A Spirited Affair! 2015 Edition!

This year's Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3rd!

This year’s Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3rd!

It’s that time of year again! Yes, it is our annual shindig and fundraiser – A Spirited Affair! Last year, we boogied down to the 1960s. Now, we’re jiving in the 1940s as the Boys Come Home!

This event gives you two time periods in a single evening, as we mix the elegance and tradition of the 1860s with the excitement and spirit of the late 1940s. Sample traditional ales alongside modern offerings. Tap your toes to violin music and toss a few horseshoes…and then take our slang challenge (it’s a gas!) as you sample fine foods. And of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without some lindy hop dance lessons!

1940s style!

1940s style!

And we want you to join in the fun: 1940s outfits are highly encouraged. There were some very sharp dressers at last year’s event—we look forward to seeing your favourite get-up!

But there’s a serious cause alongside our celebration. The Spirited Affair is a fundraiser, directly impacting a restoration campaign called “Explore History­ – Build a Better Future.” This campaign was launched by the Living History Foundation with support from the Toronto Region Conversation Authority. This year, we continue to support the much-needed restoration of our Burwick House. Burwick House was one of the first buildings to be moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It’s one of the best examples we have of 19th century middle class life and customs. Situated in the heart of the village, it is also situated close to our hearts—now it’s time to show it the love it so richly deserves.

From the archives (Katie may have too much fun with the archives...): Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1959, the year before it officially opened. Burwick House has already been moved (just right of photograph centre).

From the archives (Katie may have too much fun with the archives…): Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1959, the year before it officially opened. Burwick House has already been moved (just right of photograph centre).

A Spirited Affair will be held on Saturday, October 3rd, from 7:00-10:00 pm. Tickets are $80/person and include drink samples and gourmet foods—advance reservations are required. To avoid disappointment, book early! Click here, or call our customer service line at 416-667-6295.

You can find more information here as well.

It’ll be an affair to remember! We can’t wait to see you there.


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New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Just in time for our Two-Day Pioneer Harvest Festival, our Wet Hop Ale is ready! Brewed with the hops grown onsite, this seasonal ale has turned out very well indeed. Usually, beer is brewed with dried hops (actually, modern beers are brewed with compacted hop pellets, but that is beside the point). With the Wet Hop Ale, Ed has used hops straight from the vine.

So, what is the Wet Hop Ale like?

Ready for harvesting!

Ready for harvesting!

Coming in at 5% ABV, this beer is a deep gold colour, almost a light amber. Brewing with wet hops is like cooking with fresh herbs rather than dried: the nose is quite delicate and floral. Naturally, this ale is hop-oriented, but they aren’t very aggressive. Floral and citrus notes come through to start, with a hint of underlying earthiness.

Since this brew requires hops that have just been harvested, we can only make the Wet Hop Ale once each year (it’s become my personal sign that autumn is fast approaching). Like much of life, it is far too fleeting – which makes us appreciate it all the more. It’s becoming more popular with other breweries, too – I just picked up a fresh Autumn Hop Ale from Amsterdam Brewery that I’m very excited to try! :)

The Wet Hop Ale will be available only at the historic brewery whilst our stocks last. And in another sign of approaching autumn, our Stout and Porter are back in the fridges!


PS. Save the date! A Spirited Affair, our fundraiser and celebration of craft beers, wines, and spirits, is Saturday, October 3rd. Shake and shimmy at this 1940s-themed event and support a great cause (restoration of our historic buildings). For more information and tickets, please click here!

This year's Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3!

This year’s Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3!

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Fall Updates

Another summer has come and gone. With Labour Day behind us, we are looking forward to cooler weather here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. A new season at Black Creek always brings new developments, so here is a quick rundown of what we have in store this autumn…

September Beers

Ed has brewed his last Pale Ale and Best Bitter for the year, so if you want some before 2016, you should visit us sooner rather than later—once they’re gone, that’s it! Never fear, though: this means the Porter and Stout are back. What better way to enjoy the brisker days than with a lovely, full-bodied beer?

Ed picking hops!

Ed picking hops!

Our September specialty beer is the Wet Hop Pale Ale. Ed brewed this beer using fresh hops from our own gardens. This is a very seasonal brew (you can only make it when the hops are ripe; it’s no use asking for it in February), and it’s become an unofficial sign of ending summer around here. The Wet Hop Pale Ale will be released on Saturday, September 19th.

Which reminds me…

Pioneer Harvest Festival: Sept. 19/20

The Pioneer Harvest Festival is one of our busiest days in the Black Creek Historic Brewery. This year, we get double the excitement! The festival runs two days this year—Saturday, September 19th, and Sunday, September 20th. On Saturday, enjoy demonstrations of pioneer trades, delicious food, a fast-paced quilt auction, and much more! Sunday celebrates local food, live music, and farmer’s markets.

