A Spirited Affair: It’s Here!

At long last, tonight is the night! At 7:00 pm tonight, Black Creek Pioneer Village will glow with lamplight, echo with laughter and dancing feet, and host local breweries, wineries, and distilleries!

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A Spirited Affair is an annual fundraiser to restore a selection of our historic buildings. Our Flynn House received A Spirited Affair’s attention last year. This year, we’re focusing on Burwick House: a prime example of a middle class home in 1860s Ontario.  With your help, we can preserve these unique buildings for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

For more information about a Spirited Affair, click here! And for a detailed breakdown of tonight’s events, here!

And don’t worry, we’ve got lots more happening at the brewery through October. Ed will shortly be brewing the Pumpkin Ale – perfect for Thanksgiving and Halloween. And on October 16th, we have the first of our two “Say Cheese, Say Cheers!” nights. Join expert Julia Rogers as she pairs five local cheese varieties with fine craft beers, sample our homemade bread and root chips – and of course, tour the brewery! Reserve tickets early to avoid disappointment; see here for more details!

Also coming up in October: our Hallowing Hootenanny returns! On October 18th/19th and 25th/26th, bring your wee ones to Black Creek for a frighteningly good time! Wear your favourite costume, trick-or-treat through the village…and maybe slip away for a sample of our Pumpkin Ale! 😉

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No question: with some much going on, autumn is one of our favourite seasons at Black Creek. We look forward to sharing it with you.

Cheers!

-Katie

A Spirited Affair: Spotlight on Whisky

Less than a week to go until our Spirited Affair! This is our annual fundraiser featuring local beer, wine, and spirits. Now, we’re pretty familiar with beer here on the Growler. We also did a spotlight on wine last year.

But what about spirits? What’s the story behind distilled drinks like whisky?

Whisky

If you’d like the dictionary definition, distillation is the “…process of separating component substances from a liquid mixture by selective vaporization and condensation.”

The dictionary definition is not terribly helpful.

But what it means is that the different substances making up a liquid mixture evaporate at different temperatures. If you can control the temperature correctly, you can extract alcohol from a wort-like mixture by boiling it out, and then condensing those gases to turn it back into a liquid. All while the water remains behind, resulting in a beverage with a much higher alcohol by volume.

Whisky has its roots in Ireland, dating back to roughly 1100 CE. According to the stories, Irish monks had travelled through the Mediterranean and Middle East; they then brought knowledge of distillation back with them. In any case, distillation of whisky was established in both Ireland and Scotland by the 15th century. Whisky-making spread to North America with British, Irish, and Scottish immigrants (George Washington had quite an impressive distillery),and in Canada, it was also helped along by the Late Loyalists who arrived from the States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Québec in particular had quite a large number of distilleries around this time—the Molson family actually started out distilling, rather than brewing.

Brewer, distiller, kindly smile - John Molson, is there nothing you can't do?
Brewer, distiller, kindly smile – John Molson, is there nothing you can’t do?

Indeed, through the early 1800s, whisky was more popular than beer. By the middle of the century, there were over 200 whisky-makers in Canada. However, since hard liquors are very high in alcohol, they attracted attention from early temperance advocates, who urged people to drink milder beverages like beer. Some of these Victorian distillers are still quite familiar to us today: Seagram, Hiram Walker (Canadian Club), and of course, Gooderham and Worts.

Advertisement for the Waterloo Distillery, operated by Seagram and Sons (courtesy the University of Waterloo)
Advertisement for the Waterloo Distillery, operated by Seagram and Sons (courtesy the University of Waterloo)

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However, there are a few key differences between brewing and distilling. It starts very similarly: a cereal grain (barley, rye, corn, it doesn’t really matter) is malted, milled, and then placed into a mash tun. With the addition of hot water, enzymes formed in the malting process convert the starch into a fermentable sugar. The sugar-infused liquid is then separated from the grains.

The pot still's set-up.
The pot still’s set-up.

This is where things diverge. At this point, brewers would boil this “sweet wort” in a brew-kettle and add hops for flavour. Distillers cool the “wash” immediately and add the yeast to start fermentation. When fermentation is complete, the distiller now has a liquid that is about 8% ABV. Pretty high for a beer, nowhere near high enough for whisky (legally, whisky has to be at least 40% ABV).

So, the distiller then places the wash into the still and begins heating it. In the 1800s, distillers were still using copper pot stills. As the wash is heated, the alcohol will evaporate before the water. The vapour passes into the condensing tube where it cools and turns back into liquid form—except most of the water has been left behind, meaning the alcohol is much more concentrated. Victorian condensers were often submerged in open wooden “backs” (vessels) containing cold water.

