Stone Cold, a Winnipeg icon

Delicious big beer becomes an underground symbol of our city

Photo by Alex Braun, staff

Among rows and rows of cans and glass bottles, hidden in the dark corners of your local beer vendor, you might spot a peculiar thing — a two-litre plastic jug of a light brew called Stone Cold Draft. Emblazoned in black and blue with a massive, Impact-font logo, Stone Cold is an oddity in packaging, presentation and, most importantly, pricing. For less than $10, you can buy yourself two full litres of strong beer — 6.2% alcohol. And, as if to explain its existence, the jug’s label proudly announces that it is brewed in Manitoba.

Since its advent in the summer of 2000, the Stone Cold jug has been a budget-friendly option for local drinkers of all sorts. Brewed by the Fort Garry Brewing imprint Two Rivers, the draft is noted for its questionable flavour. User reviews on the beer-themed social network Untappd note the draft’s “sweet dishwater aroma” and compare it to “a mix of Hamilton tap water, armpit and the little bit of water left in my flip-flop after my hockey shower,” though one reviewer claimed to have felt obligated to try it as a “[rite] of passage moving to Winnipeg,” as if the jug represents something at the heart of our great city.

It seems that some in Winnipeg’s underground scenes have taken a particular liking to the brew. Local noise artist and head of the Makade Star label Bret Parenteau, also known as B.P., runs a popular Instagram page called @jugs_in_places, which chronicles the journeys of the jug around Winnipeg.

“Initially what inspired me to make the account was the amount of empty jugs I would see around the city,” he said.

“Working downtown, they would be everywhere and usually in funny spots.”

The page has plenty of examples of this, with jugs spotted in malls, bus shelters, Prairie fields and public washrooms. This ubiquity, for B.P., has made it a sort of Winnipeg icon.

B.P. says its significance to the city comes from common recognition.

“It’s a good local topic of discussion because someone is usually familiar with it,” he said. The novelty of the jug itself is part of the draw as well.

“There are options for cheap beer here but it’s not in a two-litre bottle, and [won’t] make you feel as bad the next day.”

That jug-appeal is maybe why it’s become such an iconic thing to share on Instagram, or to use as a symbol of the city, as local skate shop Sk8 Skates does in its new skate video, titled Stone Cold. Fane Smeall, owner of Sk8 Skates, said that although the title began as a joke, the team eventually grew attached to it.

“The name itself is just a cool name for a video and it actually represents Winnipeg perfectly since we have disgustingly cold winters,” he said.

“Also, just the jug Stone Cold is a Manitoba classic and this is a video out of Manitoba. You see it all over the streets in downtown Winnipeg and that’s where the video is mostly filmed. The joke just turned into a name that makes perfect sense for a Winnipeg skate video. Everyone seems to love it.”

As for why this could be, Smeall said, “I think Winnipeggers love the jug because it’s just such a classic thing to see here. It’s a two-litre of some dirty 6.2 [per cent] beer that’ll get you hammered, brewed in Manitoba. Couldn’t be more Winnipeg.”

And maybe that’s just it — we live in a sort of disgusting place that is inhospitably cold for a large chunk of the year, but we can still take refuge in our big two-litre jugs of strong beer. Beer is a classic Canadian symbol in general, but Stone Cold is our very own specialty. We aren’t too fancy to drink out of plastic, and we aren’t too proud to admit that we might need the whole two litres. Winnipeg is a city of survivors and hard workers, and we deserve our Stone Cold. So raise a jug high in celebration of our beautiful city, and drink deep.

Sk8 Skate’s video Stone Cold premieres April 6 at the Park Theatre. For more information, please visit