Of course, the brewery will be open all weekend long for sampling and growler purchasing. We look forward to seeing you there!

A Spirited Affair: Oct. 3rd

It’s an affair! This year, the Boys Come Home as we celebrate the 1860s and 1940s. Dig out your snazzy duds, and come prepared to sample tasty treats and divine drinks, try your hand at one of our many games, and dance the night away! Craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries will have their products available for sampling throughout the village. Ed’s also brewing up a special whisky-barrel-aged ale in honour of the event (think Innis & Gunn).

Remember, proceeds from this event go towards restoring our historic buildings, for you and future generations to enjoy!

Pumpkin Ale

It’s coming, I promise.

October’s a very busy month for specialty beers (Whisky Barrel, Honey Brown, and Pumpkin, oh my!), but Ed will be releasing the Pumpkin Ale starting October 17th. Perfect for sampling while the kids enjoy our Howling Hootenanny!

In the meantime, you can pick up the commercial version of the Pumpkin Ale from the LCBO. As always, check the website before you venture out, but your intrepid beer journalist has spotted it in several downtown locations. (She saw the Rifleman’s Ration, too!)

Our Pumpkin Ale is essentially an liquid, alcoholic pumpkin pie...

Our Pumpkin Ale is essentially an liquid, alcoholic pumpkin pie…

So there you have it: the shape of the next few weeks. And you thought summer was a busy time for the village. The 2015 season is only half-over: you haven’t seen anything yet!  :)



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Better Baking with Beer

Hello beer-lovers!



Hope you’ve all been well and enjoying these last few weeks of summer. We have been well down here in the Black Creek Historic Brewery – enjoying serving the pales and bitters while we still can, and waiting for the hops to finish ripening. I also recently came into possession of rather a lot of stout, so there’s that.

When I have a lot of beer to hand, I like to cook with it. Our growlers are like a bottle of wine—they do need to be finished a few days after opening, and I just can’t drink that much. Same with the several cases of Guinness and St. Ambroise now sitting in my house (long story). Cooking and baking with beer helps clear out my fridge, and also prevents beer from going to waste.

Wasted beer makes me sad. So we try to avoid that.

This aversion to waste is itself very Victorian. From re-using the mash in brewing to eating roast leftovers for a week after a fancy dinner, they weren’t prone to throwing things away willy-nilly. Ironically, though, cooking with beer wasn’t terribly common in the 1800s. As we’ve discussed before, Victorians tended to think, “Why would I put beer in my bread, when I could have beer and bread?”

But then a colleague sent me a recipe for “beer-cakes,” which I’m now sharing with you. This recipe is a little before our time period, coming from a recipe book mostly compiled in the late 1700s-1800s. This recipe is from Cooking in the Archives, a really cool project which seeks to update early modern (1600-1800) recipes in the modern kitchen. Definitely check these ladies out if you haven’t already—good history pairs well with amazing food!

The original recipe, as transcribed by Cooking in the Archives, is thus:

a Pound of Flour, 1/2 Pd. Butter, 1/2 Pd. Sugar, a few
Seeds, mix all together into a very stiff Paste, with
old Beer, roll and bake them on Tin Sheets.

Courtesy www.rarecooking.com. Check them out!

Courtesy http://www.rarecooking.com. Check them out!

Check out the modern equivalent here. There’s a LOT more information on the recipe’s historical background as well. Well worth a look!

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve finished testing these beer-cakes, I’ve got my eye on this slightly more modern recipe for Guinness brownies. Definitely worth keeping in the back pocket—Ed’s going to resume brewing stouts and porters very shortly! ;)

Happy eating!



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Cast Your Vote!

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you have some interest in beer. So, you may be interested in a new, interactive program all about temperance!

Christopher Dunkin, MP.

Christopher Dunkin, MP.

In 1864, an act passed that gave townships the option to go dry. This was the Dunkin Act, named after its architect, Christopher Dunkin. Here is how it worked: if enough people in a county/town  spoke up, a vote would be called. Then, the town would vote on prohibiting the sale of alcohol.

If the majority agreed – no more alcohol would be sold in that town.

If the majority disagreed – the town would continue to sell alcohol.

Bear in mind, though, that the vote was only called if enough people pushed for it. Just because the Dunkin Act passed in 1864, not every township rushed out to decide the fate of alcohol in their communities. After an initial flurry of activity in 1864/65, the Dunkin Act essentially remained a dead letter until 1877, the year after the Crooks Act (another liquor licensing act) passed. (Vaughan – the area around Black Creek – voted to go dry. Toronto did not.)

