“Christmas By Lamplight” starts this weekend!

It’s officially December, and you know what that means! Our Christmas by Lamplight evening events run the first three Saturdays of December…which means that the first event is this weekend!

In the deep of the winter evening, the village comes to life with holiday cheer! Explore the village through the soft glow of candles and lamplight. Strains of traditional music float through the air as you breathe in the spiced scents of mincemeat, gingerbread, and other treats. As you create your own crafts and ornaments to take home, enjoy the Victorian Christmas decorations proudly festooning every building.

But wait—there’s more! Round out the evening with some artistic entertainment! Learn the history of beloved Christmas carols and join in singing, tap your toes at a country dance, and take in a traditional Christmas pantomime—a specially commissioned production of The Snow Queen.

A new (and hilarious!) adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's classic!

A new (and hilarious!) adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic! (Our History Actors might have been involved…)

Thirsty after all that? I hope so! Naturally, the brewery will be open, with yours truly delighted to lead you through guided tastings all night long. Our Winter Warmer will be debuting this weekend, so get ready for a cup of cheer! (A growler also makes a great present…or treat for poor, hardworking Santa. Just saying! *wink*)

The holidays are kicking into high gear now, and we look forward to celebrating them with you! You can learn more and purchase tickets here. Book early to avoid disappointment!

Happy holidays!

Katie

 

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Interview with a Beer Expert: Milan on Home-Brewing

Milan in the Harness Shop

Milan in the Harness Shop

Black Creek Beer Expert Milan is a man of many talents. When he’s not conducting tours and tastings in the brewery, he can often be found trying his hands at historic trades from printing to leather-working. And when he’s not at Black Creek, he’s still a beer expert – after joining the brewery team, Milan has become a burgeoning home-brewer.

We caught up in the Harness-Maker’s Shop recently to chat about his brews. It’s a cozy little space, especially with the woodstove burning away. “So, Milan,” I said, leaning on the counter, pen poised above my notebook. “Tell me about your beer…”

It’s largely a creative outlet, Milan explains. “And it gives me access to whatever styles I want.” Indeed, he’s done everything from oatmeal stouts to pale ales to pumpkin beers (made with real pumpkin, just like Black Creek!). But while an in-house brewery sounds like a dream, surely it’s beyond the reach of the average person with an average (or smaller-than-average) living space?

Not necessarily, Milan says.

“For small batches, you can just use pots and pans that you already have. If you’re going bigger, there are a few start-up costs—getting the equipment and everything—but then it’s actually pretty cheap.”

How much beer does Milan make?

“Four gallons. I built my mash tun from scratch.”

When I point out that Milan has garnered quite a reputation for elaborate costumes and props made from scratch, he laughs. “I guess so, yeah. I like making things and working with my hands.”

I decide not to mention that he’s stitching leather while talking to me. The poetic justice is too great.

“Working with Ed is great too; I can ask him questions along the way. Things like what temperature is best for specific yeasts…he has a very finely tuned process.” He pauses, sunlight catching in his hair. “Ed is a wealth of knowledge. And he’s always happy to share it.”

Indeed, our adult apprentices know this very well. I inquire whether he thinks our apprenticeship program would help people just getting into home-brewing. Milan ponders.

“As Beer Experts, we learn a lot from watching Ed work. But so many key things happen before we arrive—the mash, for example. Seeing every step would’ve helped a lot; I made some mistakes at first.”

But Ed was able to help?

“Yeah.”

When asked whether he has any tips for other beginning brewers, Milan suggests purchasing a beer-making starter kit. “It’s a good way to try it out.” And of course, coming to chat with Ed and our Beer Experts, right here at the Black Creek Brewery!

Until next time!

Katie

 

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New Brew: Gingerbread Stout

“You’ll like this one, Katie,” Ed announced as I entered the Black Creek Brewery. “I know you like ginger, and you like stouts, so this should be a great beer for you.”

