Sampling the local beer is one of my favorite ways to get to know a place. So I was pumped to see that The Common was open that last time I was in Winnipeg. I live just a few hours south of the Canadian border, but that proximity doesn’t mean that Canadian craft beers show up in my local liquor store with any regularly, so I was excited to see what I’d been missing since my last trip.
The Commons turned out to be a great place to do exactly that. It’s a craft beer and wine kiosk located in the newly remodeled Food Hall at The Forks Market, which is a great destination in and of itself — part market, part public gathering place, part outdoor and entertainment destination.
You place your order and grab a seat at a long, communal table with other patrons who are drinking or eating something from one of the many nearby shops. There are 20 craft beers and 20 wines available by the glass or in a tasting flight. The selection changes seasonally, so it’s bound to be different every time you come back.
Wine is fine, but I wanted to try as much Canadian beer as possible in a (sadly) short amount of time, so The Hop Experience flight was perfect for me. It was a well-rounded sampling with enough variety to keep it interesting and four fabulously hoppy options to make me happy. (“Something hoppy” is my default setting at bars and breweries, followed closely by “Something weird” and “Surprise me.”)
This flight was also a nice introduction to Canadian brewing, with offerings from three different provinces. And it’s served on nifty wooden blocks shaped like Manitoba, just for fun.
I really liked the Blood Alley Bitter, an extra special bitter from Russell Brewing Company and surprisingly intense Red Racer IPA from Central City Brewers & Distillers, both out of Surrey, British Columbia. Collective Arts Brewing’s State of Mind, a light, drinkable session IPA was good as well. That brewery operates of of Hamilton, Ontario.
I was delighted to try Little Scrapper, a dry-hopped, deliciously grapefruit-scented IPA from the hometown crew at Half Pints Brewing Co. in Winnipeg. I wanted to get to Half Pints Brewing Co. in person, but there just wasn’t room in our schedule, so I was glad I at least got to try a sample of what they’ve been brewing lately.
I’d order every one of those beers again. That’s always a win when you’re trying a sampler.
To help you remember what you’re drinking, just grab the numbered washer underneath your glass and look at the menu board for the corresponding number. It’s a smart system that minimizes waste (since there are no slips of paper listing your beers to mess around with) and cuts down on questions for the staff.
Just try to remember the washers are there so you don’t send them flying across the table every time you grab a drink. (I may have done exactly that, like, two dozen times…)
Liz is a beer convert. I used to be her beer translator, back when she’d frown at a menu, say it looked like a foreign language and just ask me if she’d like something. (I wrote this article about how to find a beer you love with her and our friend Lenaya in mind, after they decided that the fruity drinks they liked were way more high maintenance than they were.)
Those days are long gone now. She ordered the Weird and Wonderful flight and drank a whole bunch of it before I even had a second to take this terribly framed photo of her looking like a properly blissed out beer nerd.
Her sampler featured mostly mellow, fruity European offerings. It included a sunny grapefruit radler from Stiegl in Salzburg, Austria, an amazing old Trappist white beer with fresh strawberries from Fruli in Melle, Belgium and a rich, cloudy, funky-in-a good-way, keg-fermented Weissbier from Erdinger in Erding, Germany.
The only Canadian representative in the line-up is Rock Creek Dry Cider from Big Rock Brewery Kelowana, British Columbia. Ciders are usually way too sweet for me, but this one is dry and refreshing and features champange yeast and crisp apples from BC’s Okanagan Valley.
Yum. It’s hot out today and I want to be drinking every single one of these right this second.
If you’re in or going to Winnipeg, you should absolutely check out The Common. You can also ogle The Common’s beer and wine photos on Instagram at thecommonwpg.
And guess what? You definitely don’t have to drive to get to The Common at The Forks. It’s accessible by two different bus routes (route #38 and the free Downtown Spirit line) and multiple pedestrian and bicycle paths, including the Riverwalk. You can even take a boat. (Seriously, you guys, you have no idea how completely delighted I am to be able to write that.)
Free docking is available for up to three hours if you arrive by boat or canoe. If you really want to try a unique mode of transportation, hop on the Splash Dash Water Bus Service. It links The Forks to other Winnipeg neighborhoods, including Osborne Village, the Legislature grounds, St. Boniface Hospital and the Exchange District. Water Buses run seven days a week and are wheelchair accessible. The company also offers half hour interpretive tours, which I remember enjoying the last time I was in Winnipeg.
What about you?
What do you love at The Forks? What’s your favorite Canadian wine or beer? What should I try the next time I’m in town?
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