Exciting News from 2011 Flatlanders Beer Festival

The 9th annual Flatlanders Beer Festival ran at the Convention Centre on September 8 & 9.

If you’ve never been it’s a second to none opportunity to try over a hundred beers and related products (cider for instance) from 25 countries. And unlike the Winnipeg Wine Festival, all the packaged products are available at the MLCC.

Besides the unparalleled array of beer, I appreciate the opportunity to chat with the reps and (in most cases) learn more about products I’ve previously, or planned, to enjoy. If you’ll forgive a quick rant there was an MLCC rep who couldn’t tell me a thing about the Well’s IPA whose origins had elluded me in my current state (it was burton-on-trent). At a beerfestival, this nonchalant shrugging of shoulders is unforgivable. But the fact that MLCC monopolizes product offerings and distribution in the province, means we have to grovel in appreciation for any crumbs of knowledge or new product they afford us.

Thankfully brewmaster Dave Rudge of HalfPints filled my tank with a taste and description of their cask ale. Specially brewed for the Flatlanders Beer Festival, it was an intensely but well integrated citrus ale that (although not commercially available) further justified those 7am lineups at their 550 Roseberry retail store whenever they launch a new special.

They also offered the holy trinity of their product lineup–St. Jame’s Pale Ale, Bulldog Amber, and Stir Stick Stout, beers whose flavours once seemed to border on the ridiculous and now (educated) for me are the flavour standard by which all new market arrivals are measured.

It might seem weird or frustrating to encounter a brew that you can never buy, but these one-offs are the reason you should go to festivals and tasting nights. They offer the brewmasters a chance to market-test a product, the public a chance to weigh in and inform future product offerings, and are ultimately a shining example of the talent and ability of our local brewmasters.

Prime example being Fort Garry Brewery’s Ice Bock (a last minute replacement for the Special Dark Whiskey Infused). While most of Fort Garry’s line are too tame to be interesting for my taste, the Ice Bock blew my socks off and I learned is a sign of very exciting things to come.

The big buzz (besides the one I was sporting at this point) was Fort Garry’s recently completed amalgamation with west coast based Russel Brewing.

Russell puts out some decent brews (including the blood alley bitter that was on hand). This announcement means more offerings from out West. But it’s also going to shake things up locally.

While FGB will continue to offer their staple products, they’ll also begin to introduce four new craft brews to market each year under the auspices of the Brewmaster Series.

Keeping things fresh and interesting, they’ll drop the bottom two sellers each year replacing them with a brand new concoction.

Not only will these be available at the Liquor Mart, but on tap at select pubs and bars. According to the marketing manager, talks are happening right now but you can take an educated guess that beer friendly venues like The Grove, Luxalune, The Kings Head etc will be among the chosen.

I just hope the market will prove sud savvy and flavor adventurous enough to sustain some interesting product developments.

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