At a time when many local businesses are struggling, a new neighbour has set up shop in Winnipeg’s craft beer scene.
Good Neighbour Brewing Co. is the project of co-owners Morgan Wielgosz and Amber Sarraillon, who met while working at Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery before relocating to Winnipeg (where Sarraillon is originally from) and becoming part of Trans Canada Brewing Co.’s team.
But Wielgosz (who handles the brewing) and Sarraillon (who deals with marketing) had plans of their own — to start their own brewery. "It’s been a longtime dream of Morgan and me," says Sarraillon. "We’ve been in the beer industry for 25 years combined; we’ve been dreaming about it since Day 1."
The pair began talking in earnest about starting their own brewery at the beginning of 2021. "There was a time we were questioning whether we were going to move back to Toronto or start this thing here," says Wielgosz. "As soon as we started feeling it out and talking to people here about what we wanted to do, the wave of support and love we felt from people was really gratifying and reassuring."
In order to finance Good Neighbour, the pair sold their house, moved in to Sarraillon’s parents’ house in Stonewall and started working on bringing their vision to fruition. (They have since moved back to Winnipeg.)
And while the idea behind the name Good Neighbour came to Sarraillon seemingly out of nowhere, the handle fits perfectly with the philosophy the pair brings to the project.
"We want to embody what our true values are… which is genuine, honest, inviting, creative and innovative," says Wielgosz. "We want it to be small, in a neighbourhood — we want it to be inviting to all neighbours. A location someone can walk or bike down to, just at the end of their street. Really make it a community-focused, inviting concept."
For now, they are contract brewing out of Oxus Brewing Co.’s Sanford Street location, a cosy spot run by Sean Shoyoqubov and his team. "Sean is such a great guy, to his core, and really knowledgeable," says Wielgosz. "He’s been incredibly welcoming, allowing us to come in and utilize his space, utilize his equipment, and still have full control over what we’re producing, and in a fun environment too… it fits into our exact concept of what a ‘good neighbour’ is — he’s our first good neighbour."
The first two beers from Good Neighbour, a hazy pale ale and a milkshake kettle sour, are available in Oxus’ tap room and via oxusbrewing.com, and will be rolling out to select beer vendors and Liquor Marts in the coming days. Wielgosz and Sarraillon have six core styles they’re working with, including a hazy pale ale, pale lager, milkshake kettle sour, and fruited sour.
Each new iteration will see Wielgosz tweaking certain ingredients — different hops varieties, different malts and the like — while retaining similar flavour profiles and relatively low alcohol levels.
When she took on the head brewer job at Trans Canada, Wielgosz became the first woman to hold such a job in Manitoba. And in an industry that’s male-dominated, Good Neighbour will be the first brewery entirely owned and operated by women — a significant feat but one they’re not focusing on. "A lot of people ask ‘Why aren’t you leading with that?’ We don’t really want it to be gender-based, to have it define us. That’s where we’re starting," says Sarraillon.
And while the pair are keeping their eyes open for a future bricks-and-mortar location, Good Neighbour is planning outdoor pop-up tasting rooms in Winnipeg throughout the summer to get brews in front of the thirsty masses. They’re also planning on collaborating with other breweries and local businesses outside the craft beer scene.
Connecting with peers and beer lovers is at the core of Good Neighbour’s mantra. "I love the story behind beer, I love the story behind why we create the recipes that we do. Beer can connect people — that’s one of our main pillars," says Wielgosz.
Sarraillon agrees. "We’re genuinely so excited to have the opportunity to do something we love. We hope people enjoy our beers as much as we’re enjoying them. Beer should be fun, and we’re trying to have as much fun as we can with it."
