Opening Weekend at Black Creek Pioneer Village

May 1st is almost here and Black Creek Pioneer Village is getting ready to throw open it’s doors for another great season!  Beginning Sunday, May 1st, Black Creek Pioneer Village and the Black Creek Historic Brewery will be open from 11am-5pm weekends and 9:30am-4:00pm on weekdays.  Our Brewmaster Ed will be in brewing on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season, so stop by and visit, take a tour and grab a growler!

The ‘Other’ Don Brewery

Don Brewery, 1820 from "Landmarks of Toronto" by John Ross Robertson, 1894
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Don Brewery – the one operated by Thomas Davies at Queen West and River street.  Today, I’ve been researching the original Don Brewery, located in the valley along the Don river adjacent to the current site of Todmorden Mills.  Aaron and Isiah Skinner were granted land in the Don Valley for the purpose of erecting a lumber mill to supply the growing the city.  By 1795, the mill was complete and the area was ripe for the construction of other mills. 
In 1811, in Todmorden, England, a young woman named Elizabeth Helliwell married John Eastwood.  The couple emigrated to the community of Niagara in Canada in 1815.  Hearing of the success of his daughter and son-in-law, Thomas Helliwell, a well respected builder and miller in Todmorden England, made the decision to uproot his family and move them to Canada in 1818.  After operating a store and distillery in Lundy’s Lane, Niagara, John Eastwood and Thomas Helliwell formed a partnership and purchased land from Colin Skinner in 1820.  On the banks of the Don River, they built a gristmill, brewery, malthouse and a distillery under the name of the Don Brewery.  For unknown reasons, the partnership between Helliwell and his son in law, John Eastwood, was dissolved in 1823.  John formed a partnership with Colin Skinner to develop and run a series of mills (including a paper mill, tin mill, flour mill, and sharpening mill).  Thomas’ other daughter married Colin Skinner, further strengthening the bonds between the three families.  The three families had so many mills operating on the Don that the area came to be known as the Don Mills. 
Thomas Helliwell continued to operate the brewery with the help of his eldest son, Thomas Jr. until his death in 1823.  The brewery was left to Thomas’ five sons.  By all accounts the brewery was quite successful.  They sold their beer and other products out of a shop in Market Square on Front street.  William Helliwell was sent to England to learn the Brewers’ trade in 1832 and upon his return, he took over the day-to-day operations of the brewery.  After marrying, he built nearby Helliwell House (now part of the Todmorden Mill’s Heritage Complex) in 1838 to house his growing family.  Charles Helliwell, youngest son of Thomas Helliwell Sr. entered business with his nephews, John and Daniel Eastwood to run their late father’s business, Eastwood & Co. which had grown to include the York Paper Mills (which included premises to print and bookbind) and a retail business for books, paper and stationary with outlets in Toronto and Hamilton.
The Globe and Mail, January 13th, 1847
Things ran smoothly for the family until January 10th, 1847 when a devestating fire broke out, destroying the brewery, and nearly claiming the lives of the brewery workers who lived onsite.  The insurance covered only £1 000  of an estimated £16 000 in damages.  All that was saved was 50 barrels of flour from the grist mill.  The machinery was damaged beyond saving and the brewery was never rebuilt.  The partnership between the brothers was dissolved and the remaining interest in the property was sold to the Taylor family in 1855. 
As an interesting aside, Henry Scadding, a pioneer of Toronto and noted historian of the period, mentions that the roads around the Don Mills were so bad, that they were often impassable.  In order to get their perishable beer to market across the Don River, the Helliwell’s would employ a local hermit-squatter named Joseph Tyler and his famous canoe to transport their beer across the river.  The canoe was so large it could hold 22 barrels, in two rows of eleven each with room for Tyler and another person! (“Toronto of Old”, Henry Scadding, 1873)

News and Reviews on our Pale Ale

Black Creek Historic Brewery’s Pale Ale launched in the LCBO late last month, and the reviews are beginning to come in.  Slavster over at What I Drink At Home enjoyed it so much he gave it a 9 out 10 and there’s been a lot of buzz over at the Bar Towel where members have been reviewing the beer here.  Check out what some of our fans have to say, and let us know what you think!

The Don Brewery

Don Brewery - 1877 - Illustrated historical atlas of the county of York, 1878

The massive Don Brewery was located on the west bank of the Don River, north of Queen St. West and east of River Street.  We’re not sure when the original brewery was built, but we’re looking into it!  We know Thomas Davies is listed as the proprietor and brewer of the Don Brewery as early as 1850, and that he leased the original brewery from William and Robert Parks .  A major renovation – possibly a total demolition of the original brewery – occurred in 1876-77.

Ad from the Ontario Gazetteer, 1869

  The Don Brewery was a real family affair, staying in the family until the late 1880s.  After Thomas passed, his sons took over the business and continued manufacturing their brand of Sparkling Cream XX & XXX Ale, in both pale ale and porter varieties.  Their brewery was notable for a few reasons, one was the immense size of the complex, the second was that the brewery was the first brewery in Canada to be hooked up to the city waterworks.  By 1892, the Don complex consisted of three main buildings, a massive ice house, a large malting floor with kilns and a bottling run in the basement and an attached three-story building that housed a lager beer tun room in the basement, a

Don Brewery 1877 J. Timperlake, Illustrated Toronto

bottling plant on the main floor, fermenting tuns on the second floor and the ice house on the third floor. 

Malthouse Lofts at Old Brewery Lane from

 The Davies’ family also owned a home on the south-west corner of the property.  The London & Colonial Financial Company purchased the Davies’s brewery in 1889 for $1 200 000, a massive amount for the time.  The brewery continued to operate until the 1930s.  Parts of the brewery still exist in and around Old Brewery Lane in Regent Park.  The Malthouse Lofts at 39 Old Brewery Lane was, surprise surprise, the original malthouse built in 1876.  Can you see the resemblance?  The Lager Brewery building still You can check out more pictures of the Malthouse Lofts at  Matthew Borrett over at has written a fabulous article about the history of the Davies’ house that was located on the SW corner of the brewery property.  You can check it out here!