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First Draught

About Cody Lobreau:

Cody Lobreau is a Brandon-based beer blogger who reviews every beer he can get his hands on as he believes that he should try every beer twice to get an understanding if it’s truly good or bad. You can catch his blog over at BeerCrank.ca.

  • Surly set to make debut; Torque revs up deliveries

    One of the top rated breweries in the United States, Surly Brewing out of Minnesota will be making its debut in Canada right here in Manitoba! On June 7, various Surly Brewing products will be featured on tap at Liquor Marts and beer vendor growler stations throughout the province.
  • Easy-to-drink Ont. wheat ale impresses

    I have a few friends who call me a beer snob, stating that I only drink the best of the best. Actually, I’m willing to try almost any beer as long as it doesn’t contain animal remains, clamato or anything weird like that. One of my friends who constantly calls me a “beer snob” is from Toronto — his favourite beer is Coors Light, especially in tall cans. At one point he called craft beer “hipster beer,” but one day he texted me stating that I really needed to try “this beer” because it was perfect for the patio — tasty, easy to drink and summer in a glass.
  • Saison Rustique tingly on the tongue

    One of my friends messaged me the other day criticizing my plans on going to Montreal next month for Mondial de la bière, stating that I need to stop going to Montreal all the time and start going to other cities. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time or money to go to “Montreal all the time,” otherwise I would. And I’d go to other Canadian beer cities like Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver as well. It has been almost a year since I went to Montreal for Mondial, which was only one of the many highlights of the trip.
  • Three craft-brewed radlers that are worth cycling to

    In my June 19, 2015 edition of First Draught, I stated that radlers were “slowly gaining popularity in Canada.” Well, it’s at the point now where I’m dubbing 2017 “The Year of the Radler.” Radlers are becoming such a hot commodity that Liquor Marts and beer vendors are having a hard time keeping them in stock. As far as I can count so far, Labatt has three radlers available in Manitoba, including the Bud Light Radler, with possibly more to come through their Mill Street, Stanley Park or Goose Island operations. Radlers have been available in Manitoba for as long as I can remember, but I recall bypassing them completely because they were simply 50 per cent beer and 50 per cent grapefruit juice, and I’m not someone who generally cares about grapefruit juice. Radlers will always be the beer of choice for cyclists, but it’s also the beer of choice for those who want something refreshing, light and fruity at same time.
  • 'Crazy Cow' a sweet stout

    It sure may not feel like spring yet, but beer festival season is almost here. Flatlanders Beer Festival is taking place in Winnipeg on June 9 and 10. Seeing that last year’s edition of the festival was their best year yet with a sneak peek of a bunch of (then)
  • Trio of ales sure to please patio visitors

    It’s spring, but I’m finding that it’s just not quite patio weather yet. I’ve been craving beers on the patio for months now but the weather simply doesn’t want to co-operate. Just when you think it will be 20 C in a few days — wham, snow. This week, I’m bringing the patio to you by featuring three pineappley-themed ales that deserve a spot on the patio. Granville Island Lions Summer Ale — This beer is new to Manitoba and we’ve seen many wheat or citrusy ales from Molson’s craft subsidiary Granville Island before with Hey Day Hefeweizen, False Creek Raspberry Ale and more saisons than I can possibly count. Lions Summer Ale is a golden ale, brewed with pineapple and passionfruit juice. I was thinking that this was going to be a wheat ale but it’s all barley. The beer pours a lightly cloudy, golden-straw body with a moderate amount of frothy white head and a good amount of fizzy carbonation as I’m pouring the beer in the glass. The aroma is reminiscent of patios of the past. It has a heavy, yet summer-inspiring barley presence that has notes of lemon, grass, orange peel, pineapple and passionfruit. The taste is reminiscent of Great Western’s Original 16 Pale Ale as it’s crisp, light, incredibly grass- and grain-forward but there’s a lot of fruity zestiness that pops out in Lions Summer Ale. There is also a good deal of caramel from the barley malt, a hint of lemon and a good deal of pineapple and passionfruit. Unfortunately, the taste of pineapple and passionfruit give off a bit of an extract syrupiness to it, so I’m not too happy about that. The beer is easy to drink and screams patio in every sip. Don’t be surprised to see this on tap or in cans at a few places around Manitoba. You can find this exclusively at the 10th Street and Victoria Avenue Liquor Mart for $2.99 per 473 ml can. Pint rating: 3 1/2 pints out of 5.
  • 'TPB' lager straight outta Sunnyvale

