Review: Flying Monkeys Super Collider 2.0 Double India Pale Ale

From the archives - Flying Monkeys Super Collider 2.0 DIPA - 2015

We don't get much variety of Flying Monkeys here in Manitoba.. usually the main staples like Smashbomb Atomic IPA and once every 6 months there'll be a bottle of something seasonal/one off released here for $15 per 750mL. Generally it's very expensive for my pocket.. but they tend to make solid beer.. so why not? Tonight's brew is their Super Collider 2.0 Double IPA which tops out at 10.4% ABV and 102 IBU, so it's going to be a strong one!

Appearance: The Super Collider pours cloudy and somewhat murky iced tea-like copper brownish in appearance, a good amount of beige head makes an appearance at the beginning but slowly disappears as it warms up. Somewhat soapy.

Aroma: The aroma is a bitter and sweet medley of flavours. For the bitterness I'm getting the typical bitter pine bite at the beginning, a hint of grassiness and a hint of lemon. The sweetness is a mild tropical aroma of various fruits such as pineapple, tangerine peels and a hint of grapefruit. Fairly welcoming but nothing too special in a DIPA.

Taste: Quite a rush of bitter pine right from the get-go. Moderate notes of grapefruit and again - some sweet tropical flavours such as pineapple, tangerine peels and a light biscuity breadness pairing up with caramel.

Overall Thoughts: Worth $15/bottle? Perhaps as I certainly enjoyed it.. great bite of piney hops - leaves a bit of a hoppy aftertaste on my tongue. Great deal of tropical sweetness. Certainly a better deal than anything Rogue puts out.

Appleton Estates tour tells story of rum

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, December 19, 2014

I’m a beer columnist and generally don’t drink any other sort of alcoholic beverages such as wine, ciders or other spirits. When you visit another part of the world, sometimes beer isn’t the most popular alcoholic beverage like it is here in Canada. A lot of it has to do with resources that are available in the region. Seeing that Manitoba is plentiful in barley and wheat, a lot of it is used in beer and whisky, so we tend to see a million different varieties of beers and whiskies here. In Jamaica, for the most part they have to import barley from Canada and the European Union, so they rely on sugar cane, which is one of their largest resources. Also, sugar cane isn’t known as an ingredient that can be malted to make a traditional beer, so it ends up going into making rums and liqueurs. I’m not a rum fan, but seeing I was in the neighbourhood, I just had to make a visit to the Appleton Estates Rum Factory in rural Jamaica.

At $25 USD per person for a tour, it’s quite a bit more expensive than going on a beer tour as the most I’ve ever paid for a beer tour was $0.00. However, seeing that Appleton Estates is one of the largest rum manufacturers on the planet, I was willing to cough up the money just so I could say I visited Appleton Estates. When you arrive, there’s a rum sampling station, a large bar and dining room and a store where you can buy Appleton’s products. Since I opted for a tour, I was told to wait in the dining room where I was immediately greeted and served some of Appleton’s homemade rum punch, a delicious beverage of a blend of tropical Jamaican fruits and a good amount of rum to give it a bit of a kick. 

During the tour, the tour guide Peter was passionate about the distillery, teaching us about the history of the Appleton distillery, that before electricity was introduced on the island, the distillery would rely on donkeys pulling on a grinding station to turn freshly harvested sugar cane into a liquid that would eventually be fermented and turned into molasses, as well as until the last few decades, there would be train service between the sugar cane fields and the distillery to bring the sugar cane right to the distillery as the country’s roads weren’t improved until the last 30 years or so. Another thing that was interesting is that rum doesn’t just all of a sudden turn into 40% booze, it takes a lot of boiling and steam release for the product to go from 7% to 40%. 

After the rum is boiled and fermented, it is barrelled and dated in their warehouse, where it is aged for no less than three years. Some of the barrels I saw in the warehouse were between seven and ten years old, but they make rums that are aged to up to even 21 years. Unfortunately for us, the blending of the rum takes place in Kingston, so what happens is that once the Kingston factory needs three year old rum or rum of a certain age, they will bring some barrels up from the warehouse and use it for their blends. From there, they will blend it with various barrels of their rum and make sure it has the distinct Appleton Estates flavours to it. From there, it’s bottled and sent all over the world. Appleton’s rum demand is now being sold in more countries around the world to the point that they are running out of capacity, so that means they are currently in works to expand their distillery to allow for easier production for North American and Asian markets. 

