The Farmery is the newest addition to Manitoba's beer scene -- brothers Lawrence and Chris Warwaruk (of Luxalune Gastropub) have their first beer, a lager, available in Liquor Marts everywhere. Until their Neepawa-area brewery is online, the Premium Lager is being bottled by Ontario's Muskoka Brewery. If you like it, pop by Luxalune (734 Osborne St. South) and pick up a Farmery tuque, Mason jar glass, T-shirt, or artisan beer soap. I'm hoping to sit down and chat with the brothers soon about their plans for 2013.
Fort Garry Brewing Co. plans another bottling of its Kona Imperial Stout -- a dark, coffee-infused brew -- for February, and are adding a new IPA to their Brewmaster Series around the same time. It's great to see this line doing so well -- Fort Garry really seems to have stepped up its game over the past year when it comes to smaller-batch brewing. I'm going to track down brewmaster Matt Wolff and see what else is brewing at Fort Garry this year.
Half Pints Brewing Co. has a couple of new brews about to arrive -- watch for Le Temps Noir, a bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout, which will be released Feb. 16. It's also making another batch of Saison de la Ceinture Fléchée, a saison/farmhouse-style ale, which is being released this weekend.
Half Pints also has a couple educational sessions coming up. On Feb. 7, brewmaster Dave Rudge will host a home-draft workshop. He'll guide attendees through how to go about setting up homebrew gear and provide some tips on making the best brew possible. Cost is $50 plus tax.
Also on the horizon for Half Pints is a sensory training course, running Feb. 19-21, and again hosted by Rudge. Learn how to identify different flavours in beer by tasting a variety of samples, some of which will be "spiked" to emphasize certain characteristics typically found in beer. Tickets are $75 plus tax.
Both events take place at the brewery (550 Roseberry St.), and tickets for both can be reserved by calling 204-832-PINT.
I'll be looking at the potential for brewpubs in Manitoba, and whether there's a chance we'll see one (or more) open their doors this year. Fingers crossed...
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THE FARMERY PREMIUM LAGER
(Winnipeg -- $2.46/355ml bottle)
Bright pale gold in colour, this lager balances corn, light hops and a slightly sweet candy/toffee notes on the nose. Thankfully it doesn't taste overly sweet, instead balancing light crisp hops with typical corn and malt notes of a lager. A good first effort -- it'll be interesting to see how adventurous The Farmery gets in the future.
L'ABBAYE DU CATEAU VIVAT BLONDE
(France -- $3.67/330ml bottle)
Pale copper and hazy in colour, the Vivat brings orange candy and perfume aromas with lighter yeasty notes than I anticipated. It's pretty soft carbonation-wise, yet stays crisp on the palate, bringing herbal, malt and spice notes with milder yeast flavours. Not bad, but I expected something a little less tame.
ANDERSON VALLEY BREWING COMPANY HOP OTTIN' IPA
(Boonville, Calif. -- $2.63/355ml cans)
Medium gold in colour, cloudy and with a nice head when poured, the Hop Ottin' brings great floral, herbal, pear and bright hoppy aromas. It's certainly a crisp, hops-driven IPA, but (thankfully) there's enough pear, caramel and herbal flavours to keep it from becoming a bitter, one-trick pony. At seven per cent alcohol, it's got some kick -- nice stuff.
INNIS & GUNN SPICED RUM FINISH
(Scotland -- $4.95/330ml bottle)
This brewery specializes in oak-aged beer, with this batch having been aged in spiced rum casks for 47 days. Deep coppery orange in colour, the spice certainly comes through on this strong English ale, with vanilla, raisin and sweet malt notes. Carbonation is crisp and sharp, offset by sweeter vanilla and spiced rum notes as well as raisin and toffee flavours. It's 7.4 per cent alcohol -- not for the mild-at-heart imbiber, but certainly an interesting cold-weather brew.
BOX STEAM BREWERY DARK & HANDSOME
(United Kingdom -- $4.34/500ml bottle)
The Dark & Handsome looks like cola in the glass, but aromatically it's anything but -- the chocolate/mocha aromas are outstanding, while roasted malt and a mild anise/licorice note add great complexity. Despite the aromas, it's basically bone-dry -- the cocoa, dark chocolate and licorice flavours keep the Dark & Handsome dry and lively. It's remarkably peppy -- not nearly as chewy or heavy as a stout or porter. My fave of the bunch.