    The sixth annual Brandon Beer Fest took place at the Imperial Ballroom in the Victoria Inn on Saturday. I’ve been writing about beer for well over a decade but the event, which was hosted by the Rotary Club of Brandon Sunset, was one of the best beer festivals I’ve been to. The festival had the largest turnout of Manitoba-based breweries yet, so people got to try new breweries like Torque and Little Brown Jug for the first time, and got to chat with the people who brew the actual beers! The folks over at Canada’s most popular organic brewery, Beau’s All Natural Brewing, needed someone to help pour their beer for a bit, so yours truly poured Strong Patrick Irish Red Ale and Lug Tread Lagered Ale for an hour, and I was impressed with how many people, who don’t traditionally drink red or dark ales, fell in love with their Irish red ale that night. I can’t wait until next year’s event because I can’t be the only person in Brandon who will influence beer tastes to change here in Westman.
  • Brandon's beer fest is here

    One final reminder that tomorrow is the annual Brandon Beer Festival! This year’s festival will be the best yet as the event will have presence from four Manitoba breweries — Farmery, Half Pints, Torque and Little Brown Jug — so you will get to try Manitoba’s best beers and get to chat with the people who make the beer as Torque and Little Brown Jug are sending their brewers to the event.
  • Beer blogger goes grape for Calif. Cabernet Sauvignon

    Ah! It’s been a while since I’ve had anything from California — a few months, actually! This is actually the first time trying out something out of the Sonoma County region. The Sonoma Valley region is a popular area for beer as they have over fifty breweries and brewpubs including the world famous Russian River Brewery, the maker of Pliny the Elder IPA which is regarded as one of the top 10 beers in the world! Did you know that Sonoma County is also home to some of the best wineries outside of Europe? Sonoma County has more than 400 wineries in that region alone thanks to the hot weather all year long, allowing for grapes to thrive. A winery that’s considered one of the best of the region, if not all of the United States, is William Hill Estate Winery out of Healdsburg, Calif. William Hill has been open since 1976 and is now owned by the folks over at E & J Gallo Winery, one of the largest wine making companies in the world.
  • Honey wheat ale keeps it light

    Last week I had an impromptu visit to Regina to check out Malty National Brewing for the second time. Malty National Brewing opened just under a year ago and has become one of Canada’s most exciting up-and-coming breweries. Unlike most breweries, they do everything by hand, whether it be loading the grain into the mash tun, stirring the grain with the water by or the removal of the grain. Most breweries would have machinery that would automatically do that, so it’s amazing to see a brewery doing brewing the old-fashioned way and making absolutely fabulous products!
  • Strong choice for St. Patrick's Day

    It’s St. Patrick’s Day! The day that has become known as the day when everyone is a little bit Irish. The usual tradition I see at pubs is bland lagers tainted with green food colouring, lots of Guinness and lots of Jameson whisky. I despise the idea of green beer so I’ll be ordering my beer sans-dye this year (like every year). I’m also not a fan of Guinness aside from Guinness Foreign Extra Stout brewed in Jamaica — after 10 years of drinking craft stouts and porters, Guinness just doesn’t taste right to me. I was at the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart the other day thinking of alternatives to Guinness and Kilkenny for the special day. I was walking aisle by aisle and just couldn’t think of anything to try for St. Patrick’s Day. As I was deciding on other beer to pick up, Liquor Mart consultant Sandi came up to me and asked me if I’ve ever tried Beau’s Strong Patrick Irish-style Red Ale before, saying that she absolutely loved it. In fact, I had some the other day and I was also gifted a bottle from a friend in Ottawa back in 2014 as my friend was a huge Beau’s fan and travels over an hour (one day) to Vankleek Hill whenever the brewery has an event, that’s pretty dedicated in my opinion!
  • Whistler's Chestnut Ale makes winter sweet

    This week we’re checking out Chestnut Ale by Whistler Brewing out of Whistler, B.C. Nearly two years back I reviewed Whistler Brewing’s Honey Lager and it turned out to be one of my most popular reviews I’ve ever written. I don’t recall writing about nut brown ales any time recently and I really don’t even remember the last time I had a nutty brown ale at all!
  • Baltika brings a basic European lager

