Manitoba's most popular beers (2013)

Like every time I go to Winnipeg, I visit my pal Matt over at Fort Garry to sample what's brewin' and keep harassing him to come up with new beers (but hey, they did end up making an IPA, so my harassing does work!)

One thing I notice every time I visit Fort Garry is the stacks of various generic (Standard Lager) and not-so-generic beer cases that nearly reaches the brewery ceiling as they have a contract with one of the local beer distributors to wash all their bottles. So in the many times I've been there, I've noticed a common problem: Manitobans love bad beer. I've compiled a list of what I've noticed are the ten most
popular beers I've seen at the rinsing machine.

  1. Bud Light - Not a surprise unfortunately  this is the most popular beer in Manitoba. Go to a social and what do you get? This, Budweiser or if you're lucky - Kokanee. This beer that tastes damn near water seems to only be getting much more popular over time.
  2. Budweiser - Generally if a person doesn't like Bud Light, they'll go for Budweiser for that extra percent of alcohol it seems.
  3. Labatt Lite - Apparently this is still a huge seller in Manitoba.. I just... just don't know how?! I think 95% of the people who do drink Lab Lite are people at socials, that's the only time I ever see it, but at vendors - I always see empties among empties of Lab Lite
  4. Kokanee - A staple in rural Manitoba. I see it at every house party I've ever gone to. Like my parents generation loved Club/Old Vienna and Labatt Lite, youth of today love Kokanee and Bud Light. I drank more than my share growing up..
  5. Coors Light - While not as popular as it used to be as Bud Light has taken over a lot of their market share, still way too popular for their own good.
  6. Alexander Keith's - When people want to drink something that makes them look like they're drinking a prestigious beer, they go to Keith's. Unfortunately for them, it's not prestigious at all. While it has some great history behind the name, it's been over-marketed and the beer tastes like a maltier version of Kokanee. It ain't no IPA.
  7. Tie: Labatt Blue & Molson Canadian: Two more beers that I never see anyone drink anymore, but when there's a long weekend, it sells insanely quickly. I used to love both of those beers.. back in 2003, but have moved on to more complex, less-corny-tasting beers.
  8. Corona - People buy this just for the sake of buying it. Same thing with Heineken, nothing shows "hey look at me! I have money!" more than Corona & Heineken. Corona is okay.. if you're at an all inclusive hotel in Mexico, but in Manitoba? No thank you.
  9. Moosehead Lager - Another beer that's lost popularity over the years. It used to be my go-to camping & summer beer, but they changed the formula two years back and since then.. it just doesn't have the same zing. I hate lagers more than most, but I could swig back a 6 pack with no problem and not complain about it.
  10. Tie: Bud Light Lime & Rickard's White: From late April to late September, I see so many bros buying cases upon cases of Bud Light Lime.. it's funny.. I hear guys call it a "girls beer" but I've honestly seen substantially more men drink it in the 4 years it's been in Manitoba than women. As for Rickard's White, it's a huge pub favourite because of that overly sweet orangey citrusness that is not quite a fruity cooler beer. Hell.. when the best beer selections at the pub are this or Keith's, I will always go for the Rickard's.
Okay, now that's done, I've likely missed a few, but I don't remember the last time I've seen a truckload of Sleeman Original being sold in Manitoba all at once. 

I'm ashamed at times to live in Manitoba, as it's a province of mediocrity. We don't dream of anything of our own, we always want something that some other place in Canada has. Oh Calgary has this?! We should get one instead! I guess a part of it is that people here like consistency and knowing what to expect every time, that's why chains like Moxies and Earls will always be preferred by many over smaller more intimate family owned businesses, but what can you do?

Well for beer, trying to change it up can always help. Instead of drinking lagers & pilsners like Kokanee, Bud Light, and Blue, try a Farmery Lager, Half Pints' St James Pale Ale or Fort Garry Pale. Want something full of flavour but not cringe (ie bitter) worthy? Unibroue Blanche de Chambly or Muskoka Summer Weiss. Want lime in your beer? Get a case of beer and put some damned limes in it! Saves you some money and it'll taste better.


drhicks76 said...

I didn't realize that Bud Light was that big back home! Whwn I was a teen, like you describe, it was Canadian, Blue and (the only one worth drinking; the new kid on the block at the time) Kokanee. Bud was big but Bud Light, like Coors Light, had the "girly beer" label. BLL deserves the disdain it gets (and yes, good advice on the limes) and like you, I will take Rickards White over any of those. I'm seeing the Coors equivalent of that, Shock Top, here and there now. Anyway, very interesting piece; I've been morbidly curious about this!

Andrew J. Bergman said...

Interesting thoughts. Though even in places with vibrant craft beer scenes like Minneapolis-St. Paul, craft beer is only consumed by a minority of the population. It's a niche (though growing) market everywhere.

Unknown said...

Reads pretty much the same as the who's who of Albertans favorite beers!

Cody Lobreau said...

Winnipeg is getting its first brewpub since 10-13 years ago, so that's REALLY going to push for changes more than anything. Breweries will compliment it, but unfortunately the micro culture hasn't boomed here like everywhere else yet, but it's changed a lot in the last 5 years so it's all about small steps

Cody Lobreau said...

Go to any bar, restaurant, pub, hockey game or even social, they always always always serve Bud Light

Lost Av8r said...

I would think that list would be pretty similar from coast to Canadian coast. If I had to guess, I would think BC and Quebec would be the only two provinces that might show a slight difference.

Cody Lobreau said...

Unfortunately true, but every province has a few beers swapped out. In Saskatchewan: Instead of Labatt Lite: Old Style Pils. Instead of Club/OV in Ontario: Carling, Lakeport & Busch, etc.

Mark Atkinson said...

[Repost from Reddit]

So, it's safe to say that Winnipeg likes its easy drinking lagers, ja?

When I think about beer in Winnipeg, I think about the elite crew of perfectionist homebrewers that live there. Guys like Jared Carlberg, David Phillips, Mark Barowski are well known names to West Coast beer freaks and professional brewers alike. I get a great sense of irony and satisfaction with the fact that, as a BC resident and homebrewer, I've probably tasted some of Winterpegs best beer while local residents haven't. Jared Carlberg cleans up at homebrewing contests out West partly because he enters a shitload of beer but also because, surprise, surprise, he makes really, really good beer. You think Bud and Corona suck arse? His Dortmunder Export and American Lager will change the way you think about those lighter lager styles...if you're lucky enough to find one of his beers.

Vernman said...

I've turned into a Sleemans fan over the last couple of years. But it's hard to find in any store with all the flavoured beers and coolers out now.