From all of us, to all of you, have a safe and happy 2017!
Once again, we have made it to the end of our brewing season here at the Black Creek Brewery! Tomorrow, December 23rd, 2016, is the last day we’ll be open until April 29th, 2017. We can’t believe it either, but time flies when you’re having fun. 😉
Once again, we’ve had a fantastic year of beer tours and tastings, new brews and historic views. From our fresh and fruity spring beers, to the ripening hops, to our ghostly ales and historic tales, to our winter celebrations, we have loved every minute of it.
So I think that this is a good time to raise a glass to you! Yes, you! Where would we be, without your thirst for history?
Going back through the archives, I realize that this wraps up four years on the blog for me – and remember, my predecessor started The Growler way back in 2009. Many of you have been following us the whole time, for which we cannot thank you enough. When I started writing here, I’ll admit that I didn’t know what a rabbit’s hole awaited me. But that’s beer for you, isn’t it? More complex than meets the eye, rich and nuanced, with that appeal that keeps you coming back for more.
What happens now?
The Black Creek Brewery will be shut from December 24th, 2016 to April 29th, 2017. The rest of Black Creek Pioneer Village will reopen from March 13th-19th, 2017 for March Break, but the brewery will stay closed.
Can’t wait until our season starts on April 29th, 2017? Never fear, our commercial beer is available in the LCBO, Beer Store, and select grocery stores all year long. Check the LCBO and Beer Store websites to see stock at your local store!
Thanks again! We’ll see you in the spring!
To Queen and Country!
In this occasional series, we delve into our archives to bring you some of our favourite posts. Here’s a look at the tradition of wassailing!
Here we come a-wassailing,
Among the leaves so green…
Alcohol and winter celebrations have a long and intertwined history. This is particularly true when you start looking at the old tradition of wassailing. “The Wassail Song” is one of my favourites anyway – but you can imagine how my ears prick up when we get to this verse:
Call up the butler of this house,
Put on his golden ring,
Let him bring us up a glass of beer,
The better we shall sing…
So what is wassailing, exactly? The word can refer either to a custom of drinking someone’s health and/or going from home to home singing, or to the drink itself. A “wassail” drink is often mulled cider, wine, or beer. A specific type of wassail called “lambs’ wool” was frequently used: this was dark ale, whipped into a froth, spiced and decorated with roasted apples. The admittedly peculiar name may arise either from the appearance of the froth, or from a corruption of the Irish celebration “La Mas Ubhal.”
Looking at “wassail” as a verb, there are a few different types. For instance, wassailing can refer specifically to a custom of blessing apple and other fruit trees.
In England’s West Country, usually on Twelfth Night (January 5th), or Old Twelfth Night (January 17th), people carried mulled cider and/or spiced ale to apple and cider trees. Cider-soaked cakes were laid at the trees’ roots, and more cider splashed on the tree itself. Guns fired into the branches, pots and pans were banged together—the commotion was meant to frighten away evil spirits. At the same time, wassail songs were sung, encouraging good spirits to protect the trees and ensure their fertility for the next year.
For it’s our Wassail, jolly Wassail,
Joy come to our jolly Wassail,
How well may they bloom, how may they bear,
That we may have apples and cider next year.
– Apple Tree Wassail
Wassailing can also refer to passing around a common cup or bowl, called a “Loving Cup.” The tradition of passing around a common drink and toasting good health dates back centuries in English history; there is even a reference to wassailing in Beowulf! The term “wassail” itself comes from the Old English phrase “Waes hael!” or, “To your health!” The traditional response to this was, naturally, “Drinc hael!” or, “Drink your health!” It’s interesting to see alcohol consistently used to seal off deals, oaths, and wishes—perhaps a remnant of the practice of pouring libations to the gods?
Bryng us in good ale, and bryng us in good ale;
For owr blyssyd lady sak, bryng us in good ale.
Bryne us in no browne bred, for that is made of brane,
Nor bryng us in no whyt bred, for theriun is no game.
But bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us in no befe, for ther is many bonys,
But bryng us in good ale, for that goth downe at onys;
But bryng us in good ale.
– Bryng us in no Browne Bred (Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, 1847)
Finally, wassailing can also refer to the practice of going around to people’s houses with a wassail bowl and a song. The group would sing and bless the house in exchange for money and more alcohol—this tends to be the version of wassailing in many of the songs with which we’re familiar today. Interestingly, there was a concern in the early decades of the nineteenth century that the old wassail songs and carols were dying out, prompting a concerted effort to record tunes and lyrics (much like Thomas Wright did, just above!). We have much to thank those Victorian writers for!
Wassail, wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white, and our ale it is brown…
– Gloucestershire Wassail
Wassailing also gave rise to carolling: travelling around to sing to people’s homes, but without the involvement of alcohol. We’ve kept this tradition at Black Creek, with our own wandering carollers during our Christmas by Lamplight! Feel free to join in the singing—perhaps after a visit to the brewery for some “Waes hael!’ (Hey, with the bitter orange peel and coriander, our Winter Warmer actually makes a decent wassail!)
PS. A wassailing song in full:
Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate the first of our three “Christmas by Lamplight” events. Lamplight 2.0 is this Saturday evening (tickets here!), and we will once again be sampling our Winter Warmer down in the Black Creek Brewery.
Our 2016 Winter Warmer is similar to last year’s brew. It’s an amber ale: Ed’s replicated the colour of a Christmas orange in your glass! Not surprisingly, the main players here Ed’s additions of bitter orange peel and coriander. Orange is the first aroma I noticed, and certainly the first thing I tasted. This is a medium-bodied beer, very smooth and drinkable, even with an ABV of 6.5%. My fellow Beer Expert Milan and I posit that it’s a little sweeter than last year’s batch – come see what your palate says!
Ed’s doing several brews of the Winter Warmer, and it will only be available here at the Black Creek Brewery. Be sure to pick some up before we close for the season on the 23rd!
It’s officially December, and you know what that means! Our Christmas by Lamplight evening events run the first three Saturdays of December…which means that the first event is this weekend!
In the deep of the winter evening, the village comes to life with holiday cheer! Explore the village through the soft glow of candles and lamplight. Strains of traditional music float through the air as you breathe in the spiced scents of mincemeat, gingerbread, and other treats. As you create your own crafts and ornaments to take home, enjoy the Victorian Christmas decorations proudly festooning every building.
But wait—there’s more! Round out the evening with some artistic entertainment! Learn the history of beloved Christmas carols and join in singing, tap your toes at a country dance, and take in a traditional Christmas pantomime—a specially commissioned production of The Snow Queen.
Thirsty after all that? I hope so! Naturally, the brewery will be open, with yours truly delighted to lead you through guided tastings all night long. Our Winter Warmer will be debuting this weekend, so get ready for a cup of cheer! (A growler also makes a great present…or treat for poor, hardworking Santa. Just saying! *wink*)
The holidays are kicking into high gear now, and we look forward to celebrating them with you! You can learn more and purchase tickets here. Book early to avoid disappointment!