Great Galloping Growlers!

Our growlers are one of the most distinctive features of our historic brewery. Our gorgeous glass vessels fill our fridges and stand proudly along our bar. But what exactly is a growler? According to the Encyclopaedia of Brewing, a growler is

“[a] beer container usually made from glass or ceramics and a capacity of about 2L. They are designed for consumption of draught beer ‘carry-outs’ and associated mainly with the United States and Canada…The containers are fitted with a closure, typically a screw or hinged cap. Many bear specific branding. They have proliferated with the growth of the craft brewing segment” (Christopher Boulton, ed. Encyclopaedia of Brewing, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., 2013, p. 288).

That description certainly matches our growlers. Essentially, growlers provide a means of enjoying draught beer at home, and give small breweries a more feasible means of bottling their product. After all, we bottle everything by hand – we couldn’t do it if we used 500 mL bottles!


Our growler.
Our growler.

There is considerable debate regarding the etymology of the term “growler.” Early growlers looked nothing like our sleek glass jugs. Rather, they were galvanized or enamel pails, covered with a lid. According to one story, when the CO2 escaped from beneath the lid, it emitted a rumbling or “growling” sound.

The original growlers (courtesy

Now, our naturally carbonated beer is quite flat by modern standards. It’s difficult to imagine that there is enough CO2 in our beer to create such an effect (and remember, we’re striving to recreate a mid-Victorian beer). However, it is important to note that growlers were more prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By this time, artificially carbonated beers were more common – perhaps the beer carried in these early growlers was more carbonated than the earlier style we brew at Black Creek.

Indeed, carbonation lies behind another explanation for the term “growler.” Apparently, when filling the growler, some brewers strove for more head to fill extra space, thus giving their customers less beer than they had paid for. The “growling” therefore refers to the resulting conflict between sellers and customers! In a 1909 Virginia law register, one brewer was indicted for doing just that. There was a statute prohibiting the sale of beer in quantities less than five gallons. He had been selling beer in five-gallon containers, but counting the foam. The register decided:

“…gas is an aeriform fluid but not a fluid…the measurement intended by the statute was of the quiet liquor after it had been released from confinement and reached a quiet condition in the open air.” (“Foam and Gas Are Not Beer,” The Virginia Law Register Vol. 14 (1 Feb, 1909): 805.)

If nothing else, this case suggests that at least some late Victorian/early twentieth century beer had more head than ours does. ndeed, an 1835 treatise by brewer William Black also notes the presence of some carbonation. He writes:

“If a vat of well-brewed beer should be opened by taking off the lid or top, in the middle of summer, precisely the same appearance will take place as when a bottle of beer is uncorked, namely, the carbonic acid gas, will almost immediately make its appearance on the top of the vat, in the shape of froth, as it does from the neck of the bottle in brisk beer.” (William Black, A practical treatise on brewing , and of storing of beer: reduced from forty years’ experience (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1835), 71-2.)

However, he goes on to caution new brewers that such “froth” is normal and will soon subside. Again, it seems that some early beer had more head than we might suspect.

All of which to say…perhaps growlers did get their name from escaping CO2. Or perhaps from unscrupulous selling practices. Or perhaps they get their name from the buckets of beer given to factory workers to quiet their “growling” stomachs.

Before WWII, kids would bring growlers to thirsty workers in a process called “rushing the growler.” (courtesy

In any case, until the Second World War, “growler” generally referred to a covered pail of beer, though there were some ceramic jugs of a similar style to our growlers. The emergence of the glass or ceramic “jug-style” growler is largely tied to the development of craft brewing. Microbreweries that weren’t quite up to large-scale bottling revived the growler as a means of offering takeaway beer.

And so, our growlers are really a fusion of old and new: a traditional practice embraced in an innovative way. Just remember, we always recommend you keep your first one!