    This year’s sixth annual Brandon Beer Tasting Festival is being put on by the Brandon Sunset Rotary Club and The Rotaract Club of Brandon. The event is taking place April 8 at the Victoria Inn Imperial Ballroom. You can purchase tickets at Brandon Liquor Marts or at BrandonBeerFest.com for $33 and I know I’m excited to try out some of Manitoba’s newest breweries and some great craft brews available in Manitoba while supporting Brandon’s Food For Thought. This week I’m checking out Baltika 7 Export Lager by Baltika Breweries out of Russia. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve had a Russian lager in many, many years. In fact, I thought that this was a Ukrainian lager — it’s not. The beer comes in a nice 500 ml pint-size green embossed bottle, the bottle cap is actually a can-style pop top opener where you have a little ring that removes the bottle cap for you so there’s no need for a bottle opener or to scratch your fingers!
  • La Guillotine a Belgian ale with bite

    Some of you may think that I am one of Manitoba’s (or Canada’s) top beer critics. However, even I am not able to try every single beer that’s available at various Liquor Marts and beer vendors. Quite often some of the beers won’t even make their way to Brandon, or, in some cases, the beer turns out to be a limited release that is so popular that it sells out immediately. There are quite a few new beers now available that I think you should be checking out. First off, the growler bar over at the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart is now serving Fort Garry Bitter, a slightly stronger than average English-style Bitter; Torque Cowardly Lion Mild Ale, a four per cent copper-coloured ale with a slight roasty palate and a mild citrusy/bitter hop aroma flavour to it; and Beau’s 80 Shilling Scottish-style ale with notes of caramel, earthy hops and a bit of breadiness. Beau’s 80 Shilling is also available at the growler bar at the Keystone Motor Inn.
  • Get in the game with a craft lager

    I haven’t been a lager or pilsner fan since the mid-2000s but when watching a hockey game, a curling match or playing crokicurl at the Forks in Winnipeg, I get a craving for a lighter, crisper beer than my typical bitter-forward IPAs, my coffee and dark chocolate-forward porters and stouts or my citrusy, grainy and yeasty Belgian ales. Watching sports deserves a good, crisp beer and lagers tend to be the best choice each and every time. Sure, you could settle with a case of Bud Light or Budweiser and hear that goal light go off 30 seconds before your NHL Game Centre Live account shows the goal, but I know you want a good lager, in fact, you want a craft lager made in Canada by small breweries with the best Canadian (including Manitoba) ingredients possible.
  • Surprising Xocoveza a spicy stout

    Last week I went to the downtown Liquor Mart to pick up my usual selection of Unibroue beers with a couple of India pale ales mixed in for good measure. As I was walking to the register to pay for my beers I noticed a display at the cash register entrance. The display featured two beers — Bridge Brewing’s Uganda Sipi Coffee Brown Ale and Stone Xocoveza Stout. I’ve reviewed B.C.’s Bridge Brewing in the past and all their beers are solid but what popped out at me was Stone’s Xocoveza. Stone Brewing is amongst one of the top 100 breweries in the world and while their beer is currently available in Manitoba already with their Arrogant Bastard Ale, I never expected to see any other Stone Brewing beer available in Manitoba.
  • Farmery Pink Lemonale a taste of summer

    The folks over at RateBeer.com released their “best of” for Manitoba’s best brewer, new brewer and best beer for 2016 on Monday. Half Pints won the award for Manitoba’s best brewer and for Manitoba’s best beer — Le Temps Noir Batch Two, which was featured in last week’s article as one of the best beers I’ve ever reviewed so far! Torque Brewing took the award for Manitoba’s best new brewer. Congratulations to Half Pints and Torque on the awards, Manitoba is lucky to have a great up-and-coming beer industry!
  • These are a few of my favourite beers

    To me, it’s a great time to be a beer drinker in western Manitoba! This week marks the third anniversary of “First Draught” in The Brandon Sun. In three years, the local beer scene has exploded to the point where many locally owned restaurants and pubs are now serving craft beers in bottle and on tap — including products made in Manitoba. I really like to go to the local Liquor Marts to see what there are for new beers in Manitoba. We don’t get anywhere near the selection of some Winnipeg locations, but in the years (so far) that I’ve been writing this column I’ve noticed people adapting to craft beer more and more.
  • Pine away: Pricey Copper Cone a true bitter pale ale

