale

Until 6 months ago, the most popular review I've ever done at was my review of Picaroons' Yippee IPA, now it's down to third most popular review on the website! I've tried a few Picaroons Traditional Ales' beers over the years and Yippee IPA is still my favourite, by far.. but everything I've had by the brewery has been incredibly solid and I love that they use 500mL bottles rather than 650/341mL bottles for the most part - 500mL is the perfect portion size for me. Today I'm checking out their Blonde Ale.

Appearance: The Blonde Ale pours cloudy orange with a light amount of carbonation, a good amount of beige head to begin with and diminishes to a half finger's worth of beer as the beer gradually gets savoured.

Aroma: The first thing I expected in the beer was that it was going to be a boring crisp golden ale (like Labatt 50, Molson Export) but it's actually pretty aggressive for a golden ale. The aroma is incredibly citrusy, hoppy and aromatic. There's notes of fresh cut alfalfa, a great deal of fruitiness that has fruits like banana, cantaloupe and lemons. Very parfumic.

Taste: I'm getting a bit of a soaked barley taste up front, which gives a very sweet, malt forward flavour with a great hop presence complimenting it. There's a great deal of fruitiness - the same fruits I noticed in the aroma, a hint of pine, a bit of bubblegum, light amount of bread and a hint of clove. Sweeter than your typical blonde ale and solid hop presence.

Overall Thoughts: Better than expected.. which is always a good thing. It's sweet with various fruity flavours, a hint of bitterness, mildly creamy for mouthfeel, somewhat acidic yet every easy to drink. Quite reminiscent to a summery wheat ale. I was expecting a crisp, light crafty Labatt 50 but was surprisingly impressed that it's not. I'll definitely drink this again.

Review: Beau's Tom Green Milk Stout

‟This is The Tom Green Beer, It’s not The Green Tom Beer, This is my favourite beer, Because it is my beer.” -Tom Green

Beau's and comedian Tom Green teamed up a few years back to create a Tom Green beer, a milk stout that tops out at 5%. Knowing Tom Green's humour from the 90s, I expected a really weird what the hell?! kind of beer but nope.. a straight forward milk stout! Not only that, it gets rave reviews from many of my friends out east!

Appearance: The Tom Green Beer pours a sorta heavy brown stout, nowhere near as thick and heavy as your typical stout or porter for the fact that I could see a bit of light through the beer easily. A bit of a burnt caramel hue, a very liberal amount of fizzy carbonation which was a surprise as I was expecting it to be more of a thick, creamy appearance. Minimal cookie dough yellow head that only goes to the side of the glass for the entire time the beer is in the glass.

Aroma: I'm noticing notes of roasted maltiness giving off a roasted coffee aroma with liberally sweet caramel, a hint of a herbal aroma that's reminiscent to green tea, definite notes of milk in there but it's fairly light, light graininess from the barley.

Taste: It's a sweet, slightly creamy milk stout with herbal tea notes starting out front followed by a moderate roasted coffee bean flavour, earthy hops - the herbal notes likely link back to the hops itself,  hint of burnt syrup, it's fairly watery for mouth feel and leaves a bit of a bitter/metallic aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: An interesting milk stout but I was hoping the lactic side of the stout would have been more prolific like in Charlevoix's La Vache Folle but it is certainly perfect for the long winter nights right before bed. The herbal notes are what surprised me the most, but I love when something interesting pops up like that!

Review: Fernie Brewing's Rockpile Red IPA

Fernie Brewing's Rockpile Red IPA

This is a beer I've been wanting to review for a while now but for some reason I missed it when it was available in Brandon. Fernie's Fernie Brewing is readily available in Manitoba with I-can't-even-count-how-many products available. For the most part, their beer is alright.. nothing special but certainly drinkable and better than most macro products on the shelves.

Rockpile Red IPA was the first beer featured in their Bucket List IPA Series, I've previously reviewed a few of their Bucket List beers before here and in the Brandon Sun, such as their Eldorado Single Hop IPA. Rockpile IPA is 7.2% ABV.. stronger than most IPAs on the market.

Appearance: Pours a fairly nutty brown ale with a caramel red hue, thick yellow-beige head that eventually leaves behind a lot of beige lacing on the side of the glass.

