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(Hops and) malt stop*

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You can almost smell the roasted malt and hops in the air - that's right, the Flatlander's Beer Festival is here once again. The dinner takes place tonight at Bergmann's on Lombard - I'll be updating my Twitter page with pictures and descriptions of the courses and the beer from my table, technology and common courtesy permitting.

Tomorrow is the first of two nights of hops heaven - the main tastings. After reviewing the list of beer to be poured (click on 'Beer' in the menu - it will load a PDF) on Thursday and Friday night at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, here are ten brews (in alphabetical order) that I haven't tried but that have piqued my interest...

• Alexander Keith's Dark Ale (Canada) - I've been a fan of the Keith's Red for some time, and look forward to trying their foray into darker pastures.

• Fort Garry Festival Beer (Canada - MB) - I like their Fort Gibraltar, which comes out around the time of the Festival du Voyageur... we'll see if this is along the same lines (or maybe even the same beer).

• Half Pints Brewing Dry Hopped Scrapper IPA (Canada - MB) - This local brewery (and personal favourite) always has something fun on tap (literally - usually from a keg) at Flatlanders.

• Lava Stout (Iceland) - As an Icelandic-Manitoban, I was somewhat disappointed by the Egils Gull, a lighter Icelandic lager. I'm told this is the one to try.

• New Grist Gluten Free (USA) - From Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee (Ah, Laverne and Shirley...), I'll be interested to see how this celiac-friendly beer tastes.

• Okanagan Springs 1516 Bavarian Lager (Canada) - I became familiar with this BC brewery's beers when I was in the Okanagan for the Canadian Wine Awards. This is one I haven't yet tried - '1516' is in reference to the year the Bavarian Purity Law or Reinheitsgebot (purity ordinance, in German) came into being in Germany, stating beer could only be made using barley, hops and water. You can now use yeast and other ingredients like wheat (as is the case in weissbier/Hefeweizens).

• Old Engine Oil (Scotland) - err... sounds tasty!

• Otromundo Strong Red Ale (Argentina) - I'm not sure I've tried an Argentine beer before, but if it's anything like the Chilean beer I had when visiting the coastal country, it should be good.

• Russell Cream Ale (Canada - MB) - This beer is listed as being from Manitoba, but a visit to their website confirms that they're based in BC and are simply owned by the same company as Fort Garry Brewing Company.

• Samuel Adams Octoberfest (USA) - Very good to see Sam Adams regularly available in our province. I've tried the Boston Lager but never the Octoberfest.

Pick up your tickets at a Liquor Mart or via Ticketmaster, and I'll see you there. I'll try and put together a list of favourites, probably post-Flatlander's. Oh, and I'll be hitting Taste of Downtown Winnipeg this weekend, of course, and will try and update this space with some can't-miss wines.

*Fun fact - my first job was as a dishwasher at the Canadiana Buffet in The Bay in Unicity Fashion Square. One of my tasks was to relieve the Malt Stop kiosk worker in the food court. So I'd slink down to the Malt Stop, cowering behind the machines so my friends at the mall couldn't see me in my horribly dated beige and burgundy uniform, complete with hairnet. At least the malts were good.

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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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