After powering through nearly 200 wines -- including some big, tannic, tooth-staining reds -- during the Winnipeg Wine Festival's ancillary events and public tastings, nothing resets my palate like a cleansing ale (other than maybe a trip to the dentist).
On the local front, there are some new and old favourites coming down the pipes as summer approaches (if it ever comes).
Fort Garry Brewing Company has a couple of new brews on deck. The Raspberry Quencher is a wheat beer brewed with real raspberries and, as the logo says, is "100% summer in a can" (if that's the true I'll take a dozen).
Also coming down the pipes from Fort Garry is the EvilGoat DoppelBock, a strong beer (a doppel) brewed with German malt and hops that weighs in at 8.5 per cent alcohol and 25 IBU. Brewmaster Matt Wolff describes it as having a "full rich malty flavour that coats your palate, but finishes smooth."
Both brews will be available in 473-millilitre cans near the beginning of June, and will also be available (along with a couple other special treats) at the Flatlander's Beer Festival -- more on that in a second.
Half Pints Brewing Co. has brewed up another batch of the popular Queer Beer to coincide with Pride Winnipeg (May 23 - June 1). It's a lighter, lower-alcohol brew that's an ideal warm-weather sipper. Their Phil's Pils Czech-style Pilsner will return in early June as well.
As per usual, Half Pints has a few small-batch brews coming in conjunction with Flatlander's: the Gloves Off Scrapper (the Little Scrapper IPA, heavily hopped and served through a hop infuser), Heimer Thyme (their Weizenheimer German wheat beer dry-hopped with thyme), and the Imperial Breakfast Stout (brewed with chocolate malt and flaked oats).
Now, about Flatlander's Beer Festival: the fest is taking place much earlier than normal this year -- it's happening June 12 and 13 (it's usually in September). And rather than hold the fest in the RBC Convention Centre, this year it'll be at ice level at the MTS Centre. For info on what's being poured, check out www.flatlandersbeerfest.com.
While temperatures haven't exactly spurred shorts and flip-flops, it's still the Victoria Day long weekend -- the perfect time to test-drive a flight of new, returning, and new-to-me brews. Beers are listed from lightest to heaviest in style...
WHISTLER BREWING COMPANY POWDER MOUNTAIN LAGER
(Whistler, B.C. -- $2.53/330 ml bottle)
Pale straw in colour with a light, white head, the nose brings fresh-cut oat and floral components as well as light-malt notes. It's light, slightly creamy, and the oat and malt flavours are out front on the palate, with a hint of pepper there, too. Decent but not memorable. 2-1/2 stars
MUSKOKA BREWERY DETOUR INDIA PALE ALE
(Bracebridge, Ont. -- $2.71/355 ml bottle)
Medium-straw in colour, hazy and with a medium-white head, the Detour is intensely aromatic, with fresh hops, floral, grapefruit rind and spice aromas. On the palate, those zippy flavours come through in spades, but lower (4.3 per cent) alcohol makes this highly drinkable -- what beer-biz folks call a "session beer." 4 stars
TREE BREWING CO. CUTTHROAT ALE
(Kelowna, B.C. -- $3.06/500 ml can)
Dubbed a "full-flavoured West Coast ale," the Cutthroat is medium-straw in colour, with hoppy pine and herbal notes as well as a malty, almost biscuit-like thing going on. The hops don't have too much bite on the palate, leaving a hint of herbal/pepper notes to balance the malty flavours. Very smooth, and a good value. 3-1/2 stars
ROBINSONS BREWERY IRON MAIDEN TROOPER ALE (Cheshire, England -- $4.07/500 ml bottle)
I kept missing this when it was here before (and would sell out), so figured I should give it a go before it disappears again. Light-copper in colour, the nose has plenty of caramel, malt, ripe apple and raisin. While dry, that sweeter fruit note lingers, with malt and light hops showing well. A decent ale -- and better than the AC/DC beer. 3 stars
FORT GARRY BREWING COMPANY PORTAGE AND MAIN INDIA PALE ALE
(Winnipeg -- $3.06/473 ml can)
It's back (for now), and this time made with Manitoba-grown flower hops. The Portage and Main IPA is reddish-copper in colour with a lively, off-dry head. At 60 IBU, the hops are pronounced, with resinous, citrus and pine notes jumping out front on the palate, with toasted-malt and light-caramel notes providing balance and a bit of weight. I'm a big fan. 4-1/2 stars
AMSTERDAM BREWERY SPRING BOCK
(Toronto -- $4.99/500 ml bottle)
Bright orange-copper with an off-white head, this doppelbock has dried fruit, sweet-malt and grassy-hops aromas. At 7.3 per cent alcohol, there's quite a bit of kick, and the slightly sweet, dried-fruit notes work well with the more bitter hops notes. Intense -- a nice beer for our chilly spring. 4 stars