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Beer fest news/get while the gettin's good

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First things first - let me be clear that nothing that follows is in any way April Fool's-related. April 1 has to be one of my least favourite days of the year.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, to the matters at hand...

* The 12th annual Flatlander's Beer Festival has historically been held in September on the second floor of the RBC Convention Centre. This year, organizers have decided to engage beer-lovers during the summer, moving the fest up to June 12 and 13.

Not only has Flatlander's been bumped up time-wise, but it's gotten quite the venue upgrade as well. This year's event will be held at ice level in the MTS Centre, providing far more room for new and existing brewers to show off their suds.

Suffice to say organizers were confident when confirming this news to me that the Winnipeg Jets weren't going to be making the playoffs, never mind playing into mid-June. If you want me to believe that'll happen you'll need to feed me something stronger than beer.

No word on ticket prices, or when they go on sale - organizers will be busy until the first week of May, when the Winnipeg Wine Festival wraps up. More on that in a minute...

* Not to be outdone by Winnipeg, the third annual Brandon Beer Tasting Festival takes place Saturday, May 3 (the same day, as it happens, the Winnipeg Wine Festival wraps up). The festival is held at the Royal Oak Inn, and is hosted by the Rotaract Club of Brandon.

Tickets are $25 and are available from Brandon Liquor Marts or Rotaract members, with proceeds going to Food For Thought, "an organization devoted to providing children with a healthy breakfast in order to facilitate their learning at school."

* Since Saturday's column about the Winnipeg Wine Festival's ancillary events ran in the March 29 Winnipeg Free Press, a few of the fest's ancillary events have sold out. Gone are all the tickets for the Sunday, April 27 World of Wine event at Niakwa Golf and Country Club, as well as both Monday events (the Penfolds Luxury Wine Dinner at the Keg on Garry Street and Joe's Italian Wine Night at Bellissimo on Waverley Street).

There are tickets left for the remainder of the ancillary events (as well as the main weekend public tasting), and can be obtained by clicking through the links via the Winnipeg Wine Festival website.

Incidentally, this weekend's column highlights the wine-producing regions of Australia, which is the theme region of this year's wine fest.

***

Here are a few reviews of beers that are in somewhat limited supply at a handful of Manitoba Liquor Marts. For details on which stores have what stock, you can check the Liquor Marts website.

Dead Frog The Session Vienna Lager (Aldergrove, BC - $2.54/341ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Medium gold in colour and with a pale white head, there's that slight corny note you find in some lagers along with toasted malt, oat and light apple aromas. It's light and creamy, and the toasted malt/oat notes come through nicely on the palate, managing to hold back too much corny-ness. 3.5/5

Half Pints Black Galaxy (Winnipeg - $5.67/650ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Deep black-ish in colour and with a rich, beige head, there's plenty of grassy hops on the nose of this black IPA - it weighs in at a hoppy 60 IBU - as well as pine, floral, roasted malt and an almost-crystallised sugar component. There's plenty of roasted notes on the creamy, chewy, medium-bodied palate, which really sets this apart from your standard IPA. Rather, in this case, the crisp, citrusy hops counteracts the roasted malt notes nicely, and there's a hint of sweetness to those darker notes that your typical IPA wouldn't bring. 4/5

Central City Brewers Red Racer ESB (Surrey, BC - $5.50/650ml bottle, Liquor Marts)
Deep copper in colour with a white, fine head, this extra special bitter has plenty of roasted malt and a touch of caramel on the nose to go with pleasantly pronounced bitter hops. On the light-plus-bodied palate it manages to take the creamier, roasted malt/caramel notes and marry it with the crisp herbal component, with just a touch of subtle sweetness in there. Well done. 4/5

Twitter: @bensigurdson

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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