Quebec beers shine at Montreal festival

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, June 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Bridge Brewing's Lemon Gin Saison

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Fuggles & Warlock's The Last Strawberry Wit

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Budweiser Prohibition Brew Non-alcoholic beer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PEI Brewing - Vic Park Pale Ale

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Government: What will happen in Manitoba?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Driftwood Twenty Pounder Double IPA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mondial de la bière 2016 - Here I come!

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

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

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

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

Review: Mill Street West Coast Style IPA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Mill Street Cassis

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Arrogant Bastard Ale

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

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

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

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

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

Lake of Bays' Spring Maple Belgian Blonde Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

4/5 Pints

Review: Trou du Diable Le Sang d'encre

Sometimes I don't know why I write about beer.. Sometimes writing on here just feels like the song Utilities by the Weakerthans. Aside from the Quebec beer scene, I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Then.. I remembered.. I started this blog as a way to keep my mind focused during one of the worst periods of my life. AND!! TO TRY NEW BEERS! Whenever I remember trying new beers, I get excited again.. so that's why I continue to write.

The other day I got a mysterious package in the mail, it was a toque and a bunch of beer labels from the folks over at Microbrasserie Le Trou du Diable, one of my favourite breweries! Unfortunately winter was basically over by then, but when winter returns in October, I'll be ready and strutting around town with the awesome toque! The last time a Trou du Diable beer was available here in Brandon was back in November with their La Buteuse tripel, so as you could probably tell.. I was craving for something new (to me) by the brewery. With the Manitoba election taking place, I was hoping that the Shawinigan Handshake would finally make its way into Manitoba.. no such luck but Sang d'encre stout made it into town today!

Sang d'encre loosely translates to "to be worried sick", and Jean Leloup has an awesome song with the same name.

Apparently I've never had Sang d'encre before, but I recall buying this beer a year or two ago.. so I guess one of my asshole roommates drank it on me. I love Trou du Diable's naming of styles on their labels, instead of the beer being "Irish Dry Stout" (which this beer is), it's being called an Epic Stout instead. To me, it's too late in the year for stouts.. but with there being snow every few days, spring may never arrive!

Appearance: Sang d'encre pours a very dark brown stout with a bit of a caramel/nutty brown hue to it. A bit of a light beige/cream head on top that's pretty frothy at first but then settles down leaving some residue on the side of the glassware. Heavy.

Aroma: The first thing that pops in my mind is how lactic this stout is, it reminds me of the milk stouts I've had recently - Charlevoix La Vache Folle and Black Bridge Milk Stout.. quite milky even though it's not a milk stout at all. There's also notes of roasted malt which gives it a bit of a coffee aroma to it and a hint of dark chocolate. Oh and just a hint of wet dog.

Taste: Burnt malt which gives it a bit of a char/smokey taste to it. Notes of dark chocolate, a good deal of coffee and it leaves a bitter metallic aftertaste on the tongue. Somewhat creamy for the mouthfeel.

Overall Thoughts: Quite a roasty stout with a bit of smokiness to it - though the smokiness dies down as it warms up a bit. Somewhat bitter. Not bad but if this came out two months ago rather than now, I'd probably enjoy it more. I want a wheat ale!

From the archives: Steamworks Pilsner

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, August 4, 2014

Here in Manitoba, we live in Pilsner country, not as in Molson’s Old Style Pilsner country (the beer with the bunny on it) - that’s Saskatchewan, but as in prairie pilsner country. If you grew up in Manitoba like I did, you grew up around pilsener-style lagers like Labatt Blue, Kokanee, even Club and OV. When you go to a hockey or football game, a social, or your favourite bar or pub, generally they have lots of pilsner available. Pilsners have changed from your father’s Labatt Blue, lots of them now days are more true to the German style pilsners that use several varieties of hops, only the best malted 2-row prairie barley and a sweet citrus zest that makes you want more after a long hard day in the field.

Vancouver’s Steamworks Brewery now has their pilsner and pale ale available here in Manitoba. Their pilsner is rated one of the best pilsners in all of Canada and even won a gold medal at the 2012 Canadian Brewing Awards. I’m not a pilsner fan as they’re generally too light for me, and all the corny pilsners I’ve had over the years have done a toll on my stomach, my stomach turns at the smell of abundance of corn from some of the larger brewed pilsners out there.

