Guest Blogger Tee Morris: Two of a Kind – Beer Pairings in Steampunk

Today, we welcome back author and beer aficionado Tee Morris, who has introduced me to many delicious American craft beers. We hope you enjoy his exploration of beer and literature! 

You might remember me as the blogger that introduced you to Untappd, the social network for beer lovers. Well, at the end of the month, I have a novel coming out called The Diamond Conspiracy; and this steampunk novel of mine was a reoccurring subject between me and beer blogger and historic interpreter Katie Bryski while she stayed with us for an extended visit. Upon finishing an advance copy, Katie and I proceeded to our tradition of visiting local breweries and alehouses, her trip beginning with a visit to Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia, and ending with a delightful King’s Feast Dinner at the Dogfish Head Alehouse of Fairfax, Virginia.

(Old Bust Head's growler: it made me feel a bit nostalgic for Black Creek! -Katie)

(Old Bust Head’s growler: it made me feel a bit nostalgic for Black Creek! -Katie)

At the King’s Feast, we were focusing on what beers pair up best with dishes, and that was when Katie asked me, “Do you ever wonder what your characters would drink?”

Pairing beers with characters? Sure, why not?

Character: Eliza D. Braun

Beer Pairing: Smoked IPA

An agent from the farthest reaches of the British Empire, New Zealand native Eliza goes against the standard norms at the home office in London, England. She is bold, powerful, and memorable; and so is an exceptional India Pale Ale. However, as Eliza loves her incendiary devices, a Smoked IPA is the perfect pairing with this firecracker.

Character: Wellington Thornhill Books, Esq.

Beer Pairing: Porter

Porters are smooth, offer a wide variety of flavors (depending on how they are brewed), and grow darker in color the longer you enjoy them. Porters—and yes, I’m including Black Creek’s own porter which earned 4.5 caps from Untappd—are always immensely satisfying. That’s why a Porter is best paired with Wellington Books. A man of the manor born now serving at the Queen’s pleasure, Books is a walking analytical engine who harbors an inner darkness.

(Speaking of dark beers - our Irish Potato Stout is back in the LCBO!)

(Speaking of dark beers – our Irish Potato Stout is back in the LCBO!)

Character: Brandon D. Hill

Beer Pairing: Lager


The Half Way House taproom.


The lager is the working man’s drink. This does not mean that the lager cannot be a refined brew for a sophisticated palate. That’s the charm of a good lager. It can appeal and satisfy a wide range of gentlemen; so is also Brandon D. Hill a wide range of gentleman. Lager would be Brandon’s brew, whether he is enjoying a night at the opera or a good brawl at a Whitechapel pub.

Character: Bruce Campbell

Beer Pairing: Ale

A very specific ale: Arrogant Bastard.

You are what you drink.

Character: Sophia del Morte

Beer Pairing: Stout

Pairing up a stout with an assassin like Sophia may seem odd as stouts are usually associated with warmth, comfort, and social settings by a fireplace; but that’s how stouts work: they get you to lower your guard. Stouts like Black Creek’s own or Old Bust Head’s Mocha Macchiato Stout catch your attention with exotic flavors like coffee, chocolate, and rich malts. With the right brewer, stouts will completely catch you by surprise with balanced, efficient, and effective brews, all under the cover of darkness.

Just like Sophia.

These are my characters, characters that I know, but what about your favorites? If Sherlock Holmes were to take a break from sleuthing at Black Creek this March Break, what would he prefer—a sharp IPA or a moody Stout? Or, returning to Victorian science fiction, what if you found yourself 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the Canadian harpooner, Ned Land? What would you be sharing with him? (The time period is right. He might have enjoyed a delicious brew from Black Creek.) Think about your favorite characters from literature, television, or film, and leave your own pairings here. We would love to hear what you come up with.


When he’s not enjoying the odd pint or four, Tee Morris is an award-winning writer and podcaster of fiction. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine, is about to see their fourth adventure, The Diamond Conspiracy, hit bookshelves in March 2015. Their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, also offers a window into their steampunk world. He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.

PS. Did you know that TWO of Black Creek’s Beer Experts have connections to Tales from the Archives? Katie’s written for the podcast, and Blythe has lent her considerable acting talent!

