Winnipeg has more than a dozen breweries, along with other great ways to sip and sample craft beer in both indoor and outdoor settings.
Although I love living on the West Coast, I have a soft spot for Winnipeg. My wife and I lived there for 18 months about 20 years ago (long story, best told over beer), and my mom and one of my sisters live there. That means I travel to the ‘Peg often—nearly annually—and have watched as the city’s craft beer scene slowly emerged.
After my last trip in 2019, the pandemic kept me away until this past July. It was fun to get reacquainted with the beer scene there, and what I discovered was pleasantly surprising. Currently, there is a robust collection of 14 brick-and-mortar breweries, as well as a handful of contract-brewed craft beer brands, most of which are building towards opening their own breweries or tap rooms.
An (Un)Common Beer Experience
But before I talk about the breweries, I want to highlight The Common, which can be described as a craft beer and wine kiosk, but is so much more. Located in the central food hall of the touristy Forks Market (think Granville Island Market), the Common has 20 craft beers on tap, including local brands, alongside beer from the rest of North America and even Europe. They also open an outdoor bar when weather permits. Buy food from any number of vendors in the Forks and then pair it with a flight or a glass of beer. What I love most about The Common is you can take your food and beer and sit pretty much anywhere you want, including outside at tables overlooking the river. It reminds me of the wonderful beer garden culture I found when I visited Germany.
And Winnipeg has many other examples of this beer garden culture. Cargo Bar is a converted shipping container at a pop-up patio near the duck pond in Assiniboine Park. The Beer Can is located at the Granite Curling Club beside the Assiniboine River. The Bijou Patio is a community patio in the heart of the artsy Exchange District. Blue Note Park is at the site of the old Blue Note Cafe on Main Street downtown. And, Le Patio 340 is on the French side of the river in St. Boniface. All feature local beer, with food options and frequent live music too.
All of these outdoor patios reflect Winnipeggers’ love of summer—after enduring the long, hard winter, they want to enjoy every minute of warmth and sunshine they can.
Winnipeg’s microbrewery scene started off in the 1990s, but only one of those early breweries, Fort Garry Brewing, is still around today, and it does not have a tasting room. The city’s other OG brewery, Half Pints Brewing, which opened in 2006, does have an on-site taproom in its location near the airport.
My first brewery visit on this trip was a quick stop at Little Brown Jug, located at the north end of the Exchange District, the artsy downtown neighbourhood that straddles Main Street just north of its famous intersection with Portage Ave. LBJ was open the last time I visited, but back then, it only produced one beer, a very quaffable Belgian Amber called 1919 (named after the famous Winnipeg General Strike). Today, 1919 is still the flagship beer, but the brewery now makes several others as well, all of which I quite enjoyed. While I was picking up some beers to go, I noticed the brewery’s patio was overflowing with people attending a literary reading, great evidence of Winnipeg’s strong and flourishing cultural scene.
Later on, I spent an evening on the patio at Sookram’s Brewing, which is located near Confusion Corner, the aptly named intersection of several streets that even Winnipeggers take years to figure out. Don’t let the location deter you from visiting, though, because the tasting room has a great vibe and the beer list is solid.
My nephews, who have recently gotten interested in craft beer, invited me for pizza and beer at Trans Canada Brewing. I had low expectations based on its location in a part of the city filled with big box stores, but once we walked inside I was blown away by the enormous tasting room, filled with long tables well-suited for big groups (like the seven of us). The pizza was excellent, and I thought the creative beer list was quite good across the board. I was particularly impressed with the Portager Pilsner.
Afterwards, they took me to check out Kilter Brewing in St. Boniface. I’d heard some great things about it before my trip and I wasn’t disappointed—the industrial interior of the brewery is enlivened with plants, decorative lighting, and a variety of comfy seating options. We sat outside on the patio, tasting through flights of hazies, milkshake IPAs and sours.
My final brewery stop was the reward after a 70km bike ride with my nephews at Nonsuch Brewing, named after the famous ship that sailed to James Bay in 1668 and effectively launched the Hudson Bay Company. The brewery has a Belgian focus, but also offers a series of beers under its Vessel brand, which is focused on more cutting-edge craft styles.
There are so many breweries in Winnipeg now, there was no way I could visit them all on this trip, but I was certainly impressed with the ones I checked out and I am already looking forward to my next visit to try a few more or return to some of these.
Check out these breweries on your next trip to Winnipeg
Barn Hammer Brewing
595 Wall Street
Brazen Hall Kitchen and Brewery
800 Pembina Highway
Fort Garry Brewing Co.
130 Lowson Crescent
Half Pints Brewing Co.
550 Roseberry Street
450 Rue Deschambault
Lake of the Woods Brewing Co.
221 Carlton Street
Little Brown Jug Brewing Co.
336 William Avenue
25 Pacific Avenue
One Great City Brewing
1596 Ness Avenue
1180 Sanford Street
479-B Warsaw Avenue
Stone Angel Brewing
1875 Pembina Highway
330-830 King Edward Street
Trans Canada Brewing
1290 Kenaston Boulevard