Steamworks’ Pilsner pours just like your standard Canadian pilsner or lager, a clear, golden straw yellow body, decent amount of micro carbonation, but nowhere near as bubbly as a Kokanee or Blue. To top it off, it has a frothy off-white head. The aroma is a bit lighter than your standard Canadian pilsner but without that annoying corny aroma. It has aromas of quality Canadian barley that gives off a bit of a light straw and grassy tone to it, a hint of lemon, very earthy and a bit of a early morning summer dew vibe coming off it. The flavour is quite a bit reminiscent of what we know and love about Canadian pilsners, it has back notes of barley - the taste reminds me of going into a brewery right as the kettles are boiling to brew the beer, a very barley heavy pilsner, a pinch of lemon, quite grassy. To the average Kokanee/Blue/Canadian fan, this would be much more malty than your standard pils as there’s some sweet tones that leave a bit of an aftertaste to it. The hops are just as present as they would be in just about any other pilsner - not really there though it does owe some of its grassiness to the Hallertauer hops used. A tad bit less malty than Arden’s Farmery Lager, but a bit more hops than Farmery here. 

Pilsners just don’t do it for me. I love them after a hot work day as they are incredibly refreshing and not heavy in any sense compared to a Belgian ale or a stout, but I like a bit more citrus or hops in my pilsners. My current favourite pils is Half Pints’ Phil’s Pils out of Winnipeg, that’s a very floral and flavourful pilsner that would be a bit too much for the average beer drinker out there, but for me, I can’t get enough of it. I like the medium amount of sweet maltiness coming from the 2-row malt, but I’d like more hops please! What’s surprising is that Steamworks’ Pilsner is actually more bitter than Alexander Keith’s at 30 IBU compared to Keith’s at 20 IBU, so in a way.. this beer is more of an India Pale Ale than Keith’s! 5.0% ABV. Available at Liquormarts in Brandon and Virden. $3.25 per 500mL can.
3/5 Pints

Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Brewing is coming out with some new treats in the near future, some that will shock and awe you.. if it gets past the experimental stage! Fort Garry’s Big Buddha Lager will be hitting Liquormart shelves in Brandon in the next few weeks. Big Buddha is an Asian inspired lager that has notes of ginger and lemongrass giving the beer a bit of a bite as well as a citrus zest that’s perfect just in time for the “not quite autumn” season. I tried this one the other day and if you are a ginger ale fan and tend to drink lighter lagers or pilsners, this will be the best of both worlds for you. When it comes to town, it will be $2.97 per 473mL can.

From the archives: Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 8, 2014

France isn’t known about their beer, well.. I don’t honestly blame them when their wine industry is considered one of the best wine regions on the entire planet. When you’re insanely good at something, it’s hard to focus on being amazing at other things too. Beer isn’t a beverage that ever became a local staple like it has here in North America. Instead of drinking beer with a great steak dinner, it’s usually with a glass of wine. All that said - the French CAN brew beer if wine is their craft.

I’ve had several beers from France before, most of them tasted almost as bad as anything over at Minhas Creek, remember them? While most French beers make me wish I was drinking a Bud Light Chelada, not all French beers are horrible - French-Belgium and Quebec alone are considered some of the best beer-producing regions on the entire planet. Also, in France, I’ve had some decent French beers, including a smoked ale, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Kronenbourg 1664 is the most famous brand of French beers on the planet, you can find it at your local liquor store, you can sometimes find it at pubs and it’s affordable as well! Kronenbourg 1664 is your standard European lager, a bit skunky, quite grainy and some notes of corn, not an overly appetizing beer in my tastes. 

Then… there’s Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc, the newest beer by les Brasseries Kronenbourg. 1664 Blanc is a French take on Belgian-style witbiers. Witbiers are beers brewed with malted wheat and barley, generally unfiltered which gives the beer a cloudy appearance and a flavour of orange peel, coriander and lots of yeast. Witbiers have been a staple at Brandon pubs since 2006 when Rickard’s White came to town and now there’s several varieties of witbiers available due to demand. 

