Among the many industries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Manitoba’s live music scene has struggled mightily, with months and months of cancelled shows, capacity restrictions and more.
One local musician watching concert venues face difficulties from the sidelines, however, has come up with a way to put money in venues’ pockets, celebrate Manitoba’s music community, and marry two of his biggest interests at the same time.
Steve Nelson, a staple of Winnipeg’s punk scene (High Five Drive, Clipwing, In2Months) for decades, spends his time off-stage managing the Beer Boutique on Regent Avenue, and came up with the idea of a special beer in support of local venues.
“Being in the music scene for some time — it’s been something I’ve been missing for the last couple of years,” Nelson said.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have this awesome job at the Beer Boutique where I get to work with local brands, and I saw a real parallel between the two.
“The family that I had in the Winnipeg music scene and the family that I’ve gotten more recently in the Winnipeg beer scene … there are so many things that are so alike.”
Nelson teamed up with local Fort Garry Brewery to create Remember When, a European-style Pilsner, in support of Winnipeg’s Park Theatre, West End Cultural Centre, Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club, and the Good Will Social Club.
“Just seeing the venues struggling and everything, I thought, ‘There’s got to be something that can be done — there’s got to be some way we can help them, even if this pandemic continues and they may not be able to open their doors.'”
Scott Shupeniuk, Fort Garry’s general manager, said the concept was a natural fit with his brewery.
“The local brewers throughout Manitoba have always supported the community. COVID’s been tough for a lot of different industries, and the music scene has been impacted more than some others,” Shupeniuk said.
“It just made sense to jump on board with this fun, really cool initiative.”
Shupeniuk said the plan is for a portion of the sale of each can of Remember When — which will be available at the venues, beer stores and Liquor Marts across the province after its release in late September — to go directly to the four venues.
“The exciting part about this project is we don’t know how truly big it can get yet, and depending how the market receives the intiative, we could extend it, and what we’re really excited about is potentially turning this into a seasonal release.”
The can’s label features a shot, by local concert photographer Joey Senft, of Winnipeg hardcore legends Comeback Kid performing at the Park Theatre, but Nelson said the focal point of the image isn’t necessarily the band itself, but the crowd.
“Really, it was all about the crowd — the people that were there in that moment, experiencing it. That just ties back to, ‘Remember when we could have these fun times’ … and hopefully we can have them again soon,” he said.
As for the nostalgic concept, Nelson said he hopes the beer catches on, so it can potentially be expanded beyond the music scene.
“We can all remember good times we’ve had, whether they be directly related to the music scene, or maybe just events in Winnipeg.
“There’s a lot of history right here in Manitoba — a lot of cool things that have happened over the years. With a lot more people sitting at home, maybe it’s time to reflect on how great our city is, and our province.”