Another month, another specialty beer! For November and the start of the holiday season, Ed has brewed a Gingerbread Stout. It’s a new beer for us, so we were all very excited to see how it turned out. Especially me—as Ed observed, I do like ginger and I do like stouts…

No, that's not beer! That's molasses - but the Gingerbread Stout is about the same colour.

No, that’s not beer! That’s molasses – but the Gingerbread Stout is about the same colour.

As the months get colder, darker, heavier ales come back into fashion, and festive or holiday-themed beers get an extra kick from added spices. This Gingerbread Stout is a great example of both trends. It pours pitch black in the glass, and cinnamon and ginger are immediately discernable on the nose.

“I looked at a lot of gingerbread recipes for inspiration,” Ed explained. “And I used a lot of the same ingredients. Not just ginger—cinnamon, cloves, molasses…”

All of which make their presence known. The cinnamon is most apparent upfront, and the molasses lends a mellow smoothness to the body, balancing well with the stout’s rich, roasted flavours. That said, the ginger is the star player here. It shows up right after the initial taste and lingers long into the finish: warm and tingling on the tongue and lips. The Gingerbread Stout comes in at 5% ABV. If you enjoyed our Ginger Beer this past June, this will probably be right up your alley!

Boiling in the brew-kettle.

Boiling in the brew-kettle.

The Gingerbread Stout hits our fridges this Saturday, November 19th, coinciding with the start of our Festive Weekends! From November 19th to December 18th, enjoy special programming every weekend! Tap your toes at a country dance, meet Santa in his cottage, try your hand at festive crafts, and giggle and cheer as our History Actors hit the boards with holiday-themed performances! And of course, drop into the Black Creek Brewery to try a sampling of our brews, the perfect thing to get you into some holiday cheer!

Visit with Santa at Black Creek

-Katie

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Society of Beer Drinking Ladies – All Ladies’ Craft Beer Festival

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It was long a matter of regret that in all my years as a Beer Expert and resident Beer Journalist, I had not attended a Beer Festival. Curated beer tastings, yes. Other breweries’ tours, yes. But ill luck and circumstance had prevented attendance at a larger event.

Clearly, this had to be remedied. Last Saturday, November 5th, former beer expert Steph and I went to the All Ladies’ Craft Beer Festival, organized by the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. If you’ve not run across the SOBDL before, they are a vibrant group of beer lovers:

We are a group of Toronto ladies passionate about all things craft beer. On the last Friday of every month, we hold a “bevy” in a secret location, where we explore delicious craft beer in the company of other fantastic women. Join us at our next event.

So I duly turned up at the beautiful Artscape Wychwood Barns, tickets in hand. While I waited for Steph, I saw something really cool.

Women. Women of all sorts – getting out of cabs, hopping off the bus, walking up with huge grins. Down in the Black Creek Brewery, we see this every day: craft beer is for everyone. But the sense of camaraderie was palpable; the atmosphere charged with excitement, but still low-key.

When Steph and I got our drink tickets and stepped inside, we both stopped.

“Wow.”

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Imagine the cavernous, high-ceiling barns filled with breweries and chalkboards proclaiming their offerings. Directly ahead of us, a display of malt and hops. To the right, SOBDL merch. And tables stretching as far back as we could see – table upon table upon table of beer. We grinned at each other.

“Where do we start?”

I’ve manned the Black Creek Brewery table at various events, but this was my first time on the other side of the table. We quickly fell into a rhythm: check out the beers, chat with the other ladies, choose a beer, duck against the wall to compare tasting notes. For me, the hardest part was deciding between beers I’d tried and loved, and beers I’d never had before. I won’t go through all the beers we tried between the two of us – suffice it to say we ended up purchasing extra drink tickets – but here are a few highlights.