At the end of the tour, we were given samples of their rums and coffee rum liqueurs. While at the end of the tour I still wasn’t a rum fan, their Sangster’s Coffee Rum Liqueur was very delicious and comparable, if not better than Bailey’s. Sangster’s is currently not available in Manitoba but it’s available elsewhere in Canada.

Looking here in Manitoba, we have a very comparable operation in our own back yard with Diageo’s Crown Royal distillery in Gimli. Gimli is the only place in the world where Crown Royal Whisky is distilled. Unfortunately for us, unlike Appleton Estates, they don’t give public tours anymore. So that sucks. 

If you’re in Jamaica, you should check out the Appleton Estates rum factory. The history buff in me really enjoyed learning about how the distillery came to be, but the lover of all things booze related loved being around hundreds of oak rum barrels.

Aside from Appleton’s Sangsters Rum Liqueur, you can find most of Appleton’s rums at almost any Liquor Mart or small town off-sales liquor store. If you were hoping for a beer review: I recommend checking out Jamaica’s Dragon Stout. What surprises me about Dragon Stout is that for a beer made in a very tropical country, it is a very thick, molassesy and strong beer, perfect for a dessert after a quarter jerk chicken meal. 

Review: Charles Henri Blanche by Brasserie Les 2 Frères

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, January 2, 2016 

Happy New Year! 

I can’t believe it’s already 2016. The end of January will mark the second anniversary of First Draught in The Brandon Sun. I can’t believe it has been that long already.
Back in April, I went to Montreal for my annual bièrcation. While I was there, I checked out Marché Jean Talon, a large indoor farmers market featuring fresh-baked goods, fresh meat, squeaky cheese curds and even maple syrup. Across the street from the Marché was a small dépanneur (convenience store) that mainly sold beer and cheese. I noticed a bottle of Le Trou du Diable’s Shawinigan Handshake with a label featuring former prime minister Jean Chrétien choking hockey commentator Don Cherry. Next to it was a beer called Charles Henri Blanche by Brasserie Les 2 Frères out of Terrebonne. One of the sales clerks at the dépanneur was telling me that Brasserie Les 2 Frères was an up-and-coming brewery that only recently opened up. I love trying out new breweries so I picked up the Charles Henri as well as a bottle of their Hickson IPA. 

Last month I went to Winnipeg to visit a friend who was in town for the Grey Cup. Seeing that LCs and vendors in Brandon generally miss a few dozen products that get sold in Brandon, I tend to buy a bunch of beers that aren’t available in Brandon - two of them were the Charles Henri and Hickson IPA! I was surprised to see such a small Quebec brewery selling their beer in Manitoba, but the more the merrier! 

I regularly run into Jeff from the Corral Centre Liquor Mart and suggest him new beers, even when he’s not working. Like clockwork there will be the beer I suggested in the beer selection by the end of the following week. Last week he brought in a case of Les 2 Frères Charles Henri Blanche to the Corral Centre LC! I really am biased about the Quebec beer scene, but when you see towns the size of Hartney with incredibly successful breweries that sell their beer internationally, it makes a beer geek like myself envious.  

Charles Henri Blanche is your typical Belgian style witbier, it pours a thick cloudy orange-meets-lemon peel yellow with a very thick amount of off white head that takes forever to go down. The foam that does end up diminishing leaves a white filmy substance on the side of the glass. The aroma is very parfumic with a very rich scent of coriander, making it the dominant scent in the beer followed by a good amount of orange zest, a moderate amount of Belgian yeast, bubble gum and a squirt of lemon. The aroma makes me think that it would be great as part of a beer mimosa. The taste is a mixture of champagne, Belgian yeast, lots of coriander, lemon wedge and a hint of iron. This beer is heavy in coriander, making it more herbal and sweeter than a Rickard’s White. I find some people prefer more of a yeasty Belgian witbier that’s minimal on coriander, I love a liberal amount of coriander in my witbier.. as long as it doesn’t take away from the other flavours.

Taking away the coriander, Charles Henri Blanche has a lot of notes that reminds me of a Belgian saison, lots of lemon zest rather than orange peel, hint of iron and a bit of a grassy hoppiness. Charles Henri is a citrusy wheat ale that I’m finding is very welcoming in the winter with it being heavier than your typical Blanche de Chambly, Rickard’s White or Hoegaarden yet isn’t too strong on the stomach. At 5.1 percent ABV, it’s your typical strength for a wheat ale. Locally, you can only find this at the Corral Centre Liquor Mart for $5.00 per 500mL bottle. Otherwise you will have to go to Winnipeg to pick up this Terrebonne treat.

