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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

  • 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 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 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 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.
  • Fort Garry goes Caribbean with breakfast stout

    The craft beer industry in Manitoba is booming but here in Westman we haven’t really seen many new Manitoban beers in stock at Liquor Marts and beer vendors — aside from the growler bar. Recently Fort Garry Brewing was purchased by an undisclosed Manitoba-based group for more than $7 million from B.C.’s Russell Brewing, making Fort Garry a Manitoba-owned brewery again after nine years. Ever since Fort Garry’s previous brewmaster Matt Wolff left the brewery in January for upstart brewery Torque Brewing, Fort Garry has mostly brewed the popular tried and true seasonal beers such as Happy Jack Pumpkin Ale, Portage and Main IPA and Big Buddha Pilsner. If you were looking for anything new by the brewery, it was generally only available as a growler fill.
  • Raised By Wolves? Savour a perfectly tropical IPA

    I can already hear some of your voices in my head as you’re reading this: “Oh Cody, yet another IPA? Are you serious? I hate IPAs. Why aren’t you reviewing Stella Artois instead? All you ever do is review IPAs!” Well, India pale ales are a broad style of beers — to the point that it can taste like a lager (Alexander Keith’s) or like a wheat beer (Belgian IPAs). A common theme from a few of my friends who became IPA lovers in Manitoba was that they checked out the Driftwood Brewery in Victoria, and fell in love with its Fat Tug IPA. Fat Tug is easily one of my top five IPAs, and that includes Heady Topper from Vermont.
  • Desperately seeking cider

    It can be challenging being Manitoba’s favourite beer geek. I’m expected to try every beer — even the ones I don’t want to try. Then, people want me to review the same beer before they end up buying it. But even when I have to drink a Bud Light, I’m happy to be here. Every week new beers come out, and quite often some stores only get enough bottles for one or two people when they purchase six bottles apiece. I’ve been told by a few friends that I’ve been ignoring the cider industry completely. Well, for me, I don’t like the taste of juiced/cidered apples. I’ve had the honour of visiting La Face Cachée du Pomme, which is rated as the No. 1 Ice Cidrerie in the entire world. Unfortunately, they don’t generally distribute outside Quebec so their sugary, iced, appley goodness isn’t currently available here.
  • Granville IPA hopped up So-Cal Style

    First off, beer advent calendars. ’Tis the season, but unfortunately you may not have been lucky enough to pick up a beer-themed advent calendar this time around.
  • Trick or treat: Ales to raise Halloween spirits

    @Saturday Tab Brown=[C] It’s Halloween on Monday and that means trick-or-treating fun. For the grown-ups who don’t (or shouldn’t) trick-or-treat, I’ve come up with a selection of ales that will be a hit for any Halloween party!
  • Successful harvest ale is Sweet Rye'd

    Many farmers are still working on their autumn harvest before the first snowfall of the year hits. Here, and out east, breweries are showing off this year’s grain crops as part of the beers they brew. In 2014, Garrison Brewing out of Halifax has teamed with Canada’s most popular organic brewery, Beau’s All Natural out of Vankleek Hill, Ont., to create a sweet ale using fresh malted rye, wheat and Munich barley to celebrate the prosperous harvest season. This autumn the breweries decided to bring the beer, Sweet Rye’d Harvest Wheat Ale back for beer drinkers, and for the first time in Manitoba.
  • Hard-working Baard gets job done

    The only time I’ve ever had the honour of getting VIP treatment at a beer festival was at Mondial in Montreal back in June, when I got free charcuterie and free beer samples featuring some of the rarest brews from all over the world. Frankly, it was awesome and I’ll probably never get such an experience again. I even managed to embarrass myself while talking to one of the bartenders at Vancouver’s Bomber Brewing, which is owned by one of CBC Music’s Grant Lawrence’s buddy.
  • Torque delivers intriguing stout

    Last week, Torque Brewing’s canned beer made its very first appearance in Brandon. Torque’s not distributing to Westman yet, but it is hoping to be available on tap and in cans throughout Westman in the near future. Instead, a Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries rep brought several dozen Torque beers to Brandon to be sold at the 10th Street and Victoria Avenue Liquor Mart to give local beer geeks another sample of the brewery’s beer for those who missed out on the partial tap takeover a few weeks back.
  • Elysian’s Night Owl brew full of fall flavour

    Farmery is officially open. Western Manitoba’s first brewery since the 1930s is now churning out cans of Farmery Premium Lager at its Neepawa facility. Many Westman beer drinkers were puzzled this summer to discover that Farmery was nowhere to be found. The final batch of Farmery lager brewed by the folks over at Muskoka Brewing in Ontario had a best before date of late July, so I believe that Farmery was supposed to be up and running in time for mid-summer.
  • Sour brew worth price

    Fifteen dollars per bottle? That’s a ripoff! You’re getting gouged! I would never spend that much on one beer!
  • Fernie brew perfect for the timid craft beer novice

    In 2013, CBC Radio 3 teamed up with a bunch of B.C. breweries to do a Canadian band beer project. Some great B.C. bands were involved with the project, including D.O.A for D.O.Ale and Said the Whale for Said the Ale. This past weekend, the Summer Lights Music Festival took place at the Keystone Centre grounds and Said the Whale was one of the main performers, alongside Joel Plaskett and many amazing Manitoban musicians.
  • Date with Destiny for an IPA fan

    As you likely already know, India Pale Ales are one of my favourite beer styles — after Belgian-style ales. IPAs to me are simply delicious and show off what it means to be a hop. Over the years, my preferred IPA has changed many times. In 2008, when Half Pints was booming in the beer scene, their Little Scrapper IPA was the very beer that taught me that Alexander Keith’s is NOT an IPA.

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