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Beau’s All-Natural Brewing: Pilot Batch 1

Beau’s All-Natural Brewery is raising funds for the Rwanda Brewery Project – a woman-owned and operated craft brewery in Rwanda. Entrepreneur and soon-to-be brewery owner Fina Uwineza brewed this beer in collaboration with Beau’s, using non-traditional ingredients like cassava and banana.

It was a delightful blonde ale – the banana paired really well with the light malts, almost like a nice hefeweissen. I’ve had cassava on its own before; it tastes not unlike potato. Still, this beer was light and fresh – I got rather more citrus than I was expecting!

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(PS. You can support the Rwanda Craft Brewery project here – only about a week left on the Kickstarter!)

Royal City Brewing Co.: Earl Grey Porter

My understanding is that this one ran out partway through the night, so I’m glad Steph and I found it when we did!  This is Royal City’s winter beer – a porter infused with Earl Grey tea. And goodness, it’s uncanny! This could almost be a cold black tea with plenty of bergamot, but a luscious chocolatey undertone reminds you of its true porter nature.

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Nickel Brook Brewery: Raspberry Uber Style Weiss

This was a beer that I needed to try again, although I’ve had it before. This is a Berliner Weisse: a sour wheat beer. While I’m a fan of sour beers in general (beers partially or wholly fermented with lactic acid bacteria, to give it that distinct tang), this one ups the ante by aging on Ontario raspberries. It’s gorgeous in the glass – an almost jewel-like pink – and equally delicious on the palate; the raspberries’ tartness blends perfectly with the style’s natural sourness.

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All in all, it was a delightful event: wonderful, supportive vibe; an excellent assortment of beers; and exceptional organization. Much thanks to the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies for putting on this event – it was wonderful!

So, if you’re looking to chat with other beer-lovers and try some innovative and unusual brews, a beer festival may be the place for you. Keep your eyes peeled!

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-Katie

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Hot Punch: A Victorian Recipe

It’s November now. Here in the Black Creek Brewery, we’re convinced that we were sampling our summer pale ales and best bitters just…what, two weeks ago? But no, autumn is starting to wane further into winter…

We saw frost on the Grain Barn's roof!

We saw frost on the Grain Barn’s roof!

Which means that it’s getting cold outside. A nice rounded stout or porter usually pairs well with these chilly nights, but sometimes, you want something with a little more punch.

Ah, Mrs. Beeton... (courtesy National Portrait Gallery; www.npg.org.uk)

Ah, Mrs. Beeton…
(courtesy National Portrait Gallery; http://www.npg.org.uk)

In fact, sometimes you want a punch – a hot punch! I went to the ever-reliable Mrs. Beeton to find out more about this warming beverage. In her Book of Household Management, she had this to say:

Punch is a beverage made of various spirituous liquors or wine, hot water, the acid juice of fruits, and sugar. It is considered to be very intoxicating; but this is probably because the spirit, being partly sheathed by the mucilaginous juice and the sugar, its strength does not appear to the taste so great as it really is.

So as always, drink responsibly.

Now, onto the recipe!

  • ½ pint rum
  • ½ pint brandy
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large lemon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 pint of boiling water

“Rub the sugar over the lemon until it has absorbed all the yellow part of the skin, then put the sugar into a punchbowl; add the lemon-juice (free from pips), and mix these two ingredients well together. Pour over them the boiling water, stir well together, add the rum, brandy, and nutmeg; mix it thoroughly, and the punch will be ready to serve. It is very important in making good punch that all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated; and, to insure success, the process of mixing must be diligently attended to.”

If you’re thinking, “This is basically a hot toddy, isn’t it?” you’re right! Hot toddies are typically made with whisky, but it’s the same general idea—in fact, Mrs. Beeton notes that the Scots usually substituted whisky in their punch “…and then its insidious properties are more than usually felt.”

