Event – Late Harvest Beer and Cheese Tasting – Sept 21

Join us on Wednesday, September 21st to celebrate the season’s bounty with a flight of rustic ales and farmstead cheeses from Ontario and Quebec.  Join expert Julia Rogers of Cheese Culture and treat yourself to a rich journey into the delicious world of cheese.  Guests will sample five Canadian cheese varieties each paired with a selected Canadian craft beer, along with our popular fresh-baked bread.  This enjoyable evening includes a guided tour of the brewery.  The event begins at 7:00pm and tickets must be pre-purchased.

$30 per person, $27 for members (plus taxes). Call 416-667-6284 for tickets.

HEADLINE 1853 “A Man Smothered in Malt at Sheffield”

While doing research on Toronto’s Don Brewery, I stumbled upon an article that had been posted by Chris Hobbs on his family geneaology page.  While researching his ancestors, he found this rather interesting article in the The Manchester Guardian about an accident that happened at the Don brewery, Shalesmoor near Sheffield, England.  The article is dated Wednesday 13th April 1853.  The headline reads “A Man Smothered in Malt at Sheffield”, the body of the article is transcribed below.

A singular and fatal accident occurred early on Tuesday morning the 5th inst at the Don brewery, Shalesmoor.  The floor of a chamger, containing upwards of 200 quarters of malt, gave away in consequence of one of the beams snapping asunder, and a large portion of the contents were precipitated into an open shed beneath.  The accident is supposed to have taken place about four o’clock in the morning.  Soon afterwards Mr. Redfearn, (Smith, Redfearn & Co.) was apprised of the accident, and on going into the shed he was surprised to see the legs of a man protruding from the outer edge of the malt, the upper part of the body being covered with malt.  Life was quite extinct when the body was removed.  It was conveyed to the New Inn, and there identified as that of James Johnson, a single man, aged 26.  He was last seen alive late on Monday evening, being then in a state of intoxication.  He appeared to have gond to lie down in this shed, and was asleep when the floor fell, and covered him with the malt.  Stupified with drink, he was unable to rouse himself, else a slight exertion on his part would have been sufficient to rescue him.  The occurrence was investigated by the coroner on Tuesday evening, and a verdict of “Accidental death” returned. – Sheffield Independent.

 A quarter of malt is a standard 336lbs (barley quarters weigh 448lbs) which means there was approximately 33.6 tonnes of malt on the floor when it collapsed on the unsuspecting James Johnson.  Well, that’s one way to go!

“To Sweeten Stinking or Musty Casks”

Rolling Machine for Large Casks, circa 1882

A great enemy of the Victorian brewery (and the modern brewery that brews with wooden barrels!) was soured barrels.  Barrels that are not thoroughly cleaned and sterilized between brews can become infected with microbes which will lead to stinky skunky beer!  This was an ongoing issue in brewhouses and I came across a discussion of methods of ‘sweenting stinking or musty casks” in MacKenzie’s Five Thousand Receipts which was published in Philadelphia in 1851.  Google books has a copy from 1853 available online here.  The author, Colin MacKenzie has the following options available for those interested in cleaning out their skunky beer barrels

To sweeten stinking or musty casks. Make a strong lye of ash, beech, or other hard wood-ashes, and pour it, boiling hot, into the bunghole, repeating it as often as there is occasion.

Or, fill the cask with boiling water, and then put into it some pieces of unslaked stone-lime, keeping up the ebullation for half an hour.  Then bung it down, and let it remain until almost cold, when turn it out.

Or, mix bay-salt with boiling water, and pour it into the cask, which bung down, and leave it to soak.

Or, if the copper be provided with a dome, and a steam pipe from its top, pass the steam into the casks. 

Or, unhead the cask, scrub it out, head it again; put some powdered charcoal into the bung-hole, and two quarts of a mixture of oil of vitriol and cold water.  Then bung it tight, and roll and turn the cask for some time.  Afterwards wash it well, and drain it dry. 

Or, take out the head, and brush the inside with oil of vitriol, afterwards wash it, then burn a slip of brown paper steeped in brimstone within the bung-hole, and stop it close for two hours, when it should be well washed with hot water.

For those unfamiliar with 19th century terminology, oil of vitriol is sulfuric acid, bay-salt is sea salt, unslaked stone lime is the caustic quicklime of today and brimstone is an alternative name for sulfur.  Not particularly nice stuff to be working with.  He does mention one method  of sterilization that may be considered ‘organic’ though perhaps rather unsavoury!

Collect fresh cow dung and dilute it with water, in which four pounds of salt and one of common alum are dissolved.  Let these be boiled together, and poured hot into the barrel, which must then be bunged and well shaken.  This operation should be performed several times, taking care to rinse the cask out every time, with clean water.

I can see Mrs. MacKenzie telling Colin in no uncertain terms, that he had better find a different pot to boil his cow dung disinfectant in, because it wasn’t going in her pudding pot!  I suspect that particular recipe might also impart some interesting flavours into beers brewed in that barrel.  By the mid 1860s many breweries were beginning to convert to steam power and with it came the added bonus of high-temperature steam available to disinfect barrels with high pressure boiling water between brews.

So next time you have a sip of beer, give a silent hurrah for steam power and be glad that Colin’s recipe for cow poo sanitizer never became the industry standard!



Raspberry Porter now available

Ed dropped by to let me know the Raspberry Porter is now available for purchase at Black Creek Historic Brewery located in beautiful Black Creek Pioneer Village.  This limited edition brew is sold by the Growler (approx 2L) and is only available at Black Creek.  It’s still a young brew, but already it has lovely notes of fruit, bittersweet chocolate and coffee.  Growlers are $16 ($4.00 of the $16.00 is refundable deposit on the growler itself).