Aroma: Caramel malt sweetness, a hint of booze burning the nostrils, a hint of gritty barley, some hop presence but I can't put my finger on it - it's bitter but not any specific hop aroma to me.

Taste: It's definitely a Red IPA but the hops are mostly just bitter for the sake of bitter with no other hop notes showing off here - no pine, grapefruit, etc. Notes of caramel, lots of barley graininess that has a taste reminiscent to straight up raw, wet barley. A bit of a metallic, bitter aftertaste.

Overall Thoughts: I'm not really a fan. It's possible that this is past its prime. The hoppiness gives off just a bitter taste with no real substance. It's easy to drink though and a hint of creaminess... not bad but not great.

Borg Brugghús Leifur Nordic Saison

It's hard to find Icelandic beer in Manitoba - the amazing Lava Stout hasn't been available in Manitoba for a few years now so for the most part. Seeing Manitoba has the largest Icelandic population outside Iceland, you would think we would have better access to Icelandic beers. Thankfully Borg Brugghús has their amazing Garún stout and now Leifur Nordic Saison Nr.32. The Leifur Nordic Saison tops out at 6.8% ABV, making it a bit stronger than your typical saison.

Appearance: Leifur pours a bright yet cloudy orange with a bit of microcarbonation, a thick amount of beige head that diminishes to a finger's worth of head. There's a decent amount of sediment at the bottom of the beer glass.

Aroma: Quite a bit citrusy with lemon, a bit of a sour fruitiness to it, yeast and a heat of orange.

Taste: This is reminiscent of your typical saison, it's a citrus-forward wheaty saison with a moderate amount of barnyard funk, notes of orange peel, bubble gum, honey, and a hint of herbs. It leaves a bit of an acidic/sour aftertaste with a hint of graininess.

Overall Thoughts: Awesome saison! I don't know why this isn't available at more liquor stores in Manitoba, it's worth the $5-ish price tag. It's citrusy, light fruitiness and a bit bready. I can't wait to have this again and again!

The beer is named in honour of Leifur Eiríksson (Leif Erikson), the first European explorer to discover North America.

Dieu du Ciel's Équinoxe du Printemps Scotch Ale à l'érable

As you can easily tell in my photo - it's not spring and spring will likely never happen at this point... so why am I drinking a "Spring Equinox" beer? Because I can, and because I love maple! Équinoxe du Printemps is a Maple Scotch Ale by the folks over at Dieu du Ciel. It tops out at 9.1% so it's going a bit buzzy for me!

Appearance: The beer pours a very muddy, thick brown ale with a great amount of microcarbonation, a decent amount of yellowish beige head that goes absolutely nowhere - except to leave a bit of film residue on the side of the glass.

Aroma: This really is a scotch ale. The first thing I notice about the aroma is a heavy caramel/scotch aroma, overly sweet and desserty - perfect for a snowed in kind of day like today. A bit of a metallic smell to it, earthy hops and just a touch of maple syrup.

Taste: Insanely boozey the second it hits my palate, it's a hit of alcohol burn followed by a combination of caramel and maple syrup sweetness. The sweetness quickly diminishes leaving behind a bit of a bitter roasted malt aftertaste. Not as thick on the mouthfeel as I would think, it's fairly light. It's reminiscent to soft caramel candies as well as tire sur neige. Hint of dark fruits such as plums and raisins.

Overall Thoughts: I'm a maple syrup connoisseur so I was hoping for more of a syrupy goodness from the maple but it's certainly noticeable. Solid scotch ale - it's been quite a while since I've last had a scotch ale. It's moderately sweet but leaves a bitter, roasty aftertaste.

Trou du Diable's The Four Surfers of the Apocalypso (Les Quatre Surfeurs de l'Apocalypso)

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun, August 21, 2015

After my annual bièrcation to Montreal in April, I got news that Shawinigan’s Trou du Diable was going to be coming to Manitoba by the end of the spring. Well, it’s nearly the end of August and the brew is finally here.

The first time I heard of Trou du Diable was when they first introduced their Shawinigan Handshake beer, a German-style Weizen bock depicting the former prime minister Jean Chretien choking the devil — giving him the ‘Shawinigan Handshake.’

