A Beer for All Seasons

While chatting about people’s beer preferences, I would often hear visitors to the brewery describe themselves as “seasonal beer drinkers.” Fair enough, I am too. Even the most fervent lover of stouts and porters finds them a bit much on a day when the Humidex hits 40. Likewise, a light lager doesn’t always do it on a cold, rainy night.

But then I thought a little more about it, and I realized: the weather isn’t the only factor influencing the beers towards which I gravitate. When you’re selecting a beer to drink, there’s a whole range of things to think about: the setting, the list of available beers, the food, your cravings/mood on that particular day…

And so, I have compiled this list of alternate beer categories. Enjoy!

“The Go-To”

This is the beer that you can find on tap in nearly any pub. Easy-drinking, it’s the sort of beer you can drink throughout the night—and feel pretty pleased about.

For me? Beau’s Lugtread Ale.

“The Back-Up”

Okay, so you’re scanning the beer list…and you’re not seeing anything that grabs your interest. In fact, you’re contemplating getting water instead. Then you see it­—that beer that really isn’t your favourite, but you will still drink it!

For me? Guinness

“That Beer That’s Harder To Find, But You Love It, so When You See It, It’s Yours”

It’s not a common beer, but you fell in love with it long ago. When you spy it on a beer list, there’s no question. It’s yours, right now.

For me? Black Creek’s Ginger Beer, Péché Mortel (Dieu du Ciel).

“The Thirst-Quenching Beer”

You’ve been outside for hours. The sun is beating down. Probably, you’ve been doing physical work or exercise, and you are parched. Sometimes, you just need a beer, and this hits the spot.

For me? Sidelaunch Wheat, Beat the Heat (Black Oak)

The Half Way House Inn: home of the Black Creek Historic Brewery.

“The Sitting By the Fire on a Midwinter’s Night”

It’s the middle of winter. The wind chill is somewhere in the negative-20s. A gale is howling around your house, darkness has fallen, and if you don’t have a blazing fire, you should. It’s just you, a good book, and a beer in a very fancy glass.

For me? Midvinterblot (Sigtuna Brygghus)

“That Beer You’ve Heard Everyone Rave About and then You Randomly Spy it in the LCBO One Day”

Pretty self-explanatory, and it also just happened to me!

For me? Founders Kentucky Breakfast Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout

(Old Bust Head, a craft brewery in Warrenton, VA)

“The Local Brew in a Strange City”

Travelling as often as I do, I’ve made friends with beers and breweries in many different cities. It’s always fun to see what’s on tap elsewhere, and you start to find a few reliable favourites.

For me? Old Bust Head’s Mocha Macchiato Stout, Alewerks’ Old Stitch

“The What IS That, I MUST Try It!”

Every so often, you come across a beer that you just have to try. Maybe the description is particularly intriguing. Maybe it boasts your exact favourite flavours. Or maybe your favourite brewmaster is trying a new recipe. 😉

For me? Black Creek’s Gingerbread Stout, Hypnopompa (Omnipollo), Earl Grey Porter (Royal City Brewing)

*

What about you? What are your beers for all seasons? Maybe you’ll find your next one down at the Black Creek Historic Brewery!

To Queen and Country!

Katie

 

New in the LCBO: Canada 150 Ale!

Hello, beer-lovers!

We’ve brewed up a surprise for you! To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, we are releasing a new beer for the LCBO! The Canada 150 Ale is a special edition of our beloved Best Bitter—a refreshing way to enjoy the sesquicentennial.

If you enjoyed the historic version of this beer down in the Black Creek brewery, you’ll probably be a fan of this ale, too. It pours deep, coppery amber; almost like an autumnal maple leaf. As with all our commercial beers, you can expect some moderate head, too.

The nose is fairly mild with sweet, biscuit-like and malty aromas. Those flavours continue through the first sip and mid-tastes as well. You’ll notice some caramel/toffee notes too, and an earthy hop presence on the finish. It’s a light-bodied, easy-drinking beer: perfect for a summer barbeque, patio session, or as a refresher after time in the sun.

Another cool thing! You’ll notice that we’ve got snazzy new cans. We’re kicking things off with a fantastic Canada 150-themed design—it may have caused some swooning down in the brewery. 😉

Our Canada 150 Best Bitter will be available in the LCBO starting in June. As always, I strongly recommend checking availability on the LCBO website before you head out! Here’s to another 150 years!

To Queen and Country!

Katie

Beer Glasses 101

A well-crafted beer is a fine, fine thing indeed. It’s the sort of beverage you savour, enjoying to the utmost. And if you want to make the experience truly complete, you can sip your brew from the appropriate glass.

That’s right: just like wines, certain styles of beer are best served in certain styles of barware. It’s not an absolute perquisite, but it does help show your beer off to its best advantage. There’s a wide range of glasses out there, but here’s a “sample flight” for you!

(Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Pint Glasses

Two different types here: US “shaker” pints are simple affairs that hold 16 oz. Their straightforwardness is well suited to many American styles, particularly pale ales.

2000px-pint_glass_mixing-svg

The British “Nonic pint,” by contrast, holds 20 oz. It’s most distinguished by the lip at its top: not only does this give you a better grip on the glass, it’s helpful when stacking them—as is the case in many cosy British pubs. The extra 4 oz can hold more beer, or accommodate beers with more head—it’s a good all-around, everyday glass.

2000px-pint_glass_pub-svg

Flutes

Long, narrow, and slender, these beauties almost look like champagne glasses. Not too far off the mark, they pair well with lambics and fruit beers, as they show off those styles’ lacing, carbonation, and help concentrate their complex aromas.

2000px-flute_glass-svg

Tulip

Also good for beers with strong aromatic profiles! The tulip is a stemmed glass: the top pushes out (much like a tulip) and the sides curve down to a bulbous body. Try them with Belgian ales, lambics, Scotch ales, and saisons.

cognac_glass_-_tulip_shaped

Chalice

Similar to the tulip, but with a wider bowl. This glass works well with heavy, malty beers: bocks, Belgian ales, and stouts!

2000px-goblet_glass_schooner-svg

Weizen

As the name suggests, the weizen is designed for wheat beers. Its long body draws attention to wheat beers’ pale, hazy colour. A bulbous top accommodates their thick heads, and locks in the characteristic banana/bubblegum aromas.

spiegelau_wheat_beer_glass_2

Pilsner

Not unlike the flute glass, a slender and tapered body captures a pilsner’s effervescence. A very versatile glass, it’s great for lagers of all varieties.

collins_glass

Snifter

How many times have we seen a classic movie hero swirling a snifter? Swirling releases aromatic notes. They generally hold 6-8 oz, which makes them a good match for beers with a high ABV. Try them with trippels and quads, imperials and strong ales—even barleywines!

2000px-snifter_glass_brandy-svg

So there you have it—choosing a beer is only part of the fun! Choosing a glass to go with is equally entertaining!

Katie

 

New Brew: Apricot Ale

Image by Fir0002
Image by Fir0002

It’s time for our first specialty brew of the season! Down here in the Black Creek Historic Brewery, Ed has been busily crafting an Apricot Ale – a light, fruity beer to kick off the Victoria Day Weekend. It also ties in nicely with our Pirates and Princesses event May 16th-18th.  Pirates, of course, require ale, and the apricot’s delicate sweetness and beautiful golden colour definitely puts one in mind of royalty!

The beer is golden too, with hints of apricot in the flavour and aroma.  There’s a bready malt taste too, and it’s fairly lightly hopped. This ale is light-to-medium-bodied, perfect for an afternoon on the patio. It hits our fridges this weekend, and there it will remain until it’s all been sampled and purchased.

Victorians liked their apricots too! For them, it was a late summer dessert. In her Book of Household Management, Mrs. Beeton says:

The apricot is indigenous to the plains of Armenia, but is now cultivated in almost every climate, temperate or tropical. There are several varieties. The skin of this fruit has a perfumed flavour, highly esteemed. A good apricot, when perfectly ripe, is an excellent fruit. It has been somewhat condemned for its laxative qualities, but this has possibly arisen from the fruit having been eaten unripe, or in too great excess. Delicate persons should not eat the apricot uncooked, without a liberal allowance of powdered sugar. The apricot makes excellent jam and marmalade, and there are several foreign preparations of it which are considered great luxuries

She also gives a recipe for an apricot pudding that sounds both a) achievable, and b) delicious. Very important considerations indeed!

INGREDIENTS – 12 large apricots, 3/4 pint of bread crumbs, 1 pint of milk, 3 oz. of pounded sugar, the yolks of 4 eggs, 1 glass of sherry.

Mode.—Make the milk boiling hot, and pour it on to the bread crumbs; when half cold, add the sugar, the well-whisked yolks of the eggs, and the sherry. Divide the apricots in half, scald them until they are soft, and break them up with a spoon, adding a few of the kernels, which should be well pounded in a mortar; then mix the fruit and other ingredients together, put a border of paste round the dish, fill with the mixture, and bake the pudding from 1/2 to 3/4 hour.

If you want to try this at home, be aware that Victorians rarely gave specific cooking temperatures, as they assumed you’d either be using a wood-fired oven…or, you obviously know what temperature to bake puddings at, because you’ve been doing this your whole life, right? 😉

In any case, I looked up modern recipes to compare, and my best advice is to bake it around 325 F and check it at 25 minutes. If anyone tries it, let us know!

Especially if you swap the glass of sherry for a glass of the Apricot Ale…

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!

New Brew: Simcoe Hopped Ale

We hope you had an excellent long weekend! The celebrations aren’t over in the brewery, though. We still have plenty of our August specialty beer: the Simcoe Hopped Ale.

