Monthly Archives: March 2014

In Space No One Can Hear You Review A Beer: Half Pints Brewing Co.’s Black Galaxy

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Whenever friends of mine let me know they’re heading to Winnipeg to see friends (And dear god, that happens more than you would think), they always ask for a local brewery recommendation and with no pause whatsoever my response is always “Half Pints Brewing”. There are others in Winnipeg and definitely in the whole province of Manitoba, but Half Pints is the one I always suggest because they have been leading the charge on well-crafted beers since 2006 when co-owners Nicole Barry and David Rudge opened their doors as part of a grand plan to open a brewery by their early 30s.

With Rudge as Brewmaster and Barry putting her extensive accounting and business administration background to good use as the brewery’s CEO, Half Pints have slowly and steadily made their mark on the minds of beer drinkers in the province of Manitoba and beyond. From being fiercely active in their local community (one instance of note is creating “Queer Beer”, a special beer for the Winnipeg Pride Festival with proceeds of sales going to Pride Winnipeg), to consistently coming out with new and exciting beers, Half Pints stands as a good example of creative brewing and cunning business sense.

Flagships include St. James Pale Ale, Bulldog Amber Ale, Stir Stick Stout, and the incredibly popular Little Scrapper IPA. Their market includes Saskatchewan, BC, Alberta, and of course Manitoba, with the occasional feature in the eastern provinces as well. If you find yourself in Winnipeg, the brewery also does tours every Saturday starting at 1pm.

1601307_681922288535481_1551725549_nI was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of their newest limited release, the Black Galaxy, a Black IPA finished off with, you guessed it, Galaxy Hops. The beer has been a popular March feature since it first came out in 2012 and has had Half Pints fans shaking with anticipation ever since. The beer is about 6% ABV and is being sold at the brewery itself along with selected stores while quantities last.

…And I have to say that it’s a comfortable and strong beer. Normally when I have a Black IPA I get a lot of roasted coffee notes at the end, and while I certainly start to get the malty notes as it warms in the glass, if I was blinded in an accident and drank this beer I wouldn’t guess that it was so dark in colour. I say this because despite its colour  it’s a very bright beer. The tropical fruit notes of the Galaxy hops comes out nicely in the aroma, and those same notes come out strongly in the taste. I have to admit, I didn’t know what to think of a dark beer release so close to Spring, but I’ll be damned if this doesn’t fit the season nicely. If I’m going to borrow from the space theme this beer takes on, the aroma and taste are two bright stars in an otherwise dark space.

It’s fun to see this beer unwrap itself while drinking it, going from a bright and tropical IPA while cold and ending up as a slightly roasted hoppy dark beer as it warms.

This isn’t the first time a Half Pints beer has made me smile at my glass and say “Well, look at you!” and I doubt it will be the last. While I have no clue when I’ll next be in Winnipeg, I’ll be sure to keep this on my list of destinations when I’m there.

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Filed under Currently Drinking, people I know, Seasonal Beers

The Kinda-Sorta Rise of Session Beers

So these days the words “Session Beers” are entering the mindset of beer geeks and casual beer drinkers more frequently. This isn’t a new thing at all, Session Beers are a very common type of beer, but small breweries are deciding to take a break from their usual projects to create the perfect one and the public eye is wondering just what the hell a Session Beer is.

A Session Beer is, essentially, a beer that is low in alcohol (Usually about 4.5-5% ABV or under) and thus a beer that you can drink frequently during a drinking “session”, which is a period of time where you are having several drinks.  So my version of the perfect session would be sitting on the top of my friend’s apartment building in Bushwick and splitting a six-pack of a beer that barely leaves me buzzed by the end. But really, a session can be spent alone or with friends, at a bar or in the comfort of your own home. Wherever good times are had. There are other aspects to what makes an arguably good session beer, such as balance of flavour and reasonable price and so on, but they are by no means strict rules that one must follow (although I will agree that they are somewhat in line with the spirit of the social aspect).

If you’ve had beers like Guinness, Pilsner Urquell, Newcastle Brown, or even Blue Moon, you’ve had a session beer before. They’re nothing new (Like I said, it’s just an alcohol level). So why am I telling you this?

Because in a craft beer climate where breweries seem to be looking for the next Big Beer (Here, have this Imperial Belgian Stout aged in Bourbon & Absinthe barrels that is roughly 12% ABV!), it pays to know that it is possible to have something simple and finely crafted. Don’t get me wrong, I adore geeking out over over a sample of rum-barrel aged barleywines or basking in the beautiful aromas of an Imperial IPA, but at the end of a particularly tiring day of work, I tend to go for a beer that doesn’t get me buzzed after half a glass and is something I have the option of not thinking about if I don’t want to. The latter is particularly important to me if I really just want to relax. Also, it may be just me, but I think that Sessionable beers have a better chance of “converting” folks on to the smaller breweries than the sensory explosions do. Not that the big ABV lads don’t pull their weight, it’s just I’ve often found the smaller alcohol beers that are made very well end up being great Gateway Beers. It’s for that reason that I think small breweries are starting to put some nice session beers in to their brewing schedules lately.

One such beer that is making the rounds up here in Ontario is Detour Session IPA by Muskoka Brewery and it pretty much matches my criteria for a great session beer. At 4.3% ABV and hopped with Eldorado, Sorachi, and Citra hops, this is a beer with gorgeous, subtle, citrus aromas, a subtle note of mandarin oranges in the taste and a quick dry finish. It’s a very well balanced beer, hoppy enough for you to take notice, but not too hoppy so you’ll end up thinking about it too much. Were we not having lousy Smarch weather right now, I’d be out on the porch slowly sipping this beer. Instead I’ll settle for sipping this at the end of the day in my office and know that I have something to look forward to in the brutal heat of summer.

GoToIPA_6packIn Amerika, the big one that has exploded right now is Stone Brewery’s Go To IPA, which at first was a bit weird to think that Stone would do a 4.5% beer, but then I remembered that they have their Levitation Ale which is 0.1% lower (HUGE difference, I know…).

For more information on some amazing international Session Beers out there, I can’t recommend The Session Beer Project enough. This site has been going on with sporadic updates since 2009 and has been an absolute joy to go through. Be sure to subscribe to it or just flip through the archives.

So when you hear someone say that their beer is really “sessionable”, what they mean is that you can drink a few of them without having to worry about waking up in a city you’ve never been in married to someone you’ve never met. Sometimes that’s a really good thing and after a long day where all you want to do is chill out a bit, it’s the perfect thing.

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Filed under Gateway Beers, Learning, Tips