3.5/5 Pints

Edit: Apparently, it turns out Manitoba was the first market Les 2 Frères entered outside of Quebec!

Review: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale

Lagunitas is now in Manitoba! Well, I'm excited and kind at the same time kind of 'meh'd' by it because well.. Lagunitas is in Manitoba.. and the brewery's now owned by Heineken. I guess it's better to be bought out by Heineken than AB-InBev though. Prior to tonight, the only times I've ever tried Lagunitas was thanks to Jonny! Jonny and I are heading to Montreal and Vermont next week for a bièrcation.. a bièrcation I can't afford, especially with the low CAD-USD exchange rate. Ah well, I have to have fun once in a while, right?!

Lagunitas' Hop Stoopid Ale and A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' ale are the two new arrivals in Manitoba.. no idea if there's plans for more beers to make its way here in Manitoba, but time will tell. Their Hop Stupid Stoopid is reasonably priced at $8.70, making it much more bang for the buck if it turns out to be good, as compared to $16.24 for a 750mL of Rogue's Honey Kolsch.. I can't justify paying that much on a kolsch, especially a kolsch that's not even enjoyable. I have no idea how long Hop Stoopid has been sitting in the MLCC warehouses, so hopefully it's enjoyable!

Appearance: Hop Stoopid pours a lightish golden yet amber ale. Really good carbonation taking place with there being a lot of micro-bubbles in streams just like the beer bubbles I'd watch in my parents beers as a child. It has a bit of a creamy beige head, about 1.5 fingers thick and there's a good amount of foam sticking to the side of the glass.

Aroma: It's been a while since I had a beer with 100+ IBU.. I think it was back in the early fall. I miss hops. This one is a strong bitter hop-filled beer. The notes I'm getting here are a heck load of pine, a huge parfumic note of grapefruit, a smidge of dill, some pepper to give it a bit of spicy itchy herbal notes to the notes. So, incredibly bitter.. but.. there's also some sweet tropical notes popping here and there, such as a hint of orange peel and the typical lemon zest. I can tell that this isn't fresh off the line but hey.. this is a great smelling DIPA so far!

Taste: Bitter right from the very millisecond it hits my tastebuds. I get a bitter grapefruit fruitiness in there mixed up with fresh cut pine, a hint of lemon, a bit of copper and a good hint of orange peel. As the beer mellows, I get more of a yeasty, bready bite from the flavour.. yet the hops seem to be in charge of this brew. As I'm drinking this, I'm not getting that acid burn from the bitterness yet.. so that's always a plus, but ask me in 3 hours from now what I think!

Overall Thoughts: Considering it's now a Heineken product, if I had to choose between this, Goose Island IPA (brewed at Kokanee) or Rickard's Red IPA, I would splurge $3+ for this over the others. It's been a long time since I had a bitter DIPA that wasn't too overpowering on hops to the point where I'm burping non stop in 2 hours, yet has enough to make me miss drinking incredibly hoppy beers in the first place. I will be buying this again, even if I'm already broke as eff.

8.0% ABV, 102 IBU

Review: Pit Caribou's Brett Session IPA

Two session IPAs in a week, what are you up to Cody?! Well, it's just coincidence! I'm a big fan of Pit Caribou out of La Gaspésie.. well, name me any Quebec brewery and I'm likely a fan! Today's session IPA is Brett Session IPA. I've had less than half a dozen beers in my life that use Brett yeast so I'm not sure what to expect from the flavours and aromas of the beer.. all I remember is half of them I've managed to have foam up on me, and this is not an exception.

Appearance: La Brett Session IPA pours a very whitish-beige foamy beer, lots and lots of foam, but it slowly diminishes, showing a thick, cloudy as eff.. almost orange juice looking beer. Very thick and orangey-yellow. The remaining head is a big spoonful of foam on top that isn't going anywhere.

Aroma: The aroma is hard to describe, it's very much like a barn yard sort of aroma.. it has a real muskiness to it, some notes of old wood, some herbal.. almost like a peppermint aroma to it, a hint of horse's breath, some tropical notes of grapefruit and lemon and a hint of mellow grassy hops.