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Filed under Brewery Events, Other Breweries

3 responses to “Untappd: A Social Network for Beer Lovers (with Guest Blogger Tee Morris)

  1. Pingback: Happy 2015! | The Black Creek Growler Edit
  2. Pingback: Happy 2015! | The Black Creek Growler Edit
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Our 2015 Specialty Beers!

Good news, everyone!

We have our line-up of specialty beers for 2015! As you beer-lovers know, we occasionally like to shake things up in the historic brewery. Besides our standard roster of a brown, stout, porter, and IPA, we also release a monthly specialty brew. Here’s what we have on tap this season:

(NB: Dates refer to date of release. Beers are available until the fridges are emptied.)


May 16, 17, 18 – Apricot Ale

Just in time for Victoria Day weekend – a sweet, fruity beer to kick off the season! I think the combination of beer and apricots suits our “Pirates and Princesses” event, also that weekend.


June 20/21 – Ginger Beer

Yes! Yes! My personal favourite returns for another season! *ahem* I mean, the soldiers and onlookers during our Revolutionary War Re-Enactment will definitely appreciate this gingery brew. Please note, this is an alcoholic ginger beer, so don’t give it to the wee ones.


July 1 – Maple Brown Ale

What’s more Canadian than beer and maple syrup? We’ve done a Maple Porter for a few years, I’ll be interested to see how maple pairs with a slightly lighter, sweeter brown ale.

I like to think they'd approve. I may or may not have seen "Strange Brew" far too young.

I like to think they’d approve. I may or may not have seen “Strange Brew” far too young.


August 3 – Simcoe Hopped Ale

We love pale ales in the hot summer months, and the Simcoe Hopped Ale is no exception. Brewed in honour of Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe, this ale has plenty of Simcoe Hops, lending it a fruity, earthy flavour.


September 19/20 – Fresh Hop/Wet Hop Pale Ale

Generally, beer is brewed with dry hops (check out our hop-jar in the brewery – you can smell them, and get a good look!). However, once a year, when the hops are harvested, we’re able to make a Fresh/Wet Hop Ale. Exactly what it sounds like: the hops are thrown into the brew-kettle straight off the vine. Of course, we’ll need some intrepid hop harvesters to help us out, so stay tuned for sign-up details!

Last year's harvest.

Last year’s harvest.


October 3 – Whiskey Barrel Aged Brown Ale

Mm! This was a crowd favourite at last year’s Spirited Affair Fundraiser. The vanilla and oakiness that comes through aging in a whisky barrel reminds me of Innis and Gunn.

October 10, 11, 12 – Honey Brown Ale

Golden and rich as the changing season, this was another new brew for us. Excited to see it back!

October 17//18, 24/25, 31 – Pumpkin Ale

Every year. Every year, we wait for this. You wait, we wait. Nothing says October like our Pumpkin Ale! I’m so glad that Ed will be doing a number of brews!


November 21 – Elderflower Stout

Hmm, this is a new one. We haven’t brewed with elderflowers before. It’ll be interesting to see the sweet, floral elderflowers play off against the richness of a stout. Looks like November just got a bit brighter!


TBA – Winter Warmer

What better way to cap off the year than with a bold, flavourful, high-alcohol beer?

Answer: there is none.

Winter Warmers can have a ton of variety. Ed likes to experiment – I can’t wait to see what he does with the style this year.


As a reminder, we also have our March Break Sherlock Holmes Mystery next week. Crime is afoot at Black Creek! Come to the village between March 16th-22nd to help Sherlock and Watson solve The Case of the Tricky Thief! No, the brewery won’t be open, but these two sleuths need all the help they can get! ;)


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A Match Made in Heaven: Beer Pairings at Dogfish Head

Hello beer lovers!

We’ve finally made it into March, which means that there are a scant two months until the Black Creek Historic Brewery reopens its doors in May. But despite the cold, I am not one to rest on my laurels. No, in my quest to expand my palate, I have again turned south of the border.


I have a lot of respect and affection for Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Dogfish Alehouse in Fairfax, VA for a beer and food pairing. As friends of Black Creek know well, our “Say Cheese! Say Cheers!” events pair craft beers with artisan cheeses. This “King’s Feast” went a step further, pairing three of Dogfish’s Ancient Ales with a three-course meal.

