After a little over a year living on the prairies, I’ve learned that some of western Canada is playing catch up to the rest of the country in the growth of craft beer. Certainly that’s true in Saskatchewan, and I came to learn it’s also true in Manitoba on my recent visit to its capital city of Winnipeg. Playing catch up doesn’t mean you can’t find a great craft beer, it just means you’ll sample you’re way through the available choices much quicker.
After a morning flight to Winnipeg a late lunch beckoned, and given the choice by my dining companion, I selected Peg Beer Co. so I could get a tasting flight to accompany my meal. The craft brewery in the Exchange District is my kind of place – industrial feel, a good selection of their beers on tap, and a fairly solid kitchen. On a hot afternoon, I stuck to fairly light beers in my tasting flight. From left to right: a wheat (that I got through most of before snapping this picture), a really solid ISA, a sour beer (my favourite from this visit) and a slightly spicy rye ale. All delicious and the good first impression would bring me back later in the trip for another meal.
After saying goodbye to my lunch date and on my walk back to my hotel, I stopped in at the Little Brown Jug. They brew one beer and it is spectacular. Their “1919” is a Belgian ale and on my first sip it brought me right back to all those amazing beers I had in Brussels on my first trip to Europe.
For the beer and the open concept tasting room I’d be a regular here. Then I got to meet the brewery dog and I was completely hooked. He played a little hard to get, but eventually sat beside me for scratches while I finished off my beer. Good dog.
With four nights in Winnipeg, I stocked up my hotel fridge expecting to take some of these back to Saskatoon. A few were so disappointing that a couple of sips in I poured them out and grabbed another to wash away the taste. The three Torque Brewing beers were really good (by process of elimination, the other three were the disappointments), in particular, their Witty Belgian is one I should have filled my suitcase with.
For this short trip where I didn’t have a car, some of the city’s breweries and tap rooms were a bit out of reach for my tight, mostly work-related schedule. Luckily, about a 15 minute walk from my hotel at the Forks, was a great craft beer/wine bar called The Common that specialized in Manitoba craft beers. A tasting flight allowed me to try some beers from breweries I would have otherwise missed out on, including my favourite from these four, Barn Hammer Brewing’s “Le Sneak Belgique” (second from the right) a perfectly spicy witbier.
Although I’m not usually a proponent of return visits on short trips, I couldn’t resist dinner back at Peg Beer Co. on my last night in town. They were releasing a new beer during happy hour – their Beer Berliner. I’m so glad I came back here because that beer was my favourite from the trip. It was earthy, tart and refreshing, and if it wasn’t for an early morning the next day, I would have loved to sit here and drink many glasses of this.
Not the largest craft beer scene in a Canadian city, but a solid and growing one, and one where I found a handful of really well crafted beers.