Taste: The bitterness of the hops come out first and foremost this time around with a mildly bitter and acidic pine bite hits the tongue immediately followed by notes of what I expect a barn to taste like, slightly sour, herbal, woody notes, lemon and incredibly funky.. which is what I expect what the Brett yeast is pushing. Light fruitiness of grapefruit and lemon also make an appearance.

Overall Thoughts: I'm not too sure if I'm a fan of Brett yeast, it's incredibly funky and barn-like most times I've had it, but I guess it's one of those things that has to grow on me, especially as there's currently zero Brett beers sold at the LC here in Manitoba. Very interesting flavours though.. and it kind of helps that the guy on the label looks strikingly like an old roommate to mine, including the exhausted, almost defeated look in his eyes. 4.5% ABV

Review: Molson Canadian 67 Session IPA

I remember back in 2014 one of the newest beer crazes coming out of the craft beer scene was session style beers. Essentially, they were the typical styles of beers we know and love, but at a lower alcohol percentage. Many beer geeks thought the trend was either stupid or well.. just strange. To most beer geeks, including myself.. why settle with a lower ABV beer when you could just drink a smaller portion size of a regular beer instead? To some, they want the whole beer, but without all the alcohol.

For the most part sessions disappeared, but a few breweries are making them still. Then there's the Molson Canadian 67 line of beers. I find that The 67 brand is trying to be aimed towards the bro who goes to the gym and loves to eat greasy double bacon cheeseburgers.. in fact, that's exactly what one of their television ads was about a few years back.. and it failed. In reality, the 67 brand has only succeeded towards my mom's group of friends.. women who don't really like the taste of beer but want a beer, especially something they can drink more than one of without worrying about too much caloric intake because every 341mL bottle has only 67 calories (70 calories for 355mL can). I've never seen anyone but my mom drink 67 so I suppose she's the soul person who's keeping the brand afloat.. because someone has to drink the brand.

NOW there's Molson Canadian 67 Session IPA, which I know will be aimed even more to the bro crowd even more. Every brewery has an IPA in this day and age.. and hell, even Molson 67 has one now, a session IPA at that. I find it weird but I suppose they are trying to capture the demographic who will buy a flat of Bud Lights on a weekend, but will it succeed? Probably not. The average craft beer drinker doesn't care about how many calories there are in a serving of an IPA, and the average lager fan doesn't like the taste of hops - so.. who will actually drink this? I don't know. So that's why I'm here - to try this beer so you don't have to!

Molson 67's new Session IPA comes in 473mL cans, has 3% ABV which is half the alcohol you would typically see in a traditional IPA and tops out at 90 calories (67 calories if it was a 341mL serving).

Appearance: Molson 67 Session IPA pours a medium honey brown, reminiscent of an actual beer rather than the watered down stuff that the typical 67 sees. There's a lot of carbonation taking place in the beer, to the point where the foam fizzes into nothing like a soda.. which isn't normal for a typical IPA, so I'm wondering what they're using in this Session IPA in the first place.

Aroma: The first thing I noticed was that there was an actual presence of hops in this beer! It's a very aromatic citrusy vibe with rich notes of grapefruit, pine, lemongrass and dill. Honestly, I'm surprised how nice this beer smells.. especially for a Molson 67 product.

Taste: Hmmm.. alright, well.. the aromatic zest doesn't really carry over into the flavour. I'm finding that it's fairly watered down and lacking in that grapefruit and pine that I enjoyed in the aroma. The only notes I'm getting here are faint notes of dill pickle chips and a sour yet tinny aftertaste. To be fair, a dill pickle saison would be effing delicious, but in the case of this session IPA, it's just annoyingly bitter and doesn't have any flavours complimenting each other. Thankfully, the dill pickle is there only for the 10 milliseconds when it hits your tongue, but the weird sour tinny aftertaste is just not something I'm liking.

Overall Thoughts: Not a fan.. but what can you expect? This is a Molson 67 product. Over the years I've seen many Molson products get introduced with lots of attention only to fizzle completely (Molson Kick, Molson Canadian Wheat). I can't see Molson 67 Session IPA lasting more than a year or two, especially with Rickard's Red IPA being a better tasting option at Molson.. and not to mention the 10,000 other IPAs available in Canada.

