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!


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!


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From the Vault: Brewing in Victorian Ontario

Hello, Beer-Lovers!

This week, it’s another special look through our archives. I’ve been enjoying learning new things myself, so here is a great post from my lovely predecessor, Karell. She has some great facts and figures on the business side of 1860s brewing! Enjoy!


Just thought I’d share a few interesting facts and figures about the business of brewing beer in Ontario in 1866 and 1867!

Despard Brewery, Picton – Late 19th Century

Did you know….

  • In 1866 there were 118 commercial breweries in operation in Canada West.
  • William Street Brewery introduced a locally designed and built mechanical refrigeration unit into their brewery in 1866!
  • Copeland’s Steam Brewery was producing 7000 gallons of ale a week and malting 20 000 bushels of barley a season in 1866.
  • O’Keefe’s Brewery introduced a locally designed and built steam engine and boiler into their brewery in 1866.  By 1867 their 25 horsepower engine was capable of turning out a staggering 2000 gallons of beer a day.  This is equivalent to running a brewery off a large ride-on lawn mower!
  • O’Keefe’s Brewery was importing Bavarian, Belgian, Mid Keat, Worcester and Wisconsin hops for various brews.
  • There were four ale bottling plants in Toronto by 1867.  Independent of the breweries, these include Malcolm Morrison’s Beer Bottling Establishment, and businesses operated by James Leask, Thomas Rutlege, and R.D. Congden.

Some neat facts to share at your next pub trivia night, courtesy of Black Creek Brewery!

PS. Our Pumpkin Ale is coming soon, I promise (and it’s already available in the LCBO)! Watch this space for updates and tasting notes! – Katie 

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Dark Beers and Iron

We’re well into fall now, which means that porters and stouts have triumphantly returned to the Black Creek Brewery. Ed’s been working hard on batches of dark beer for the cooler months. Porters and stouts are a personal favourite of mine—but did you know that they also have more iron content than paler beers?

A 2011 study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture tested 40 beers from all over the world. The researchers found that darker beers had the most free iron content: 121 parts per billion, compared to 92 ppb for pale ales, and 63 ppb for non-alcoholic beers. The study speculated the dark beers’ higher iron content could be related to the malts and/or hops used. This article I found says:

However, pale beer production includes a filtering stage in which diatomaceous earth is used. This sedimentary rock is a porous material with micro-algae used to lighten the beer; it traps the iron, causing its concentrations to decrease.

I’m not sure I agree with this.

Diatomaceous earth is the fossilized remains of diatoms: a form of hard-shelled algae. It works to filter particles from beer (among other things, including fish tanks and swimming pools). However, modern dark beers undergo the same filtering process: it doesn’t matter what colour your beer is, you’re still going to have yeast sediment and hop residue. So linking iron content to filtration process simply doesn’t make sense…

…especially when you look back to the 1800s. Modern-looking beer filtration doesn’t come about until the late nineteenth century. The first diatomaceous earth filter for brewing wasn’t used until 1930, and it didn’t really become prevalent until after WWII. In the 1800s, filtration was pretty well limited to simple hop backs (ours is lined with cheese cloth!) to strain out the hops, and finings like Irish moss and isinglass, which would at least help free-floating particles settle to the vessels’ bottom.

And yet—

And yet, there seems to be a sense among Victorian brewers that porters and stouts are somehow more hale and hearty. “Porter is recommended by medical men to their poor convalescent patients,” writes William Little Tizard, in his treatise on brewing. He goes on to argue that paler beer is easier on patients’ stomachs, but it’s a good indication that darker beers were considered beneficial for the weak and run-down.



But why?

Part of me would wonder if it’s a trick of the taste buds. Porters and stouts have a higher proportion of more darkly-roasted barley. The longer you kiln barley, the more chocolate/coffee-like flavours it develops. Simply put: it tastes stronger. This is why people brace themselves for Irish dry stouts, even though they’re usually under 5% ABV.

Except that modern study shows there is quantitatively more iron. So I wonder instead if a longer kilning period somehow makes the iron in barley more available for absorption (and there is a surprisingly high level of iron in barley—3.6 mg per 100g,  higher than spinach at 2.7 mg/100 g!). From what I can tell, iron content in hops is negligible, and pale beers tend to have more hops anyway…

In any case: whether kilning affects available iron or no, if we feel the darker beers are more fortifying, that might be enough. Maybe share a growler with your friends, and see what you think.


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Light Up The Night!

It’s a party in the Village! Tonight is our exciting Light Up The Night event at Black Creek Pioneer Village! Tonight, see the Village like never before as you explore the site after hours!