Brasserie Kronenbourg’s 1664 Blanc seems to be your typical Belgian-style witbier, except for the fact that it comes in a blue bottle, that’s right! When’s the last time you had a beer from a blue bottle? Probably not recently. 1664 Blanc pours like a standard Belgian witbier, a cloudy light yellow (straw) body, thick amount of creamy white foam to give it a beautiful head (topping). From the aroma, I’m getting scents of peaches, fresh oranges and even a bit of a spicy cinnamon! Mostly, sweet tropical fruits dominate the beer’s aroma more than anything else. Taste-wise, 1664 Blanc unfortunately doesn’t live up to the aromatic hype as the beer is lacking the sweet tropical fruitiness in the taste. What I’m tasting here is a bit of a watered down wheat ale with a hint of orange peels, lots of coriander, yeast and too much sugar. It’s sweet, but not in the natural tropical fruity sweet way that I was expecting. I get an aftertaste of mostly yeast and sugar more than anything else that I notice. 

For it being a beer from France, this is one of the better French beers on the market today, it’s an easy drinking wheat ale, incredibly smooth and light, tropically aromatic and a beer best enjoyed with salad, fresh fish, shellfish and Monterrey or Pepper Jack Cheese.

1664 Blanc is certainly not the best wheat ale out on the market today, but for me, being someone who loves to try beers from all over the world, it gives the beer drinker a bit of insight of how beer styles differ by region by region around the world! I’ve had this beer on tap at a pub in Winnipeg once and on tap, it was a bit more fruitier, perhaps because it served by keg instead of a blue bottle? BUT - Kronenbourg’s blue bottle really pops out at me!

Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc is 5.0% alcohol by volume, available in 330mL bottles at Liquormarts in Brandon, Neepawa and Russell for $2.26 per bottle.

New releases:
Phillips Bottle Rocket India Session Ale - Described as being packed with bright, hoppy bitterness sure to ignite your tastebuds.  This beer is light in colour and medium bodied but packs a hop blast sure to satisfy the most seasoned Hoprotechnician. 5% ABV. 355mL can for $2.69 at the Brandon 10th & Victoria Liquormart.

Dead Frog Classic Nut Brown Ale - This beer was previously available in Manitoba but didn’t sell well. Not only that, Dead Frog Brewing was hemorrhaging money. In 2012, the brewery asked Virden’s own Jim Treliving for help them stay afloat through CBC’s “The Big Decision”. The brewery didn’t end up partnering up with Treliving to save the brewery from closure. Instead, the brewery was restructured, stopped brewing beers that didn’t sell and tweaked the recipes of beers that were selling in the first place. The new revamped version of Classic Nut Brown Ale is a great treat for those who like a dark ale, but find stouts just a bit too thick and creamy. 5.0% ABV for a 355mL bottle. Available at the Brandon 10th & Victoria Liquormart and the Liquormart in Roblin.

Review: Microbrasserie Charlevoix's La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout

It's here! It's finally here! After several years of waiting, Microbrasserie Charlevoix's world famous La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout has made its way to Manitoba!

La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout is highly regarded as one of the world's best milk stouts - in fact, imperial milk stout. I don't know what took me this long to finally try the beer.. I've had the opportunity to purchase this in Quebec several times during my bièrcations.. But for some reason never did. I had the pleasure of sampling this at the family farm - only 100 metres away from some crazy cattle!

Appearance: La Vache Folle pours a very thick, dark as night black stout, a bit of a cola brown hue and a creamy yellow-beige cookie dough foamy head on top. I expected the foamy head to be more of a burnt caramel hue, but this is great too!

Aroma: Reminiscent of most stouts I've had, it has a rich roasted malt aroma to it which gives off a burnt coffee vibe to it. Hint of dark chocolate, but most of all - it has that typical milky/lactose scent that is in every single milk stout out there.. Which is a bit of a milk aroma with a light sourness to it.

Taste: This is sweeter than your typical stout. The first thing I taste is roasted malt, giving off a heavy coffee taste to it followed by a rich chocolate milk sweetness to it. Since the stout is a whopping 9% ABV, you better bet that this has a booze burn to it.. It's a bit of a syrup sweetness with a booze burn which quickly burns the throat immediately. Somewhat acidic yet creamy - the main flavours I'm getting are roasted coffee and chocolate milk.

Overall Thoughts: Solid Imperial Milk Stout.. But with it getting as much rave reviews as it has from my beer geek friends over the years, I was expecting it to be more chocolate milky and creamy as hell on the palate. I would say that this is very comparable to Saskatchewan's Black Bridge Milk Stout for the most part. I will be buying this again!

Review: Alchemist Heady Topper

I broke the first rule of drinking Alchemist's Heady Topper Double IPA - I poured it into a glass rather than drinking it straight from the can as the can suggests.. ah well, what a badass I am!

