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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.

  • Snap back a Snapshot -- it's summer in a bottle

    This weekend the North Dakota State Fair is wrapping up and like thousands of other Manitobans, I made my way down to Minot to take in the festivities, sample some food (and eat American poutine), see some concerts and shop (for beer) till I drop! One thing that excites me most about visiting Minot is picking up new beers that aren’t available in Manitoba, if not all of Canada.
  • There are times that I don't have time to try... ALL THE BEERS!

    I overlook some partly because I know that they will be available the next time I’m visiting the liquor store. Another reason a beer might get overlooked is that I never liked the brewery’s other offerings so I don’t go out of my way to try their newest products. In this week’s case, I just didn’t have time to go out and review it.
  • Spice it up with an apricot weizen

    I am a huge wheat ale fan. I love to drink it any time of the year — summer on the patio, winter indoors while watching hockey — just about any time. The problem for me is that wheat ales such as hefeweizens and witbiers tend to be summer-only styles of beer. They are more tropical and fruity than what you tend to find the other nine months of the year.
  • Swing into summer with two new tasty brews

    Once in a blue moon I receive a mysterious package in the mail. Most times it’s stuff I’ve ordered online, or care packages straight from Quebec — or most recently, a sampling of Big Rock’s newest beers.
  • The great Canadian six-pack

    Canada Day long weekend is here and this is the best time of year to take in a barbecue, watch the fireworks, enjoy all things Canadian and savour Canada’s best beers. Canada has my favourite beers on the planet, and with such a wide variety of styles available all across the country, I felt like Canada Day is the perfect time to create the “Great Canadian Six-Pack.”
  • One of the world's highest rated beers can be found here in Brandon

    Every few weeks, I get friends asking me what my all-time favourite beer is. The thing is that I don’t have an absolute favourite — I have a bunch. To me, beer is night and day — there are no two brands of beer that taste exactly the same. I love over-the-top bitter India Pale Ales, sweet sweet caramelly barley wines, dark and heavy raisiny Belgian ales, oak barrel-aged coffee stouts and even the occasional Labatt 50. I like variety as variety is the spice of life!
  • Two new brews at Fort Garry

    If you read the end of last week’s Last Draught, you would have noticed that Winnipeg’s Fort Garry has released two new beers. Raspberry Quencher is a sweet raspberry wheat ale, while Evil Goat Doppelbock is a stronger, maltier take on the popular Bock style — which by itself is a maltier, sweeter and stronger version of a German-style lager.
  • Wheat ale with a taste of oranje

    One of the biggest trends in beer right now is fruit-flavoured beers. Some make sense, such as wheat ales with a hint of raspberry sweetness, while others are just outright strange, like Bud Lime Straw-ber-rita, which tastes more like a fruit cooler than a beer. One fruity style of beer that has been popular before it was cool were unfiltered witbiers and hefeweizens — Belgian- and German-style wheat ales that have a sweetness of either oranges or bananas.
  • When it comes down to beer, why not Minot?

    Last week, I got out of Brandon for a few days and went to Minot so I could stop feeling cooped up non-stop. Also, I was using a trip to Minot as an excuse to try as many American craft beers as I possibly could, shop for some new clothes and visit Minot’s insanely popular Souris River Brewing brewpub.
  • Scottish Oat Lager in time for camping season

    Innis & Gunn is easily one of the most popular line of beers from Scotland in Canada — so much so that they have branched out into numerous versions of their barrel-aged products, such as a rum-finished ale and a Canadian whisky cask ale. Each one of these beers has a distinct flavour, a hint of the spirit that was aged in the barrel before the beer was brewed.
  • Wheat ale with notes of raspberry

    I absolutely love Belgian-style beers. I love them to the point that I will go out of my way to plan a trip to Montreal and bug my friend to drive me to the town of Chambly — home to some of the world’s best tasting Belgian-style ales on the planet.
  • Double the trouble -- double the fun

    First off, I’d like to thank the folks over at Rotary-Rotaract of Brandon for inviting me to last weekend’s third annual Brandon Beer Festival. It was an absolute blast and I had a delightful time serving Amsterdam’s Boneshaker India Pale Ale to people who wanted to try new beers — some loved it, some detested it (and nearly gagged) and heck — some even asked for it served at room temperature.
  • Battle of the band... beers!

