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Playoff Pints: Bold brews soften the blow of the Jets' elimination

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The Jets aren't in the playoffs and, it would appear, life goes on. It's likely most Winnipeggers will begrudgingly turn to another team to cheer on (or at least follow) during the post-season. And with four of Canada's seven NHL teams making the playoffs -- twice as many as in 2012 -- there are plenty of choices on this side of the border.

Playoff hockey is anything but boring, so why drink some nondescript corporate swill when there are so many great beers available in our market from craft or microbreweries? Just because you're depressed about the Jets not making the playoffs doesn't mean your beer has to be depressing, too.

I'll even give you a hand: here's a look at each of the Canadian teams and some brews to try while cheering them on.

uncorked@mts.net Twitter: @bensigurdson


TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

OPPONENT: BOSTON BRUINS

It's been nearly a decade since the Leafs made the playoffs. Back then the selection of Ontario beer in Manitoba was pretty much just the big macrobrews -- the kind of stuff you pay upwards of $8 for at Jets games at the MTS Centre.

Today, we get all sorts of microbrews from Ontario. One of the newest to hit the shelves is the Amsterdam Brewing Co.'s Big Wheel Deluxe Amber (Toronto -- $2.95/473 ml can). Deep gold in colour, the Big Wheel is malty on the nose with some caramel notes in there as well. Its appearance is a bit deceiving -- the simple malty flavours are much lighter in intensity than the appearance would indicate.

The brewery website says the Big Wheel "was created out of a desire for the perfectly balanced beer combining all the qualities of a rich traditional pale ale with the drinkability of a modern lager." The Leafs will need to ice a team that combines grit and finesse much in the same way the Big Wheel does.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

OPPONENT: OTTAWA SENATORS

Much improved from last year's last-place standing in the Eastern Conference, the Habs came in to the post-season with the most points of any Canadian team. They need their speedy forwards, as well as defencemen such as P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, to score often, and goaltender Carey Price needs to be lights-out.

We don't see a lot of Quebec breweries in Manitoba, but what we do get from Unibroue is consistently fantastic. The Unibroue Seigneuriale (Chambly, Que. -- $5.93/750ml bottle, Liquor Marts) is medium gold and slightly hazy in colour, with a big, intense head when poured into the glass. Aromatically, there's all sorts of spice on the nose -- clove, anise, cinnamon -- as well as intense wheat notes. That clove/spice angle comes through big-time on the palate, and there's some kick on the finish, thanks to 7.5 per cent alcohol.

Much like Montreal's power play, the Seigneuriale is potent and like Habs fans, those who like Unibroue are fans for life. And hey, just because the Habs are owned by Geoff Molson doesn't mean you have to drink his decidedly average beer.

OTTAWA SENATORS

OPPONENT: MONTREAL CANADIENS

The Senators surprised many with their consistent level of play throughout the shortened season, led by veteran captain Daniel Alfredsson. Despite a rash of injuries that decimated their roster, the team succeeded, thanks in large part to Alfie and coach/ex-Jet Paul MacLean.

Since we don't have any beer brewed in Ottawa in Manitoba, Bracebridge will have to do. The Muskoka Summer Weiss (Bracebridge, Ont. -- $2.66/355 ml bottle, Liquor Marts) is pale gold and slightly hazy, with lovely wheat, banana, spice and bread-dough notes on the nose. It's a crisp wheat beer, with a touch of sweetness to go with the dough, spice and banana notes.

The great thing about the Sens facing the Habs is that it guarantees at least one Canadian team makes it past the first round of the playoffs. If the man with a playoff-style beard on the label is any indication, the Sens could be in for a long playoff run.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

OPPONENT: SAN JOSE SHARKS

You have to like the Canucks' chances against the San Jose Sharks, who consistently come up short in the playoffs. Vancouver forwards/twin brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin are always a threat when they're on the ice, and Ryan Kesler and the recently added Derek Roy provide secondary scoring.

Vancouver's Parallel 49 Old Boy Classic Ale (Vancouver -- $2.89/341 ml bottle, Liquor Marts) is deep caramel in colour, with mocha, Tootsie Roll and toasty malt notes on the nose. There's some weight on the palate here, with a hint of sweetness that brings out those Tootsie Roll and toffee notes. It's a complex, rich ale.

It just so happens that the "Old Boy" of the Vancouver Canucks -- the one guy not born in the 1980s or 1990s -- is the much-maligned Roberto Luongo (his birthday is April 4, 1979). Where the Canucks' old boy lands next year is anybody's guess.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2013 E1

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