Heady Topper is considered one of the best beers in the world according to and (#5). Whenever The Alchemist does their weekly limited releases at the local beer stores in Vermont, people travel from all over the United States (and Canada) to line up before the stores open to buy a four-pack or a few flats of the DIPA. If people are willing to travel from all over just for a weekly beer release.. it has to be good!

Appearance: Heady Topper pours a very cloudy orange-golden ale which has an appearance that reminds me a bit of a Belgian witbier, perfectly unfiltered. Good amount of carbonation and it pours a thick snow white head that gradually goes down leaving a finger's worth of foam in the glass. Sorry folks - I drank this mostly from the glass (except from the remnants in the can).

Aroma: My goodness! There's an incredibly rich hop presence here. Rich notes of pine, pepper, tropical citrus notes (grapefruit with a hint of pineapple). There's an insane amount of hops in here.. something I haven't seen in an IPA for a while. Somewhat acidic and oddly spicy.

Taste: For those who haven't tried Heady Topper before, this double IPA tops out at 120 IBU.. now thaaaat's bitter! It is frankly way too bitter for my tastes but hey.. when in Vermont! I'm tasting a lot of pine, moderate amount of alfalfa, a hint of rosemary and a nice presence of pineapple and grapefruit for tropical vibes. I've sampled this cold and room temperature and when it's cold, I find it's very heavy on the stomach and burns the esophagus almost immediately. At room temperature, it's easier for me to handle because I actually had to drain pour one can of Heady Topper because it made me gag to the point that I actually barfed.. that's not good!

Overall Thoughts: I'm a bit surprised that this is rated the #5 best beer according to, but that being said.. this is an insanely delicious IPA if you can handle the 120 IBU bitterness. Will I ever wait in line to get another four pack of this? I couldn't tell you but if I'm in Winooski and it happens to be a Heady Topper day, I probably will.. or else I will just get one of my Montreal buddies to pick me up a can. My esophagus is starting to feel the burning.. hello there hops!  8.0% ABV

Review: Dieu du Ciel's Route des épices rye ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, March 4, 2016

It’s one of my favourite times of the year again. The time of winter when a bunch of new beers make their way to the MLCC and beer vendors!

Among the new releases, Molson has released a John H.R. Molson & Bros 1908 Pale Ale — brewed according to the brewmaster’s recipes dating back to 1908 and using hops from Oregon, Canada and the U.K. to give it a light bitterness reminiscent to beers savoured back in 1908. The 1908 Pale Ale is easily one of the best Molson products I’ve had in a long time. Microbrasserie Charlevoix’s award winning La Vache Folle Imperial Milk Stout is now available in Brandon! La Vache Folle is rated among one of the top milk stouts in the world. Out of Ontario, Sawdust City Brewing has two beers available including a Skinny Dippin’ Oatmeal Stout and Ol’Woody Altbier, this marks the first time that Sawdust City’s beers have been available in Manitoba. My favourite saison, La Saison de la Ceinture Fléchée by Winnipeg’s Half Pints is back in Brandon. You can actually find La Saison on tap at SUDS at Brandon University as well!

The most interesting new release to me is a beer I had four years back - Route des Épices by Quebec microbrewery Dieu du Ciel. Route des Épices is one of the top five strangest beers I’ve ever had in my life. Essentially, Route des Épices is a rye pale ale brewed with black and green peppercorns. So, you’re probably already thinking “eww Cody, that’s just weird, who would want peppercorns in their beer?” Well, I’m not sure who would, but that’s what I love about beer - it can be just about anything you can think of!

Route des Épices’ body pours a rich nutty brown with a nice cherrywood reddish hue to it. For the head, it’s a minimal amount of beige foam with a good deal of carbonation taking place. The aroma is a combination of rye malt and.. pepper. Rye malt is already known for being a bit spicier grain than barley or wheat, so to add black and green peppercorns to the mix just makes it a spice-filled ale. The aroma is a bit reminiscent of Rogue’s Chipotle Ale that was readily available in Manitoba until two years back. Aside from the aroma of rye and pepper, I find that there’s a faint note of ginger and caramel as well. The initial thoughts on the taste was that it was for sure a rye pale ale as it had grainy, moderately sweet and caramel flavour to it. However, the peppercorns quickly overtook the rye almost immediately, so here I’m getting the taste of freshly ground pepper, a moderate amount of burning sensation on the tongue from the peppercorns and even a lingering aftertaste of pepper. So as you can tell, this is a spicy, peppery beer with a bit of a rye bite to it.