Cody's Top Five Beers of 2015

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, December 18, 2015

I can’t believe Christmas is a week away and 2016 will be here before you know it. If you are still looking for stocking stuffer suggestions for friends or family beer geeks, there’s a few products at the Liquor Mart that will please the snobbiest of them all.

While Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye is still impossible to find, I suggest checking out Wisers Hopped Whisky by Hiram Walker & Sons. At $27.99 per 750 ml bottle, this Canadian whisky with notes of dark ale and hops is something that won’t break the bank for those who like whisky and beer.

Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve is back for the 2015 Edition, at $8.71, it’s a 10% ABV Belgian dark ale that’s aged in French oak barrels, 17 can easily be aged for up to five years if you like to age beer like I do. La Trappe Trappist Ales are now available in Manitoba made by La Trappe Monastery out of Berkel-Enschot in the Netherlands. They currently have two beers available in Manitoba including tripel style ale and a quad style ale, both being $16.61 per 750mL bottle. While the cost is more than what a traditional beer would be - even at an expensive bar, but La Trappe is known for making some of the best ales in the world. I would certainly spend $16 or more on a Trappist ale rather than $25 on a mediocre India Pale Ale made by Rogue Ales.

I’ve tried a lot of beers in 2015 - a lot of decent beers, a lot of ripoff beers (looking at you again, Rogue) and a few rarities I wish I could savour over and over again. 

Le Trou du Diable’s La Buteuse: This is the very first beer I ever sampled by Le Trou du Diable out of Shawinigan. I raved about their tropical IPA Les 4 Surfeurs which sold out within days of launch in Manitoba. La Buteuse is still available locally at the three main Liquor Marts for $7.64 per 600mL bottle. I love Belgian ales, so this was exactly what I hoped for in a strong 10% ale - it had notes of banana, clove, coriander, fairly sweet on the tongue and even gave off a bit of a high alcohol burning sensation. Every time I visit the LC, this is something I can’t say no to.

Half Pints Brewing's Heidrun's Sweet Mead: Ha! One or two of you are likely thinking “Cody, this isn’t a beer!” No it’s not! Half Pints’ Brewmaster Dave has been wanting to make a mead (fermented honey based wine) for years now but the provincial laws in Manitoba are incredibly vague about the production of mead, especially in a brewery.. so he did it anyways! According to Brewmaster Dave, it cost $10,000 to acquire unpasteurized honey to make the mead. I’m not a wine fan but when I acquired an early batch of the mead back in April, I was hooked! It was more reminiscent to a Barley or Wheat Wine like their Burly Wine or Demeter’s Harvest as it’s sweet, smooth-as silk, thick and syrupy and full of honey goodness. I would consider this an after dinner apéritif that needs to be shared with friends and family. You won’t be able to find this locally but you can pick this mead at the Half Pints Brewery or one of select Liquor Marts in Winnipeg for approximately $20 per 650mL bottle. This can be easily aged for up to ten years.

Black Bridge Brewing’s Milk Stout: I recently reviewed this right here in the Sun! This is a chocolatey milk stout with a bit of rich maltiness that gives off a nice fresh roasted coffee vibe. I rarely drink stouts anymore, but when I do, this is one of my go-to stouts. My favourite Milk Stout in the world is La Vache Folle by Microbrasserie Charlevoix out of Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec.. but I have to travel to Quebec to buy that! So to me, Swift Current’s Black Bridge makes a very very close runner-up for amazing stouts. You can find this at the Corral Centre and 10th & Victoria Liquor Marts for $3.56 per 355mL can. 

Brasseurs Sans Gluten’s Glutenberg Pale Ale Américaine: To be honest, gluten-free beers taste horrible.. either they taste like rice water or lemon water. Glutenberg’s Pale Ale Américaine is the first gluten free beer that I actually enjoyed.. but also purchased more than once. The Pale Ale Américaine is brewed with millet, buckwheat, hops and quinoa to give it a moderately hopped, grainy, bit grassy and dark enough that it looks like you’re drinking an actual beer! Well, the thing about beer is that it can be brewed with just about any ingredient or grain. You can find this at the Corral Centre and 10th & Victoria Liquor Marts. 

