2014 Specialty Beers Announced!

Stop the presses! Our line-up of specialty beers has been announced. As you probably know, we have our standard roster of Brown Ale-Porter-Stout-IPA, but once or twice a month we like to shake things up with a specialty brew. Here is what’s on tap for 2014!


May 17th, 18th, 19th – Apricot Ale

A wonderfully fruity beer, very popular last year.


June 14th & 15th – Ginger Beer

This is a new one – looks like my campaigning paid off! 😉 (But please note, it will be an alcoholic ginger beer.)

File:Ingwer 2 fcm.jpg
I love ginger! (Courtesy http://www.wikipedia.org)


July 1st – Maple Porter

What’s more Canadian than beer and maple syrup?


August 2nd – Lemon Balm and Mint Pale Ale

Refreshing on a hot summer day; looking forward to seeing this one again.

August 23rd – Simcoe Hopped Ale

Intriguing! Are we perhaps celebrating Simcoe day with Simcoe hops?


Our harvest. Whenever the hops are ready – Fresh Hop/Wet Hop Pale Ale

The Hop Harvest is always fun, and the fresh hops give this beer a lot of character.

September 25th – Barrel Aged Beer

I’m looking forward to hearing more about this one!


October 11th, 12th, 13th – Sweet Stout

I have vivid memories of that hint of sweetness and smooth, silky mouthfeel…

October 18th & 19th, 25th & 26th – Pumpkin Ale

A favourite! When you come to the Howling Hootenanny, be sure to pick up your growler. growlerNovember

Estate Ale

We are persistent. Hopefully there are no sparrows, wild turkeys, or geese to thwart us this year.


December 6th – Winter Warmer

Usually a darker beer with all of your Christmas spices. Lovely on those cold winter days.

It’s shaping up to be another exciting season here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. We can’t wait until May!


PS. For more information, please click here

Untappd: A Social Network for Beer Lovers (with Guest Blogger Tee Morris)

Hello! Today, I’m thrilled to welcome a special guest to the Black Creek Growler. Tee Morris is an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy, as well as a dedicated beer lover. He’s also a dear friend who introduced me to various craft breweries in Virginia. Thanks for stopping by the Growler, Tee!
– Katie


The Black Creek Historic Brewery occupies a unique position on the craft brewing scene: you’re the only functioning historic brewery in Canada. I’ve enjoyed your beer (on a few occasions) and honestly, I have asked, “Why don’t more people know about this pint-worth-of-awesome? Wouldn’t it be cool to let the world know that, right now, in the 21st century, there was a 19th century brewery in operation that made quality beer?”

See, this is the beautiful thing about living in the 21st century: we have an app for that. It is a social media tool that takes all the coolness of Instagram and throws in one more ingredient—beer. Welcome to Untappd: a social network built for people who love beer.

Untappd was developed for lovers of beer, cider, and mead. Whether you enjoy sampling unique brews from around the world or prefer more mainstream libations, Untappd connects you with fantastic beers and the breweries behind them. Reviews comprise the core of the app. When your first round arrives, you search for your beer in the Search bar across the top. Once you tap your beer from the list of results, you select “Check-In” and are offered a field where you can:


  • Type in a brief review (140 characters max)
  • Add a photo of what you are drinking
  • Rate your brew (the slider allows for 1/2-star reviews)
  • Add in your location

If you sync up Untappd with your Twitter and Facebook feeds, you can send out your review by tapping the Twitter and Facebook icons. The more reviews you share, the easier you can connect with friends (old and new) on your respective social media networks.

This app, however, is more than a journal of beers you’ve sampled. It’s also a passport to different beers and breweries. By accessing your location, you can see what other users think of the featured brews at pubs in your area. Untappd also offers an option to crowdsource your choice in drinks with Trending Beers. Pulling from the entire network, you can see which beers are particularly popular, and use “Find It” to see if they’re at your current location or somewhere close.

Then there are the badges: your achievements in responsible beer drinking.

Taking a page from various geotagging networks, Untappd incorporates a collection of badges unlocked by meeting challenges put together by the network’s creators. My particular favourite earned so far has been the “Drink Like a Kiwi” honour, awarded after having at least five beers brewed in New Zealand. Perhaps my proudest, though, was when I enjoyed my 100th unique brew, levelling me up from the “Journeyman” status to the “Artisan” title.

And to add to that bragging right, my 100th beer was the Black Creek Historic Porter. All part of my cunning plan.


