Brewer's Blog

Why Growl?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Its been crazy times here at the brewery in the last couple weeks.  Folks are trying out the growlers and hopefully some have found it a more acceptable serving format.  All packaging formats have their downsides, but if the worst is that I've got to finish the whole bottle in a day or two, I think that's acceptable.

Lets go over why growlers are important for the Manitoba craft brewing industry.  The long and the short of it is this:

If a new brewery was to open tomorrow, there'd be no need for them to buy expensive bottling or canning equipment.  There'd be no need for them to have a million labels printed, truckloads of cans for their warehouse, no need for expensive box stocks, or even 6 pack trays.  No need for a huge delivery truck, etc etc.  They can keep the overhead low, which makes it easier to start a brewery given the huge capital expense of start-ups in the first place.

What they would need is a brewery, some kegs, a small van, and a few folks to run that brewery.  The Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries can sell their beer because it will be brewed locally, and they have stated that their mandate is to support and grow the industry for real, bricks and mortar breweries producing beer & employing folks in the province.

When this fictional brewery's beer catches on, they'd need more tanks, maybe a second van, and more people to run their brewery.

When the ML&L decides to expand growler availability to all of their stores, those same brewery owners might need more tanks, to trade in the two vans for a larger truck, and more people to run the brewery.  AND, they still haven't had to sell a drop of beer out of province.

Are you starting to see the benefit of growlers for Manitoba?

The average age of the brewery folks at Half Pints is around 30.  We've got 12 employees full time producing beer, delivering, bottling etc.  That's 12 people who decided not to move to Alberta, BC, or even Saskatchewan like I had to when I graduated from brewing school.

Manitoba has lots of room for growth in the craft brewing industry.  Hopefully this is just one of many steps to fostering the growth in the future.


The Shortsightedness of Pay To Play

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The folks at Pretty Things in Massachusetts recently went on a Twitter bender about the evils of Pay To Play (p2p) at bars/pubs/restaurants.  For the uninitiated, p2p is a method that brewers and marketing companies use to tie up tap space in the public eye for their own means.  A beer rep goes into the place of business and offers to pay for the exclusive rights to a given number of tap lines.  From that day until the end of the contract (verbal or otherwise) that tap should only pour beer from said brewery or one of its affiliates.

Why would this be a problem?  Breweries with the deepest pockets will be the only ones on tap.  This results in weak beer choices at best.  Worse for the venue is the fact that the same brewery has gone out to the surrounding 5000 venues and made the same offer.  So they're left with the same choices on tap as every other place in the city too short-sighted to refuse the overture.

So for example, the MTS Center and their contract with Labatt's.  The best you could hope for at the game would be some type of Labatt's product which you're bent over for to the tune of $10/beer.  At the start of each year, the folks at Labatt's hand over a "sponsorship" cheque that basically buys their way into the venue and helps to pay for the running of the venue therein.

Boston Pizza has Molson's, so all you can get there is some ice cold Coors Light, Canadian, and a host of Rickard's products that all come from the same brewery.

The Blue Bombers have the same deal with Labatt's, and after some complaints from the fans, were so kind to install a "premium" beer booth, which again, carries nothing but Labatt's products.  Keep in mind that Stella Artois is owned by the same massive conglomerate that owns Labatt's.  And Stella is like Belgium's version of Blue.

I don't think it has dawned on many Canadians just how often this happens.  Its like they accept that whoever paid for the umbrella's at their local restaurant has the best damn beer to ever grace their throats with its presence.

Let's be emphatically clear:  Half Pints has never paid for tap space.  We've never contracted for lines, and when asked to, we've refused.  What we always have offered is the service of direct contact with the people who brew the beer, the best quality beer we can brew, and the guarantee that if anything goes wrong, we'll make it right.

When new places have asked us to pay for draught lines, we've always come forward to educate them about the long term pain they're in for when they get a brewery to pay for their lines.  That means us, or anyone.  We have always maintained that a venue should own its own lines, refrigeration systems and bar equipment.  This independent stance means a large expense up front when it comes to setting up a bar, but will result in long term gain by having the flexibility to call the shots on what beer is moving and what beer needs to be booted off-line.

I would expect a place we didn't service properly to drop our beer in a heartbeat.  Which is impossible in a p2p situation.  That's how the breweries and marketing companies reel bar managers in.

Before you think this is just a game that the big guys play, understand this: it is a game that some small craft breweries and marketing companies are playing as well.

Brewing beer that sells is hard work.

For some, its an insurmountable task that they have yet to figure out, so p2p is just part of their repertoire.

Think on these things the next time you're out for a beer.

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mmmm... burgers....

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This week is Le Burger Week in Winnipeg and Zach and Dot have been busy little bees in getting the bars, pubs and restaurants that we deal with to pair their burgers with our beer in some cases.  Click here to see the creative minds at work!

This Saturday and Sunday we're brewing the Simcoe Spruce Ale with 2013 Half Pints Pro/Am Best of Show winner, Dean Kelly.  We're super excited for Dean to get his hands on the brewhouse and make his beer for everyone to enjoy during the 2014 Pro/Am week - September 29 - October 4th.  The organizing committee has events planned for just about every night that week and we're going to make sure we've got lots of the spruce pale ale on hand so that everyone can have a taste.  Full details to follow.