By now, it’s no secret that pairing beer requires just as much art as pairing wine. Indeed, beer has even more ingredients to play with in creating a flavour profile: malts that span from caramel-sweet to espresso-bitter; floral, citrusy, earthy, grassy, and piney hops; bready and fruity yeasts, and all the spices, nuts, chocolates, fruits, and vegetables (yes, vegetables—remember our Sweet Potato Ale?) you can name.

Properly pairing is an art that I am by no means qualified to expound upon…yet. Generally speaking, though, the aim is to ensure that neither the beer nor the food is overwhelmed. A lighter-bodied pilsner probably won’t stand up to a rich beef roast—but a heavier stout or porter might. You can also contrast and counter flavours: think how the acidity of tomatoes calms the saltiness and savouriness of cheese. That light-bodied pilsner won’t get overwhelmed by something like seafood—and the hops bitterness can cut the fattiness of fish like tuna and salmon.

So, what pairings did Dogfish Head offer?

Course I: Theobroma and Appetizers

All of the beers at this event come from Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series—these are beer recipes recreated from chemical analysis of drinking vessels found at archaeological sites. Theobroma hails from pottery fragments found in the Honduras, attesting to an alcoholic beverage brewed with cacao.

So basically, a chocolate beer that looks like an IPA. Beautiful, beautiful cloudy orange colour.



For me, the cocoa nibs were actually quite subtle: the main flavour I got from this beer was a chili bite (and yes, there are chilies in it). There was some citrus on the aftertaste, and this is more where the cocoa came through, almost like a chocolate-orange sensation. Alas, I can no longer eat cheese, but I suspect that this sharper, citrus-chili taste would have cut the richness of the cheese plate before me. As it is, it did work wonders quenching the thirst produced by two salty dishes of nuts. At 9% ABV, it also left long-lingering warmth in the belly.


Course II: Midas Touch and Meat

I would just like to say that I have never seen so much meat on a plate meant for one person. Possibly 1/3 of a chicken, a giant turkey leg, and lamb. Also vegetables. I may never need to eat again.




I hope that’s not the case though, because I quite enjoyed the Midas Touch. Midas Touch was the first of the Ancient Ales, recreated from residue left in drinking vessels found in the Midas Tumulus tomb in Turkey. This ale is a sweet-yet-dry brew that seems to combine elements of beer, wine, and mead. Honey and light fruit notes (most notably melon and grape) dominate the flavours. It’s a beer with a medium mouthfeel, but it certainly does have an edge to it—something like a dry white wine. The sweetness and fruitiness worked well with the white meats on offer, and that edge also cut through the fattiness of the lamb. Also 9% ABV.


Course III: Chateau Jiahu and King’s Barley Cake

I’ve had the Chateau Jiahu before. This beer hails from an archaeological dig in China’s Yellow River Valley; evidence suggests that it is one of the world’s oldest brews. Like the Midas Touch, this beer blends elements of wine, beer, and mead. Honey and grapes balance a very sweet, very light maltiness; sake yeast lends just a bit of rice-like nuance as well.

I will admit that after that monster meat plate, I was not up to more than a few bites of the King’s Barley Cake, which was a dense cake studded with apple and accompanied by fruit and cream. Although it comes in at 10% ABV, the Jiahu was one of the lighter, sweeter beers on offer tonight, which kept it from overwhelming the cake. My beer-tasting companion Tee Morris assures me that drinking and eating the two together enhanced the flavour of both.



And so?                   


Saying that this was a fine, fine event is quite an understatement, but Dogfish Head: this was a fine, fine event. And of course, my warmest and most heartfelt thanks to Tee and his father for a wonderful evening, filled with good beer, good food, and good conversation. Now that’s a pairing I think we can all agree on!



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Spruce Beers!

At this time of year, it can be hard to imagine gardens full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Luckily, we have other options: importing and indoor agriculture among them. The Victorians were not so fortunate. Preserving and pickling offered some access to fruits and vegetables through the winter, but malnutrition remained a risk. Those undertaking long ocean voyages were even more at risk—even in fine weather, produce could not be stored on-board for long periods, which could lead to sailors getting scurvy.

