Winnipeg Beer Fest 2018

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the craft beer industry in Manitoba has exploded over the past couple years. The opening of Torque, Barn Hammer and the (now defunct) Peg Beer Co in the first half (well, 3/4) of 2016 more than doubled the number of local craft breweries In town and, since then, the number has grown to 14. After the initial rush of new breweries on the scene, that figure continues to slowly climb.

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This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sampling the offerings from some of the 14 local breweries in attendance at the Winnipeg Beer Fest. (All 14 were there, but I had to tap out before the night was over.)

In its second year, the annual event draws craft beer fans to Fort Gibraltar for a truly local experience. Unlike Flatlanders, which includes big beer and brands from around the world, the Winnipeg Beer Fest is limited to Manitoba breweries only. Joining the brewers were local distillers, Capital K, as well as Aschenti Cocoa (bean to bar chocolate) and Mr Biltong (South African-style beef jerky).

It was the perfect night for sampling beer – hot, sunny and mosquito-free – within the rustic walls of the old fort.

There’s something about sunshine and beer that brings out the fun in Winnipeggers and this night was no exception – the mood was relaxed and celebratory.

To help attendees handle the hot weather, the organizers kindly installed refreshing mist machines and water stations around the site.

As we made our way around, I noticed that the lines were a little shorter than last year and there was a little more time for a little friendly banter as we were getting our samples. What a difference having a few extra breweries makes!

The poutine line, on the other hand, was a little longer but it was definitely worth the wait. If we had been thinking, we would have brought our beer with us to enjoy while we waited. D’oh!

Anyway, back to the BEER!

We started out by sampling from our friends at Torque, who were serving from their shiny new, retro-style tap truck.

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It was hard to pick just one beer, so between the two of us, we tried them all: Callahan (rye IPA), Mangoza! (goze), Muster Point (pale ale), and Pool Side (ISA). Callahan is Torque’s collaboration beer with Minneapolis’ Surley, brewed for a big Ultimate tournament that was held in Winnipeg this summer; the other three can be found in Torque’s annual Summer Sampler Pack. All were delightful.

After that, we wandered around the site, sampling beers at random and striking up conversations with friendly strangers. In retrospect, I should have taken notes, but it’s hard to drink, write and be a social butterfly. So, in no particular order:

Half Pints: Winnipeg’s Craft Beer OGs were serving up their new ThaiSA, an ISA brewed with citrus peel and some exotic, ingredients like coriander and lemongrass. It’s delicious, refreshing and at only 4.2%, you’ll have to have a few if you’re looking to Thai one on. (See what I did there?)

One Great City: OGC’s Maverick New England IPA is a great example of the style – hazy, hoppy and juicy. NEIPAs are trendy right now, but I hope they stick around for a long time to come.

Barn Hammer: Oh, my god, you guys. I finally found a smoked beer that I like. Forest Fire Smoked IPA is not only timely, it’s darned tasty. I braced for some serious smoke but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Kilter: After a little bit of uncertainty with securing a property, Kilter have landed on their feet at Stone Angel Brewing and have so far been brewing up a few trendy “milkshake” style beers. We tried both brews they were serving – Juicii (a NEIPA) and Slurpii (a sour raspberry/lime “smoothie” beer). Both were cloudy, juicy and original… although Freshii might want a word with the naming committee.

Winnipeg Brew Werks: Brewing out of Torque (for now), the newest of the new kids are producing one beer (for now) – a pretty solid pilsner called, creatively, Pils. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they have up their brewer’s (very long) sleeves.

Trans Canada Brewing: TCB’s Bluebeary is how berry beers should be done. The blueberry taste was subtle, but actually tasted like blueberries… and still managed to taste like beer. Funny how some places struggle so hard with that concept.

Brazen Hall: At the very end of the evening, I sampled an apple pie-flavoured beer (a saison, maybe?), which I think was from Brazen Hall. Can anyone confirm?

Did not sample: Oxus, Farmery, Fort Garry, Nonsuch, Little Brown Jug, Stone Angel and Devil May Care

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