Now, if you’re wondering whether a hot toddy will cure a cold…well, I’m afraid there is no science to back it up. That said, warm liquids, spices, and honey can do wonders for a sore throat—as my partner-in-crime Blythe and I discovered when we tested another Victorian recipe! (You can catch that episode of Blythe Tries on the Black Creek page this Tuesday!)

Does it work? Find out on Tuesday!

Does it work? Find out on Tuesday!

No matter what you’re drinking, stay warm out there! And come pay us a visit in the brewery soon!

-Katie

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Beer Glasses 101

A well-crafted beer is a fine, fine thing indeed. It’s the sort of beverage you savour, enjoying to the utmost. And if you want to make the experience truly complete, you can sip your brew from the appropriate glass.

That’s right: just like wines, certain styles of beer are best served in certain styles of barware. It’s not an absolute perquisite, but it does help show your beer off to its best advantage. There’s a wide range of glasses out there, but here’s a “sample flight” for you!

(Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Pint Glasses

Two different types here: US “shaker” pints are simple affairs that hold 16 oz. Their straightforwardness is well suited to many American styles, particularly pale ales.

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The British “Nonic pint,” by contrast, holds 20 oz. It’s most distinguished by the lip at its top: not only does this give you a better grip on the glass, it’s helpful when stacking them—as is the case in many cosy British pubs. The extra 4 oz can hold more beer, or accommodate beers with more head—it’s a good all-around, everyday glass.

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Flutes

Long, narrow, and slender, these beauties almost look like champagne glasses. Not too far off the mark, they pair well with lambics and fruit beers, as they show off those styles’ lacing, carbonation, and help concentrate their complex aromas.

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Tulip

Also good for beers with strong aromatic profiles! The tulip is a stemmed glass: the top pushes out (much like a tulip) and the sides curve down to a bulbous body. Try them with Belgian ales, lambics, Scotch ales, and saisons.

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Chalice

Similar to the tulip, but with a wider bowl. This glass works well with heavy, malty beers: bocks, Belgian ales, and stouts!

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Weizen

As the name suggests, the weizen is designed for wheat beers. Its long body draws attention to wheat beers’ pale, hazy colour. A bulbous top accommodates their thick heads, and locks in the characteristic banana/bubblegum aromas.

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Pilsner

Not unlike the flute glass, a slender and tapered body captures a pilsner’s effervescence. A very versatile glass, it’s great for lagers of all varieties.

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Snifter

How many times have we seen a classic movie hero swirling a snifter? Swirling releases aromatic notes. They generally hold 6-8 oz, which makes them a good match for beers with a high ABV. Try them with trippels and quads, imperials and strong ales—even barleywines!

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So there you have it—choosing a beer is only part of the fun! Choosing a glass to go with is equally entertaining!

Katie

 

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New Brew: Pumpkin Ale

The air is brisk, the leaves are changing. October is well underway, which means that it’s time for the Pumpkin Ale. While the Pumpkin Ale has been on LCBO shelves for a few weeks now, Ed’s version comes out this weekend from the Black Creek Brewery. We know you’ve been looking forward to it, so we’re thrilled that it’s ready!

FermentingPumpkinAle2015

And this is no “Pumpkin Spice Ale,” either. Ed’s Pumpkin Ale uses real pumpkin puree. One addition during the mashing breaks the pumpkin’s starch into sugar that will be fermented alongside the malt. Another during the boil adds that truly pumpkin-y taste and aroma. Ed’s also added ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice – everything you’d expect in a pumpkin pie. It’s autumn in a glass, perfect for Halloween!

Look for the Pumpkin Ale in the LCBO, too!

Our LCBO version!

Speaking of Halloween, our Howling Hootenanny weekends are also here: October 22nd/23rd, and 29th/30th. Take the kids trick-or-treating in the village, make creepy crafts to take home, and decorate your own pumpkin. If you need some refreshment after braving the Haunted Maze and testing the Apple Slingshot, come join us in the historic brewery for a fresh sample of Pumpkin Ale!

Katie

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