My Favourite Part: On Living (Beer) History

One of the wonderful things (I think) about living history museums is that they teach things that you can’t necessarily learn from books. Of course, books are our bread and butter when we’re learning about history, but actually seeing the clothing, feeling the weight of an iron, hearing the blacksmith clanging, and smelling the wort boiling—that gives knowledge of a very different type.

It’s a more personal perspective on history. Research is absolutely essential for setting up the framework and building a background base of knowledge, but living the history, whether for hours or years, connects you to it on a very human level. And what you connect to, you remember.

My knowledge of beer comes partly from books and articles, partly from touring other breweries, partly from listening to Ed and my fellow Beer Experts, and partly from watching Ed work. Reading the books means I’m always learning new things, but if I’d stuck to the books alone, I wouldn’t have a favourite part of the brewing process.

That’s right. I have a favourite part. Can you imagine having a favourite part of the process if you’d never set foot in a brewery? Oh man, we’re still at the mashing. I can’t wait to turn the page and read all about the sparging again!!!

(I jest. It’s all interesting. I will happily read stacks of books about beer. My point is that you’re still learning from a distance—seeing it unfold with your own eyes is hugely important too.)


This is why I love giving the brewery tour. There’s nothing better than talking about Victorian public houses and taprooms….when you’re actually standing in a mid-Victorian taproom. I love seeing people’s expressions when they step into the mill for the first time and get a sense of how huge and sophisticated it really is. And of course, all the pieces come together in the brewery itself, as we walk through the process. A lecture or an essay giving the exact same information would still be useful, albeit with fewer witty asides.

But seeing it all for yourself—that’s another type of learning entirely.

So what is my favourite part?

My favourite part is when Ed transfers the wort from the brew-kettle to the cooling ship. Again, if you’d only ever read about brewing, that might seem like an odd choice.

Let me explain.

When the wort comes out of the brew-kettle, it’s boiling. So, before we can add the yeast, we have to cool it down (as I say on tour, “Yeast is a living organism. How would you feel if I chucked you into a pot of boiling water?). Bucket by bucket, Ed takes the wort from the kettle and pours it into the cooling ship, which is a wide copper bath set atop our casks. Actually, first the hops get strained out through the hopback, but I digress.

This cooling ship is more modern, but otherwise fairly similar to ours (courtesy

Boiling hot wort hits the relatively cool copper….

And the room fills with steam.

It’s difficult to see at first. Just a few wisps of steam curl around the lip of the cooling ship. But as Ed adds more wort, the steam thickens. It swirls outward into the room, eddying around the vent over the brew-kettle. Eventually, it drifts to my perch behind the bar. By the end, it’s difficult to even see Ed. As he carries the last few buckets up the step-stool, it looks like he’s climbing into cloud.


And this is why we do what we do.

–        Katie

Event – Winter Warmer Beer and Cheese Tasting – November 14th

Join us on Thursday, November 14th to take the chill off winter with a pairing of robust, full-flavoured craft beers and hearty cheeses with rustic accompaniments.  Join expert Julia Rogers of Cheese Culture and treat yourself to a rich journey into the delicious world of cheese.  Guests will sample five cheese varieties from Ontario and Quebec each paired with a selected Canadian craft beer, along with our popular fresh-baked bread and handmade root chips.  This enjoyable evening includes a guided tour of the brewery and sampling of our historic ales.  The event begins at 7:00pm and tickets must be pre-purchased.

$33.95 per person, $29.95 for members (plus taxes). Call 416-667-6284 for tickets.


New Brew: Sweet Stout (Milk Stout)

New brew! New brew!

The Sweet Stout (or “Milk Stout”) is back. Like our usual Stout, the Milk Stout is wonderfully rich and dark, but don’t let the colour fool you. You might not be able to see through it, but it’s a mellow beer with a rounded, creamy body. It’s very smooth on the way down, and rings in at around 4.5% ABV.

As the name suggests, there’s sweetness from the lactose (I picked up a little bitterness after swallowing, but it’s far silkier than a dry stout). Lactose is a sugar derived from milk. However, it can’t be broken down by the yeast – since it never gets fermented, it hangs around to lend sweetness and body to the beer.

