What does Winnipeg mean to you? Yes, gentle reader, this week’s column comes with an embedded quiz.
The geography majors in the audience are always quick to point out that Winnipeg is the geographic centre of North America, but to your humble narrator, Winnipeg is a shining beacon of delicious craft beer in the otherwise unremarkable provinces to the east of us.
Your humble narrator has just returned from a beer junket to attend the 6th anniversary party at the Half Pints Brewery in Winnipeg.
Long time readers may recall the story of your humble narrator standing in line outside their Winnipeg brewery on a chilly December morn, waiting for the annual release of Burlywine that is immediately snapped by the local beer nerds.
With a pile of Air Miles burning a hole in my pocket, I couldn’t resist making a weekend sojourn to Winnipeg to booze it up with the beer geeks, so I caught a quick flight to Winnipeg and had a local friend pick me up at the airport.
A delightful time was had by all beer nerds present, and the assembled masses enjoyed a new seasonal release of a black lager called Noche De Los Alebrijes, named after the colorful yet slightly tacky wood carvings you see in tourist traps in Mexico.
Started up by a longtime home brewer turned pro, the Half Pints Brewing Company released their first beer back in August 2006, and it’s been a wild ride since then, with growing demand forcing the brewery to expand twice since opening.
With 8 million litres of annual production capacity, Half Pints is just a wee bit smaller than Calgary’s own Wild Rose Brewery.
Since opening 6 years ago, Half Pints have been slowly expanding their distribution westward, so their fine brews can be found from Winnipeg all the way to the west coast.
Here in Alberta, you will find their brews at a well stocked booze merchant near you. Be advised that these are all flavorful and unfiltered beers, not for the timid, and definitely not for those who gravitate towards the Coors Lite side of the beer spectrum.
Their most popular brew is the St. James Pale Ale, made in the Kölsch style of medium-bodied German lagers. This is a solidly made beer with a nice flavour, and is an easy transition from a macrobrew for the novice drinker.
The Bulldog Amber Ale has a malty and nutty sweetness that makes it pair well with hot wings or a spicy Italian sausage. With very little hop bitterness, this is a highly sessionable beer that is fun to drink all night.
Moving on to the beer connoisseur styles, the Stir Stick Stout is just what it sounds like on the label; a dark and robust beer fortified with coffee beans during the brewing process. This beer tastes thick enough to drink with a spoon, and some enterprising folks even throw in a dollop of vanilla ice cream for beer floats.
For the hop-heads that love their insanely bitter beers, Half Pints does not disappoint. Their Little Scapper IPA started out as a one-off seasonal brew, but proved so popular that it was promoted to a full-time flagship brand. Plenty of malt is present in this brew, and is needed to balance the abundance of hoppy goodness.
In addition to the above flagship beers, the fertile imagination of the brewmaster produces a truly voluminous number of one-off seasonal brews, often with a new style being released every month.
These one-off brews are produced in small quantities, and tend to quickly sell out due to the rabid fanbase of local beer nerds that beats a path to the brewery door whenever a new brew is released. Sadly, it means that only a few cases of the special one-off beers make it to Alberta, so your intrepid liquor reporter has to follow the brewmaster on Twitter to get advance warning of when a new batch will be arriving at a local beer store.
Your intrepid liquor reporter generally keeps at least one 6-pack from Half Pints in the beer cooler of my worthy man cave at all times. With a roster of regular brews and a rotating selection of seasonals, there is always a good beer to be had from Half Pints!