    Beer and alcohol has become such a hot commodity in this era that musicians and celebrities have launched products to boost their brand. For example, there are the Dan Aykroyd wine and vodka products that are available at local Liquor Marts — which he personally came to the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart back in 2010 to promote. In Ontario, Tom Green has his own Imperial Stout brewed by Beau’s Natureal Brewing out of Ottawa — which we will never see here, unfortunately.
  • Beer destination: Montreal

    Last week I went on my first vacation in a year — a bièrcation to la belle ville de Montréal. What is that you ask? A beer-based vacation to Montreal. Every year I try to take a vacation to unwind and try new beers and visit nice little cafés. Last year was Quebec City; this year Montreal.
  • Is it a bit too malty, bitter?

    Back when I was still studying at Brandon University several years ago, I did an interview with CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence. One question I always liked to ask celebrities is “What is your favourite beer?” and almost every time — their face would light up with a large smile and blurt out their favourite beer — and that they now wanted one. For Grant Lawrence, Blue Buck Pale Ale by Phillips Brewing Company out of Victoria B.C. was the one beer he enjoyed more than any other.
  • The clash of coffee and hops in the Netherworld

    “Normal is Weird” is a statement Barrie, Ontario’s Flying Monkeys Brewery takes to heart, so much so that they have quickly turned into one of Canada’s “craft breweries to watch.” Flying Monkeys is one of the most “over the top” breweries I’ve experienced in a long time, so much so that for every product they release, it’s more experimental or over the top than their previous release.
  • Gluten-free beer is now easy to find in Westman

    If you read last week’s edition of First Draught, you would have read my review of Half Pints’ Saison de la Ceinture Fléchée, but if you were to try to find that at the local MLCC, you would have gone empty handed. The beer was taken off the shelf by Half Pints Brewing as the product didn’t meet Half Pints’ quality standards — although myself and Grant Hamilton were quite impressed with the beer, aside from it being a bit foamy. A bit of foaminess is nothing — I’ve had beers gush up like a geyser at uncorking (looking at you Unibroue). I don’t believe this should have been a reason for Half Pints to take the product off the shelf as Belgian-style beers have been known to be foamy and over-carbonated, thank yeast for that!
  • Tiz the season for a saison!

    Every couple of years, a new or old style pops out of nowhere and becomes one of the biggest trends in the beer industry. We’ve seen barrel-aged beers, beers brewed colder than they should be, oh and even beer with caffeine. One style that was a big trend back in 2010 was the saison-style wheat ales. Saisons, known as farmhouse ales in the USA, are a style of beer that originated in Belgium. Originally brewed in late autumn or early winter, it could sit and age at the brewery without the worries of it going stale — this was before refrigeration was accessible for the masses.
  • St. Patrick's Day Weekend

    Sure, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until Monday, but to me, it’s St. Patrick’s Day Weekend this weekend! You’ll be seeing pubs and bars full of people sporting green clothing and drinking either green beer or Guinness Stout. St. Patrick’s Day also marks the anniversary of when I finally got my driver’s licence, and more importantly — St. Patrick’s Day is my dad, Rollie’s birthday. He’s turning the big six-oh this year. Happy birthday, dad! I tend to celebrate every day as a St. Patrick’s Day so March 17 is just another day of drinking and celebrating a cultural background you aren’t part of. Actually, I’m kidding — though I do love my beers. I’m frankly bored of the Guinness and dyed-green Moosehead/Bud Lights year after year after year so I feel it’s time to give a bit of an alternative to the St. Patrick’s Day staples.
  • When in France drink Kronenbourg

    France isn’t known for their beer. Well, I don’t blame them when their wine industry is considered one of the best on the entire planet. When you’re insanely good at something, it’s hard to focus on being amazing at other things too. Beer isn’t a beverage that ever became a local staple there like it has here in North America. Instead of drinking beer with a great steak dinner, it’s usually with a glass of wine. But all that said — the French CAN brew beer, even if wine is their craft. I’ve had several beers from France before and most of them were pretty forgettable. But while most French beers make me wish I was drinking a light-beer chelada, not all French beers are horrible — French Belgium and Quebec alone are considered some of the best beer-producing regions on the entire planet. Also, in France, I’ve had some decent French beers, including a smoked ale, which is exactly what it sounds like.
  • Beer past, meet beer present