This interactive program takes us back to 1865 – and you have to decide Black Creek’s fate. Will you join our tavern-keeper’s wife and support alcohol? Or will you side with our temperance advocate and seek to ban it? Will our village go dry? Or will we continue to sell our liquor?

Our resident thespian. ;)

Our resident thespian. ;)

Cast Your Vote is part of our Black Creek History Actors’ series. If you’ve taken the Historic Brewery Tour or joined us for Beer Sampling, you’re probably familiar with Blythe and me. Now, you can Cast Your Vote with us in the drama space beside Second House. Check your weekly schedule for program times!

To Queen and Country!


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Bonus Post: Simcoe Hopped Ale

We’re back!

Just a friendly reminder that our August specialty beer debuts this weekend. In honour of John Graves Simcoe (first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada), Ed has once again crafted the Simcoe Hopped Ale.

John Graves Simcoe (1725-1806)  Courtesy www.archives.gov.on.ca)

John Graves Simcoe (1725-1806)
Courtesy http://www.archives.gov.on.ca)

This is a burnished amber ale  with some subtle caramel notes. The addition of Simcoe hops from the west coast give this beer an abundance of pine/citrus notes. As the beer moves over the tongue, there’s even a hint of nectarine. It’s a fresh patio beer, with a little more malt character than our Pale Ale and IPA. According to Ed, “If you like real West Coast beers, this one is for you.”

Simcoe hops originate in the Pacific Northwest. They’re a dual-purpose hop: great for  aroma, but also for bittering. They impart lovely earthy and pine/resin notes, perfect for summer! As well, Ed has dry-hopped this beer. Usually, hops are added during the boil, to extract oils and resins and integrate it into the wort (isomerization). When dry-hopping, they are added at different points in the fermentation process. Because they’re not boiling, you’re not extracting any oils, but you are getting even more of that hop aroma.

Check out more in the video below!

Have a great long weekend…with great, responsibly-consumed beer! ;)


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Playing it Cool: Victorian Refrigeration

You’ve probably noticed just how hot is in Toronto these days. Welcome to summer in the city! We’re nice and cool down here in the Black Creek Historic Brewery, thanks to a few 21st-century conveniences: specifically, air-conditioning and refrigerators. These modern marvels allow the beer to ferment properly and keep longer, providing you with tasty brew even in the hottest weather.

Now, things were a little trickier in the 1800s. Especially in the early decades of the nineteenth century, brewing was primarily a seasonal occupation, occurring in the cooler months between September (ish) and April (ish). When it gets really hot in the summer, brewing becomes harder, as ale yeasts like to ferment at room temperature—and lager yeasts, even colder than that! Not to mention, sitting out in the heat makes beer more likely to spoil.

So it’s not terribly surprising that Victorians were keen on experimenting with means of refrigeration. Simply, refrigeration is the process of moving heat from one place to another. The earliest “refrigerators” were simple cellars and/or holes in the ground, lined with straw or sawdust and filled with ice and snow.

Earlier than our period, but here's the general principle. (Courtesy https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com)

Earlier than our period, but here’s the general principle. (Courtesy https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com)

Ice harvesting and distribution became quite a lucrative industry by the 1830s. Consumption jumped through the 1840s and 1850s: from 12,000 to 100,000 tons in New York City, and 6,000 to 85,000 tons in Boston. A particularly entrepreneurial man named Frederick Tudor seized the opportunity to make money sending ice to the tropics. To transport it, he experimented with different insulators, eventually reducing ice loss from 66% to 8%.

Harvesting ice in New York, ca. 1852. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

Harvesting ice in New York, ca. 1852. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

Besides ice, Victorians also explored refrigeration with mechanical means, which more-or-less fit the age’s general preoccupation with industry, innovation, and progress.  Vapor-compression systems, like the one built in 1834 by inventor Jacob Perkins, worked continuously. The workings of vapor-compression refrigeration systems are more involved than can be described here, so I shall simply quote, “The vapor-compression uses a circulating liquid refrigerant as the medium which absorbs and removes heat from the space to be cooled and subsequently rejects that heat elsewhere.” Other inventors followed suit, including John Gorrie, who in 1842 created a system capable of freezing water into ice. Although a commercial disaster, the stage had been set for increasing experiments through the rest of the century.

Gorrie's Ice Machine: courtesy Wikipedia.

Gorrie’s Ice Machine: courtesy Wikipedia.

Unsurprisingly, by the 1870s, the biggest refrigeration consumers were none other than the breweries, for reasons very much like those stated at the beginning of this post. That being said, increasing industrialization and pollution often resulted in “tainted ice,” which affected the health and flavour of the beer. Brewers’ complaints drove inventors to seek alternates…

…a path which eventually ended up in our cool, cozy brewery today. So come on down, take a break from the broiling sun, and enjoy a flight of cool (cellar-temperature) beer.


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