The first liquid to come out of the condensing tube is a mix of volatile compounds (methanol, anyone?) that evaporate first. They are called the “heads,” and must be thrown out. Similarly, distillers don’t use the very end of their distillation—the “tails”—as it does not actually add anything useful to the whisky. To concentrate the wash even more, it is distilled again—Scotch and Canadian whisky gets two rounds, Irish whiskey gets three. The product is then aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, where it can “breathe” and develop mature aromas, flavours, and colours.

(Sidebar: properly, this beverage is spelled whiskey in the United States and Ireland, and whisky in every other whisky-producing country in the world, including Canada.)

You can try some delicious offerings from the Toronto Distillery Company this Thursday. We look forward to seeing you—it will be a spirited event indeed!

-Katie

A Spirited Affair: 2014

We’re having an affair!

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Now that I have your attention – a Spirited Affair draws nigh! We’re two weeks away from our fundraising event featuring local beer, wine, and whisky. First, we’ll step back in time to a lively 1860s town. There, you can learn Victorian dancing, sample fine drinks and 1800s snacks (personally, I’m looking forward to the bacon jam), and interact with lively local characters—including our shopkeeper, brewmaster, and barmaid. But watch out for the Temperance advocate! Before you leave, be sure to drop by our Flynn House to see what’s changed since last year’s Spirited Affair. (Spoiler: a lot)

Tired yet? We hope not! Next stop: the 1960s! Twist and shout with a Beatles tribute band, and learn the cool moves of 1960s dance crazes. When all that dancing works up an appetite, sip cocktails and nibble on gourmet food – does mini quiche Lorraine, salmon mousse, and shrimp cocktails sound good for starters? 😉

Then, enjoy the smooth crooning of Andy de Campos, participate in our silent auction, and play our exciting fundraising games—there are prizes to be won!

And we want you to join in the fun: 1960s outfits are highly encouraged. There were some very sharp dressers at last year’s event—we look forward to seeing your favourite get-up!

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 our Burwick House.

Burwick has had a long, long life - some of the resulting damage is visible in this image.
Burwick has had a long, long life – some of the resulting damage is visible in this image.

Burwick House was one of the first buildings to be moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It’s one of the best examples we have of 19th century middle class life and customs. Situated in the heart of the village, it is also situated close to our hearts—now it’s time to show it the love it so richly deserves.

From the archives (Katie may have too much fun with the archives...): Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1959, the year before it officially opened. Burwick House has already been moved (just right of photograph centre).
From the archives (Katie may have too much fun with the archives…). Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1959, the year before it officially opened. Burwick House has already been moved (just right of photograph centre).

Our guests this year include:

A Spirited Affair will be held on Thursday, September 25th, 2014, from 7:00-10:00 pm. Tickets are $80/person and include drink samples and gourmet foods—advance reservations are required. To avoid disappointment, book early! Click here, or call our customer service line at 416-667-6295.

You can find more information here as well.

It’ll be an affair to remember! We can’t wait to see you there.

-Katie

New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Our Wet Hop Ale is ready! Brewed with the hops we harvested a short time ago, this seasonal ale has turned out very well indeed. Usually, beer is brewed with dried hops (actually, modern beers are brewed with compacted hop pellets, but that is beside the point). With the Wet Hop Ale, Ed has used hops straight from the vine. Seriously, maybe 10 minutes passed between filling our bushel baskets and putting the hops in the brew-kettle – and that’s because we walked to the brewery and chatted with Ed!

So, what is the Wet Hop Ale like?

Coming in at 5% ABV, this beer is a deep gold colour, almost a light amber. Brewing with wet hops is like cooking with fresh herbs rather than dried: the nose is quite delicate and floral. Naturally, this ale is hop-oriented, but they aren’t very aggressive. Floral and citrus notes come through to start, with a hint of underlying earthiness. The beer has a bit more weight on the tongue than I expected, but this is a smooth, satisfying beer.

Since this brew requires hops that have just been harvested, we can only make the Wet Hop Ale once each year (it’s become my personal sign that autumn is fast approaching). Like much of life, it is far too fleeting – which makes us appreciate it all the more. 🙂

The Wet Hop Ale will be available only at the historic brewery whilst our stocks last. And in another sign of approaching autumn, I noticed a Stout and Porter fermenting in the casks; look for those in a week or so!

-Katie

PS. Save the date! A Spirited Affair, our fundraiser and celebration of craft beers, wines, and spirits, is on September 25th. It’s a great event to support a great cause (restoration of our historic buildings). For more information and tickets, please click here!