· Enjoy craft beer, artisanal whisky and local wine as you take in the sights and sounds
· Create your own gourmet treats at the Tostada, Crepe, and Mashed Potato Bars, made with local ingredients
· Unwind to local musical talent performed in intimate heritage settings
· Stop by “The Un-Bar” and sip 1800s virgin cocktails
· Try your hand at genuine 19th century trades, crafts, and games
· Laugh and learn with special performances from our History Actors
· Bid on unique and hand-crafted items and experiences at the Silent Auction
· Meet the Village’s newest residents – our heritage breed goats!


The Devin Cuddy Band will take the stage in an intimate open-air performance, bringing their unique blend of New Orleans Blues and Country to Black Creek. If you’ve not heard the Devin Cuddy Band before, you’re in for a treat. Take a listen to them performing at the Dufferin County Museum and Archives last year!

The proceeds from Light up the Night go towards restoration of historic buildings at Black Creek Pioneer Village to provide cultural experiences for future generations. And it’s not too late to join the party! Tickets are $40/person and can be purchased here, or at the door. You do need to be 19+ though… craft beer/whisky/local wine, you see.😉

See you at the party!


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New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Ah, the hop harvest: an unofficial sign that summer is ending. Here at the Black Creek Brewery, Ed’s Wet Hop Ale is a seasonal favourite. When brewing, brewers generally use dried hops (today, they’re often pelletized!). But once a year – when the hops are just ripe – you can use them directly off the vine. It’s only a few metres from our hop vines behind Laskay’s Emporium to Ed’s brew-kettle: it’s hard to get more local than that!

So, one beautiful late summer morning, Ed, fellow Beer Expert Milan, and I harvested our hops. Being much taller than I, Milan and Ed took the vines down from their trellises.



Then, whilst Ed attended to the mash, Milan and I stripped the hop flowers from the vines. The hops’ pollen (lupulin) is what gives beer that distinctive floral aroma. You can see it if you very gently peel the hops’ delicate layers apart. Fresh off the vine, the pollen is a wonderful bright yellow colour – and it smells pretty good, too!



(We did wash our hands thoroughly after, though. Hops are all well and good, but the aroma tends to linger.)

Coming in at 5% ABV, Ed’s Wet Hope Ale is 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. Like much of life, it is far too fleeting – which makes us appreciate it all the more. Stop by and try some for yourself at our annual Pioneer Harvest Festival and Artisans’ Village – another seasonal favourite! From September 17th-18th, you can see exciting demonstrations and crafts, sample delicious food (I’m picking up sausage and cheese curds), and celebrate all things handmade!


The village gets more beautiful every season…

The Seven Crowns Society Ale is also available now! This is a luscious cherry porter, brewed with help from our very special apprentices! It’s a little lighter than our usual porter, with lots of rich chocolate and dark fruit aromas. On first tasting it, there’s a sweetness that’s almost reminiscent of our brown ale, but that quickly deepens to cherry, chocolate, and a rounded vanilla booziness.

Until next time,



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September News and Brews!

Hello, Beer-Lovers!

Hard to believe it’s September, isn’t it? Here at the Black Creek Brewery, we’ve all been enjoying a summer of lighter, hop-oriented beers: from pales to bitters to IPAs. But as the seasons turn, so too does our fridge stock. September is a month for two specialty beers!

Cooler days are coming!

Cooler days are coming!

As you may remember from last year, one of the silent auction prizes in our Spirited Affair fundraiser was the chance to design and brew your own beer. This year, our lucky apprentices are the team at Seven Crowns Tattoo. Together with Ed, they’ve crafted the Seven Crowns Society Ale: a Cherry Porter. They explain, “We like dark beer and wanted to incorporate an in-season local ingredient. We enjoy cherries, and thought it would make a great beer.”

We agree! The combination of dark and sweet sounds perfect for the end of summer! The Seven Crowns Society Ale is fermenting at the moment, so it won’t be out until next weekend, but you can check back here for tasting notes as soon as it’s ready!

Also on our radar: the Wet Hopped Ale! As it’s September now, our hops are very nearly ripe. Ed’s keeping his eye on them, and once they’re ready, he’ll brew up this seasonal favourite.


In other news, have you heard about our new event? Light up the Night is a party in the village! On September 22nd, experience the village like never before! Spend a fall evening enjoying live music (including the Devin Cuddy Band!), performances, and activities. Sample from a variety of food stations  – and put your two drink tickets to good use!  More information here!


Black Creek – not just your grade three field trip.


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From the Vaults: Cooling Off

Hi all! It’s been a very, very hot summer, but it seems like we’ve turned a corner into some cooler weather. Of course, hot weather could be a challenge for brewers in the 1800s – in my archives, I found this very timely post! Enjoy!

For rural brewers, brewing tended to be  a seasonal activity. This was mostly because you have to cool wort before adding the yeast. After all, when the wort comes out of the brew-kettle it is boiling. Yeast is a living organism. If you chuck it into boiling hot wort, it won’t be living much longer, which means that it will not be fermenting anything effectively.