    There was a time when I truly believed that Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Brewery didn’t have the potential to become one of western Canada’s up-and-coming craft breweries. I believed that you can judge a brewery on the worst product they made. In Fort Garry’s case, Stone Cold Draught — you know, that cheap lager available in a two-litre plastic pop bottle at just about any beer vendor. I never went out of my way to ever drink any of Fort Garry’s beers, because why bother? They had some alright beers like their Pale Ale and Dark Ale but that was about it. Instead of drinking Fort Garry, I would stick to my Sleeman, Moosehead and Alexander Keith’s. Well, one chilly autumn day in 2011, I went to the 10th and Victoria Liquor Mart and noticed this new beer called Munich Eisbock in a big 650 mL bottle with a nice painted label to it. Then, I looked on the back of the bottle and noticed it said “Fort Garry Brewing Co”.
  • Prairie pride

    During the mid to late 1990s, Canada was facing a significant recession, and this recession was also affecting Canada’s most profitable industry — the beer industry. Since Labatt and Molson either bought out many of their competitors, or had too many breweries in too many communities, they were losing money on brewing beer, so something had to be done: close most of the breweries! On the prairies, the Labatt and Molson breweries in Winnipeg were shut down to move distribution to Edmonton or Calgary. At the time, my aunt Darice said that Labatt had to shut down their doors because my mom wasn’t drinking enough Labatt Lite (my mom’s favourite beer at the time). The after-effects of Molson and Labatt closing down in Manitoba led to the creation of Fort Garry Brewing, which opened in 1994 following the closure of the Molson Fort Garry brewery in 1990 after a merger with Carling O’Keefe. In Saskatchewan, a similar swap happened, with the O’Keefe brewery in Saskatoon facing closure due to the merger in 1989; but instead of letting the brewery close down and start all over again, a group of 16 employees who worked at the O’Keefe brewery bought the brewery from Molson and continued to operate it independently every since. Fort Garry and Great Western have become prairie success stories, continuing with production even after they were faced with closures of their own. To this very day, if you visit pubs in urban Manitoba or Saskatchewan, you are very likely to find pubs or restaurants with Fort Garry or Great Western beer on tap.
  • Big Wheel keeps on turning

    Four or five years ago, Chris — a good friend of mine from Toronto — was raving about this brewery called Amsterdam Brewery. At the time, looking at their beer labels, I assumed they were actually a Heineken product, or at least Heineken-wannabe product, as their beer labels reminded me too much of Heineken. Actually, it turned out that Amsterdam Brewery was a brewery from Toronto, a brewery that was quickly turning into one of the most popular breweries in Ontario. Eventually the brewery started selling their beer at the LCBO (Ontario’s MLCC) and The Beer Store (which is basically a Molson/Labatt/Sleeman owned version of our beer vendors). Soon enough, their beer would be available in Manitoba and in great quantities and varieties!
  • The best Winterfest beers of 2014

    This past weekend was the 11th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Winter Festival, which is simply one of the most fun weekends of the year. I moved to Brandon just over 10 years ago to study political science and I’ve noticed a large demographic change in that period of time. Brandon is booming with culture and with a festival like this, it lets people from Westman get a taste of the mosaic of cultures we have in our own community. This year there were nine pavilions to visit where you got to taste the snacks and cuisine from around the world, watch live music and dance, hear people speaking in their native tongue, and taste the popular beverages that help make each culture unique. The Brandon Sun’s own Grant Hamilton joked to me that the Festival’s name should be renamed to Winbeerfest, as in Winter Beer Festival. For him and myself, it gives us a chance to sip and savour various beers and liqueurs around the planet. Most every country has their own distinctive flavour when it comes towards beer, while Canada and United States are all over the flavour map when it comes to beer as our beer history is influenced by our ancestors. If you weren’t able to attend the Winbeerfest or forgot what beers you tried at the numerous pavilions, I will be giving you a bit of a run down on what I believed were the gems of this year’s festival. Note: due to time constraints, I didn’t get to visit every pavilion so if I missed your favourite beer from the festival, I apologize in advance.
  • A new bottle and label for a new year

    My favourite thing about living in Manitoba in winter is that if you want to quickly chill beer but you don’t have enough fridge space, putting the beers out into the snow will help chill it at a quick rate, especially on the -25ºC evenings we’ve been having lately. However, you have to remember to bring the beer indoors or else the beer will freeze. I had this happen to me the other night; I love to chill beer outdoors in the wintertime because it gives all beers a nice cold snap to the palate — tastebuds, tongue or whatever you want to call it. But I kept my beer out in the snow for so long that the beer froze completely, which is never a good thing. Beer also loses flavour once it has been frozen, so it’s best to check on your beer every 10-15 minutes, even if it means that you have to go outdoors.
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