I’ve been tapping into the fun of the Untappd app since March of last year. It’s been great for tracking old beers and learning about new ones—including the offerings from the Black Creek Historic Brewery!

Katie’s also on Untappd!

In sum, then, you can use Untappd to:

  • Keep track of and rank beers you’ve sampled.
  • Connect with a vibrant community of beer lovers.
  • Discover new beers and breweries.
  • Praise the pints you love and create some buzz for your favourite brews!
  • Toast brews that your friends are enjoying.
  • Unlock various achievements created by the Untappd team.

Sharing news and reviews keeps the craft brewing scene strong—something to which we can all raise a toast!


Tee Morris
Award-winning Science Fiction Author and Podcaster
Beer Hunter of the World


When he’s not enjoying the odd pint or four, Tee Morris is an award-winning writer and podcaster of fiction. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine, is about to see their third adventure, Dawn’s Early Light, hit bookshelves in March 2014. Their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, also offers a window into their steampunk world. He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.


PS. Did you know that TWO of Black Creek’s Beer Experts have connections to Tales from the Archives? Katie’s written for the podcast, and Blythe has lent her considerable acting talent!

New Brew: Irish Potato Stout

There’s a new brew!

Our historic brewery in the heart of Black Creek Pioneer Village is still shuttered for our winter break (though young detectives have been having a wonderful time assisting Sherlock Homes!). But never fear—we’ve kept ourselves busy.

The Irish Potato Stout is our latest LCBO offering. This is a traditional Irish Stout—perfect for St. Patrick’s Day! The addition of potatoes not only adds to the rich flavour, it adds to the history!

Poor Irish family (Courtesy www.wikipedia.org)
Poor Irish family
(Courtesy http://www.wikipedia.org)

By which I mean the Great Famine of ~1845-1851. Through a number of factors, most of the Irish labouring class had become reliant on the potato as their main food source. The Penal Laws of the 17th and 18th centuries had prohibited Irish Catholics from entering professions, obtaining an education, and had restricted where they could live. Even after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, the Irish peasantry had few economic, social, or educational opportunities.

Under a system of largely absentee landlords, most Irish labourers farmed only small strips of land for themselves. For them, the potato was the perfect crop: it was cheap, required little space or maintenance, was reasonably nutritious.

Then the blight came.

50% of the potato crop was lost in 1845. 1846 saw the loss of nearly the entire harvest. 1847 was little better.

The British government made some attempts to help; philanthropic societies solicited donations, Prime Minister Peel imported and distributed maize, the Corn Laws protecting British grains were repealed in 1846.

But long-standing prejudice and unshakeable faith in the principle of laissez-faire hindered such efforts. In 1846 new prime minister Charles Trevelyan fretted over the possibility of Ireland becoming “habitually dependent” on Britain (not that Britain had absorbed it into the United Kingdom or anything…). Far better to have “Irish property support Irish poverty.”

During the “famine,” some £1,000,000 worth of Irish grains were exported to Britain. So, there was food in Ireland—but little of it reached the Irish poor. There is perhaps an aptness to the Irish term for the famine: an Gorta Mór – the Great Hunger.

By the early 1850s, Ireland’s population had been halved through death and emigration. A large number came to Canada; in “Black ’47,” over 38,000 Irish refugees arrived in Toronto – which at the time had a population of just 20,000.

Statues at Toronto's Ireland Park commemorate the famine's victims. (courtesy www.ontario-travel-secrets.com)
Statues at Toronto’s Ireland Park commemorate the famine’s victims.
(courtesy www.ontario-travel-secrets.com)

You can ponder this as you try our Irish Potato Stout. Brewed to 5% ABV, it’s a deep brown colour. I couldn’t see through it, but it’s not quite as dark as our usual stout. Roasted malt aromas struck me at first sniff and carried over into the taste. It’s a rich, complex beer—that roasted character mellowed to something almost like chocolate as it travelled over the tongue, finishing with a smoky earthiness.


It’s got a thick, heavy mouthfeel; there was a lovely fullness at the back of the throat and up into the nose. Still, carbonation gives it a slight edge (you know you’ve become accustomed to historic beers when bubbles surprise you!).

Overall, it’s a very satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs kind of beer. I could probably drink it for supper, but since I’m a lightweight (in more ways than one), I think I’ll save some for an Irish lamb stew!

The Irish Potato Stout is available at select LCBO stores for a limited time – get yours before they run out!



Taverns in Art

What’s better than looking at paintings? Looking at paintings of beer!