Garún #19 Icelandic Stout: The $5 price tag for 330mL stout seemed a bit pricey for me when I first bought it.. but I’m also one of the few Manitobans who once spent $200 on a bottle of Sam Adams Utopias which is one of the most expensive beers in the world. So, as you can tell, it’s easy to make a beer purchase coming from a $200 beer.. three years ago. Garún #19 Icelandic Stout tops out at 11.9% ABV, so thankfully it’s not in a large 750mL format like a Unibroue ale. Garún reminds me of fresh baked brownies.. who doesn’t love fresh baked brownies?! Following the brownies, moderate notes of roasted coffee beans and a hint of molasses and vanilla.. so, this is something that I love to savour after a steak or rib dinner. Also, if you happen to make ice cream or gelato, this is a stout that will work really well as an actual dessert! Oddly enough, this isn’t the best Icelandic stout I’ve ever had.. Lava Stout is by far the best, but Garún is such a sweet yet savoury stout that I recommend to anyone who prefers a dark ale or stout. You can find this at the Corral and 10th & Victoria Liquor Marts.

Ommegang Farmhouse Saison

Originally posted in The Brandon Sun, Sept 11, 2015

So, this past weekend my mom asked me bout the “big news”. I was confused about what she meant - So Farmery Estate Brewery announced that they purchased an old Farm Implements dealership in Neepawa to turn into their Estate Brewery in 2016. I’m the very last person in Manitoba to be told when there’s a new brewery opening up or expanding.. I don’t know why, but I’m more likely to hear about brewery news in North Dakota than I am here in Manitoba. So, I’m excited that Western Manitoba will be getting their very first brewery in 80+ years, but when it comes to an “Estate Brewery”, the meaning is to be brewed on the same plot of land where the barley, wheat and hops are grown, not in a town a half hour away. So that’s not exactly an “estate brewery”, but they’ve shown more interest in marketing in beer vendors, bars and restaurants throughout South Western Manitoba than Fort Garry and Half Pints combined, it’s no wonder that they’re the de-facto local beer now. Serious props goes to the Warwaruk brothers - thanks to them I’ve tried beers from Yukon, Ontario and New Brunswick that were previously never available in Manitoba, and now with their Farmery Brewery hopefully opening up in Neepawa, it will employ local people who want to brew the best beer in Manitoba! Next time, I just wish breweries would let me know they were opening up a brewery instead of finding out through my mom, who prefers Molson 67 - Hi Loree!

This week we’re tasting Hennepin Farmhouse Saison by Brewery Ommegang out of Cooperstown, New York. I’ve raved and reviewed about Ommegang’s beer back in April when I reviewed their Game of Thrones’ Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale. Since then, Ommegang’s beers have disappeared and slowly re-appeared from Liquor Marts’ shelves, but now their Hennepin Farmhouse Saison is back and as good as ever! I’ve enjoyed the Hennepin Saison for the past year or so, it’s a great summer time treat worth savouring after a long day of harvesting. 

Hennepin pours a hazy yet bright golden straw, hint of orange hue, cloudy and unfiltered. The head is very thick and a frothy snow white, almost two fingers thick! The aroma has notes reminiscent of shovelling wheat in a grain bin, so it’s fairly grainy and musky. There’s notes of lemon, pizza dough, a light amount of sourness and a spiciness coming from coriander, so for the most part, this is your typical Belgian-style saison. The taste has a strong boozey burning sensation as soon as I took my first sip, a bit of lemon peel, Belgian yeasts which gives it a just a hint of bubble gum. There’s also notes of black pepper, light leafy hop bitterness that leaves a hint of a metallic aftertaste. I’m also finding that there’s a good amount of fruity notes popping up, such as apple, pear and lemon.. again. For a saison, Hennepin is a bit sweeter and sugary than most saisons I’ve tried as I find they tend to be mostly earthy, yeasty and lemon zesty while this one has flavours all over the place popping up.

Hennepin is a saison that’s best recommended to share with friends and family as it’s 7.7% ABV, stronger than your typical saison which usually tops out at 5.5% and with the warm booze notes I’m getting, this is a beer best shared and savoured for its complexity rather than gulped down. Another thing about this saison is that it has the possibility for aging as the live yeast is still fermenting in the bottle as it’s sitting at the Liquor Mart shelves or as it is in your fridge or beer cellar. I recommend trying to age it for a year and see how it has changed in flavour and aroma compared to a fresh bottle. The only downside I have about Hennepin is the price, it’s $9.77/750mL bottle, so it’s more expensive than Unibroue’s Blonde de Chambly or Boulevard’s Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale, but sometimes you just have to splurge, am I right?! Since saisons/farmhouse ales were created as a beverage for farmers during harvesting season, if you’re still harvesting right now - this is the perfect saison to savour after a long day in the field! 