Beer to the rescue!

Spruce beer is beer brewed with the needles, shoots, buds, or inner bark of spruce trees. While Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence in the 1530s, the Iroquois shared a scurvy remedy—boiling spruce needles to make a Vitamin C-rich tea. By the 1700s, the British Navy was making an alcoholic version, brewing beer with evergreen needles and shoots.

Explorer James Cook brewed beer during his voyages to New Zealand—indeed, spruce beer was the first beer brewed in New Zealand. However, the ingredients were slightly different. The spruce trees used by Jacques Cartier do not grow in New Zealand. As an alternative, he used manuka and rimu trees, along with molasses to provide a source of fermentable sugar.

James Cook arrives at Queen Charlotte's Sound, New Zealand (courtesy

James Cook arrives at Queen Charlotte’s Sound, New Zealand (courtesy


Interestingly, recent scholarship has cast doubt on the efficacy of spruce beer as an antiscorbutic. While spruce does contain Vitamin C, the amounts diminish with fermentation. Anecdotal evidence suggests it offered at least some benefit—not as much as spruce tea, and certainly not as effective as citrus fruits—but enough to slow the progression of scurvy.

Whilst traipsing around the United States, I was fortunate enough to try some spruce beer—and not just any spruce beer, but spruce beer similar to that brewed by Captain Cook. The Wigram Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Christchurch, NZ: they brewed their first commercial beer in 2001 and officially opened the brewery doors in 2003. (Yes, drinking an NZ beer in the US…long story.) Their James Cook Spruce Beer is a version of Cook’s brew made with rimu and tea tree.

Wigram_James Cook Spruce Beer

It’s a dark coppery colour on the pour, with a busy nose: there’s quite a bit of caramel/sweet aromas, with just a hint of pines. On first taste, the caramels dominate, and the mouthfeel is thick, nearly syrupy on the palate. The pine comes in the aftertaste—a rush of it rising up through the nose. It’s quite different from our Black Creek spruce beer. The pine isn’t quite as intense, and there’s a slight floral quality that I assume comes from the tea tree.

It’s certainly interesting to try beers from across the world—another benefit to living in the 21st century. Well, that and oranges in February. :)


Stay warm,


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THAT Super Bowl Ad: Budweiser 2015

Can we talk about Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad for a minute?

Yes, that Super Bowl ad. See, this one. Right here. It’s only a minute long, so take a quick peek.

Let’s go through it bit by bit.

0:00-0:04: We start out okay. Look, it’s a big brewery! Look, hops! This is a Budweiser commercial; I’m cool with that.

0:04: Then this flashes across the screen: Proudly a macro beer.


For one second, I am intrigued. Is Budweiser stepping back from claiming to be something it’s not? Are they reclaiming a “negative” label in a thoughtful, respectful, and creative way? After all, some people really like macro beers. That’s fine—we’re totally cool with people drinking whatever makes them happy.

0:06: The Clydesdales! I like the Clydesdales. They remind me of Black Creek’s own Clydesdale, Ross. Maybe this is about putting a new spin on macro beers.


0:10: It’s not brewed to be fussed over.


Here is a man drinking beer. The beer is dark, in what appears to be a chalice-style glass, possibly a tulip (hard to tell, with the angle). If this guy is really a beer snob, I hope he’s drinking some variety of Belgian dark ale—it’s often recommended that you serve those in chalices.

More to the point, this man has thick, rimmed glasses, a neat shirt, and a twirly mustache. I think we need a better look at this mustache, actually.

It is pretty glorious...

It is pretty glorious…

This man is a hipster. Alas, hipsters come with a lot of stereotypes, pretentiousness and self-importance among them. “Thus,” Budweiser says, “if you fuss over your beer, you share those characteristics.”

At this point, I’m shaking my head, but sure, there are clichés about beer snobs. Down in the Black Creek Historic Brewery, we try very hard to dispel that image. As anyone who’s had a drink with us knows, we have a strict policy of No Judgement.

