Lost Rhino Brewing Company

Just over two months until the Black Creek Historic Brewery opens its doors!

While waiting, I finished my sojourn in Virginia with a trip to the Lost Rhino Brewing Company, located in Ashburn. Operations started in May 2011. Since they predate the change in state law which allows Virginia breweries (and not just restaurants) to sell beer onsite, there is a small pub attached.


But you’re here for the beer.

Another brewery, another flight. My friend and I split five beers this time. Without further ado:


Steampunk Amber Lager (ABV: 4.5%)

Because of my fantasy-author alter-ego, I was very excited to try this beer solely due to its name. It seemed to have more head than the other beers, with a nice amber-orange colour and a floral nose. It had a light malty taste, with more malt on the aftertaste. It was quite drinkable—nothing I strongly disliked, just nothing to write home about.


Santa’s Package (ABV: 5.5%)

At first glance, this beer looked stunningly like our Brown Ale: a light brown/dark caramel. A strong liquorice smell was noticeable right as I sniffed—hardly surprising, considering this beer contained anise. That liquorice carried over; it was one of the dominant tastes as well, blending quite nicely with the dark malts. A chocolate aftertaste rounded things out, though I didn’t taste the promised cinnamon. Overall, quite a smooth mouthfeel.


New River Pale Ale (ABV: 5.4%)

Everything about this beer was light: light amber colour, light floral aroma, light malt taste. It was fairly sharp on the front of the tongue and up in the nose…but nothing really grabbed me. It was inoffensive, I guess.


Just look: you can see the bar rail through the glass!
Just look: you can see the bar rail through the glass!

Rhino Chasers Pilsner (ABV: 5.6%)

Another lager—since we only brew ales at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, I was glad for the opportunity to expand my palate. Pilsners tend to be very crisp and clear and bright, and this one was no exception. Of all the beers we sampled, it was the clearest in the glass: a beautiful light gold. A subtle aroma foreshadowed a very light maltiness—there was a touch of hoppiness, but not much. Like the Pale Ale, it was quite innocuous.


Face Plant IPA (ABV: 6.2%)

Now this was quite the unfiltered little beauty. The cloudy, orange-gold colour was very familiar, as was the grapefruit aroma. The Face Plant had a lovely, hoppy bitterness, laced with citrus notes. It was fairly aggressive on the tongue, but with a more robust body than our IPA. Definitely a sipping beer.


Bonus Beer: Apocalyptic Ale (ABV: 9%)

My friend went back for one more beer: a strong Belgian blonde. Medium, golden amber colour, lightly fruity aroma. Honey notes weren’t immediately obvious on the first sip, but they came; there was actually quite a nice sweetness to this beer, with a very subtle bite at the end to break up the smoothness. A solid brew.


Just as a reminder, Black Creek Pioneer Village will be open for March Break! From March 8th-16th, we’re playing host to Sherlock Holmes. Come help him solve the Mystery of the Golden Egg!

(Alas, the brewery will not be open during this time, but we can’t wait to see you on May 1st!)


BadWolf Brewing Company: Part 2

And welcome to the second half of my experience at the BadWolf Brewing Company. Like Black Creek, BadWolf’s roster changes constantly. The day I went, my friend and I shared a flight of six different samples, covering a range of strengths and styles.


Cereus (ABV: 7.9%)

This Belgian blonde was a cloudy, honey-gold colour (remember, BadWolf doesn’t pasteurize or filter its beers, just like us!). A fruity, sweet nose gave way to a delicate maltiness. The emphasis here was on the citrus notes and hint of honey—this was not an overly hoppy beer.


Burnt Wit (ABV: 7.7%)

Light brown in the glass, a couple shades darker than amber. Didn’t smell a lot on this one, but it had a complex smokiness with a richly satisfying aftertaste—it was a filling beer, smoother on the tongue than the Cereus. Interesting factoid: the Burnt Wit was made with rare Belgian yeasts!


Englishish IPA (ABV: 6.5%)

The Englishish IPA was darker than ours, more of an amber colour. The hops were milder than I expected, but it was still fairly sharp on the tongue. Just a hint of citrus to finish—again, less than I’d expected.


The Englishish IPA
The Englishish IPA

ISB (India Special Bitter) (ABV: 7.1%)

Ah, this was one of my favourites: a hybrid between an India Pale Ale and an Extra-Special Bitter. With a copper-amber hue and a very small head, it had a very distinctive citrus aroma. Actually, it reminded me quite a bit of our IPA, which is possibly why I liked it so much. The hops were quite pronounced, with more grapefruit on the aftertaste. At first sip, this beer felt quite light and sharp, but after polishing off the sample, it had more body than I originally thought.


