FIRST DRAUGHT — When you can’t get growlers, Tropic Like It’s Hop

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Last week, MBLL announced that they will ceasing the Liquor Mart growler bar program as of July 1.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/05/2019 (1191 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Last week, MBLL announced that they will ceasing the Liquor Mart growler bar program as of July 1.

The program was launched back in October 2014 with great fanfare. The idea of being able to get incredibly fresh, temperature controlled beer in 1.89-litre jugs at an affordable price was an awesome idea. Not only that, the selection rotated every so often so there was always something new to try out, so one week you might have an IPA, Radler, Lager and another Lager on tap, the next week might feature a Stout, Belgian Wheat Ale, Milkshake IPA and a Blonde Ale.

While selection changed regularly, I had a few problems with it in the past year and half. First off, I felt that MBLL’s beer selection was the most random selection possible, as if the people in charge of the growler bar program would decide on what beers would be available for the program by throwing a dart at the wall and whatever beer was closest, would be picked. So with that, you would see Radlers and Light Lagers being featured in late November when it should have been Stouts, Porters and Doppelbocks — darker and heavier beers. I joked that once summer arrived, we would see Stouts and Porters.

Secondly, if you’ve been wanting a growler fill in the past few months, you may have noticed that the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart has regularly been out of stock on and off for quite a while. Right when I’m writing this, the Liquor Marts website states that 10th and Victoria only has one beer on tap for the four lines, a Cream Ale by Lake of the Woods Brewing out of Kenora, Ont., while the remaining three lines get unused in a season when beer sales are only going to start back up again.

Now that Winnipeg has six beer vendors and 12 breweries that have their own growler filling stations (up from zero in 2014), they decided that it’s time for the breweries and vendors to do it themselves — this was the intention way back in 2014. But for underserved communities such as Brandon and Steinbach that will be losing their growler bars with no alternative, it’s simply unfair.

The Keystone Motor Inn once had a growler bar until about a year and half ago. They found that it was costing more money to operate than it was bringing in. But then again, I remember one time I went in and one of the beers they had on tap was Sam Adams and a macro wheat beer — two beers that I’d rather not spend money on.

I’ve found that the people who used the growler bars were incredibly passionate about the program and more willing to try new beers through the growler program than randomly picking up one of those annoying new 12-pack carriers and picking up a couple random cans of beer to try. With the growler bar, you always got to taste a small sample before you buy, which was really nice. With buying a random variety of cans, you won’t know until you get home if you enjoy it or not, and if you don’t enjoy it? That’s $3.75 down the drain.

So, what are your options if you don’t want to throw out your collection of growler jugs? Unfortunately there won’t be any options to get it filled anywhere locally until a brewery opens up in Brandon one day … which I’m surprised still hasn’t happened as Brandon is the largest community in Canada without a brewery.

The closest options for you would be at any of the breweries in Winnipeg such as Torque, Half Pints or Stone Angel. As always, I recommend going to the Quality Inn Beer Store for growler fills because they have the most diverse selection for any beer store/vendor in the entire province, to the point that they get international exclusives from breweries such as Surly Brewing (One Man Mosh Pit NEIPA).

In Regina, I recommend getting your growlers filled at Rebellion Brewing or Malty National Brewing Corp as both places always have a rotating list of delicious products on tap. If you happen to be going down to Minot, N.D., for a weekend, Broadway Liquor has a great selection of American craft beers readily available for fills, while Souris River Brewing (and possibly Atypical Barrel Works) have their own beers available to take home in growler form, and the great burger and beer pub JL Beers offers any of their beers on tap to go in growler form — or if you don’t want a full growler, they will actually can a beer for you!

I’m not satisfied with MBLL’s decision on removing the growler bars, but I hope everyone who enjoyed the program won’t throw out their growlers just yet. Keep the bottles clean and if you happen to be visiting any of those cities, you’ll be ready for a fresh fill! I’ll definitely miss the program. I loved seeing various Surly and Manitoban beers on tap — I think my favourite seasonal growler was Half Pints’ Bikey McBikeface Radler-style Grapefruit Lager, which is actually being released in cans now! Hopefully we’ll see it make its way to Brandon soon.

For this week’s review, I get to review a beer before it’s even released in Manitoba! This week’s review is Tropic Like It’s Hop Passionfruit Pale Ale by Innis & Gunn out of Scotland. Whenever I think of Innis & Gunn, I usually think of their always popular barrel-aged products that have been here since what seems like the beginning of time. They’ve gone past the sweet and boozy barrel-aged beers into more popular styles such as Lagers, Stouts and Pale Ales in recent years. Tropic Like It’s Hop is a Pale Ale that combines Mosaic and Citra hops with passion fruit to give it a presence that will make you think of palm trees, white sandy beaches and blue skies.

The Pale Ale pours a pale golden straw body with a liberal amount of carbonation taking place inside the glass. The head has a decent amount of thickness and has a sparkling snow white appearance to it.

The aroma is sweet, tropical and a bit herbal. The passionfruit pops out right from the very second that I crack open the can. I get a bit of other various fruit notes from the Citra/Mosaic hops — a bit of pineapple, a good dose of mango and a bit of lemon. There’s also a bit of an herbal presence to it, giving off an aroma that’s reminiscent of green tea. This is quite an aromatic beer so far.

The flavour is spot on exactly the same as I just experienced in the aroma, it’s mildly sweet with a good tropical presence to it with notes of passionfruit, a bit of mango and a hint of pineapple. The green tea-like flavour is definitely still popping up in just about every sip I’ve savoured, and at the end I get a very light hint of graininess from the Barley malt used.

Innis & Gunn’s Tropic Like It’s Hop Passionfruit Pale Ale is decently hopped to give the beer a tropical at-the-beach sort of vibe to it. The passionfruit is nice and sweet but not overpowering compared to a lot of fruit-forward Ales I’ve had in the past several months. The green tea-like presence was unexpected but quite nice and herbal. Tea-themed beers (sans-malt coolers) were popular about five years ago but disappeared completely, which was a shame because I enjoyed them in the summer time, like Mill Street’s tea beer.

Tropic Like It’s Hop should be available at Brandon Liquor Marts any day now for approximately $3.60 per 500-millilitre can. This and Surly’s new Rosé Lager ($4.99 per 473-millilitre can) are definitely treats that pair well with the spring season. 4/5 Pints

P.S.: Happy May Two-Four long weekend! Remember to drink responsibly and not to drink and drive. As for me, this time next week I’ll be in Montreal for Mondial de la Bière beer festival to check out what’s new and cool in the Quebec beer scene.

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