If we can't have grape wineries here in Manitoba, we should at least be thankful we've got some decent breweries in our 'hood (although we could always use more). Both Fort Garry Brewing Co. and Half Pints Brewing Co. have new brews out there worth trying — especially if you're after alternatives to mainstream, uninspired beer...
Fort Garry Brewing Co. just released their latest in the Brewmaster Series, the Portage & Main India Pale Ale. It's currently just at the Grant Park Liquor Mart, but will be hitting more stores next week. Check out the super-sharp packaging on the 650ml bottles via their Facebook page.
Fort Garry Brewing Co. Portage and Main India Pale Ale (Winnipeg, MB — $6.38/650ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Copper in colour and just a bit hazy, the Portage and Main IPA is made using West Coast and Manitoba flower hops. In addition to the hoppy, slightly bitter/herbal aromas typical of an IPA, there's a floral component on the nose that's quite pretty. While it has that crisp sharpness of a classic IPA (it clocks in at 60 IBU), there's also a rounder toasty caramel note that brings some body on the palate. It's 6.5 per cent alcohol — not too crazy high for an IPA — and highly drinkable. I'm a fan of Fort Garry's Brewmaster Series (good news — the hearty Kona Imperial Stout is back on shelves now), and this is probably my favourite of the line. Here's hoping Fort Garry keeps this in regular rotation (it sounds like they are) — it has the potential to be a big hit with both beer geeks and those simply looking to try more local beer and/or IPAs.
Half Pints Brewing Co. released their Le Temps Noir last weekend, a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout. This sucker spent six months sitting in barrels they sourced from Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hills, two killer bourbon producers. It sounds like the barrels will get used again for something down the road, but for now they're shifting their focus to other upcoming releases: the Pothole Porter, Queer Beer and eventually another batch of Weizen Heimer for summer. Until then...
Half Pints Le Temps Noir (Winnipeg, MB — $9.29/650ml bottle, brewery and select Liquor Marts)
Half Pints has made some dark, heavy brews in their time, and this one ranks right up there with the biggest and boldest of 'em. A bourbon barrel-aged Imperial stout, the Le Temps Noir is deep brown-black in colour, with a dark beige head that persists for quite some time. Toffee, raisin, plum, vanilla and a hint of bourbon come through on the nose. This rich, chewy stout is labeled as an "Extra Strong Beer," and Half Pints ain't kidding around — in addition to being 9.6 per cent alcohol by volume, the above-mentioned raisin, toffee and vanilla notes are remarkably intense on the palate. There's some sweetness to the Le Temps Noir, but the crisp hops (the beer weighs in at 85 IBU, which means it's darn hoppy) gives the beer some backbone. Throughout tasting this beer, the subtle bourbon flavours linger in the background, adding great complexity. Put a couple bottles away for a year or two and I bet this evolves really well with age.
The Le Temps Noir is on tap at the Yellow Dog Tavern (386 Donald) as well as Brogue Pubside (the lounge portion of the Round Table at 800-B Pembina Highway), with more taps possibly to follow.
And from elsewhere...
Muskoka Brewery Twice as Mad Tom IPA (Bracebridge, Ont — $3.27/355ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
The Mad Tom IPA was a nice addition into our local collection of crisp IPAs, and the Twice as Mad Tom ramps definitely ramps up the hops quotient from the former (which is $2.68/355ml bottle and also good). A twice dry-hopped Imperial Pale Ale, the Twice as Mad Tom clocks in at 8.4 per cent alcohol by volume. It's coppery orange in colour and cloudy, and brings greenish hops notes, grapefruit rind, floral and herbal aromas. Dry, crisp and with lip-smackingly racy hops, the herbal and citrus rind flavours on this double IPA are intense, and there's a slightly peppery note to the finish here.