But this is a Super Bowl ad. Budweiser is defending itself as a macro brewery. I don’t like the stereotype of craft-beer-lovers-as-snobs, because it hurts craft breweries, and I think playing up stereotypes is lazy marketing, but I haven’t popped any veins yet. Mostly, at this point, I’m just wishing we could all leave each other to drink what we like in peace.

0:16: It’s brewed for a crisp, smooth finish.

Exactly. It’s a thirst-quenching beer. That’s fine. Honestly, if people like the taste of Budweiser, then they should drink it. If they’re okay with it, I might recommend a few craft beers they might also like, but I’m never going to judge someone on their beer tastes, or make them try something. Again, that’s not our policy.

Alas, judgement is Budweiser’s policy, but again, it’s a Super Bowl ad. I do understand why a company isn’t saying, “Let’s spend a fortune to tell people to drink whatever they want!”

Unfortunately, it’s about here that logic flies out the window.

0:19: This is the only beer beechwood aged since 1876.


But…I thought we’re not fussing over Budweiser? Why, then, do we care about its beechwood aging? Isn’t that something that (gasp) craft beer lovers might care about?

(My author alter-ego would also like to point out that the phrasing makes it sound like Budweiser has been aging its beers since 1876—as in, for 139 years. That would be quite a beer.)

0:27: It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting.

Oh, look, more hipsters. You can tell because they are all bespectacled, and they are sharing a flight that arrived on a wooden board with different glassware for each style.

Here, I would like to point out that “drinking” and “dissecting” are not mutually exclusive. Part of the enjoyment of drinking beer (for us, anyway) comes from figuring out what those flavours and aromas are. Admiring the way ruby highlights come through a dark porter is part of the package that makes beer appealing to all the senses. Taking that first sniff is another thing that you can enjoy.

Budweiser is also aware that to distinguish all of these flavours, aromas, and characteristics, you do have to drink the beer, right?

0:28:-0:31: The people who drink our beer….

Are people who are filmed with a blurriness strangely reminiscent of intoxication. Interesting subtext. I kind of prefer the hipsters’ airy, brightly-lit brewpub, myself. Although, I’ve suddenly realized: the only females we’ve seen in this ad are women serving Budweiser. We haven’t seen any girls drinking beer, either. Even the hipsters are all male.


I guess women don’t drink beer? And I guess they don’t hang out with nerdy hipsters, so clearly, you have to go to the blurry bars to find them. I almost typed all that with a straight face, but then I didn’t.

The thought of Budweiser seeing me pour samples in my hoops makes me smile.

0:34: The people who drink our beer like to drink beer.

If I have this right…the ad is saying that the people who fuss over and dissect beer, who pay so much attention to detail, including the proper glassware…don’t like to drink beer.


0:40-0:42 Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale.


I have several things to say about this. First, I feel bad for our poor hipsters. I’d also like to look at the specific word choice of “sip.” Sipping” is restrained. It is controlled. It is quiet. It is deliberate. It also prolongs the time it takes to drink your beverage, which means it takes you feel its effects more slowly. It also means you drink less beer.

Clearly very different from the blurry, raucous bar of a few scenes prior, where partying blokes and lads are buying lots and lots of Budweiser. Also—so, let’s say a guy prefers the airy, brightly-lit brewpub? Does that make him less manly?

No, it means he prefers airy, brightly-lit brewpubs. I shake my head again.

The other hilarious thing about this bit is that Pumpkin Peach Ale actually exists. Elysian Brewery, a craft brewery in Seattle, brews a pumpkin/peach brew called “Gourdgia on My Mind.” To cap it off, Anheuser-Busch is in the process of acquiring Elysian.

So…they just insulted a beer…made by a brewery…that they will soon own….


But wait. Maybe they didn’t know about Elysian’s brew. Maybe they were trying for absurdity and it’s all a coincidence.

So…they don’t know what the brewery they’re acquiring actually brews…


0:43-0:46 We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.


Proper grammar is also for hipsters.

0:58: This Bud’s for you.

For whom, exactly? For the people that already drink Budweiser? I assume so, because I certainly don’t think that they’ve won over any craft beer drinkers with this ad. Which means, essentially, they spent $9 million telling people who already drink their beer…to keep drinking their beer.