    Next week marks the third year anniversary of First Draught! I can’t believe it’s been that long and every week it’s an absolute blast getting to try out new beers with all of you. One of my favourite things about this column is running into The Brandon Sun readers who happen to have tried a beer that I have suggested before. Sometimes they weren’t too keen on the beer (fair enough), but sometimes it’s readers who have discovered a beer that made them realize that all beer doesn’t have to taste like watery corn mush — and, in some cases, ended up becoming beer geeks themselves.
  • Parallel 49's Jerkface packs punch

    Next week will mark one year since I went to Vermont and Montreal for my craziest bièrcation yet. Right across the Quebec border in Winooski, Vt., is a bottle shop that boasts one of the best beer selections I have ever seen.
  • Warm up winter with Le Baron Noir

    Every few weeks I’ve been visiting Winnipeg to check out the local beer scene. I consider myself closer to the Montreal and area beer scene than the exploding Manitoba scene, but I guess I’ve spent more time in Montreal in the past two years than in Winnipeg. I’m also more likely to get unsolicited emails from up-and-coming Montreal breweries than I ever do in Manitoba, so it can be a bit of a surprise that I’m considered a Manitoba-focused beer columnist at times. A few weeks back, I was visiting the taproom at Torque Brewing and brewery owner John Heim was telling me that Manitoba Liquor Mart was coming out with a winter-themed beer promotion, almost like a Coast to Coaster but not as long. Torque’s Bumper Shine Winter Warmer is part of the event, but, unfortunately, it likely won’t be available in Brandon. I had the pleasure of tasting Bumper Shiner right at the brewery’s tasting room and it was a great winter warmer with dark fruits, cinnamon spice, nutmeg, a great deal of booziness and a moderate amount of caramel.
  • Three beers for New Year's

    2017 is already just about here. Now it’s time to look back at 2016 in Manitoban beer. Barn Hammer Brewing became the first brewery to open up in Manitoba since Half Pints Brewing opened up in Winnipeg back in 2006 — it took a whole decade for Manitoba’s third brewery to open! Ever since Barn Hammer opened, a bunch of new breweries and even a distillery opened up.
  • Perfect stocking stuffers

    It’s only two days until Christmas so if you are needing to get last-minute gifts for friends and family members you can find out your local Liquor Mart’s hours of operation by going to liquormarts.ca/hours. There’s a few beers I’ve been eyeing on the Liquor Mart shelves lately that I’ve been wanting to buy myself as a Christmas gift to myself. Central City Brewing has two sour ales including a cherry Kriek-style sour as well as a raspberry wood sour ale, but at the price of $24.95 per 750ml bottle, it’s quite expensive, but it’s one of those beers that will age and develop interesting flavours over the next several years. Out of the United States are two beers by two raved after craft breweries, Evil Twin from New York has a Biscotti Break Imperial Stout ($19.01 per 650ml) while Epic Brewing out of Utah has a Big Bad Baptist Barrel Aged Imperial Stout ($17.49 per 650ml bottle). Every single one of these beers may seem excessively expensive but when you realize that each one of these four beers is over 10 per cent alcohol and can be aged for several years, that’s when you know that it’s going to be a quality product.
  • Warm up with a Winter Beeracle

    When it’s consistently -20 C or lower like it is right now, I usually get into the mood of drinking heavier ales, porters and stouts but with Torque now available at Liquor Marts in Brandon and a wide variety of amazing IPAs to choose from, I’ve been lacking in the stout and porter this December. There’s been a decent selection of darker beers available as part of gift sets or as Christmas-themed beers. Unibroue has brought out its delicious Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve in two forms — a 2016 edition of a single 750 ml bottle as well as a three-pack of 750 ml bottles aged from 2013 to 2015.
  • Toasting tasting rooms and a few great gifts

    The past few weeks have been incredibly exciting for the Manitoba craft beer scene. Half Pints, Torque and Winnipeg’s newest brewery Little Brown Jug have all opened up their tasting rooms just in time for the pre-holiday rush. If you’ve never been to a tasting room before, it’s essentially a small pub attached to the brewery that serves the beers that are made on location. Unlike your typical pub, they don’t serve food in order to keep costs low, but the typical price of a 16-ounce pint is around $6, making it well worth the trip.
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