Sour Red (ABV: 3.5%)

And we dip below 6% for the first time all afternoon. This was a very attractive beer: a dark reddish-copper. This one was smoother and more malt-oriented than the slew of pale ales. Acid malt provided just a bit of sourness on the finish, but really, this was quite a mild, innocuous beer. An “intro beer,” if you will…


Chocolate Stout
Chocolate Stout

Chocolate Stout (ABV: 5.4%)

I will preface this by saying that I don’t usually drink stouts. In general, I prefer hoppier beers. As you probably guessed, the stout was the darkest of the bunch: I couldn’t see through it. Chocolate hit me as soon as the glass neared my nose and popped up as soon as the beer touched my tongue. The chocolate then devolved into a rich, smooth maltiness with just a hint of smoke…and then the aftertaste came.

My goodness.

Just when I thought we were done with the chocolate, it returned with a vengeance, filling my nose.

I don’t usually drink stouts. I think this was my favourite.


Next stop: Lost Rhino Brewery!

My friend finished the Chocolate Stout; I returned to the ISB.
My friend finished the Chocolate Stout; I returned to the ISB.


“Brewing with the Brewmaster” apprenticeships featured on BlogTO


We are very happy to see that our popular “Brewing with the Brewmaster” apprenticeships were featured in BlogTO.com’s  “Top 10 Wacky and Skills to Learn in Toronto” post as, and I quote, “may be the coolest DIY you’ll ever undertake…”!

Read the post here : http://www.blogto.com/sports_play/2014/02/the_top_10_wacky_random_skills_to_learn_in_toronto/

Have a good weekend!

BadWolf Brewing Company: Part 1

As I continue to spend the off-season roaming the wilds of Virginia, I have thoroughly enjoyed acquainting myself with some of the breweries down here. One amazing brewery has been the BadWolf Brewery, located in Manassas. On my visit, I was able to try some beer and see their set-up…and owners Sarah and Jeremy Meyers were kind enough to sit down with me for a follow-up chat!


Like Ed, Jeremy started as a homebrewer. Friends joked that he should start his own brewery, but he “laughed it off” until 2009, when his wife Sarah enrolled in an entrepreneurial course. The course’s final project entailed submitting a business plan. Together, Sarah and Jeremy put together plans for a brewpub. To cap it all off, Jeremy brewed some beer for the presentation.

Needless to say, it was a runaway success. Besides the well-deserved A, they received much interest from fellow students and entrepreneurs.

And then, a case of impeccable timing:

Previously, Virginia law only permitted restaurants to sell their beer. But then, on July 1, 2012, a new law was introduced, under which “…brewers [would] be able to operate more like a Virginia farm winery, with on- and off-premises sales privileges combined into the brewery license” (Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control).

Under the new law, BadWolf no longer had to be a restaurant. It could brew, sell, and serve beer as a brewery.

BadWolf’s bar

Doors opened on June 19, 2013. Sarah and Jeremy recall lines stretching across the parking lot. When I ask about the challenges they faced in those early months, Sarah laughs. “We kept running out of beer.”

“We really had to budget our beer,” Jeremy adds. “We didn’t anticipate the demand—we went from brewing two times per week to five times.”

And I’m very glad that they’ve built up their stocks of beer. In many ways, it is quite similar to the beer we make at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. BadWolf is a “green brewery” (no extracts) and only 1.5 barrels are brewed at a time. Each keg in the back is shaken by hand to encourage carbonation. The beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized (no wonder it tasted so familiar!).

The set-up behind the bar.
Fermenting beer: excess CO2 bubbles into the Coke bottle.
Fermenting beer: excess CO2 bubbles into the Coke bottle.
Kegs, all ready to go.
Kegs, all ready to go.

And like Black Creek, BadWolf is focused on quality.

“There’s a growing minority who go after beer the same way people go after wine or coffee,” Sarah says.

They also discussed the advantages of breweries that are actually owned by the brewers. When brewers are owners, they know their product in an incredibly intimate way, from concept to aftertaste. “If I have a subpar beer,” Jeremy says. “I’m not going to put it out just because I want to sell beer. If it’s unsatisfying, I’ll dump it.”

It’s an exciting time for BadWolf in general, because Virginia’s craft beer scene is just starting to take off, thanks in part to the aforementioned law change. And where does BadWolf fit in this burgeoning scene?