A few years later, they came out with another version of the label that’s frequently seen in Quebec and British Columbia, depicting Chretien choking Don Cherry.

Beer brands in Quebec seem to be able to get away with just about anything on their beer labels, but this is part of the Quebec beer culture — the beer artwork is part of the identity as much as the liquid in the bottle is. I love it.

The first Trou du Diable beer available in Manitoba is The Four Surfers of the Apocalypso, a tropical strong beer.

What surprises me is that the entire beer label is in English. I’m used to breweries in Quebec having a description in English/French but retaining the name of the beer itself in French. However, in this case, they use the English translation rather than Les Quatre Surfeurs de L’Apocalypso.

I would rather ask for a “quatres surfeurs” at a bar or the Liquor Mart than a “four surfers” — it would be much more fun. But that’s just me.

OK, now on to what’s in the bottle itself. Four Surfers is a Belgian-style India Pale Ale, which means that you get tropical, fruity, citrusy and yeasty flavours and aroma — lots of fruit (as it is still the year of fruity beer) mixed with a liberal amount of bittering hops to give it a bit of a pine and metallic bitterness.

It pours a bright yellow straw to light orange with a thick amount of off-white creamy head on top. The foam quickly diminishes, leaving lots of residue on the glassware. It’s a very cloudy ale and there’s a bit of sediment floating throughout the beer.

The aroma reminds me of piña coladas and hops — there’s lots of tropical zest in the smell. There are notes of pineapple, a hint of grapefruit, lots of banana, and a light amount of Belgian yeastiness, followed up with fresh bitter hops that give it the aroma of pine, alfalfa, fresh-cut grass, and more hints of grapefruit.

The taste starts out very grainy, gritty and yeasty, with plenty of bread and lemon notes, a light amount of grapefruit, and a moderate amount of cascade hops to give it a nice pine bitterness.
I was expecting more banana and pineapple to make an appearance. It’s smooth and silky on the tongue, only leaving a light to moderate metallic bitterness from the hops for an aftertaste.
Belgian-style White India Pale Ales are a newer trend in the beer scene, and frankly, they’re hard to pull off because I find that the bitter hops and Belgian ales seem to clash. Four Surfers is no exception.

It’s certainly a great take on a Belgian Wheat Ale, but with the addition of an India Pale Ale to it? It just doesn’t work. The hops aren’t as bitter as I expected and some of the citrus notes we know and love in a Belgian ale just don’t pop out around the hops.

One thing is for sure — drinking this beer brings me back to relaxing on the patio over at Le Saint Bock brewpub in Montreal, with its distinct Quebec vibe.

At the time of writing, Four Surfers of the Apocalypso wasn’t listed on for stock availability, so it may be just rolling out in Manitoba right now.

I was able to find it at the Corral Centre Liquor Mart for $6.61 per 600mL bottle. You may be able to find it at the South End and 10th and Victoria Liquor Marts as well, but they didn’t have it in stock yet when I checked.

It packs a 6.5 per cent ABV punch.

3/5 Pints

Gainsbourg Bistro-Brasserie's Orange Tie Wrap IPA (Série Road Trip)

As a beer blogger, nobody should be taking me seriously right now - I regularly break the biggest rule of beer reviews - never age and review an IPA. Unfortunately I'm so stubborn that I end up accidentally aging beer in my fridge. Tonight I'm checking out Orange Tie Wrap IPA by Gainsbourg Bistro-Brasserie out of Gainsbourg (Gatineau), Quebec. I picked this bottle up during my trip back in June, so it's not like it's too too old.. but of course take my review as idiotic if you want.

When I saw the beer in my fridge, I thought it was a saison so I just thought to myself "nah, I'll review it later", but it turns out that the Orange Tie Wrap is actually kind of a saison as it's a saison IPA (saison tropicale à l'orange). I love saisons.. I love IPAs, so I'm excited!

Appearance: Orange Tie Wrap pours a very cloudy orange peel/orange juice with a thick, frothy white head. The foam goes down pretty gradually to leave behind a bit of residue on the glass.

