First Brews Underway

Peering into the mash
Peering into the mash
I popped into the soon-to-be openned brewery this morning, just to see how it was coming along. It’s a real pleasure for me to steal a few minutes out of the day and check out how things are progressing.

Before I even entered, I was pleasantly surprised by the delightful sweet smell of brewing. Inside, people (whose names I, unfortunately don’t know) were placing storage hooks for the various implements, laying tiles on the floor of the brewery restaurant, and – brewing. Dave told me he was seeing how things were working, figuring out some of the kinks in the equipment, and making Porter. Watching the process, asking questions, was really interesting. But the real payoff awaits . . . tasting it.

The Black Creek Growler

Beer School at Black Creek Pioneer Village

As the opening of the Black Creek Historic Brewery approaches, the time had come to train all of our historical interpreters here at Black Creek Pioneer Village. They are the staff in period dress in the homes and workshops here who give tours and tell visitors about life in 1860s Ontario. The brewery is new and so we want the staff feel familiar with it and be able to answer questions.

This week, about 30 people gathered here to learn about beer. The evening was led by beer expert Mirella Amato – a wonderful presenter. Brewmaster David Jameson was also on-hand to explain the unique brewing process at Black Creek Historic Brewery.

Mirella brought along samples of various malt varieties to smell and taste, as well as hops yeast. After learning about beer history and basics, we finally got to taste some beer!

We tasted six samples, two at a time, so we could notice the differences. The tastings allowed us to learn about three of the main ingredients in beer – yeast, malt and hops (the fourth ingredient is water).

We finished with an exercise in food pairing. What would work with a bison burger, lemon perch, macaroni and cheese or a chicken wrap? Some parings were obvious with stronger foods such as red meats needing a heartier beer, while lighter foods were complimented with wheat beers or cream ales.

“It was great to see such a keen interest and enthusiasm from the staff at Black Creek Pioneer Village,” said Mirella after the event. “It was interesting to see how each member of the staff was approaching beer from a different angle. I think the Black Creek Historic Brewery project is very exciting and will provide both a unique tourist destination, and a fun opportunity to learn about beer.”

We couldn’t agree more!

The Black Creek Growler

P.S. To learn more about Mirella Amato, visit

Seeing is Understanding

It just makes sense when you see how beer is made here at Black Creek Historic Brewery.

We’ve been on a lot of tours and seen a lot of great breweries, but somehow the brewing process always seemed so complicated. Maybe it’s all the huge vats and boilers and all the shiny stainless steel equipment that just made it confusing. In a modern brewery, it just seems a lot harder to visualize how beer is actually made.

That’s ironic, because brewing is pretty simple: take water, add malted barley, boil it (adding some hops during the process), filter out the solids, throw in some yeast, and let the fermentation party begin. Once that’s done, you have beer.

Here, at our wonderful new (old) brewery, where everything is done by hand on a small scale, it’s easy to see the whole process at a glance. There’s a mash tun for mixing, the boiler, and real wooden kegs where the ale ferments. Implements, like a shovel, and a hoist, were the only other equipment.

When we open to the public in June, a tour of the Black Creek Historic Brewery will be the perfect way to learn about the art of brewing. Afterwards, you can enjoy a cold pint right here in our own pub, for a little added insight.


The Black Creek Growler

Vive la Différence: Ale vs. Lager

Even seasoned beer drinkers sometimes have trouble with this one: What’s the difference between ale and lager?

Answer: It’s all about the yeast.

Beer is brewed from a sweet liquid, traditionally including water, barley and hops. That liquid, called the “wort” is boiled, filtered, and then put into a fermentation tank where the yeast is added

Ale yeast floats on the top of the wort during fermentation. Ale yeast needs warmth and works very quickly (three to five days) leaving lots of sugar behind in the process. This gives ales a sweeter taste, which is why they tend to be fruitier, maltier, stronger or richer in taste.

Lager yeast sinks to the bottom of the fermentation tank, and lets the sugar come to it. It’s a slower process (up to two weeks), and requires cooler temperatures, but the fermentation is quite thorough and leaves very little sugar behind. This is why lagers generally have more of a crisp, dry, clean flavour.

Here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, we are recreating the beers of 1860s Ontario, so we stick to ales. (Lagers became a proud part of our brewing tradition later in that century, but that’s another story).

We hope you can come by soon to see the process with your own eyes… and taste the results!


The Black Creek Growler

Ale Was King in 1890’s Kingston

Here’s an interesting account of beer drinking habits (i.e. ale drinking habits) in early Ontario. It comes from Alan McLeod, editor of A Good Beer Blog. In his post titled A City of 1890 In Love With Strong Ales, he describes his discovery of an August 6, 1890 travel piece in the New York Times about Kingston, Ontario . It contains a reference to the local preference for all things English – including ales – and the general lack of lager anywhere.

Old is New Again: Craft Brewing in Ontario

Some may think that the growing interest in local craft brewing is something fairly new. Actually it’s as old as the first pioneer settlers in Ontario. We’re not just latching onto a fad; we’re bringing a huge part of our cultural history back, right here in Black Creek Pioneer Village.

Most of the first European settlers in this area were British, and for them ale was a staple.  Beer was nutritious; it was made from readily available ingredients; it was relatively easy to brew, and it was often safer than the water. Roads were terrible in the late 1700s, so for many farmers, using your barley to brew beer  was easier than transporting the grain somewhere else.

Farmers who were good at the art of brewing found they could make money selling ale to their neighbours and travelers, so taverns – often just the front room in the farm house – were widespread in the early 1800s Ontario.

Military garrisons offered a great business opportunity supplying ale to the troops. This is how the first large breweries were established in towns like London and Kingston.

Brewing in Ontario could have remained an English tradition, but as luck would have it, the next waves of immigrants in the 1800s brought new beer styles to the local palate. The Irish brought Irish ales and the Germans introduced lager varieties.

You can read more about the history of brewing in Ontario, by clicking on the History tab above. Remember, when you taste an Ontario craft beer, you are experiencing a piece of our very own history.

Check back next week for more news as the opening of the Black Creek Historic Brewery approaches!


The Black Creek Growler

Brewery Takes Shape as Equipment Arrives

I don’t get a chance to visit the brewery under construction as often as I’d like, so I was happy when Karell sent me these photos. I’m astounded to see how quickly things are moving along.
Great work by the guys at Black Creek in getting the place ready and by those who built the equipment off site. It really is starting to take shape nicely!!

Rick — Beer Lover, and Marketing Manager at Black Creek.