Monthly Archives: July 2015

Playing it Cool: Victorian Refrigeration

You’ve probably noticed just how hot is in Toronto these days. Welcome to summer in the city! We’re nice and cool down here in the Black Creek Historic Brewery, thanks to a few 21st-century conveniences: specifically, air-conditioning and refrigerators. These modern marvels allow the beer to ferment properly and keep longer, providing you with tasty brew even in the hottest weather.

Now, things were a little trickier in the 1800s. Especially in the early decades of the nineteenth century, brewing was primarily a seasonal occupation, occurring in the cooler months between September (ish) and April (ish). When it gets really hot in the summer, brewing becomes harder, as ale yeasts like to ferment at room temperature—and lager yeasts, even colder than that! Not to mention, sitting out in the heat makes beer more likely to spoil.

So it’s not terribly surprising that Victorians were keen on experimenting with means of refrigeration. Simply, refrigeration is the process of moving heat from one place to another. The earliest “refrigerators” were simple cellars and/or holes in the ground, lined with straw or sawdust and filled with ice and snow.

Earlier than our period, but here's the general principle. (Courtesy https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com)

Earlier than our period, but here’s the general principle. (Courtesy https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com)

Ice harvesting and distribution became quite a lucrative industry by the 1830s. Consumption jumped through the 1840s and 1850s: from 12,000 to 100,000 tons in New York City, and 6,000 to 85,000 tons in Boston. A particularly entrepreneurial man named Frederick Tudor seized the opportunity to make money sending ice to the tropics. To transport it, he experimented with different insulators, eventually reducing ice loss from 66% to 8%.

Harvesting ice in New York, ca. 1852. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

Harvesting ice in New York, ca. 1852. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

Besides ice, Victorians also explored refrigeration with mechanical means, which more-or-less fit the age’s general preoccupation with industry, innovation, and progress.  Vapor-compression systems, like the one built in 1834 by inventor Jacob Perkins, worked continuously. The workings of vapor-compression refrigeration systems are more involved than can be described here, so I shall simply quote, “The vapor-compression uses a circulating liquid refrigerant as the medium which absorbs and removes heat from the space to be cooled and subsequently rejects that heat elsewhere.” Other inventors followed suit, including John Gorrie, who in 1842 created a system capable of freezing water into ice. Although a commercial disaster, the stage had been set for increasing experiments through the rest of the century.

Gorrie's Ice Machine: courtesy Wikipedia.

Gorrie’s Ice Machine: courtesy Wikipedia.

Unsurprisingly, by the 1870s, the biggest refrigeration consumers were none other than the breweries, for reasons very much like those stated at the beginning of this post. That being said, increasing industrialization and pollution often resulted in “tainted ice,” which affected the health and flavour of the beer. Brewers’ complaints drove inventors to seek alternates…

…a path which eventually ended up in our cool, cozy brewery today. So come on down, take a break from the broiling sun, and enjoy a flight of cool (cellar-temperature) beer.

-Katie

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New Brew: Chocolate/Vanilla Porter

There’s another new beer in the fridges!

This year's Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3!

This year’s Spirited Affair is Saturday, October 3!

One of the silent auction prizes in last year’s Spirited Affair was the chance to design and brew your own beer with Ed. Our lucky winner Kimball has given us something truly delicious. This is a sweet chocolate/vanilla porter. It’s a rich, full-bodied dessert beer: dark, rich, and loaded with chocolate flavour. A small addition of lactose also lends sweetness and creaminess – much like a Milk Stout. This brew would pair well with your favourite desserts: cakes, brownies, and anything else sweet and rich.

It’ll be available for purchase this weekend, and as usual, will last until it’s all gone.

One last thing: Kimbal has named this beer the “Anne-Marie,” after his wife. We think that’s the sweetest note of all! 🙂

Cheers!

Katie

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Horsing Around: the Budweiser Clydesdales

I have to admit that Budweiser is not my favourite beer. As we say in the historic brewery, everyone’s palate is different. I’m not a fan of eggs either, but I love spice. Just the way my palate is constructed.