After Viewing

At first, I was inclined to approach this ad with our usual no judgement attitude. Some people genuinely like Budweiser, or Coors, or whatever macro beer you care to name. That is fine. Drink what you like, in the most literal sense. But this is where idealism hits reality:

Ideally, we’d all just happily drink the beers that make us happy. Realistically, beer is big business. I will support people’s right to drink whatever they like, but I can disagree with macro-breweries’ interactions with craft breweries: whether through ads like this, buyouts, or sweetheart deals with the LCBO that hamstring smaller brewers.

Two different things: the drinkers and the business. At the end of the day, though, this ad gives an awful lot of exposure and attention to craft beers—ironic, considering that it was supposed to be about Budweiser.

And now…I think there’s a honey-ginger winter warmer in my fridge that needs dissecting. ;)



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No Barley? No Problem! Gluten-Free Beers

Whilst roaming Maine, writing things and trying beers, I noticed an interesting-looking brew. A gluten-free beer, made from sorghum. “How cool!” said I, and made a mental note to try it later. Alas, I never got the chance.


It was this beer, incidentally.

It was this beer, incidentally.

But it did get me thinking about gluten-free beers and their place in history. As you no doubt know, beer is made from four ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. Unfortunately for those with celiac disease or other gluten intolerances, barley contains gluten: a protein which causes pain and discomfort in those who cannot properly digest it.

And so, people with gluten intolerance should not drink our beer at Black Creek. However the main chemical reaction in brewing is the conversion of sugar (derived from the barley) to alcohol by yeast. So really, to make beer, you need hops, yeast, water, and [insert source of fermentable sugar here].

Which means that you can, theoretically, make beer from other types of grains: sorghum, rice, millet, and corn. While some might quibble over whether a barley-free beer is really beer, these grains would create an alcoholic, gluten-free beverage. Indeed, some home brewing kits include a sweet sorghum syrup instead of malt—I could find very little information on whether sorghum is malted, but the commercially-produced syrup also includes unfermentable sugars and amino acids as yeast nutrients.

But what about the Victorians? Did they have gluten-free beers?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

Not that Victorians would have thought of it as “gluten-free beer.” It was just beer made without barley. And why would one make beer without barley?

It’s cheaper. Remember, to make alcohol, the yeast really just needs fermentable sugar. Molasses was frequently used as a substitute or supplement to barley malt:

“Hop Beer”

“…a handful of hops, a pailful of water and half a pint of molasses make a good spruce beer. Spruce mixed with hops is pleasanter than hops alone.” (Mrs. Child, Mrs. Child’s the American Frugal Housewife, 1859)

At least you like spruce, Mrs. Child…

“Jumble Beer”

“Take 2 spoonfuls of ground Ginger, and 1 pint of molasses, to 2 ½ pails of water; first mix the ingredients with a little water warmed, especially in cold weather; then add the whole compliment of water and shake it very briskly, and in about 6 or 8 hours it will be sufficiently fermented.” (Samuel Curtis, A Valuable Collection of Recipes, Medical and Miscellaneous. Useful in Families and Valuable to Every Description of Persons, 1819)

I have my doubts about how alcoholic this one would be. Here’s another beer from Samuel Curtis, called, appropriately enough, “Another beer.”

“Another beer”

“Boil 1 ounce of hops, 1 ounce of pounded ginger, and 4 pounds of treacle, in 2 gallons of water; when at the temperature of new milk, add Yeast to ferment it in the manner of malt liquor. This is reported to be wholesome and agreeable, and it not only cheaper, but will keep much longer than common beer.”

Sometimes, Victorians even used acorns!

“Cheap Beer”

“Steep a quantity of acorns in water for 15 or 20 days, renewing the water 4 or five times. Transfer them to a cask and add a handful of hops; fill up the casks with water, and lightly cover, not stop, the bunghole, as there is an escape of gas. In 15 or 20 days, the beer is fit for use…” (S.S. Schoff and B.S. Caswell, The People’s Own Book of Recipes; and Information for the Million, 1867)

At least they’re honest with the name… showing again, that while we look for barley alternatives for health reasons, Victorians would have been doing so in the name of frugality and thrift. Although I do wonder if an acorn beer was worth the savings… ;)



Child, Lydia Maria Frances. The American Frugal Housewife. New York: Samuel S. & William Wood, 1838.