Beers of the week
Little Brown Jug Summer Lager (Winnipeg - $3.96/473ml can, brewery, beer vendors Liquor Marts)
Little Brown Jug’s summer lager returns with pleasant floral, lemon curd, malt and corn aromas. It’s dry and light-bodied, with the malt and corn flavours making way for the lemon zest and berry-ish components before the clean, un-fussy finish (and five per cent alcohol). A solid warm-weather crusher. 3/5
Good Neighbour Brewing Co. Hazy Pale Ale (Winnipeg — $4.25/473ml cans, brewery, coming soon to select beer vendors and Liquor Marts)
A blend of Eukanot, Azacca and Galaxy hops, Good Neighbour’s inaugural hazy pale ale brings resinous hop aromas with passion fruit, mango and orange. It’s dry, light-bodied and crisp, highlighting the tropical and orange flavors without getting sweet, with juicy, modestly bitter hops and a clean finish (it’s 4.8 per cent alcohol). A stellar start. 4.5/5
Nonsuch Alloway Ale (Winnipeg - $4.20/473ml can, brewery, select beer vendors and Liquor Marts)
Named after William Forbes Alloway, who founded the Winnipeg Foundation, this ale brings fresh malt, herbal, yeast and citrus notes on the nose. It’s light-bodied and dry, with the sweet-ish malt notes working well with the citrus component, modest bitterness and a short-ish finish. At five per cent alcohol, it’s quite approachable. 3.5/5
The orange zest and strawberry notes aromas in the latest from Half Pints are compelling. It’s off-dry and light-plus bodied, with the not-too-sour fruit flavours bringing a berry-infused Creamsicle-like component, albeit without the creamier texture of some of the lactose-infused brews with similar flavours. A fun brew on a hot day. 3/5
Try our Dish
The latest on food and drink in Winnipeg and beyond from arts writers Ben Sigurdson and Eva Wasney. Dish arrives in your inbox every other Friday. See sample.
Sookram’s Brewing Co. Wavelength West Coast IPA (Winnipeg — $4.31/473ml can, brewery and select beer vendors)
The latest iteration of Sookram’s Wavelength features Talus and Eclipse hops; it’s slightly hazy, with bread dough, pine/herbal and ripe citrus aromas. There are plenty of rich malty notes to stand up to the slightly resinous and quite piney hop notes in this medium-bodied brew, before the long-ish 6.25 per cent finish kicks in. 4/5
Kilter Super Juicii Double IPA (Winnipeg — $4.89/473ml can, brewery and select beer vendors)
A collaboration with Calgary’s Cabin Brewing Co., this double IPA offers coconut and pineapple aromas, as well as bread dough, floral and subtle malt notes. It’s medium-bodied and off-dry, with malt and coconut/tropical flavours, an almost-sweet hoppiness and a long, lingering finish (it’s eight per cent alcohol). Adventurous palates take note. 3.5/5
Ben Sigurdson Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.
At a time when small local businesses are struggling to stay afloat, a good neighbour can go a long way.
Oxus Brewing Co.’s brewery and tap room are tucked at the foot of Westview Park (better known as Garbage Hill) on Sanford Street. In addition to brewing its own beer and hosting Good Neighbour, the facility is also the current home of Winnipeg Brew Werks.
“Sharing our space with other brewers is a way of getting through these times, by consolidating everything,” says Oxus founder Sean Shoyoqubov. “By utilizing the equipment and the capital better, by having better purchasing power… overall it makes more sense economically.”
The pandemic has seen Shoyoqubov and other local brewers pivot away from relying on keg and tap room sales, and instead focus on bottling and canning their brews for pickup, delivery and retail sales. “The whole situation is kind of unpredictable, so it can be challenging to decide how much of your beer you’re putting into kegs — you might as well be dumping it if things don’t get better,” he says. “We’re in limbo mode, playing it safe, not too aggressive, just trying to weather this and hoping everyone’s in a better place soon.”
In order to accommodate the contract brewers, Shoyoqubov had to take his system offline briefly to add new brewing equipment; even more tanks are on the way, with a planned expansion in the months to come that will see the brewery grow significantly. In the meantime, he’s pleased to have added Good Neighbour under his roof. “Morgan and Amber are a great addition — I was really happy they chose to work with us. Morgan has enormous experience running facilities of different sizes; Amber is the same on the marketing side. There’s a lot to learn from both of them.”