Aroma: Wow, the very first whiff I got out of this beer was "wow, this is nicely hopped!" - but you have to remember by this time I hadn't yet even checked out the label to see that it was an IPA. The aromas I got out of the beer were a nice (fresh!!!!) pine aroma with a great deal of tropical fruit such as grapefruit and pineapple, a heavy amount of barnyard funk from the yeast and a hint of pepper for spice. I'm loving the medley of aromas here a lot!

Taste: An upfront galaxy hop-like citrus flavour is the very first thing that pops onto my palate - it gives off a great pineapple, orange and papaya sweetness that I could savour all day long. I also get a bit of a peppery spiciness to it that tingles to tongue every time I take a sip (yet no heat). There's a bit of barnyard funk that you come across in many saisons now days. The beer is only 25 IBU so has a nice hop presence compared to many 65 IBU beers I drink that seem to be missing hops completely. This is a very juicy saison.

Overall Thoughts: Sure sure.. this is likely best before its prime, but HOLY EFF.. this is an incredibly delicious Saison IPA as it has your typical yeasty, spiced yet sweet flavours as well as an abundant of various hops that simply compliment you and the beer on every sip. I'm going to put Gainsbourg on my list of breweries that I will look for more of their products when I'm in Quebec in February. 7.5% ABV - I thought it would be 5.5%ish.

Review: Driftwood Brewing's Raised by Wolves IPA

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, November 18, 2016.

I can already hear some of your voices in my head as you’re reading this - “Oh Cody, yet another IPA? Are you serious? I hate IPAs.. why aren’t you reviewing Stella Artois instead? All you ever do is review IPAs!” Well, India Pale Ales are a very broad style of beers to the point that it can taste like a lager (Alexander Keith’s) or like a wheat beer (Belgian IPAs). A common theme from a few of my friends who became IPA lovers in Manitoba were that they visited BC, checked out Victoria, BC's Driftwood Brewery and fell in love with their Fat Tug IPA. Fat Tug is easily one of my top five IPAs in the world, and that includes Heady Topper out of Vermont. Driftwood Brewing makes more beers than just Fat Tug, in fact - they make a lot of amazing beers and their beer labels are some of the best in the entire industry thanks to the folks over at Hired Guns Creative out of Nanaimo.

This week, I’m checking out Driftwood’s Raised By Wolves IPA. Raised by Wolves is described as being born of equinox hops and raised under the influence of saccharomyces trois yeast, this beast has developed a taste for mango, citrus and melon with a nose to match.

I’m not familiar with equinox hops and haven’t had any beers with saccharomyces trois yeast in the past so the “Raised by Wolves” wild theme actually plays well into the theme of the beer. The beer pours a pale cloudy golden straw ale with a great deal of micro-carbonation, a hint of fizz and a good deal of off-white foaminess that is reminiscent to your typical Canadian IPAs - creamy, mild thickness and leaves lots of foam bits on the side of the glassware. The aroma is simply tasty - if you are familiar with beers that use Galaxy hops, then you are in for a treat - this beer is very reminiscent to a Galaxy hopped IPA as it’s a liberally citrus-forward IPA with notes of grapefruit, melon, orange peel, peach and mango. There’s a hint of pine bitterness as well but in this case, there’s more fruit in the hops than bitterness - almost like a fruit cocktail. My initial impression on the taste is that the hop bitterness is very much present, with a bitter pine flavour to it, the tropical citrus flavours are very much dominant in this Vancouver Island IPA. The flavours I get are pineapple, mango, bitterness of grapefruit and a hint of apricot.

With this being November, I would have appreciated this IPA back in July when the heat was unbearable, but even so - this is an extraordinary IPA that’s mostly fruit forward with a hint of pine to back it up. The batch is certainly fresh and it’s expected to be savoured ASAP! Driftwood can’t seem to make a bad beer and this is no exception - this is an IPA I recommend to not only the hop heads that read this column, but to those who like a sweeter, citrusy ale because this beer is just wowing me at every stage. I’m going to save a bottle of this beer for Christmas when my family is enjoying themselves in Bahamas while I’ll be sulking.. but at least I’ll have this beer to make it feel like a tropical paradise! You can find Driftwood's Raised by Wolves at Liquor Marts in Brandon and Dauphin for $6.75 per 650mL bottle. This will be one of the only times you’ll ever see me rate a 5 out of 5 Pints, but it’s an IPA that’s worth it! 7% ABV

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!