Nevertheless, I do have a secret soft spot for the Budweiser Clydesdales. Clydesdales in general make me happy—they’re gorgeous animals, and they always remind me of Ross and Integra here at Black Creek. Plus—the Budweiser Clydesdales actually have a Canadian connection!

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Draught horses have long been used to pull brewery wagons and make deliveries. As you all know from lifting your purchased growlers, beer is heavy. And remember, nineteenth century roads were very rough; large, well-muscled horses had an easier time of it. Different companies favoured different horse breeds. Some liked Hackneys; Shires were popular.

But we’re here to talk about Clydesdales.

The Clydesdale breed emerged in 1800s Scotland—from the region around the River Clyde, funnily enough. Selectively bred from Flemish stallions, they were also the favourite breed of one Mr. Patrick Shea, a brewer in Winnipeg.

PatrickShea

Patrick Shea

Born in County Kerry, Ireland, Shea emigrated in 1870, finally settling in Manitoba in 1882. From 1884, he operated the Waverley Hotel with his new friend, fellow Irishman John McDonagh (side bar: it always fascinates me, pondering how two people decide to go into business together—did they cook up this plot over a pint?). In 1887, the dynamic duo purchased the defunct Winnipeg Brewery. Sadly, McDonagh died six years later, leaving Shea the sole owner.

Besides brewing, Shea was also dedicated to breeding Clydesdales. So much so, he took to importing champion horses from Scotland to strengthen the bloodline. Even after the introduction of the car, Shea continued to use his horses well past World War I. In 1933, he finally sold some to an American brewery….

 

Horse2

…because in 1933, Prohibition had just been repealed in the United States, and one August Busch Jr. wanted to give his father a gift to celebrate. August Busch Sr., a St. Louis brewer, had been told his son had bought him a car. But when he came out, a team of Shea’s Clydesdales awaited him. They carried the first case of post-Prohibition beer, thrilling crowds and providing lots of advertising for Anheuser-Busch.

Today’s Budweiser Clydesdales are descendants of that original team, and they still thrill crowds and provide advertising—think of the Super Bowl!

So what does it take to be a Budweiser Clydesdale?

Prospective hitch members must be…

  • A gelding
  • At least four years old
  • At least six feet high at the shoulder, weighing between 1800-2300 pounds.
  • Bay in colour (light-dark reddish brown)

And they must have a black mane and tail, four white stocking feet, and a white blaze on the face. Our boy Ross might have a little too much white around his legs and face, and I’m not sure he’s quite big enough…but I’d take him any day. 😉

Ross on a summer morning.

Ross on a summer morning.

Even though those Clydesdales are pretty stunning…

Cheers!

Katie

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New Brew: Maple Brown Ale

We hope you had a lovely holiday! A new specialty beer has hit the fridges down here in the Black Creek Historic Brewery. For July, we have our Maple Brown Ale.

mapleleaf
Ed used our classic Brown Ale as the base for this recipe, before adding a litre or so of pure maple syrup. As it happens, the addition of maple syrup can be a tricky part of the brewing process. It’s 98% sugar, which means that the yeast love it, and want desperately to ferment it. Too heavy a hand, and you can end up with a too-high-ABV, unbalanced beer.

But of course, this fine balancing act wasn’t a problem for Ed! The Maple Brown Ale is a subtly sweet beer, coming in at 5% ABV. You can just detect the maple on the nose, but initially, the usual caramel flavours of our Brown Ale abound. It’s a very smooth beer, a bit heavier on the tongue than our classic Brown. The maple syrup really comes into play on the finish. After swallowing, the maple taste rushes up, lending the beer a sweet finish.

Find out more about the Maple Brown Ale below, in the next installment of our web series!


Even after Canada Day, we still have some growlers left in the fridge, so hurry down before it’s all gone, eh? 🙂

Katie

PS. I could be wrong, and I hate to be a tease (well, not really)…but I think Ed might be plotting again. 😉

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