Lake of the Woods' Forgotten Lake Blueberry Ale

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun, December 4, 2015.

Last week, Matt Wolff, brewmaster of Fort Garry Brewing was named as Torque Brewing’s new Brewmaster and VP of Brewing Operations. Matt has been Fort Garry for almost 15 years.. ever since he turned 18! He was at Fort Garry when the original owner Richard Hoeschen was still around, along with brewing employees who worked at the old Molson, Labatt and Carling O’Keefe Breweries. Later on, Matt would become the brewmaster at Fort Garry, putting his own twist on classics and seasonals. I’ve known Matt for 4 years now when I first reviewed Fort Garry’s Munich Eisbock, stating that it was the first Fort Garry beer I ever actually enjoyed. He was one of my very first supporters on my blog over at Every time I meet up with him, he’s always excited to tell me about what he’s working on, even if the beer turns out to be a dud and doesn’t make it to market. Torque Brewing just announced announced that they are going to be brewing at 830 King Edward St in Winnipeg, right off of Route 90, so it will be only a short drive from the airport, Polo Park or Half Pints Brewery. They are hoping to open up in the spring, and I certainly can’t wait! Replacing Matt as brewmaster at Fort Garry is Dan Geddes, a young man who is incredibly passionate about his work and is always up to do the hard work when others don’t. He’s the image of a true farm boy. Last time I visited Fort Garry, Dan was telling myself and Matt that he had been working since 5AM and didn’t want to go home yet because he still had some things he would prefer to finish now and rather than the next day.. this was around 6PM. While Dan has big shoes to fill, he’s going to do an amazing job over at Fort Garry! 

If you’re ever in Winnipeg on a Saturday afternoon, Winnipeg’s best tour is free! Half Pints Brewery offers free tours every Saturday at 1PM at 550 Roseberry Street in St James. I recommend arriving a bit early because they can only accommodate so many people at once. During the tour, you get to learn about how beer is made while you get liberal samples of Half Pints’ most popular beers and some of their rarest treats. Last weekend, I was Brewmaster Dave’s hero as I was apparently the only person in the brewhouse that had a bottle opener.. a bottle opener that happened to be on my hat! My hat bottle opener opened up a bunch of bottles of sweet mead and everyone was happy! If you ever go down, make sure you tell the staff you’re from Brandon, and also buy a beer stein, toque or couple bottles of mead or ale! Of course you won’t get a discount if you tell them you know me, but they’ll be “uh, that guy needs to stop drinking our beer so much!"

This week I’m trying out Forgotten Lake Blueberry Ale by Kenora’s Lake of the Woods Brewing. If it were up to me, Kenora would be part of Manitoba, making Lake of the Woods Manitoba’s very first brewpub since 2003. Unfortunately, politics can be frustrating so Lake of the Woods is still one of the closest brewpubs to Brandon other than Minot’s Souris River Brewing and Regina’s Bushwakker’s. I’ve had mixed reviews when dealing with blueberry ales in the past, generally they’re overly sweet with a syrupy aftertaste, there’s a burnt plastic taste or the beer tastes nothing like fruit. For LOWBREWCO’s Forgotten Lake Blueberry Ale, they use wild blueberries that the brewers found while in the backwoods of Northern Ontario. Pouring the Blueberry Ale, the first thing I notice is how thick and heavy this beer is. When I think of a blueberry ale, it’s more of a medium blonde-honey ale, but this beer is a thick orange to brown ale that’s certainly unfiltered as it gives off a very cloudy wheat ale appearance. I’m not noticing any traces of carbonation taking place but this beer has a nice amount of light beige head sticking to the very top, so that’s a good thing.  The first thing I notice about the aroma is that this is certainly a blueberry ale as I find it being a sweet, fruity ale with a light floral hoppy aroma to it. There’s also a bit of a yeasty bready scent to it that makes me think that this might be great in a “blueberry ale bread” recipe. The flavour has a light tartiness from the blueberries, followed the blueberry sweetness. The blueberry fruitiness itself is pretty low to moderate in flavour but I find this has more of a blueberry flavour to it than most other blueberry ales I’ve had in the past. Very yeasty and heavy on wheat malt, so it gives off lots of bready notes. This ale would be amazing on a hot day in the summer time more than in December. What surprises me is that this ale is 7.5 per-cent ABV! 