The brewery staff is busy this week with events at both universities for the first week shenanigans.  Look for them on Friday, but don't neglect your studies in favour of beer, please.  You have a whole year ahead of you and you need to pace yourselves, folks!

September 13th, Dot and I will be out in Dauphin for the Beer & Cash Event at the Watson Arts Center.  We'll get to discuss beery things, have a tasting with some delicious food, then rock the night away with the Johnny Cash cover band:

"Don't miss Beer & Cash on Sat Sept 13 at the Watson Art Center in Dauphin. Johnny Cash fans don't miss the ultimate tribute show , featuring several local performers all covering some of Johnny's all time classics.  Also enjoy some fine Manitoba Craft Beer and Paired food. This Big Ask event will highlight the Man in Black, some tasty exotic beers, and also feature some amazing music. Tickets are $64 each and available at the WAC Ticket Office, The Fiddleore Store, Dauphin Music & Electronics, or by calling 638-6231."

There will be a special order of Half Pints beer sent out to the Dauphin Liquor Mart so the locals can enjoy the brewery's wares post event or if they were unable to attend.

Did you know:

The original name for Little Scrapper IPA was going to be Sucker Punch IPA?
  • We found out that Sucker Punch was taken though, so Little Scrapper was chosen instead.  Also, Little Scrapper was only supposed to be a one time seasonal beer.  Imagine a world without fulltime Scrapper?  Unthinkable!
The original name for St. James Pale Ale was Peg City Draught?
  • The original goal for the beer that would become St. James Pale Ale was to only offer it on draught, because at the time, we were still bottling by hand and knew we couldn't keep up with a beer like it by hand.  When we finally did brew the first test batch at the new brewery on Roseberry we had a new (used) bottling line and it sold out so quickly on draught, we scrambled to make more.  In that time, the decision was made to honour our new home with naming the beer St. James Pale Ale, but it will always be Peg City Draught to me.
We used to deliver beer in a GMC Safari minivan?
  • Not many remember the good old days of delivering our beer in the back of the Safari, that rusted, beer soaked floor served us well for the years we had it.  The drive train dropped out on the way to it being traded in for the current delivery cube van.  Soon, the brewery will have a schnazzy new decaled out delivery truck with an actual loading dock height, and a proper railgate lift for quick delivery turnarounds rather than hand bombing beers into our customer's locations.

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Get ready to Growl

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's no surprise that Growlers are on the horizon for breweries in Manitoba.  The papers have been all over this good news lately.  The MLLC is on a mission to get their pilot program up and running with a tentative starting date in late September.  We're busy working at the brewery trying to get the hardware in place so we're ready to go when we're given the word.  We're looking forward to having an in house outlet for our test batches and direct feedback from the beer folks with their craft beer noses to the ground searching out good stuff.

I'm most excited about not having to explain to our out of town visitors that growlers are not technically legal to fill here.  This happens about 4 times a week, most recently with a lovely couple from Portland, where it seems the beer flows down the streets in open ditches and people can basically bathe in the stuff.  While not true, it is a closer estimation of how craft beer is treated in a responsible modern society with proper access to public and personal modes of transportation.

Jason Foster of was recently extolling the advancement of Portland and Oregon in general when he was talking about the Beer Trucks that can set up at designated food truck areas around the city.  With Winnipeg just starting to get with the times, I can picture a future where we're going to be able to call up the trucks and have a parking lot shindig with beer on tap.  To get there faster, we may need a DeLorean and a flux capacitor.

Or we could simply continue brewing great beer and being vocal about the proper service and treatment thereof.  This approach seems to be working as more craft beer fans realize that their voice does matter and can result in positive change.  Hopefully with the new addition of growlers, other potential breweries realize the benefits of brewing and employing people in Manitoba so the industry can grow as a whole.

And that's something we can all raise a growler to.

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Say it ain't so!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer is winding down by the looks of things.  The Humulus Ludicrous is making its triumphant return to the shelves, so we're in planning mode for September already and gearing up for another brewing of our Oktoberfest.

The big fun news is that Dean Kelly will be in town on September 6/7th to brew his Best of Show winning Simcoe Spruce Ale at the brewery.  This is the beer that beat out 420+ beers from around Canada to earn the Best of Show bragging rights at last year's Half Pints/Winnipeg Brew Bombers Pro/Am.  Good news is that we're brewing a full 3000 liters and the beer will be available all around town at this year's Pro/Am competition during the first week of October.

We've got some sweet new schwag ordered in the form of belt buckles with an integrated bottle opener.  Now when someone comes at you with a beer bottle, you'll know it's for a good reason.  We've even got some more of the fancy marble tile coasters on their way.

The folks at the Cyclocross Nationals are busy putting together a label for the Dead Ringer Belgo-IPA that will be on tap at the race site in late October.  We can't wait to see how cool it will look on a t-shirt.