The Milk Stout was first envisioned by 1875 by John Henry Johnson, who sought a patent for a lactose-containing beer in London. He proposed a beer that was both mild-tasting and nutritious. The Milk Stout gained popularity in England through the early twentieth century as brewers touted it as a beer containing all the wholesome benefits of milk. When Mackeson’s began brewing their Milk Stout in 1907, and sent it to market by 1910, they claimed, “…each pint contains the energizing carbohydrates of ten ounces of dairy milk.” This was meant to appeal to thirsty, hard-working labourers – many early advertisements for Milk Stouts even used images of milk cans and cows to cement the connection between Milk Stouts and the benefits of dairy.

ca. 1910-1920 (courtesy

This is where the history gets a bit murky. Traditional wisdom has it that the British government forbade the use of the term “milk stout” following World War II rationing. However, it’s nigh impossible to pin down a precise date or ordinance. There is a mention of misleading advertising in Volume 46 of The British Food Journal (January, 1944).


Milk Stout. Misleading Label.

At the Newcastle Borough Court, on December 22nd [1943, I’m assuming – KT] , James Calder & Co. (Brewers) Ltd. were summoned for selling a bottle of stout labelled “Milk Stout ” andbearing the design of a dairy cow. The prosecution submitted that the picture on the label was misleading. Pleading guilty for the firm, Colonel A. D. S. Rogers said the labels had now been withdrawn. Before the war ingredients for the stout came from New Zealand, but shipment had now stopped. There was no attempt to mislead the public.—Defendants were convicted and find £5 and ordered to pay £4 19s. costs. (British Food Journal, Vol. 46, Issue 1)


Other issues of the British Food Journal published around the end of the war reveal a persistent preoccupation with adulterated/falsely advertised milk – perhaps brewers were overly-cautious about not advertising a “milk” product with no milk in it, a view also suggested here. Mackeson’s, at least, seems to have dropped “milk” from their adverts by the 1950s.

1950. It banishes tiredness, but it’s “silky” and there’s no mention of milk. (

And this is where being a beer journalist/historian can be challenging, occasionally frustrating, and also really fun. In any case, stop on by the Black Creek Historic Brewery to try our Sweet Stout!


PS. The lactose-averse may be wondering: can I drink this? To which I say: Ed used 1 kg of lactose to make this brew (remember, we make about 60-70 litres at a time). I sampled some and seem unaffected thus far, but it’s entirely your call!

New Brew: Pumpkin Ale

At long last (and we know you’ve been waiting, oh-so-patiently! 😛 ), it’s finally here!

Ed’s Pumpkin Ale hit our fridges this morning. As Karell noted last year, Ed “…roasted pie pumpkins and used his own blend of spices to brew this beer that reminds me of my Mom’s pumpkin pie.” It’s autumn in a glass, perfect for Thanksgiving and Halloween celebrations.

Our Howling Hootenanny weekends are also upon us: October 19/20 and 26/27. If you find you need some refreshment after all that trick-or-treating and apple-slinging (though I’ve no idea how ANYONE could get tired of the apple slingshot), come join us in the historic brewery for a visit!


Event – Octoberfest Beer and Cheese Tasting – October 17

event_cheeseCheers_01Come out to Black Creek Pioneer Village on Thursday, October 17th and enjoy a pairing of local beers brewed in the German-Czech tradition, paired with artisan cheeses and accompaniments that are perfect for fall.  Join expert Julia Rogers of Cheese Culture and treat yourself to a rich journey into the delicious world of cheese.  Guests will sample five cheese varieties from Ontario and Quebec each paired with a selected Canadian craft beer, along with our popular fresh-baked bread.  Beers will include both lagers and ales and a few seasonal rarities.  This enjoyable evening includes a guided tour of the brewery.  The event begins at 7:00pm and tickets must be pre-purchased.

$33.95 per person, $29.95 for members (plus taxes).  Call 416-667-6284 for tickets.