The fish in Lake of the Woods have new neighbours — 3,300 bottles of beer.
Lake of the Woods Brewing Company rested seven cages of Belgian tripels on the water body's floor on Oct. 18. The brews will stay below the surface, 20 ft. down, for half a year.
"It really is a big experiment," said Rob Dokuchie, the company's marketing director.
When organizers retrieve the crates next May, they'll have aged alcohol to distribute to Manitobans and Ontarians. A 750 mL container — the size of a wine bottle — will cost $49.95.
The idea came a couple years ago from a South African brewer with Lake of the Woods Brewing Company. They'd heard of a South African brewery doing something similar, except in the ocean.
"Immediately, I thought, 'Wow, that's a really cool idea,'" Dokuchie said.
He dropped 24 bottles of beer off his dock and left them there over the winter.
"They survived, so that spurred us on to do last year's batch," Dokuchie said.
The Canadian brewers designated 1,000 bottles of Russian imperial stout for the Lake of the Woods depths. The group, to be the first in a series called Deep 6, sat below the waves — then ice, then waves — from the end of 2020 to spring of this year.
The water's temperature is roughly 10 C. It drops to about 4 C in the winter before bumping back up, Dokuchie said.
"The fact that (the beer) ages at that temperature lends itself well for us to be able to put it under the lake, just to see what happens," he said.
It takes a crane, a barge, a diver and roughly a day's work to submerge the bottles. It takes just as long to reattach cables to crates, retrieve the goods and haul them back into town via truck.
Only Ontarians, or people visiting Ontario, could buy the stouts. Within three days, the drinks had sold out.
"We were flabbergasted that it sold so fast," Dokuchie said. "We had so many people contacting us, asking us if they could get some."
The waiting list for the next batch grew to roughly 700 people.
They, plus everyone who ordered last year, have already received emails about pre-ordering the Belgian tripels.
The brewery had sold about 870 bottles by Tuesday afternoon without doing any marketing campaigns, besides the emails and a CBC Radio interview.
The bottles will be available next June. Two thousand will circulate through Ontario (by pick-up or delivery), while the latter 1,300 can be picked up at Lake of the Woods Brewing Company's Hargrave Street Market location, where the beer was brewed.
"We're hoping, moving forward, to do a different style every year," Dokuchie said.
The creators look for mixtures with a high alcohol percentage — those typically age better, Dokuchie said.
Brewers added champagne yeast and trappist candy sugar to the Belgian tripels, which should help carbonate and smooth the beers, he said.
The company kept bottles from their first Deep 6 round in a brewery cooler. The underwater drafts tasted different than those untouched.
"The (underwater) beer seemed a little smoother, had a little more body to it," Dokuchie said, adding he believes they aged more due to temperature changes.
Employees sometimes traverse the lake on snowmobiles to check on the brews. In the fall, they boat by.
People who want to pre-order, or learn more, can visit deep6.beer.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.