“We make good beer,” Jeremy says. While BadWolf has plans for expansion, their focus remains on high-quality ingredients, superb recipes, and a high-quality product.

And the take-home message for beer-drinkers up in Ontario?

“Come visit!”

I know I’ll be back! In the meantime, tune in next post for my take on the beers I sampled.

For more information:

BadWolf Brewing Company

9776 Center St.,

Manassas, VA 20110



The London Beer Flood

When beer leaks from our casks, it’s irritating to clean up and the loss of beer makes us sad, but it’s not a disaster.

The London Beer Flood, on the other hand, was devastating.

Meux’s Brewery had been doing quite well for itself. Sir Henry Meux established it in 1764. He bought out several other brew-houses around London and by the nineteenth century, Meux’s had become a major supplier of porter.

Around the turn of the nineteenth century, it had become common practice to ferment porter in vast vats. While visiting the Meux and Company Brewery on Tottenham Court Road in 1812, novelist Mary Brunton reported vats well over twenty feet high with an 18,000 barrel capacity.

Giant vats, workers for scale. (courtesy http://www.anchorbrewing.com)

But these barrels were not behind the disaster of October 17, 1814. At about 4:30 pm, an iron hoop, weighing seven hundredweight (just over 700 lbs) slipped from a 22-foot-high cask. Storehouse clerk George Crick was unconcerned; apparently, it happened a few times each year. He dashed off a note to one of the brewery’s partners to inform them of the incident, but at 5:30 that evening, the vat burst.

Porter gushed from the ruptured vat, smashing several hogsheads full of porter (containing about 240 litres each) and knocking the cock from under another vat. Though numbers differ, most contemporary newspaper accounts seem to agree that approximately 3500 barrels of porter were lost. The torrent of beer crashed through the brewery’s back wall and into the streets behind.

The Morning Chronicle gives the victims’ names and ages as follows:

  • Mary Mulvey, a married woman

  • Thomas Murray, (3), son to Mulvey by another man

  • Hannah Banfield, (4)

  • Sarah Bates (or Batea) (3)

  • Ann Saville (60) [note: the Caledonian Mercury, a newspaper in Edinburgh, lists Ann Saville as being only 35]

  • Eleanor Cooper (14), servant to “Mr. Richard Hawes,” at the Tavistock Arms

  • Elizabeth Smith (27) wife of a bricklayer

  • Catherine Butler (65), widow

And here, disaster meets pre-existing social conditions.

The Meux and Company Brewery was located in the slums of St. Giles’. Directly behind the brewery, New Street was a tangle of tenements and working-class dwellings. Porter gushed from the brewery, destroying brick walls and shattering homes.

Since the disaster occurred in the early evening, the working-class men were mostly out, hence the predominantly young and/or female victims. Moreover, the disaster occurred before the government inquiries and social reforms of the 1830s-1840s. Slums like St. Giles’ were generally cramped and overcrowded, with poor drainage and narrow streets. In the case of the London Beer Flood, such conditions likely exacerbated the catastrophe.

St. Giles in the 1800s. (courtesy Wikimedia)
St. Giles in the 1800s. (courtesy Wikimedia)

As The Examiner reported:

Two houses in New-Street, adjoining the brewhouse, were totally demolished. The inhabitants, who were of the poorer class, were all at home…The site of the place is low and flat, and there being no declivity to carry off the fluid in its fall, it spread and sank into the neighbouring cellars, all of which were inhabited. (The Examiner, Sunday, October 23, 1814).

While poor drainage generally led to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease amongst the working class, here, it caused the beer to flood homes to an even greater extent. It is also interesting to note that the cellars were inhabited: again, an oblique reference to overcrowding amongst the London poor.

Of the victims listed, Elizabeth Smith and Eleanor Cooper in particular suggest the make-up of St. Giles’ at the time of the Beer Flood. Elizabeth Smith was married to a bricklayer, while Eleanor Cooper was a 14-year-old tavern servant. Judging by their occupations (or the occupations of those around them), it is likely that neither enjoyed particular wealth. Thus, while the flood claimed less than ten lives, the destruction it wrought on the homes surrounding the brewery (two destroyed, more basement apartments flooded) was likely a significant blow to those living there.

Moreover, St. Giles’ boasted a large population of Irish immigrant labourers. The Caledonian Mercury reports that most of the victims were Irish, and that more were injured while attending a wake on nearby George Street. While the condition of the Irish working classes through the nineteenth century is a topic for another time (say, perhaps, a topic for March… wink), it is not surprising to find an enclave of Irish immigrant labourers in London during the early 1800s, nor is it surprising that their living conditions likely worsened the impact of the porter cascading through their streets.

