FIRST DRAUGHT — Flatlanders good place to find rare beers
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/06/2019 (1163 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This year’s edition of Flatlanders Beer Festival is taking place next weekend at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg. Tickets start at $42.95 and are available at Winnipeg Liquor Marts and likely at the event as well. This year’s festival will include 95 booths and more than 375 beers from most of the Manitoba breweries as well as many breweries from all over the world.
The beers I’m looking forward to trying most are the one-off beers by Winnipeg’s breweries, but also some of the rarities that I just can’t get in Brandon such as Brasserie Dunham and Le Corsaire out of Quebec, as well as Revelation Ales out of Minnesota.
While I was still in Montreal two weeks ago, I had the honour of interviewing the father of the American craft beer industry, Jim Koch from Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams). In the hour-long discussion I had with him, we had an awesome chat about the Boston Bruins’ success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as well as a wide variety of topics all about beer. If you were at the Brandon Beer Festival in April, you may have sampled Boston Beer Company’s newest release, Sam Adams ’76. The Brandon Beer Festival was also one of the very first places in all of Canada that showcased the beer.
Much of the discussion I had with Koch was about the new beer. Sam Adams ’76 is a beer that pays tribute to the Sam Adams brand, but it’s also something that most breweries have never experimented with — brewing a beer as both a lager and an ale. Sure, you’ve heard of “lagered ales” (such as Beau’s Lug Tread), but generally “lagered ales” are simply just ales that have a light smoothness comparable to a typical lager.
But Sam Adams ’76 is one of the first commercial beers to use both lager and ale yeast in a single beer. In the end, the beer kind of screws with your mind because you get a crisp pilsner/lager like flavour to it, but then you get a nice sessionable ale presence to it that has a bit of a tropical IPA vibe to it.
Talking to Koch, one thing that actually surprised me was that he stated that the Canadian craft beer industry actually had a big boom in Canada right before it happened in the United States. In the early 1980s, there were certainly craft breweries in the U.S. but they weren’t that successful, but Koch pointed out that in Canada at the same time Granville Island Brewing out of Vancouver, Brick Brewing out of Waterloo and Big Rock out of Calgary were doing incredibly well not just locally, but regionally and nationally.
Actually, Sam Adams was the first craft brewery I ever enjoyed when I used to go on annual trips down to Minot, N.D. — they had some absolutely tasty treats such as a Sam Adams Spring Lager and Imperial White Ale. So I’d buy large quantities of their beer until it became easy to find in Brandon in the mid 2010s.
Being from western Manitoba, I’m quite proud of the grain we produce in this region as I believe we have some of the best wheat and malt barley in the world. So one rumour I heard a decade back was that Sam Adams uses Canadian Prairie barley for their beer, and it is in fact true! Koch mentioned to me that he’s been to Saskatchewan many times to check out the malting facility out of Biggar, Sask., chuckling at the town’s slogan “New York is Bigger, but this is Biggar!”
One of these days I’ll be posting a longer review of the review over at BeerCrank.ca, but I’d love to say thanks to Jim Koch for taking time from an insanely busy schedule to chat about beer and the Bruins! Sam Adams ’76 is currently on sale at Brandon south end and 10th and Victoria Liquor Marts for $2.73 per 473-millilitre can.
As for this week’s review, with the only growler bar in all of western Manitoba closing at the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart, I want to do a quick review of the beer I feel was the most memorable beer I’ve ever had in the four and a half years that the growler bar experiment took place — Half Pints’ Bikey McBikeface. While Bikey McBikeface is more of a grapefruit lager than a Radler (half grapefruit juice/half beer), the beer has been regarded as one of the top rated Radlers in the entire world by Untappd users. I still remember going to Prairie Firehouse with Brandon Sun alumnus Grant Hamilton last summer, and the second the server mentioned that Bikey McBikeface was on tap, we knew we had to order a pitcher of it!
Bikey McBikeface pours a cloudy, hazy orangeish colour with a bit of an iced tea sort of vibe to it and a light off-white head on top. The aroma is decently sweet with a hefty dose of grapefruit juice in it, as well as a mildly floral presence from the hops. The taste is full on grapefruit juice and lager with it having a sweet fresh squeezed juice-like presence to it, a bit of pepper from the grapefruit, a good amount of sugariness to it, and a floral hop presence at the end.
When I see someone at the Liquor Mart going out of their way looking for Bud Light Radler, I wish I could just go up to them and say “you don’t want that, go try Bikey McBikeface!” It’s a shame that Bud Light Radler is as popular as it is, but hey, this is Westman, it will probably always be Bud Light territory even when a brewery finally opens here in Brandon.
Bikey is a sweet, easy to drink Radler/Grapefruit Lager that pairs really well with hot Manitoba summers and with friends around a bonfire. Pump House Brewing’s Crafty Radler is regarded as the best in Canada right now, but I honestly believe that Bikey McBikeface is even better. Half Pints’ Bikey McBikeface is available in 473-millilitre cans at the south end and 10th and Victoria Liquor Marts for $3.88 per 473-millilitre can. 4.5/5 Pints