Our favorite flower

Happy Easter everyone! Easter is one of my favorite holidays – it reminds me of spring, blooming flowers, and warm weather (hopefully) around the corner.  Spring is especially exciting at the village.. we are getting ready to open at the end of April. Our sheep are also quite pregnant and we are expecting lambs any day now! In the spirit of the season of flowers, let’s talk about some of the hops we use here in the Black Creek brewery! Hops are technically a flower after all… so lets get into the spring spirit and take a look at some of our favorite varieties of hops!

Our mystery hops growing at Black Creek Pioneer Village

East Kent Golding Hops
Location of origin: England
Found in: Our historic Best Bitter ale

East Kent Golding is one of the most famous varieties of English hops. They have a much less fruity taste and smell than a North American variety, instead possessing more floral and earthy notes. Our Best Bitter is a very traditional English ale, so it calls for a very traditional English hop to be used in the brewing process. You can expect a beer brewed with East Kent Golding hops to be floral, herbal, and fresh tasting. This perfectly describes our Best Bitter.

Citra and Nugget Hops
Location of origin: United States
Found in: Our historic India Pale Ale

Citra and Nugget hops are some of my favorite varieties of hop that we use. Both possess a strong citrusy and floral aroma. These fruity hops are the the stars of our historic India Pale Ale, and give it that incredible citrus grapefruit taste and aroma. These hops are also excellent for bittering, and give our IPA that nice balanced bitterness. Beer brewed with Citra and/or Nugget hops are usually very tropical tasting, with a bitter bite that will satisfy any hardcore India Pale Ale fan.

Cascade Hops
Location of origin: United States
Found in: Our historic Pale Ale

Just as East Kent Golding hops are the quintessential British hop, Cascade hops are a signature choice for brewing a North American style brew. We use Cascade hops as part of the hop blend in our Pale Ale – an ale that is still very citrusy and floral, but not quite as strong as our India Pale Ale. Cascade hops also have more of an earthy, pine note than a hop like Citra. The result is a light and refreshing Pale Ale that is perfect for a summer afternoon.

Mystery Hops
Location of origin: ???
Found in: Our Wet Hop Ale

Our Wet Hop ale is a big treat down in the brewery – this brew uses fresh hops instead of dried ones. Our brewmaster Ed likens this to using fresh herbs instead of dried ones when cooking. At the end of summer, we harvest the hops growing on the village property in order to make this amazing Wet Hop ale. But there’s just one thing… we aren’t exactly sure what type of hops we are using! According to Ed, the person responsible for planting the hops left before they could let anyone know what variety they planted. The mystery of the Wet Hop ale has puzzled us down in the brewery, but Ed guesses they are something similar to a Cascade hop. Our mystery hop is not very aggressive in taste or smell, and has notes of light floral, citrus, and earthy flavors. Whatever it is, it’s definitely good!

Hops to you,


IBU? ABV? What?

Some of our historic beer in the brew kettle

I’ll be the first to admit – beer can be a little confusing. Once you become interested in learning about beer, you’re hit with a number of acronyms and terminologies that you may have never heard of before. IBU? SRM? ABV? Huh?

Okay, so unless you’re a brewer it’s unlikely you’ll have to be an expert on every beer term imaginable. But when it comes to selecting a beer for yourself, understanding a few beer terms can help you make a more informed choice. Most craft breweries will list a little bit more advanced information about their product than an average macrobrewery. Let’s break down these terms and see what they mean.

This simply stands for international bitterness units. Once you know that, the rest is pretty self explanatory. IBU generally measures how bitter a beer is on the palate. As you can suspect, bitter tasting beers such as India Pale Ales tend to have higher IBUs. The IBU scale can technically range from 1 all the way up to 120 and over.  Some beers even boast IBUs in the quadruple digits, but it’s rare to see beers that boast an extremely low or extremely high number. A standard lager is usually around 10 IBUs, while a run of the mill IPA can be anywhere from 50-80 IBUs. If you’re a fan of bitter beers, you can confidently order something on the higher end of the scale. If you’re a fan of more mild tasting beers, aim for something that scores a little lower.

Another handy acronym – ABV stands for alcohol by volume. This one is fairly easy and probably a measurement you’ve dealt with before when ordering a drink. The lower the percentage, the lower the amount of alcohol per given volume. Beer usually ranges from around 4% for a lighter beer up to a whopping 9% for a double or imperial IPA. Be careful – a drink with a higher ABV can get you intoxicated much faster.

Compared to the other two, this one is a little more technical. SRM stands for standard reference method. This is a way that brewers measure the color of a beer. The lower the SRM, the lighter the beer. A pale lager usually scores about a 2, while a stout is usually around 30-40. This isn’t very important for choosing the right beer for your tastes, but it’s a handy classification method for those who brew their own beer.

The last bit of beer terminology I will leave you with is a session ale or session beer. This is a classification I had heard before, but I had no clue what it meant. Simply put, session ales tend to be lower in ABV than other types of ales. These beers are usually around 3-4.5%, and are brewed so that you do not feel the effects of the alcohol as quickly. Here’s an easy way to remember – session ales mean that you can drink more beer in one session. It’s fun to drink something like a double IPA, but not so fun when you have half your glass and suddenly can’t stand. A session ale means you can prolong your drinking session, taking things at more of a relaxed pace.