If you are adventurous about beers like I am, go out and buy a four-pack. If you aren’t adventurous about beer at all, do NOT buy this beer. Why? Well.. When’s the last time you had a peppery beer? Exactly. I’ve known people who took one sip of this, gagged and poured the rest down the drain. If you want to try it, which I do suggest to the more adventurous beer drinkers here in Westman, buy the four pack, give the other three bottles to other adventurous beer drinking friends and just try to pick out the different flavours you notice in this strange peppery rye pale ale. This is why I love Dieu du Ciel, they make beers that they want to make, beers with interesting and outlandish flavours, not beers that will sell by the flat within minutes. Do you love spicy food and love great beer? Well, then this beer is for you! Route des Épices is available at Liquor Marts in Brandon for $10.93 per 341mL four-pack. 5.3% ABV

3.5/5 Pints

Photo Gallery: Beer photos from 2008

He's just some random photos of the beers I've tasted back in 2008. Some of them were done here back in Manitoba, many were while in Quebec City. This seriously brings back some serious memories

Big Rock Winter Spice Ale

Enjoying a beer on a plane

Corona with lime
Corona y lime


Cerveza por favor!

Ice cold BEER!

Geez mom, you can be an alkie sometimes
Triple fisting beer

What's your poison?

Drinking a cold cerveza

Éphémère Framboise (Raspberry)
Unibroue Éphémère Framboise (Raspberry)

Molson Export

Unibroue Blonde Pilsner Beer
Unibroue "U" Blonde Pilsner - REVIEW

Someday we'll be ROCK stars!

Labatt Bleue

Labatt Bleue Dry & Labatt Bleue

So.. I like the imports

Apres la fête!

Unibroue Quatre Centième (L'Éspace 400e de Québec)
Unibroue Quatre Centième beer released for the 400th birthday of Quebec's founding

Non svp
Non merci.

C'est pas grave!

Cheap Canadian beer!
Cheap as hell for swilly swill

Blanche de Chambly

Hobgoblin gift set

Éphémère Pomme

La Fin du Monde

Sleeman IPA label


Review: Dépanneur Peluso 30e Anniversaire Imperial Stout aux Griottes (Brasseurs Illimités)

A few years back, the folks over at Dépanneur Peluso celebrated their 30th anniversary. To celebrate 30 years of being awesome, they worked with Les Brasseurs Illimités and introduced the Peluso 30 Imperial Stout for the anniversary. Now days, Dépanneur Peluso is highly regarded as one of the top beer stores in all of Canada and it's no surprise because they carry over 400 beers brewed in Quebec and have staff who absolutely love talking about beer day and night.

I picked up a bottle of the Pelsuo 30 Imperial Stout aux Griottes when I was in Montreal last April, so it's probably aged and changed a bit in the 11 months since I got it. That's what imperial stouts are about!

Appearance: Pours a rich black with a light cola brown hue to it. The foamy head starts off a burnt caramel brown but gradually changes to a light cookie dough brown as the foam settles a bit.

Aroma: I'm getting a rich, dark roasted stout with hints of campfire smokiness, a hint of dark chocolate/cocoa.. and for it being a cherry stout, there's only a hint of cherry sweetness (no tartness).

Taste: A woody flavour is the first thing I notice which actually turns into more of a roasted malt flavour as I'm letting the stout warm up. It's a bitter roasty stout with notes of dark chocolate/mocha, fairly watery mouthfeel on the palate compared to your typical creamy imperial stout and unlike the aroma, I'm getting faint sour cherry notes here and there. I don't know how to compare the sour cherry flavour as it's not your typical kriek/Belgian sour cherry sort of tart/sourness, it's more of a dried cherries in a granola bar sort of tartness. The cherries really don't play much of a role in this stout, the roasty maltiness is front and centre.

Overall Thoughts: Comparing it with reviews all over the internet, I'm the only one that seems to notice a bit of a smoky/campfire vibe in the stout. Of course, this stout has been aged for a bit, but  I absolutely love smoky stouts so can't go wrong with that. I wish the griottes (cherries) made more of a presence in the stout, but since it made a presence in both the aroma and taste, that's fine by me. Peluso 30 tops out at 9.3% ABV.. which actually makes it the 3rd strongest beer/mead I've had tonight!