I think this may be the best LOWBREWCO beer I’ve tried so far. I’m happy that the blueberry flavours and aromas are natural and somewhat subtle rather than fake and syrupy. This is an unfiltered fruit ale that I’d certainly recommend to those who are looking for something fruity, but not something that tastes like oranges like Shock Top or Rickard’s White.

Black Bridge Milk Stout

Originally posted in the Brandon Sun - October 9, 2015

This weekend is Thanksgiving long weekend. I want to give thanks to beer fans in Western Manitoba who keep pushing me to try new beers, to review beers that most people may never want to try. Also, I want to give thanks to Manitoban brewers Half Pints and Fort Garry for bringing out innovative and tasty beers year after year, even though we don’t get access to some of them here in the Wheat City. This time next year, we will have the possibility of up to a dozen craft breweries and brewpubs in Manitoba. With co-founder of Half Pints Nicole Barry starting up Peg Beer Co and the Warwaruk brothers opening Farmery Brewery in Neepawa, it’s going to be an exciting time to be a beer drinker locally. Every week I hear announcements on Twitter or Facebook that someone or their brother is starting up a brewery - unfortunately most of those announcements will never surface into reality - but Peg Beer Co and Farmery both have actual brick and mortar locations set up to brew beer and employ hard working Manitobans. 2016 is going to be exciting! 

Manitoba’s beer industry is slower than the rest of Canada.. and even compared to North Dakota but the beer drinkers are here and more than willing to give new breweries a try. One brewery I’ve been raving about since the Coast to Coaster event took place in June was Black Bridge Brewing out of Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan’s beer scene is booming, and not only that - Saskatchewan bar and restaurant owners are actually WANTING to bring in as much local beer as possible, replacing the old standards like Pilsner and Keith’s with locally made alternatives. 

For the Coast to Coaster event, Black Bridge brought their Rye Ale to Manitoba. I still have four or five cans of it in my fridge. All I can remember about it was that it was a really delicious rye ale, fairly sweet and malty yet a nominal amount of bitterness to keep things interesting and a hint of rye graininess to top it off. After Coast to Coaster ended, I was disappointed that Black Bridge was no longer available in Manitoba, but only days later a surprise showed up at the 10th & Victoria LC - not one but two beers from Black Bridge! First was an India Pale Ale, simply called “IPA!” (exclamation and all) and the other was "Milk Stout". I’ve sampled a wide variety of stouts over the years from Guinness to Imperial Stouts aged in whisky barrels for a few years, but I’ve only ever had one other Milk Stout and that’s Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, which I feel is one of the most famous stouts in the world after Guinness.

A Milk Stout is exactly what it sounds like, a stout that contains lactose to increase the beer’s sweetness as many stouts can come across as overly bitter and coffee-like, so as you can tell - Milk Stouts are not vegan friendly. Black Bridge’s Milk Stout tops out at 5.3% ABV, which is pretty average for a typical stout (aside from Guinness). It pours a thick, black, molasses beverage with a dark black as night hue to it.. well it’s not your grandfather’s OV after all! It has a very nice amount of tanned brown foam on top that slowly diminishes as it warms up yet leaves a good amount of spider web-like residue along the side of the glass. The aroma reminds me of breakfast - it has a rich roasted malt smell to it that gives off a freshly roasted coffee vibe to it, followed by dark chocolate, a hint of cream and sugar and a bit of a plain popcorn scent to it as well. The taste is very sweet with notes of chocolate giving off the first impression. Following the chocolate notes, I’m noticing subtler notes of coffee, not as roasted and bitter as the aroma led me to believe. For the mouthfeel, it’s incredibly silky and smooth, it’s like drinking a rich hot chocolate with milk instead of water, very creamy on the tongue and doesn’t give off much of a bitter aftertaste. This is a stout that’s somewhat complex but has flavours that remind me of breakfast - I guess that’s why “breakfast stouts” exist! 

So comparing this to Half Pints’ Stir Stick Stout, the lactose plays a crucial element compared to Stir Stick as Black Bridge’s Milk Stout is much more of a smoother, creamier stout, while Stir Stick is more of a bitter, roasted coffee with a hint of chocolate take on stouts. For it being mid October, this is the sort of beer I’m looking forward to drinking more during our long prairie winters.