Curtis, Samuel. A Valuable Collection of Recipes, Medical and Miscellaneous. Useful in Families and Valuable to Every Description of Persons. Amherst: Elijah Mansue, 1819.

Schoff, S.S. and B.S. Caswell. The People’s Own Book of Recipes; and Information for the Million. Kenosha, Wis. Schoff and Winegar, 1867.

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Stuck on Stouts

I am definitely a creature built for warmer climes. And yet, for some reason, here I remain in Canada. As winter wears on, I’m finding myself drawn increasingly to malt-oriented beers, particularly stouts. Thanks to a generous friend, I have another beer book in my library. So  I’ve been curled up with my stouts, reading about stouts. What could be more wonderful (or meta) than that?


The beer library grows...

The beer library grows…

The stout, as it happens, has a history nearly as impenetrable as its colour. Say the word “stout” today, and most people immediately think Guinness. While Guinness is certainly one of the better known stouts, it isn’t the only—nor what it was it even necessarily the first.

See, the really fun thing about beer history is that specific terms mean different things at different times. References to “stout beers” actually appear in the historical record around 1677, but these aren’t the stouts with which we’re familiar. Rather, at this point, “stout” simply designated a strong beer. Thus, it was entirely possible to have a “pale stout,” which seems like an oxymoron today.

The stout we know and love today is closely intertwined with the development of the porter. The history of the porter could be an entire blog post all on its own, so to keep things simple: by the 1700s, the porter had become popular throughout London as a more-aged, slightly stronger style of beer. In 1778, a certain Irishman jumped on the bandwagon. You may have heard of him—Arthur Guinness?

So maybe we saw that one coming…

It actually took Guinness a while to turn his attention to porters. He started brewing in the 1750s, taking over a family-run brewery in the town of Leixlip, County Kildare, Ireland. He’d relocated to Dublin by the end of the decade, where he signed a 9000-year lease, paying £40 (about $75) yearly. Not too shabby. He brewed several different styles, but by the end of the 1700s, he was focusing almost exclusively on the porter. Guinness’s porters came in varying strengths, so he commonly referred to them with names like “plain porter,” “stout porter,” and even “double stout porter.”

All of this begs the question: when did porters and stouts diverge into different styles? Well, according to some, they never really did: they’re just two variations on the same style of beer.

But if you really want to distinguish them…there are a few handy historical benchmarks. In 1817, a man named Daniel Wheeler invented a process of kilning barley at a temperature so high, the grain carbonizes, thus creating a very, very dark malt. How dark? Dark enough that even a small amount added to the grain bill results in an almost completely-black beer. This was, of course, the Black Patent Malt, and it allowed for the very dark beers that we know today.

Other people point to 1820, the year in which Guinness changed the name of his Extra Stout Porter to the Extra Stout. But given that he was still advertising “Stout Porters” in 1836, I’m unconvinced. Honestly, like many developments in early brewery history, I’m not sure that there was any single watershed moment—more like, small changes over time added up to create the stout as a distinguishable style, albeit one still very closely linked to the porter.

In any case, most “stouts” from the late 1700s-early 1800s are what we would consider Irish or “dry stouts,” so called for the drying sensation they impart on the finish. This resulted from a small addition (no more than 10% of the malt used) of barely that was roasted, but unmalted—this left flavours similar to dark roasted coffee or dark chocolate. There are, of course, other styles of stouts. Oatmeal stouts are richer and fuller due to the addition of oatmeal to the grain bill. Milk Stouts, as we know well here at Black Creek, are sweet and silky from added lactose. Imperial stouts were originally brewed for export to the Russian imperial court, and they are stout stouts indeed, running up to 10% ABV. You can even have potato stouts! (I’m looking forward to seeing that one again, incidentally.)


As to the adage that a stout is a “meal in a glass”…well, remember that down in the historic brewery, our stout only runs about 4.5% ABV, and calorically speaking, stouts just aren’t significantly heavier. So, even post-holidays, you should be fine to enjoy one every now and then.

Especially if it’s accompanied by a good book.



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