New Brew – Maple Porter

In honour of Canada Day on Monday, 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!

Ed also wanted to let his public know that he is taking the stout and porter off the regular brew schedule for the next little while and substituting it with a historically brewed version of Montgomery’s Courage Rye Pale Ale (a RyePA as the geeks call it!)  For those who enjoy our commercially brewed Montgomery’s Courage, it’s an opportunity to try the exact same recipe, brewed 1860s style for comparison.  We’ll let you know when the first batch becomes available.

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

Guest Blogger – Katie Bryski – A Beer Pioneer: Susannah Oland and Moosehead

Susannah Oland.  Image from
Susannah Oland. Image from

Beer is integral to the Canadian identity. Names of brewers footnote the pages of Canadian history: John Molson, George Sleeman, Alexander Keith, John Carling, Eugene O’Keefe…

And Susannah Oland.

Susannah Oland was the driving force behind what would eventually become Moosehead. As such, she is not only the sole major female commercial brewer in nineteenth century Canada, but also the only major Canadian brewer whose brewery remained fully Canadian-owned to the present day.

In 1865, Susannah emigrated from England to Canada with her husband John and their nine children. Upon arriving in Nova Scotia, John worked for the railway, while Susannah minded their children and brewed her signature Brown October Ale in the backyard. Impressed by her brew, friends encouraged the Olands to go into business, and by 1867, John and Susannah had established The Army and Navy Brewery. Situated on twelve acres in Turtle Cove, on the east side of the Halifax harbour, they ran a brisk business – local soldiers and sailors proved dependable customers, with a definite taste for Susannah’s ale!

However, tragedy struck just three years later. In 1870, John died in a riding accident, leaving Susannah to raise their children alone. Financial difficulties left her no choice but to sell the majority of shares in The Army and Navy Brewery, thus losing control temporarily. However, Susannah possessed both determination and solid business sense. Upon receiving an inheritance from a family member in 1877, she returned to the beer world by forming a brewery of her own: S. Oland, Sons and Co. (the use of her initial was another canny business move – she wanted to hide the fact that a woman ran the brewery!).

The Olands’ brewery survived two fires, and by the time Susannah died in 1886, her sons had become proficient brewers in their own right. After her death, her sons John Jr., Conrad, and George took over the brewery, renaming it the Maritime Malting and Brewing Co. It was not the last time the name would be changed, nor the last tragedy. The brewery survived the Halifax Explosion in 1917, Prohibition, and two World Wars, adopting several new monikers along the way. It finally became Moosehead Breweries Ltd in 1947, after the popularity of its Moosehead Pale Ale.

Through it all, the Oland family remained; they’re currently on their sixth generation! Where Sleeman, Molson, Labatt, and the others have passed into international partnership, Moosehead alone remains wholly Canadian. A fitting legacy, perhaps, for Canada’s only major brewmistress!

New Brew – Spruce Beer

battleBCThis weekend, to celebrate our Battle of Black Creek Revolutionary War Re-enactment, Ed has brewed up a batch of Spruce Beer.  Colonial soldiers learned from the First Nations peoples that spruce could 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.  Molasses, a source of both fermentable and unfermentable sugars, with a burnt sugar flavour similar to malt, could replace barley when soldiers were far from farmlands or when grain supplies were low. 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. This year, he’s using an organic blackstrap molasses – very exciting! Ed’s Spruce Beer will only be available at BlackCreekPioneerVillage (not in the LCBO), and will be ready for sale beginning this Friday, June 15th, 2013.  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!

Hoppy Drinking! – Guest Post by Black Creek Beer Expert, Katie Bryski

Over the next little while our own Katie Bryski, Beer Expert at Black Creek Pioneer Village, will be supplying us with guest blogs on a variety of beer related topics.  Katie has been working at the Village in a variety of roles over the past few years and is a published author to boot!  Enjoy!

Can you imagine beer without hops?

Today, hops – the flowers of the Humulus lupus plant – are inextricably linked to beer and the brewing process. The small, pine cone-like flowers act as both a flavouring and preserving agent. Not only do they give beer its distinctively bitter taste, they help keep beer from spoiling: highly important in periods before artificial refrigeration!

