The leaves are changing, the nights are getting cooler, and the kids are back in school. Fall is here, which means that it’s time for some autumnal beers!
Our latest offering in the brewery is a new brew for us: Ed has crafted a Sweet Potato Ale. Sweet potatoes have been a hot trend in recent years, but this is the first time we’ve tried using them in our ales. The high starch content of the sweet potato makes it a good addition to the mash – much of that starch will turn into a fermentable sugar, which the yeast just love. Besides being delicious, sweet potatoes are also full of beta carotene and fibre, not to mention vitamins A and C.
The sweet potato is a New World vegetable; archaeological research in Peru has uncovered remnants nearly 10,000 years old! It was also grown in Polynesia and eventually made its way to New Zealand, where the Māori called it the kumara. Christopher Columbus introduced the sweet potato to Europe at the turn of the sixteenth century, and they were widely consumed in the colonial United States. In fact, it ranked second only to the “Irish” (white) potato among American vegetable crops.
For those who love our Pumpkin Ale (also up for release shortly!), the Sweet Potato Ale is very similar. It’s a lovely orange-amber colour, reminiscent of…well, sweet potatoes! Sweet notes balance well with cloves, cinnamon, and other spices to make a mellow, harvest-themed beer. Come join us for a sample; we’d love to have you. 🙂
PS. Note that sweet potatoes and yams are actually different vegetables! The sweet potato has tapered ends and paler flesh, while the yam is moister, and a darker orange colour. Both, however, are delicious.
A Spirited Affair is on the horizon! We’re less than two weeks away from our fundraising event featuring beer, wine, and whisky. Come join us as we step back in time to the 1860s! Dodge the Temperance advocate, sample fantastic food and drink, and then leap forward to the 1920s where we’ll dance the night away (and enjoy more fantastic food and drink)!
But there’s a serious cause alongside our celebration. The Spirited Affair is a fundraiser, directly impacting a restoration campaign called “Explore History – Build a Better Future.” This campaign was launched by the Living History Foundation with support from the Toronto Region Conversation Authority. This year, we are focusing on the much-needed restoration of Flynn House.
The Flynn House is one of my favourite buildings at Black Creek. Built in 1858 and originally located on Yonge Street in North York, it was the home of Daniel Flynn and his family. Daniel Flynn was a shoemaker who emigrated to Canada from Ireland. His boot and shoe shop is also located at Black Creek Pioneer Village, standing just around the corner from the home.
The Flynn House is unique. It is the only building in the village that shows how a tradesman’s family would have lived. The building’s rectangular façade reveals that home and shop were originally connected. The Flynn House also provides a unique opportunity to discuss the experience of new arrivals to “the Canadas.”
The Flynn family was of Irish origin. The Irish formed the single largest immigrant group in nineteenth century Canada and many immigrants were among the working class, traveling to the colonies in hopes of building a better life. The Great Famine (1845-1851) spurred even greater emigration from Ireland. In “Black ’47,” 38,560 Irish refugees arrived in Toronto – which at the time had a population of just 20,000. Many of these Irish immigrants continued their journey to the United States, but those who remained formed a vital source of urban labour during Toronto’s economic boom of the 1850s-60s.
There are few other opportunities at Black Creek to explore this vital chapter of Toronto’s history. Stories like the Flynns’ not only highlight the conditions of the working class, but also the ways in which Canadian history has been shaped by the experiences and contributions of new Canadians.
The Flynn House has had virtually no maintenance for several years and was shut to the public in 2010. Without this much-needed restoration, its decline will continue.
So, come out for an unforgettable evening of food, drink, music, and dance – and raise a glass to Daniel Flynn!
Our Spirited Affair fundraising event is rapidly approaching – it’s just over two weeks away! The Spirited Affair promises to be spirited indeed. This night won’t be just about beer (though of course, we do like our beer) – we’re also hosting wineries and distilleries, which means that wine and whisky will be flowing as well!
The Victorians weren’t exclusionary when it came to their tastes in alcohol. Rye whisky was quite common, particularly in the early days of the colony. However, down in the brewery, we tend to get questions about nineteenth century wine.
In nineteenth century Ontario, wine tended to be a bit more expensive and thus drunk less than beer and spirits. Although Ontario now has a thriving wine industry, this wasn’t always the case. This wasn’t entirely an issue of climate: southern Ontario sits at the same latitude as southern France (specifically the regions of Provence and Languedoc). However, the native grapes that flourish in Ontario tend to produce a “foxy” (musty) wine, less fine than the wine produced by European grapes.
So, naturally, aspiring winemakers imported European vines. While grapes native to Ontario thrived, the European vines struggled with humid summers that left them vulnerable to disease and harsh winters that damaged young vines. As such, most wine drunk in Ontario continued to be imported. Initially, this wine came from Europe, until the aphid Phylloxera vastatrix (an invasive species from North America) devastated vineyards across the continent. Wine production in the United States, particularly in California, then increased in response to the shortage of European grapes.
One of the first documented vineyards in Ontario was established in 1811 by a retired German corporal named Johann Schiller. Settling in Cooksville (Mississauga), he fermented wild grapes and sold the finished product to his neighbours. The first commercial winery (Schiller was selling, but not at a commercial scale) was founded in 1866 on Pelee Island. By the end of the century, there were as many as thirty-five wineries in Ontario. However, after Prohibition ended in 1927, a moratorium on new wineries saw this number decrease to six by 1974.
Victorians could usually find a reason to drink beer: as a medicine, a social beverage, a thirst-quencher, or a fortifier. Wine tended to be reserved for meals – and rather more elaborate ones at that. In meals with multiple courses, wine was served at the end of each course. After the fish course, the man seated to the right of the hostess could ask if she would take wine with him, thus beginning the libations. Otherwise, servants poured wine suitable for each course.
In upper-class homes, the wine cellar fell under the responsibility of the butler. He kept the keys, advised his master on the quality and price of his wines, and handled the inventory personally, noting every bottle in his “cellar book.”
Wine could be drunk directly, or it could be mixed with other drinks. Fortified wines, in which wine was augmented with brandy or other liquors, were common. Sherry and Madeira was drunk as an aperitifs and/or dessert wines, while port was solely drunk after dinner, and predominantly by men. Mulled wine, or negus, was also common, particularly during cold Canadian winters! The Cook Not Mad, a Canadian cookbook published in 1831, gives the following recipe for mulled wine:
Boil spice in a little water till the flavour is gained,
then add an equal quantity of port, Madeira, or sherry, some sugar and nutmeg;
boil together, and serve with toast.
(The Cook Not Mad)
If you’d like to taste the vibrancy of today’s Ontario wines, there’s still time to purchase a ticket for our Spirited Affair! Come have a drink with us, and then dance the night away!