Pirates and Princesses and Grog!

Arrr, mateys! This Victoria Day weekend, pirates and princesses are coming to Black Creek Pioneer Village! While we’re sure you’ll be very excited to taste our Apricot Ale (already fermenting in the cellar!), our salty pirate friends might be looking for grog.

They’ll be out of luck, because as you know, the Black Creek Historic Brewery is entirely beer-oriented. However, grog has a history all of its own.

Woodcut: "Ship of Fools." I wonder what that man at right is drinking?
Woodcut: “Ship of Fools.” I wonder what that man at right is drinking?

Essentially, grog is a mix of water and rum, often with citrus juices added to help prevent scurvy. British Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon introduced it to his crew in the 1740s. Because of the grogham coat he wore, the Vice Admiral was nicknamed Old Grogham, or Old Grog. Soon enough, the name grog stuck to the beverage as well!

But why give sailors alcohol? During long ocean voyages, access to clean drinking water is absolutely vital. However, desalinating seawater isn’t terribly practical, which leads us to the conundrum of, “Water, water, everywhere – and not a drop to drink.” Fresh water was stored in casks, but quickly grew stagnant and full of algae. Beer and/or wine helped improve the taste, and so became an important part of life aboard ship.

When England conquered Jamaica in 1655, rum took over as the spirit of choice. Rum is derived from sugarcane byproducts – either molasses or sugarcane juice – fermented and distilled. As more and more sugar planters set up shop in the Caribbean, you can imagine how keen they were to have the navy as a robust market! In fact, the British Navy only stopped its rum ration in 1970, and the New Zealand Royal Navy continued right until 1990!

Of course, the navy wasn’t the only group that enjoyed its rum. There’s a longstanding association between pirates and rum as well – British privateers traded in this sweet commodity. Yet while movies suggest that grog and pirates go together like an IPA and a hot summer day, pirates often took their rum in the form of bumbo.


Bumbo mixes rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg (sometimes cinnamon instead). Pirates were less concerned about adding citrus juices. Their relatively short voyages meant that they were much less likely to develop scurvy, so they wanted something both intoxicating and delicious!

Of course, rum, grog, and bumbo were all products of, as well as contributors to, a global network of trade and colonialism that was in full swing by our time period here at Black Creek. Rum facilitated longer voyages; and rum production itself developed through British expansion. Ah, historical forces feeding upon each other. Something to ponder, as you sip our Apricot Ale over the long weekend!

Until next time,


2016: We’re Back!

Hello, Beer-Lovers!

It is good to see you all again! It’s been a long, cold (and busy…very busy) winter away from our lovely Black Creek Historic Brewery.

(I did try some interesting beers, though. Highlights include the Mean Old Tom—a mouthwatering stout from the Maine Beer Company—and the Koru—a Belgian pale ale with a New Zealand twist, from our friends at Beau’s All-Natural Brewing.)

But I know we’ve all missed Ed’s historic brews. Happily, Black Creek is now open for our 2016 season, and our fridges are already full! Currently, we have our Porter, Stout, and India Pale Ale all ready for purchase and sampling. And there’s more on the way! Here is our 2016 Specialty Ale Lineup!

*drumroll, please*


May – Apricot Ale

June – Ginger Ale

July – Maple Brown Ale

August – Simcoe Hopped Ale

September – Fresh Hop/Wet Hop Pale Ale

October – Whiskey Barrel Aged Brown Ale, Honey Brown Ale & Pumpkin Ale

November – Gingerbread Stout (Katie raises a curious, appreciative eyebrow)

December – Winter Warmer

What else can you expect for 2016?

More sampling!

That’s right, we now have another beer sampling block! From 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm daily, you can visit us in the historic brewery, try a flight, purchase/return growlers, and have a chat with your friendly neighbourhood Beer Experts.


Our ever-beloved Historic Brewery Tour is back! Pick up your tour ticket from Admissions, and then join us on the Half Way House porch, daily at 2:00 pm. We’ll meet 1860s drinkers and temperance advocates, explore brewing processes and ingredients, and lift a glass to Queen and Country!

John Lewis Krimmel 's "Village Tavern" (1814-1815).
First stop on the tour: our taproom, very similar to this one shown in John Lewis Krimmel ‘s “Village Tavern” (1814-1815).


Once again, Ed is looking for eager apprentices to brew side-by-side with him! Spend the day at the village learning brewing secrets straight from the master himself, join our Beer Expert on tour, and then take a growler home with you! Spots are filling fast (already!), so book early to avoid disappointment!

This Blog!

Yes, I have returned from my winter hibernation! Look for news, updates, and assorted beer history right here on this site—new posts go up on alternate Thursdays.


We’re really looking forward to another season at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, and we hope you are, too! It’s funny—every year in May, I shake my head, because I can’t imagine how we’ll fit all of our tours, specialty beers, events, and tastings in. There’s always so much happening at Black Creek!

And yet—and yet, the year flies by. It always does, when you’re having fun. 😀

We’re glad to be back. See you in the brewery!