“The London Beer Flood” may conjure an image of freely raining beer and general rejoicing. On closer examination, however, another picture emerges: one of a struggling community, ill-equipped for such an occurrence. It is perhaps worth noting that a judge and jury deemed the London Beer Flood an “Act of God.” Meux and Company, that brewery founded by an English baronet, paid no damages to the predominantly poor, predominantly Irish victims of the flood. After negotiation, they even recovered some of the duty on the lost beer.

(Courtesy www.victorianweb.org)
(Courtesy http://www.victorianweb.org)

In contrast, consider an unnamed seven-year-old: daughter of Mary Mulvey, sister of Thomas Murray, and granddaughter of Catherine Butler. The Examiner reported that she had been taken into care at the St. Giles’ school “…till she can otherwise be provided for. We doubt not but the liberality of the public will soon make provision for her support.”

One certainly hopes so, but wonders…


Newspaper Sources

Caledonian Mercury. “Dreadful Accident.” Edinburgh. Saturday, October 22, 1814.

The Examiner. “Accidents, Offences, &c.” London. Sunday, October 23, 1814.

The Morning Chronicle. “Accident at Meux’s Brewhouse.” London. Thursday, October 20, 1814.

See Also:

Cornell, Martyn. “So what REALLY happened on October 17, 1814?” Zythophile. Oct. 17, 2010. Retrieved Feb. 11, 2014.


Another Historic Beer: Chateau Jiahu

Apparently, we’re not the only ones interested in historic beer.

Since the Black Creek Historic Brewery is closed until May, your trusty beer journalist has gone international. While staying in Virginia, I’ve had the chance to try some of the offerings from Dogfish Head Brewery: a craft brewery based in Delaware. They’ve been on the American craft brewing scene since 1995, and in 1999 they started a line of “Ancient Ales.” On board, they have Dr. Patrick McGovern (Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum). With his expertise, Dogfish Head crafts recipes based on chemical analyses of residue found on ancient drinking vessels.

I tried the Chateau Jiahu, released 2006. Jiahu is a Neolithic site in China’s Yellow River Valley, dating back to approximately 7000 BCE. Excavated mostly through the 1980s, it is home to some of the oldest known written records, the oldest playable musical instruments…

…and the oldest fermented beverages.

Jiahu at lower centre (courtesy www.naturalhistorymag)
Jiahu at lower centre (courtesy http://www.naturalhistorymag)

Excavations at the Jiahu site yielded pottery vessels with high necks, handles, and flaring rims: perfect for storing and serving alcoholic beverages. Because pottery is porous, organic material can seep into the ceramic. Thousands of years later, researchers are still able to analyze that material.

McGovern describes the Jiahu beverage as a sort of “grog,” made from rice (acting like barley), honey, grapes, and hawthorne-tree fruit. So, it was probably like a cross between mead, beer, and wine. However, it’s not quite clear how the rice was used. As with barley, the starches need to be broken down into simple sugars. It may have been malted, but McGovern notes that human saliva has the same effect, meaning that the rice could also be chewed to prepare it for fermentation (this is still done in parts of Asia). Either way, you’d get a lot of husks and debris floating in your brew—hence why a lot of ancient beers were drunk through straws.

Look closely, upper right... (courtesy www.penn.museum)
Look closely, upper right… (courtesy http://www.penn.museum)

I didn’t have to worry about that. While Dogfish Head Ale may be going to older sources than we do at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, they do use modern methods and equipment.

The Chateau Jiahu was a pale golden colour, with a bit of cloudiness and a small, fine head. I smelled fruitiness right away and caught more on the aftertaste, but the sweetness really surprised me. There are no hoppy notes. That’s not surprising, since they wouldn’t be using hops in 7000 BCE China, I’ve just grown accustomed to that type of bitterness. Instead, the honey comes through quite strongly. Mild carbonation was pleasant, and you definitely notice the lightness in flavour and body—something quite different from our barley-based ales.

A note of caution: this beer is 10% ABV. It doesn’t feel like it.

Jiahu isn’t the only site Dogfish Head has explored; they’ve taken inspiration from sites ranging from Turkey to Egypt to Finland. Now, if only we could pair their recipes with our 1860s brewery…that would be one truly historic ale!

For more, check out:

Dogfish Head Brewery

The Jiahu Excavation