Brews Fest Success

Thanks to everyone who came out and participated in our third Brews Fest at Black Creek Pioneer Village.  Special thanks go out to our breweries, Black Oak, Railway City, Lake of Bays, Trafalgar Ales & Meads, Great Lakes and Cameron’s Brewing.  We had a great weekend, and met some fabulous craft beer enthusiasts.  We also met some people doing interesting things with beer, including soap maker Terry Lynn Empey.  Along with her husband Gino, they run Adelaide’s Bath and Body.  They make wonderful natural soap products using all kinds of ingredients including beer!  You can get her products online.  I also had the chance to talk to Ian Coutts, author of Brew North, a fabulous look at the history of commercial and craft brewing in Canada.  The book is available in most book stores or in our gift shop at Black Creek Pioneer Village.  It’s a great read with lots of pictures and side notes about your favourite breweries!

We were entertained by the always wonderful Brown Ale, and Glen Caradus and company performing as Wishing Well.  New to Black Creek was Bradleyboy, an amazing one man band!  Rounding out our performances were our workshops with music historian Ian Bell, Cheese and pairing expert Julia Rogers, and Beer Lovers’ Tour host Oliver Dawson.

Hope to see you next year at the 4th Annual Brews Fest!

New Brew – Wet Hop Pale Ale

Moments before picking, an hour before brewing!

Well, it was supposed to be a surprise for Brews Fest this weekend, but Ed couldn’t contain himself!  Announcing our one-time only Wet Hop Pale Ale.  Brewed with freshly picked hops grown at Black Creek Pioneer Village, this will be the first beer ever made with the hops grown in the Village!  Traditionally, beer is brewed with hops that have been dried.  Some of the volatile flavours apparent in fresh hops are lost during the drying, packaging and storing process that hops undergo before being sold to breweries.  Our Wet Hop Pale Ale can only be made once a year when the hops are ready for harvesting.  Ed’s hoping the flavours will be floral with hints of citrus, though we really won’t know until we open the cask!  Come down to Brews Fest at the Village on Saturday and Sunday to try this rare beer before it’s all gone!

Hop Harvest Success

Ed picking hops

Ed and I went and picked our hops early Friday morning.  We discovered a few notable things for next year – one being that hops like sun and two being that plants with only two or three bines grow much larger hops than plants with lots of bines.  We were surprised at the size of some of the hops, especially considering that these plants were transplanted this spring.  Some of the bines were producing hops as long as my thumb and bigger around!  The hops from about 4 plants were enough for a single brew.  This year we’re going to use the majority wet and look into drying and storing for next year.  

Hops in hand!

As a side note, one of our gardening volunteers, Carol, walked by us picking and told us there was a huge bine over by the Doctor’s House.  We hadn’t been over there in a while, and sure enough there was a massive hop bine that had taken over the fence and grown up a nearby Birch.  I think Ed is right in calling it by it’s colloquial name “Wolfweed” as left to their own devices, the hop bines would certainly stangle and kill any nearby plants they could wrap their tendrils around!

New Brew – Maple Brown Ale

Fall Leaves at Black Creek

Ed is brewing up a storm in the cooler weather.  The leaves are beginning to turn at the Village and it’s inspired Ed to brew a Maple Brown Ale using beautiful C grade Maple Syrup produced in Ontario.  While C grade syrup may make you think it’s lower quality, it’s actually the best for brewing as it is dark, and highly flavourful.  Ed is hoping to get a Brown Ale with a hint of maple in the finish and aroma.  This brew will be available in the brewery beginning on Friday, September 17th, 2010.  September 18th is Black Creek’s 54th Annual Pioneer Festival, and one of our busiest days, so if you’re interested in trying this brew, Friday and Saturday the 17th and 18th are your best bet!

Brew’s Fest at Black Creek Pioneer Village

Celebrating Ontario’s brewing heritage and today’s craft breweries, Black Creek Pioneer Village is presenting Brews Fest on September 25th &26th.  Enjoy various beer samples, watch demonstrations and listen to great music.  As an additional bonus, Black Creek Historic Brewery will be providing samples and selling growlers of a brew made specially for Brews Fest, and only available while supplies last!  You’ll have to come out to find out what Ed’s got up his sleeve!

*News Flash*  Ken over at Black Oak Brewing is also working on a top secret brew to be unveiled at Brews Fest.   All we know is that it is something Black Oak has never brewed before and that it is rumoured to be “totally refreshing” and guaranteed to “leave your palate clean”.  Come out to this great event and get in on the secret!

For more info on Brews Fest click here.  To visit Ken at Black Oak click here

History Byte – Getting Ready for the Hops harvest!


Hops grown at Black Creek Pioneer Village, almost ready for harvest!

Our hops have been growing rapidly over the last month and are almost ready to harvest (thanks Louis!) Harvest time was a busy time for everyone, but especially for hop growers. Harvesting usually began on the 1st of September in England and the United States, and about two weeks later in Canada. Pickers were primarily women and children. Large wooden bins, 12 feet long and 3 feet wide were divided into four equal compartments. The hop vines were cut about three feet up from the ground, the poles were pulled up and laid across the bin which allowed four people to pick at the same time. The bin was then moved to the next pole, and the pole was cleaned and put away for the winter.

Early 20th Century hop pickers from Delaware County, New York. Image from Davenport, Fact and Fancy by Mary S. Briggs available at

The average picker could pick two boxes a day and wages in the US in the 1870s averaged 30-40 cents a box. After picking, the hops had to be dried before they began to ferment and decompose. Prior to 1852, Canada didn’t grow enough hops to export and actually imported 37 653 lbs in 1850. By 1852 production was improving, with a yield of 224 222lbs. By 1869 they were producing enough hops to export 411 842 lbs with a market value of 46 898 pounds! For a first hand account of hops production around the world, check out this awesome resource available thanks to google books!

Event – Late Harvest Beer and Cheese Tasting

If you love beer and cheese, don’t miss our next pairing event, with new cheese and beer selections, which will be taking place on Friday, September 10th, 2010. Hosted by the wonderful Julia Rogers, the Late Harvest Beer and Cheese tasting will celebrate the season’s bounty with a flight of rustic ales and farmstead cheeses. $30 per person, $27 for members (plus taxes). Call 416-667-6284 for tickets.