Last week I had the opportunity to participate in the first annual Prairie Beer Awards (PBA) competition in Winnipeg, Manitoba from 11-15 May 2022. This is a commercial beer competition covering two provinces in Canada – Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. The organizer used the BJCP guidelines and supplemented with a couple of other unique categories. The awards ceremony is scheduled for June 4th.
Kudos go out to Dave Cole for bringing this all together. The sponsors stepped up huge and the local breweries in Winnipeg were all in! I arrived on Wednesday night after an uneventful flight. Dave brought out the big guns for “Beer Church” that night … so many crazy, unique beers–almost everyone brought something special to share.
I brought three to share in my Beer Briefcase (the ones on the right side) … The other three bottles were mead for the Mead Exam.
This competition had three Master-level judges and three or four National-level judges, from across the provinces … there were folks from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia for sure. A couple of the judges were professional brewers from different provinces. They also had a representative from Red Shed malting. It was a great turn-out!
Wednesday night’s Beer Church included a 1994 Lindeman’s Gueuze Lambic! It was still funky and full of different flavors … I’m still trying to decide if I liked it! haha.
I was super busy during this competition. I judged several categories: 1) All Belgian-style beers, 2) Ciders, 3) Meads, and 4) Other Brewery Beverages to name a few. I also proctored two different exams: 1) The Beer Tasting Exam and 2) The Mead Tasting Exam. Finally, I took the BJCP Written Exam trying to move up to Master.
I took the written exam at the end of the event — I think I would rather have taken it at the first so I could relax more during the weekend.
The competition was very well organized, and we were able to visit breweries on Friday and Saturday. We got to ride around in a couple of old school buses checking out all the different places.
The first brewery I visited, I didn’t even have to go anywhere! The competition was held at Torque Brewing. The folks at Torque were very nice and super accommodating. They had an excellent selection of beers on tap! Worth a visit in Winnipeg. I didn’t see it until after the competition was over (I couldn’t see the names of the breweries or the beers to keep the objectivity in place), but the walk-in cooler in this brewery was huge! They had so much room in the back … a great looking brewhouse.
Friday was a full day of Cider and Mead judging. We got started a little late (flight delays were a slight problem). This part of the competition included the province of Alberta. I had the pleasure of judging with a very knowledgeable lady, Kathy Yan Li. Great insight!
After sampling a beer at Torque, we headed over to one of the original Brew locations in Winnipeg, Barn Hammer. We were able to squeak in a visit to Sookram’s Brewing Company as well, before heading back for the Beer Tasting Exam. It was a nice way to close out the evening before we headed back to the hotel for more Beer Church!
On Saturday, I proctored the Mead Tasting Exam and took my written test. We then visited five different breweries (on the Blue Bus this time)! Now to test the memory banks and see if I can remember the breweries in the right order. Lol. We had to hustle to catch up with the bus, so our first stop was at Low Life Barrel House. This place was setting the bar pretty high to begin with.
They had a nice selection of barrel-aged beers … unfortunately, I could only sample two before it was time to continue the tour! The next place we stopped was Brazen Hall, a brewhouse in the Viking Style. Pretty cool place… since we were on a whirlwind tour, I picked the Dark Horse – Hazy Black IPA to sample. A very nice beer — I wanted to try the others, but, alas, I had to continue my travels!
Our next stop was at a Brewery still under construction: Devil May Care. It was a cool opportunity to see the work they are doing to bring their brewery into the downtown area of Winnipeg. The owners were very nice and we sampled a couple here and there and then headed out for our next stop! (I really enjoyed the Creme Brulee Stout)
The next place we stopped was Nonsuch Brewing. What an awesome location! The owner, Mark, graciously shared some of his nicest Belgian-style beers. I love the fact that the website is focused on the beers … how a brewery should be! But, if you visit the Brewery, you’ll see it is an upscale lounge/restaurant. It is a lovely building and the beers are excellent. I was able to sample this Red-wine Barrel-aged Belgian-style Pale Ale right from the barrel. What a treat. Next time I’m in town, I think I may go here for dinner.
Our final stop was at Oxus Brewing. Kevin and Sean are great guys and they are making some really tasty beer! A nice wrap up to a great trip. I’m already looking forward to the next competition in Regina! I highly recommend a visit to all the breweries mentioned above if you get a chance in Winnipeg. They all offer excellent beers with great atmosphere.
My travels home were an adventure. After a cancelled flight, delayed flight, another overnight stay, lost wallet, and lost bag I made it home! Haha. Good to be back and looking forward to the next beer adventure!