All of which to say: brewers needed some way of cooling the wort. In the first half of the nineteenth century, they used coolers. W. Stewart describes them as “floors of wood, surrounded with a wooden ledge, placed in the most airy and exposed situation in the brewery…in large breweries, they are of an enormous extent” (Stewart, 63).

The idea behind a cooler is to spread the wort out very thinly over a wide surface area in order to let the heat dissipate. That’s why coolers can be so expansive—they’re usually only 2-4 inches deep, so they need to be quite wide to contain a large volume of beer.

Our cooling ship, located on top of the casks - so, a slightly different set-up than the larger breweries. (Courtesy

Our cooling ship, located on top of the casks – so, a slightly different set-up than the larger breweries.

So, no problem, right? Run the beer into the cooler and wait.

Not quite.

Beer fresh out of the brew-kettle is extremely vulnerable to contamination. Remember, it’s been at a rolling boil for a significant amount of time (usually an hour, for us), which means that it’s been rendered more-or-less sterile. The longer the wort is left out in the open, the more likely it is to be infected by airborne pathogens or wild yeast. Brewer Thomas Hitchcock also worries about the “acidifying” of the wort through the absorption of excess oxygen, which apparently “takes place most rapidly in warm weather” (Hitchcock, 31).

Modern-day breweries have heat exchangers which can cool the wort very quickly. Victorian brewing guides recommend getting it down to anywhere from 11-20 degrees Celsius. From boiling, that’s quite a drop, especially in the summer—without air conditioning to help.

So how did they do it?

Some brewers avoided summer brewing altogether. According to A Practical Treatise on Brewing (1835), by William Chadwick, “…in hot weather, brewing is a critical operation, and private families should refrain from brewing in summer if possible…no prudent person would willingly brew when the temperature of the air is as high as 60 degrees” (Chadwick, 43-44). In the winter, however, it would be easy to open a window (Stewart does recommend letting a fresh air current pass over the wort) and let that chill Canadian winter help with the cooling.

But for large commercial brewers, sitting out the summer months entirely wasn’t always an option.

Stewart’s brewing guide addresses the conundrum of summer brewing:

When the brewery is obliged to make ale in warm summer weather, it is material to reduce the temperature as low as possible. In such cases great advantage would attend cooling the wort in coolers without any roof or covering whatever, but quite open to the sky; because in clear nights, the wort might be cooled in this way, eight or ten degrees lower than the temperature of the atmosphere… (Stewart, 66-67)

The idea seems to be that the wort would radiate the heat out into the night:

We have no doubt that it might be put in practice with advantage in hot climates; at that, by means of it, good ale or porter might be manufactured in the East and West Indies. Such a manufacture, if successful, would be particularly relished in India… (67)

Of course, this was only a theoretical model. There were other options. While Chadwick urges private families to avoid warm-weather brewing, he notes that the commercial brewer generally “…also has a command of cold spring water, that can he convey through pipes, so contrived to branch in various directions amongst the worts, that they are cooled down to the required temperature in a very short time” (42).

Which is one reason why breweries were often located near streams. It’s pretty similar to what we do at Black Creek: we have pipes branching through our cooling ship, although we use Toronto tap water.

Bloor, Joseph, brewery, n. of Bloor St. E., between Mount Pleasant Rd. & Sherbourne St.

Joseph Bloore’s brewery, located on the stream running through the Rosedale ravine. (courtesy

By the century’s later decades, cooling had become more reliable. E.R. Southby’s A Systematic Handbook of Practical Brewing dates from 1885, and mentions refrigerators. Don’t get too excited—they weren’t fridges, but rather, three distinct set-ups:

  • Wort flows in a body over pipes placed horizontally.
  • Wort flows in a film over pipes placed vertically.


  • Wort flows through pipes surrounded by cool water.

Southby favours the vertical model, particularly recommending the Riley or Ashby models—reminding us that brewing was becoming increasingly industrialized. The old coolers were still used to aerate the wort—but rather than the old wooden models, cast iron or copper (like ours!) were preferred, as they were easier to clean and didn’t rot. Still, cooling was increasingly based on the principle of heat exchange, much as it is today.

So, would a small, country, one-man brewing operation enjoy this cold snap?

But I’m still looking forward to May and warmer weather!

– Katie


Chadwick, William. A Practical Treatise on Brewing. London: Whittaker and Co., 1835.

Hitchcock, Thomas. A Practical Treatise on Brewing. London: R. Boyd, 1842.

Southby, E.R. A Systematic Handbook of Practical Brewing: Including a Full Description of the Buildings, Plant, Materials and Process Required for Brewing All Descriptions of Beer. London: E.R. Southby, 1885.

Stewart, W. Brewing and Distillation, with Practical Instructions for Brewing Porter and Ales According to the English and Scottish Methods. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1849.

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