In some cases, paintings can be a useful tool for the historically-minded, particularly if we’re looking at periods before photography was widely available. Examined carefully, realist paintings can give us a visual reference, an idea of what particular scenes might have been like.

For the past while, I’ve been periodically looking for beer-related art, and I’m delighted to say that I’ve found some examples which are a) aesthetically pleasing and b) informative. I’ve pulled two examples showing two tavern interiors from opposite ends of the century: John Lewis Krimmel’s Village Tavern (1814-1815) and John Henry Henshall’s Behind the Bar (1882). Placed side-by-side, they show how dramatically taverns changed over the century (caveat: I’m not an art history specialist).

Let’s start with Krimmel. Krimmel was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1809, where he painted scenes of everyday life…including taverns:

"Village Tavern," John Lewis Krimmel (1814-1815) Courtesy: www.amhistory.si.edu
“Village Tavern,” John Lewis Krimmel (1814-1815)
Courtesy: http://www.amhistory.si.edu

Right away, there is a sense that this is a small, intimate space. In fact, the décor is quite similar to that of our taproom at Black Creek: very rough, rustic, and plain. There is also a horse visible just outside, suggesting that this tavern may also function as a stopping point for travellers.

The bar area is a little different from our taproom: it’s a self-contained booth, with a door that could close it right off. Using the bartender for scale, it doesn’t look like there is any room to fit casks back there, but it looks like he’s holding the handle of a beer engine, so there are probably casks in a cellar below.


Another view of a beer engine.
Another view of a beer engine.


However, do you see that little glass bottle just over the bartender’s shoulder? I’m guessing that’s some variety of spirits—likely whiskey, given the time period. Now look: of the three drinking vessels in use, two are clear glasses and one’s an opaque mug. There’s also another little glass bottle sitting on the table. Two whiskey-drinkers and one beer-lover, perhaps?

The range of social interactions on display is also really interesting. There is a woman and child in the tavern (don’t say it never happened!), possibly family of the man in the hat (after all, the woman’s laying her hand on his arm). Across the table, an older man reads a newspaper while two men have a spirited conversation at the bar. The man in red charging in seems relieved to see the bartender!

So it’s a public space, a communal space. Particularly telling is the writing desk tucked away in the background at right. Perhaps it was where the tavernkeeper sorted his accounts, but I wonder if it was like the writing desk in the parlour of the Half Way House—meant for use by patrons.

One more detail that’s really cool: look right over the door to the bar area. The days of the week are etched into the wood. I’m not sure why, and I’m intensely curious to find out!


Now, let’s jump across the pond and forward almost seventy years.

John Henry Henshall was an English painter, who also specialized in scenes of everyday life. Here is his portrayal of a bar:

"Behind the Bar," John Henry Henshall (1882) Courtesy: http://www.dickens.port.ac.uk/enterainment/
“Behind the Bar,” John Henry Henshall (1882)
Courtesy: http://www.dickens.port.ac.uk/enterainment/

Immediately, it is obvious that this establishment is bigger: bigger size, bigger clientele, bigger staff. There are also six beer engines on display, as opposed to one potential one—this establishment obviously has more beer on tap than the earlier tavern. However, there are still a combination of opaque mugs and clear glasses. In fact, the lady drinking to the picture’s far left seems to have a citrus peel in her glass and there appear to be knives stashed under the bar—bartending appears to have become more involved than simply pouring and serving!

And there are still women and children present. You’d be much less likely to find female bar-staff in Canada, but it wasn’t quite as unusual in England. Being a barmaid could be a pretty good job, though the divider between the two sections of the bar intrigues me.

It’s a little harder to see the range of social interactions, but this doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would have a writing desk tucked in the corner. Nor would I expect someone to settle in for a leisurely mug of stout and a newspaper. It’s still a public space, but the tone has shifted: our clientele is becoming more transitory, more “customers” as opposed to “guests.”

And the really, really interesting detail: there is an advertisement on the left wall. The words are a little hard to decipher, but it seems to be for an award-winning pale ale.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

First of all, pale ales are becoming more popular, overcoming the earlier preference for dark beers.

Second, the brewing industry is becoming well-organized enough to hold standardized competitions.

Third, we’re seeing a shift towards establishment of brand loyalty from bar to bar. The pub isn’t serving whatever the local brewer has made: breweries are growing and seeking to attract a broader base of customers (not just whoever is in the immediate area).


Looks like pictures really are worth a thousand words!