Hopefully after this post, you’ve learned a bit or brushed up on your beer terminology. The specificity and variety of craft beer is what makes drinking it so fun. So next time you go to a bar with a board full of information on each beer, instead of confusing you it can maybe help you make a more informed decision!

Hops to you,



History Mysteries at Black Creek Pioneer Village

It’s almost March Break at Black Creek Pioneer Village! The village has been closed for the season since Christmas, and i’ve been missing the busy feel of being open to the public. Our season officially begins on April 28th, but every year we open up the village for an exciting week of March Break programming. We will be open from Monday, March 12th to Sunday, March 18th. Not only do kids get in free when accompanied by an adult, but we have a ton of exciting things planned for visitors that stop by. In fact, we will have a March Break mystery for junior detectives to solve. To solve the mystery, you’ll have to hunt for clues and question suspects around the village. Unfortunately, our historic brewery won’t be open for March Break, but will open for the season on April 28th along with the rest of the village!

To celebrate our March Break mystery, here’s a beer mystery from the archives. Our previous beer writer Katie wrote an excellent piece about a case of potential death by beer. Was a poisonous small beer truly behind the death of Thomas Thetcher? Read on to find out…

Embedded image permalink

It all started with this photo: My boss sent it to me, adding, “…read as much of the small print as possible.” 

Luckily for my eyes, the full text is available elsewhere:

In Memory of Thomas Thetcher a Grenadier in the North Reg. of Hants Militia, who died of

a violent Fever contracted by drinking Small Beer when hot the 12 May 1764. Aged 26 Years.

In grateful remembrance of whose universal good will towards his Comrades, this Stone is placed here at their expence, as a small testimony of their regard and concern.

Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier,

Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer, Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall

And when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all. 

What? How did the beer kill him? Did it have something to do with the temperature, or was it the “small” (low-alcohol) nature of the beer? Your trusty beer journalist cannot resist a history mystery like this, so of course I’ve spent the last three days digging. What killed Thomas Thetcher?

Continue Reading…

The Story of Stout

When I think of certain beers we serve here at the Black Creek historic brewery, they each remind me of a different time of year. Our darker beers like our historic Stout and Porter make me think of rainy spring days and cozy fall afternoons. Lighter beers like our Pale Ale and Best Bitter remind me of hot summer days, when the village is sunny and bright. We’ve been lucky here in Toronto, and an early spring has arrived in February.  It’s warm and sunny, but still chilly enough that i’m still in the mood for a darker beer. Hopefully you are too, as our flight lineup on opening day will include our dark and rich historic take on a stout.

The dark, opaque look of a stout can be a little intimidating. I’ve had visitors to the brewery look at me hesitantly, remarking that they only like light beers. Most of the time, they take their first sip and change their minds immediately.  Stout is a much more complex, interesting beer than you may think. Not only in taste and richness, but also in its history!


A pint of our potato stout. This brew is available in Growler format usually around the beginning of October. Our regular stout is available throughout spring, fall, and winter. Look at that dark color!

Down in the Black Creek brewery, we describe a stout as “a porter gone mad,” and for good reason. The story of stout begins with the porter, which is a similarly dark and malty beer. The porter was an extremely popular beer in England in the 18th century, especially among the working class who needed to replenish energy and calories through drinking beer. Porters became so popular that many different breweries popped up to accommodate the demand, each with their own twist on the style. These new takes varied in color, richness, and alcohol content. Brews that were higher in alcohol were noted to be stronger – often called “stout porters.”

While the word “stout” has fallen out of our 21st century vocabulary, it is still typically defined as a synonym for strong, bold, or powerful. This makes perfect sense – stout porters were a stronger and bolder twist on the traditional porter brew. As time went on, “stout” and “porter” became differentiated as two similar but distinct styles of beer. It is still debated what separates one from the other, but it is mostly accepted that a stout tends to have more of a roasted, coffee-like taste than a porter. They also tend to be much darker in color, almost opaque. At the Black Creek historic brewery, our porter has a milder, slightly nuttier taste than our stout. Our stout has more of a rich coffee and roasted grains taste, while our porter is less intense and more on the sweet side of bittersweet. Our porter also has ruby tints when held up to light, while our stout is a very inky black color.

The classification of “stout” has become associated with one beer brand – Guinness dry Irish stout. The popularity of Guinness has made its brand name almost synonymous with stout. The Guinness brewery’s take is what most people have come to expect from the classification. Guinness beers tend to be creamy, rich, and even slightly syrupy. Fans of paler, lighter beer may shy away from trying a thicker, darker style. However, not all stouts are creamy and thick – our Black Creek stout is very light in body and mouthfeel while maintaining the traditional roasted coffee-like stout taste associated with the style.

Stouts are seen as the most hearty of all the beer styles. Our brewmaster describes some stouts as a meal in a glass, or a beer you can have with a spoon. It is even believed that a stout’s hearty consistency gives it healing properties. It is said that nursing women in Ireland were “prescribed” a pint of Guinness to renew their strength and iron levels after breastfeeding. While the medical validity of this claim is highly questionable, many still believe that a stout is more nutritious or healthy choice than any other beer. While darker beers do contain slightly more iron than lighter ones, it is not enough of a discrepancy to really make any noticeable difference in your health to pick one style over another.

Either way, we can all agree that a stout is an excellent choice for a spring beer. Don’t forget, our opening day here at Black Creek Pioneer Village is April 28th. The historic brewery will be open from 1:00 to close, so come drop by and try our take on a stout.

Hops to you,