The Peg Finally Gets a Brewpub

Using a number of matrices, Manitoba’s craft beer scene lags other places in Canada. They have the fewest craft breweries and not a single brewpub to be found anywhere. The good news is that things are changing. I profiled recently the coming launches of Barn Hammer Brewing and Torque Brewing in Winnipeg. And soon Winnipeg will have its first brewpub.
And it has some pretty good credentials, to boot.
Peg Beer Co. is the creation of none other than Nicole Barry, co-founder of Half Pints Brewing who left the brewery a year ago. Barry was the business end of the partnership, being a chartered accountant by training. But Barry is a person who knows her beer, and knows her way around a brewhouse as well.
Barry has been working on the project for about 10 months. After she left Half Pints last year she was casting about for what to do next. She thought how to best use her accounting and business experience. “I got headhunted. A couple really great people approached me to lead their company, but it wasn’t in beer,” she says. “I couldn’t do it. Beer is my passion.”
Then she came across the idea of a brewpub. “Winnipeg doesn’t have a real brewpub”, she notes. And she knew she was the right person to do it.
With a brewpub location is key. She secured 125 Pacific Avenue, the site of a former indoor skate park in downtown Winnipeg. It is an area of town that is undergoing a revitalization and promises to be a heart of Winnipeg’s night scene. “We are in the exchange district, which is our theatre district”. she says, mentioning that the Fringe Festival, which was underway when we talked, had the area “swarming with people”.
She is pleased with the space, which will have about 150 seats, saying it has a great “sparse” atmosphere. She describes the exposed brick and large wooden beams. She is aiming for a “bare bones experience” that has a welcoming feel. “I  have done enough traveling, been to enough taprooms, to get the vibe I love and feel most comfortable. It is family friend, laid back, relaxed. It might have the best beer I have ever tasted but it is not pretentious”.
Barry is hoping for a December opening. Construction is under way with the 15-barrel brewhouse to be delivered soon. The size of the brewery gives Barry some options. While the focus will always be on the pub, she envisions retail sales as well in both kegs and cans, following the latest trend in craft beer.
As a brewpub, Barry has to pay attention to the food. She doesn’t plan on anything too elaborate. “The food will be simple. This is a brewery, we are here for the craft beer” she points out. “The menu is simple appetizers. Locally cured meats, flatbreads, simple pizzas, salads and stuff like that”. She talks about maximizing local ingredients, with charcuterie of locally produced meets and cheese boards from local cheese makers.
And what of the beer? (I always know that is the big questions of onbeer readers.)
They are still working on the initial line-up, but Barry says they will open with six beer, expanding that to 12 or so. Plus they will always have two to four guest taps. She envisions keg swaps with good breweries and brewpubs around the country, along with collaborative beer with people she has developed relationships with in the beer world.
Peg’s beer looks to be eclectic. “we want to be inventive and brew what we want to drink”. While she hasn’t finalized things, she rattles off a few ideas she is working with: “a Berliner Weisse, an ISA, a knock your socks off IPA, maybe a stout for winter”.
She likes big and bold styles, but doesn’t feel like that is all they should brew. “I am about beautifully executed beer. I am impressed with a big dry hopped IPA or barrel-aged stout, but can you execute a pilsner at the same time? That shows the talent of your brewer”.
Then she really gets excited when talking about other ideas.  “A SMASH [single malt single hop] IPA series will always be on the go. I’d like to do a beautiful, well-brewed pale ale. And a stout that changes, play with the style”. She even plans to take a turn in the brewery herself from time to time. “I love to spend a day in the brewery. I envision a series where I do the brew. Where I put on my boots and go to town. I want to be in the brewery. I love the creativity in brewing.”
The name, Peg Beer Co., is obviously a reference to Winnipeg’s shortened nickname. But calling it after her hometown mattered to Barry. “Why am I in this city? I came back to this city, and I put roots down. This is home. This is where I want to be brewing, where I want to develop a craft beer industry”.
And helping to build craft beer in Manitoba is a big part of Barry’s goals for Peg. “It is not just about my beer. I want to support every beer project in the province. I want to build craft beer”.
Barry has passion, determination, smarts and a keen beer palate. I can’t think of any better combination for opening Winnipeg’s first brewpub.

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