New Brew – Maple Porter

In honour of Canada Day on Sunday Ed is brewing up a special beer.  He’s making an oh-so-Canadian Maple Porter using locally made maple syrup!  Ed is expecting a deep mahogany brown beer with subtle chocolate notes complimented by a hint of maple syrup.  This special brew will be available only at the historic brewery at Black Creek Pioneer Village beginning on Canada Day – July 1st as long as supplies last. 

Recipes for maple beers are not very common in the Victorian period, but they certainly existed.  Once such recipe appeared in the Young Housekeeper’s Friend in 1846.

Maple Beer Recipe from Young Housekeeper’s Friend. Image from Google Books

Maple molasses is simply maple sap boiled until it reaches the consistency of molasses, thicker than syrup, but not boiled down to sugar crystals.  This recipe calls for neither barley nor hops, but many recipes did.  A recipe for maple beer that appeared in The Balance, and Columbian repository, Volume 4, a magazine from 1805, notes that malt or bran may be added to the beer.  In The Backwoods of Canada,  Catherine Parr Traill’s maple beer recipe called for no barley, but she saw hops as an essential ingredient.  Recipes for maple vinegar were quite common in the early 1800s when commercially produced vinegar was expensive and hard to obtain in the backwoods of Canada.  Housewives and brewers would have had to be careful when brewing beer and vinegar in the same household, as the yeast that makes vinegar is different from the yeast that makes beer, though they act on the same principle ingredients.  The brewer would have to be careful or everything he or she brewed would turn to vinegar!

So, come celebrate Canada Day at Black Creek Pioneer Village on Sunday and stop by our historic brewery to pick up a bottle of Maple Porter!

History Byte – Care for a Cocktail?

Jerry Thomas demonstrating his famous Blue Blazer.
“How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion” New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, Publishers, 1862. pg. 77.

Are you a fan of mixed drinks?  If so, you have Jerry Thomas to thank!  Jerry Thomas was an American bartender who popularized and revolutionized mixed drinks in North America.  He was known for his flashy showmanship, including the “Blue Blazer” a flaming whiskey drink he invented.  His work “How to Mix Drinks” was the first bartender’s guide published in the United States and includes recipes for many drinks that had not been previously published.  But why are we at The Black Creek Growler talking about the cocktail king?  Because he also made mixed beer drinks!  I’ve included a few of his recipes below from his seminal work “How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion” which was first published in 1862. 

129. Ale Sangaree (Sangaree is an old spelling of what we now call sangria)(Use a large bar glass)                     
1 teaspoonful of sugar, dissolved in a tablespoonful of water.  Fill the tumbler with ale, and grate nutmeg on top.

148. Egg Flip         
Put a quart of ale in a tinned saucepan on the fire to boil; in the mean time, beat up the yolks of four, with the whites of two eggs, adding four table-spoonfuls of brown sugar and a little nutmeg; pour on the ale by dgrees, beating up, so as to prevent the mixture from curdling; then pour back and forth repeatedly from vessel to vessel, raising the hand to as great a height as possible – which process produces the smoothness and frothing essential to the good quality of the flip.  This is excellent for a cold, and, from its fleecy appearance, is sometimes designated: a yard of flannel.

This is not a mixed beer drink – but is one of Jerry’s ‘signature’ cocktails – it sounds like a unique beverage!
174. Tom and Jerry    
(use punch-bowl for the mixture.)         
5 lbs. sugar.  
12 eggs.     
1/2 small glass of Jamaica rum.                    
1 1/2 teaspoonful of ground cinnamon.                   
1/2   do.   do.   cloves.                  
1/2   do.   do.   allspice.       
Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and the yolks until they are as thin as water, then mix together and add the spice and rum, thicken with sugar until the mixture attains the consistency of a light batter.                                                                                                                   
To deal out Tom and Jerry to customers:  Take a small bar glass, and to one table-spoonful of the above mixture, add one wine-glass of brandy, and fill the glass with boiling water, grate a little nutmeg on top.

Eggs aren’t something you’d find behind most bars today, but they were integral ingredients in many recipes in the 19th century.  If you happen to give one of these a go, report back to us and let us know how it tasted! reviews the Rifleman’s Ration took time out of their busy schedule to review two historic beers coming out to celebrate the bicentennial of the war of 1812 – one of which is our Rifleman’s Ration.  The second brew is Royal George Brown Ale produced by Barley Days Brewery, a fellow Ontario Craft Brewer located in Picton Ontario.  Their brew commemorates the HMS Royal George, a 20 gun wooden ship under British command that sailed Lake Ontario during the war.  While we haven’t had a chance to try their new brew (it was released yesterday, June 18th, on the exact bicentennial of the official declaration of war by the Americans) we’re sure it’s fabulous.  To check out the full review, click here.

New Brew – Spruce Beer

This weekend, to celebrate our Battle of Black Creek Revolutionary War Re-enactment, Ed has brewed up a batch of Spruce Beer.  Spruce Beer was known to prevent and cure scurvy, a scourge of mariners and soldiers alike, prior to the 19th century.  Scurvy was recognized as a disease caused by a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, but it wasn’t understood to be caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C until 1932!  Thus, while soldiers and sailors didn’t know that spruce was an excellent source of Vitamin C or why Spruce Beer kept scurvy at bay, they did know it was good for what ailed them!  In North America, Spruce Beer was brewed in the home and on the march.  Spruce Beer was on order for the “Health and Conveniency of the Troops” under the command of British General Amherst in North America in 1759.  He also authorized sutlers (merchants who travelled alongside the military) to brew as much as they desired to add to the supply (for more information about General Amherst’s forays in North America; check out his general orders to the troops, published in Commissary Wilson’s orderly book, available online here).  His personal recipe is preserved in his journal, published by his descendents in the 1930s.

General Amherst’s Spruce Beer Recipe

Take 7 pounds of good spruce & boil it well till the bark peels off, then take the spruce out & put three Gallons of Molasses to the Liquor & boil it again, scum it well as it boils, then take it out the kettle & put it into a cooler, boil the remained of the water sufficient for a Barrel of thirty Gallons, if the kettle is not large enough to boil it together, when milkwarm in the Cooler put a pint of Yeast into it and mix well.  Then put it into a Barrel and let it work for two or three days, keep filling it up as it works out.  When done working, bung it up with a Tent Peg in the Barrel to give it vent every now and then.  It may be used in up to two or three days after.  If wanted to be bottled it should stand a fortnight in the Cask.  It will keep a great while. – Journal of General Jeffrey Amherst

Ed’s brew uses barley and molasses from a later recipe, that was designed to produce a more palatable beer.  Ed describes the beer produced by the above recipe as tasting like “drinking turpentine mixed with Vicks”.  For those of you unfamiliar with Vicks, it’s an ointment with a powerful smell caused by two main ingredients – camphor and menthol.  By our time period – the 1860s – Spruce Beer was still being made, but often with additional ingredients such as oils of sassafras, wintergreen, ginger and substantially less spruce.  Recipes usually called for spruce oil, or essence of spruce – that is previously boiled and distilled spruce oil that could be purchased from the store – and less spruce oil than any other ingredient.  Ed has tried to recreate the ‘hint of spruce’ style that was popular in the 1860s in this brew.  Ed describes the brew as a complex Brown Ale with hints of pine, smoke, treacle (molasses) and oak.  Ed’s Spruce Beer will only be available at Black Creek Pioneer Village (not in the LCBO), and will be ready for sale beginning this Friday, June 15th, 2012.  Why not celebrate Father’s Day by dropping by the Village and checking out the Battle of Black Creek and picking up a growler of Spruce Beer to take home!