Sanguine Swizzle and the best beer around
Local libations win big
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Manitoba brewers, bartenders and sommeliers have been hauling in the hardware this past week.
On May 15, the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) held the In Good Spirits cocktail competition as part of MB Somm Week. The event saw 14 local bartenders/mixologists square off in front of a capacity crowd at the Fort Garry Hotel to see whose cocktail would reign supreme.
The winner of the event was Alex Weiss of Preservation Hall Eatery + Wine Bar, with his “Sanguine Swizzle” cocktail — featuring blanco tequila, hibiscus tea, beet juice, green pepper juice, champagne acid, mint, basil, strawberry-honey syrup and crushed ice. Preservation Hall (655 Empress St.) has added the drink to its spring/summer cocktail list, if you want to give it a try. Weiss, meanwhile, has won a trip to Kentucky for his efforts.
Second place went to Jason Thompson of Gather at the Leaf in Assiniboine Park for his “Hot Date” cocktail, while third place went to Tanika Born of Sous Sol for the “Bee Movie” cocktail. The people’s choice went to Josh Rhoopchand of the Manitoba Club for the “Virginia is for (Breakfast) Lovers” cocktail.
CAPS Manitoba’s Somm Week also saw Seema Pal crowned best sommelier in Manitoba for 2023, beating out three other competitors in written exams and in-person tastings, quizzes and service trials. Pal will head to Halifax in November along with 2021 winner Alex Allardyce for the national championships.
Local brewers, meanwhile, took home all manner of trophies in the 2023 Prairie Beer Awards, held in Regina this year. Manitoba and Saskatchewan producers once again faced off at the second running of this competition, with our province’s producers scoring some big wins.
Little Brown Jug Brewing Co. nabbed Brewery of the Year honours, unseating last year’s winner, Regina’s Rebellion Brewing Co. The Exchange District brewery also nabbed Best in Show awards for its black lager, as well as a gold for its golden ale, Belgian blonde ale, Generic! lager and more.
Nonsuch Brewing Co. took home two golds for its raspberry sour and mango farmhouse ale, with other gold-medal winners including Sookram’s, Interlake Brewing Co., Dastardly Villain Brewing Co. and Trans Canada Brewing Co., with plenty more locals scooping up silvers and bronzes. For a full list of winners see wfp.to/pba2023.
Beers of the week
All of the following local brews (listed from lightest to darkest) won gold medals at the 2023 Prairie Beer Awards, and are available at the brewery at which they were made, as well as at Liquor Marts and some beer vendors. Some have been reviewed before and are being revisited; consider all of them to be in the “highly recommended” 4-4.5/5 star range.
Nonsuch Brewing Co. Raspberry Sour ($4.50/473ml cans)
This fruited sour has become one of Nonsuch’s bestsellers, particularly in warmer weather.
It’s peachy-pink, hazy and quite fizzy in the glass, and aromatically brings fresh, tart raspberry notes, plus hints of strawberry candy and an almost-salty note. It’s light-bodied, dry and tart, but never mouth-puckeringly sour.
The fresh raspberry flavours come with a candied note (think Swedish berries, lemon drops) on the medium-length finish (it’s 5.6 per cent alcohol). A nice long-weekend refresher.
FullGeek BrewLab Helios Hazy IPA ($4.35/473ml cans, brewed at Stone Angel Brewing Co., 1875 Pembina Hwy.)
Medium-straw colour and, yes, hazy, this IPA offers fresh herbal and citrus aromas, as well as tropical, cracked malt, grassy and slightly resinous notes.
It’s light-plus-bodied and mainly dry, with a nice, almost-creamy texture that comes with the ripe tropical fruit and citrus flavours, secondary herbal and malt notes, moderate bitterness and, at 5.6 per cent alcohol, a medium-length finish.
Still as crushable and not-too-intense IPA as it was when first reviewed last year.
Interlake Brewing Co. Hoppy Pelican Dry Hopped Pale Ale ($3.99/473ml cans, brewed at Oxus Brewing Co., 1180 Sanford St.)
Medium-gold in colour and slightly hazy, there’s a resinous and grassy note here to the hops that shows well on the nose, along with deep malt and subtle tropical fruit aromas.
On the dry, light-plus-bodied and racy palate, the hops are front and centre, with resinous/piney, citrus rind and herbal flavours coming with secondary malt notes and medium bitterness before the modest finish (it’s five per cent alcohol).
First reviewed in 2021 — still very good.
Bookstore Brewing Another Deadly Sin English Special Bitter ($4.25/473ml cans, brewed at Oxus)
Copper in colour and slightly hazy with an off-white head, the bitter offers a lovely herbal and floral note that comes with the rich malty aromas.
It’s medium-bodied and dry, with the three kinds of hops offering herbal and grassy notes but not overpowering bitterness, while the rich, malty component provides depth and balance on the crisp, clean finish (it’s five per cent alcohol).
Practically begs for some chips at a pub.
Little Brown Jug Black Lager ($3.96/473ml cans)
First reviewed in 2019, this cola-brown dark lager took Best in Show at the Prairie Beer Awards.
On the nose it brings dark roasted malt, Tootsie Roll and hints of dried fruit, yet doesn’t smell overly sweet.
On the light-plus-bodied palate there’s just the slightest hint of sweetness that comes with the roasted malt, chocolate-caramel and subtle herbal and coffee notes, with a modest finish thanks to five per cent alcohol.
Plenty of complexity here, yet quite approachable.
Dastardly Villain Brewing Co. Infernal Fusion Machine Black Ale ($3.90/473ml cans, brewed at Torque Brewing Co., 830 King Edward St.)
Formerly called Dark Matter (and first reviewed as such in 2022), this black ale is indeed quite dark in colour, with a beige head.
The dark/chocolate malt notes show front and centre aromatically, with espresso, cracked oats and Black Forest cake notes adding to the party.
It’s medium-plus-bodied and mainly dry, with shades of dried fruit coming with espresso, dark chocolate and robust malty flavours, medium bitterness and a modest 5.2 per cent alcohol finish.
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.