Manitoba Beer Expedition
Embark on an ale adventure to savour locally produced brews and learn how the province’s award-winning beers are made
Half Pints Brewing Co. CEO and co-owner Nicole Barry with her award-winning craft beer. Photo by Robin Summerfield
Nicole Barry lovingly strokes a massive, floor-to-ceiling stainless steel tank inside her Winnipeg brewery.
Every time her company Half Pints Brewing Co. receives a piece of brand-new, plastic-wrapped equipment like the huge tank, it gives her a little charge of pride and excitement, she says.
New equipment means more beer. More beer means more business.
But it’s about more than just the bottom line.
Barry is a beer expert and a passionate enthusiast who wants others to discover her company’s award-winning brews and Winnipeg’s beer culture while they’re at it.
“We’re very proud of what we’re doing. We’re doing it at a world-class level and we love what we do,” Barry says. “We consider our beer as an art form. We put a lot of love and happiness into our beer.”
Outside the brewing industry itself, Manitoba’s capital city hasn’t been widely known for its beer. But things are slowly changing.
In June, Manitoba-based The Farmery officially launched, making it the first estate brewery in Canada.
Brothers Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk, owners of Winnipeg’s Luxalune Gastropub, grow hops and barley on their Neepawa-area farm and will eventually brew their own ales in their own on-site brewhouse and facility.
The boys were raised on the family farm near Minnedosa and have been in the restaurant business for 13 years. At Luxalune, the duo stock 150 beers from around the world.
They know farming. They know craft beer. And they know there’s a public appetite for artisan beers.
“If anyone’s going to do it, we’re going to do it and we’re not going to stop until we do it,” Chris says.
Recent changes in the Manitoba liquor laws opened the door for the brothers. Restaurants will also be able to brew beer in-house under the new legislation.
For now, the Warwaruk’s raw ingredients were shipped to a Comox brewing facility for a limited-edition release in June. Their first batch sold out at the pub but the pair expect to have more before the end of summer.
The bricks-and-mortar brewery will eventually be built at the farmstead. The brothers want to grow this newest arm of their business gradually and sensibly using a sustainable long-term model for success, they both say. Eventually travelers will be able to visit the farm and brewhouse to get a first-hand look at an estate brewery.
Meanwhile, Half Pints, the six-year-old craft brewery, has itself gained an international following and has won several brewing awards.
Locally, beer groupies have been known to line up outside in the dead of winter before sunrise when the company releases limited-edition brews. On those days, Half Pints, which is owned by Barry and her ex-husband and brewmaster Dave Rudge, has had to limit per-person sales for fear of beer hoarding and online-price gouging on sites like Kijiji and Craigslist.
The city is also home to Fort Garry Brewing Company, Manitoba’s oldest micro-brewery. The 82-year-old company brews five varieties which are sold in restaurants throughout Winnipeg and farther afield. (Half Pints beer is also available in city restaurants.)
At closer inspection, Manitoba is the perfect place to find beer. As the centre of Canada’s grain trade, Manitoba and its capital city Winnipeg is a world-renowned hub of beer experts.
Brewers come from around the world to tap into the expertise at the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre (CMBTC), located in downtown Winnipeg.
Inside the CMBTC’s on-site brewing facilities, the non-profit organization offers advice to local, national and international brewers to help make better beer.
CMBTC managing director Rob McCaig, a former brewmaster at Molson’s, creates new beer recipes, trouble shoots, trains budding brewmasters and develops new products for about 60 breweries in countries around the world including China, Vietnam, South Africa and in the U.S. and South America.
McCaig also came up with The Farmery’s first beer recipe.
He will help mentor the Warwaruk brothers in the art of brewing and ultimately help them become Canada’s first ever estate brewery.
Take your own beer expedition:
• Every Saturday at 1 p.m., take a tour of Winnipeg’s Half Pints Brewery. You’ll learn about the entire brewing process from farm to tank to bottle.
The company is also behind Barley’s Angels, a monthly tasting and meet-up for beer-loving women at various restaurants and other locales around the city. Learn about beer and brewing during the events and taste some of five, signature brews made by Half Pints. The events typically cost about $15 per person and often raise money for local charities.
Every year, the company also hosts its annual open house the first Saturday of December.
For more information about Barley’s Angels join the group on Facebook or call Half Pints at 204-832-7468. For a list of restaurants serving Half Pints products click here.
• Go on a beer world tour at Luxalune Gastropub. The Osborne Street gastropub in Winnipeg serves 150 different beers from countries around the globe. Owners Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk have also launched Canada’s first estate brewery, The Farmery. For now, their limited edition beer is available intermittently as the brothers refine the recipe and grow their own hops and barley to use in their brews. The brothers hope to build a brewery on the Neepawa-area farm and will ultimately invite travelers to visit the farm and facility.
• Fort Garry Brewing Company hosts brewery tours from Monday to Friday at the discretion of the brewmaster. To book a free tour, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, stating your group size and when you would like to visit.