As you may have guessed, this beer was brewed in honour of the holiday. Civic Holiday lands on the first Monday in August, and it’s celebrated through most of Canada. Personally, I enjoy the name “Civic Holiday” (it may just be me, but it reads as “Long Weekend For The Sake Of It Day”),  but as it turns out, the holiday has different names in different parts of the country. In Toronto (not the rest of Ontario, just Toronto), it’s been known as “Simcoe Day” since 1969.

Attempts to get the rest of the province to call the holiday “Simcoe Day” haven’t been successful. Luckily, the Black Creek Historic Brewery falls within Toronto’s limits!

 

John Graves Simcoe (1725-1806)  Courtesy www.archives.gov.on.ca)
John Graves Simcoe (1725-1806)
Courtesy http://www.archives.gov.on.ca)

John Graves Simcoe was the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. Born in England on February 25, 1752, he established himself as a military officer, commanding the Queen’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War. Following the Constitutional Act of 1791, Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant Governor of the newly-created Upper Canada. Though he only remained in Upper Canada until 1796, Simcoe left an indelible mark on the province’s history.

To name just a few: he was the driving force behind the Act Against Slavery (1793), established the town of York (now Toronto), and began construction on a road system that included Yonge and Dundas streets. Simcoe’s impact on the province is made even more remarkable by the brevity of his time here.

And so, it seems fitting to honour Simcoe with a new brew. Our Simcoe Hopped Ale is a North American pale ale. Surprisingly, given the name, Simcoe hops originate from Washington state—they’re known for their aromatic qualities and fruity fragrance.

The Simcoe Hopped Ale is amber-orange in colour, with quite a lot of orange on the nose as well. The taste is more grapefruit and earthy notes, though. The hops are noticeable on the front of the tongue, but overall, this is a smooth beer. If you like the citrus notes of our North American IPA, but find the hops a bit intense, this may be a good beer to try.

The Simcoe Hopped Ale will be available in the historic brewery while supplies last. See you at the brewery!

-Katie

 

Baking Beer Bread!

While I enjoy learning about beer, I can’t actually drink very much at once. This is a slight problem when our growlers are like a bottle of wine; once they’re open, you should drink them within a few days. Earlier this week, I found myself nervously eyeing my growler of ginger beer, well aware that it was slowly losing its flavor.

And so, I combined two of my favourite things (beer and bread) and used up my remaining beer by making a ginger beer bread.

I hoped that beer bread was historic. After all, beer and bread have a long, intertwined history. They are made from largely the same ingredients (grains, yeast, water, herbs/hops, depending on time period – okay, hops are different). Like bread, beer comes from the land, and for Victorians, beer could be an important dietary staple – in fact we recently had an excellent article published about the Black Creek Historic Brewery, centering on just this relationship between beer, food, and agriculture.

Barley growing in the village.
Barley growing in the village.

However, after consulting with our resident expert on historic baking (Amy in the Half Way House—she is incredibly talented and exceedingly knowledgeable) and perusing numerous Victorian cookbooks, I’ve had to conclude that Victorians weren’t really making beer bread. Indeed, they likely would have asked, “Why would I put my beer into bread, when I could just have beer and bread?”

A good question indeed. Today, we have very different ideas of what beer “should” taste like. Pasteurization and refrigeration have made us acutely aware of—and intolerant to—any hint of sourness. So, rather than fretting about “using up” beer before it went oh-so-slightly-off, Victorians would’ve just drunk it.

Oh well. History doesn’t always work the way you want it to.

Nevertheless, beer bread is wonderful. No reason why we can’t enjoy it today!

I used this beer bread recipe from Farm Girl Fare as a base…and then in a truly Victorian manner, I veered off the recipe and went by feel.

Black Creek Beer Bread

– 3ish cups of flour (the “ish” is what makes this recipe)

– 1 Tbsp sugar

– 1 Tbsp baking powder

– Salt to taste (the original recipe calls for 1 teaspoon. I put maybe 1/3, plus some sprinkled on top)

– 1.5ish cups of your favourite Black Creek beer.

  • Heat the oven. I had grown accustomed to baking with a bake-oven, which has three temperatures (quick, moderate, and slow), or with my ancient gas oven, which had two (hot and hotter), so I always guess at temperatures. I now have a less-ancient gas oven, which I put to 420 degrees. That seemed to work.
  • Mix the dry ingredients.
  • Add the beer, a half-cup at a time. Stir in between. You will have to knead it towards the end; the dough will be loose and raggedy-looking, but that is fine.
  • Shape it into a loaf. Again, it is fine if it looks a little rough.
  • Slash the top, so heat can get inside.
  • Bake until done. The crust will be browned and the bottom will sound hollow when tapped. Do make sure it’s baked all the way through; this bread is very, very moist.
Toasted and slathered with butter...
Toasted and slathered with butter…

Best served warm, with butter.

And beer, of course!

-Katie