 While Victorians (like us) expected hopped beer, the earliest brewers didn’t use them at all. The first record of hops as a flavouring agent doesn’t appear until the 9th century. Given that beer has been brewed for almost seven thousand years, hops are a relatively late addition! Early medieval brewers flavoured their beer with gruit: a mixture of yarrow, bog myrtle (also known as sweet gale) and marsh rosemary. While gruit helped flavour beer, it lacked hops’ preserving qualities, which meant that beer’s “shelf life” was quite short – brewers tended to brew for personal or immediate consumption, rather than for export.

Bohemian towns experimented with and eventually perfected hopped beer by the 13th century, but the issue of hopped versus unhopped beer was more than a matter of taste. It was a political issue as well! Production of gruit was a privilege bestowed by the local lord or archbishop; granting permission to make gruit was thus an important source of income for them. Brewing with hops meant that brewers no longer needed to seek this permission, which meant a loss of revenue for the lords!

The English distinguished between unhopped “ale” and hopped “beer.” Similar to their Victorian descendents, they were fiercely protective of their national drink; hops were banned in England until about 1600. As Englishman Andrew Boorde wrote in 1542:

Ale for an Englysshe man is a naturall drinke… Beere is made of malte, of hoppes, and water; it is a naturall drynke for a doche [Dutch] man, and nowe of late dayes it is moche vsed in Englande to the detryment of many Englysshe men … (from Ale Brewing in Late Medieval and Early Tudor Times)

 But palates adapted, and the benefits of hopped beer quickly became clear. Thanks to the preservation afforded by hops, beer lasted longer, and so could be brewed in larger quantities and exported further away. Without hops, brewing might never have developed beyond its roots as a small, home-based industry.

 While wild hops spread like wildfire, by the nineteenth century hop farming had become a thriving industry, with specific hops strains cultivated for certain flavours. In Canada, hop-pickers could be paid 30 cents per box of hops. Boxes held about thirteen pounds, and an expert picker could fill two per day.

 The use of compacted hop pellets was developed by New Zealand’s University of Otago in the late twentieth century, but in Black Creek’s Historic Brewery, Ed uses hops just as the Victorians did, adding whole dried flowers to the sweet wort during the boil. If you’d like to taste our hops at their best, try some of our India Pale Ale. The distinctively bitter, grapefruit-like taste comes from the hops. More specifically, Ed uses a combination of Chinook, Nugget, and Citra hops, all of which are noted for their fresh floral and/or citrus-y characters. And after you’ve sipped some IPA, take a wander behind Laskay’s Emporium to see our very own hops. This feisty climbing vine is small now, but will have achieved some impressive height by the time of our Hop Harvest in the fall.

Hoppy drinking!


History Byte – Beer Pudding Anyone?

Next time you host a dinner party and serve Ale Sangaree’s, why not serve a Beer Bishop for dessert?  Known as Kaltschalen in their native Germany, beer puddings became popular in England and North America towards the end of the 19th century with the waves of German immigrants and introduction of German style beers.  Kaltschalen were sometimes known as ‘bishops’ in the English language and were a type of cold soup consisting of fruit, bread and usually (but not always!) alcohol.  One such recipe is for the Beer Bishop, from The Flowing Bowl: When and What to Drink by William Schmidt – published in 1891.

Pumpernickel is grated on a grater and put in a tureen; mix with it one-fourth of a pound of powdered sugar, one-fourth of a pound of choice raisins, a teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon, an unpeeled lemon, cut in pieces without the seeds; add a quart of white beer or lager(Franziskaner), and serve.

Though described as a soup, the bread quickly absorbs the beer creating a texture more akin to a pudding.  The white beer mentioned in the recipe refers to beers brewed with wheat alongside the barley malt.  Franziskaner beer is a wheat beer brewed in Munich, Germany.  While this recipe is not for the gluten intolerant, it is a tasty, albeit different kind of dessert on a hot day.  Black Creek Historic Brewery does not currently have a wheat beer in production, so try Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery’s 416 Urban Wheat as a substitute!