Benson Strong Ale at the LCBO!

Hear ye, hear ye!

We are releasing a new LCBO beer – the Benson Strong Ale. You may have tried its predecessor – the Olde Ale – at the Black Creek Historic Brewery this past summer. This ale is our interpretation of Thomas Benson’s recipe for “Strong Beer”. This recipe was very kindly passed along to us by the Ontario Archives – a very big and heartfelt thank you to them! Without their generosity and diligent research, this beer would not have been possible.

Photo by James Bowers.
Photo by James Bowers.

The Benson Strong Ale rings in at 6%. It pours fairly dark, coppery amber. Additions of star anise (which produces flavours similar to Benson’s liquorice root) and molasses lend this beer a smooth, complex sweetness. Like our summertime experiment, this beer has a touch of cayenne pepper. As we learned last week from our primary source investigations last week, such spices could be used to “liven” up beer and give it a little extra kick. The cayenne here is quite subtle: just a bit of warmth running into the chest on the finish. Mouthfeel: medium weight, and a round body. This isn’t your usual 2015 beer – but it’s a highly drinkable, satisfying brew.

And more excitement! This Saturday, December 5th, Ed and I are making a trip to Peterborough to officially launch the Benson Strong Ale (Thomas Benson was the first mayor of Peterborough, you see, taking office in 1850!). If you’re in the area, come out, say hi, and try some beer!

In other news, tomorrow also marks our first Christmas by Lamplight celebration, during which we’re officially releasing this year’s Winter Warmer. Tasting notes on that to come.

We’re finishing 2015 with a bang, so hold on tight!

Katie

New Brew: Elderflower Stout

A new month, a new brew. 🙂

Elderflowers in a basket (source: Wikimedia Commons)
Elderflowers in a basket (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Our November specialty beer launches this weekend! This month at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, Ed has crafted an Elderflower Stout. Elderflowers are flowering hedgerow plants or shrubs. They’re identifiable by their feathery white sprays of flowers and small, dark berries. Both flowers and berries are frequently used in cooking and baking (the leaves, roots, and sticks can leave you pretty sick, though).

The indomitable Mrs. Beeton tells us:

The elder-berry is well adapted for the production of wine; its juice contains a considerable portion of the principle necessary for a vigorous fermentation, and its beautiful colour communicates a rich tint to the wine made from it.

Turns out it’s good for beer-making, too! The Elderflower Stout pours very dark indeed; black enough that you can’t see through it. At first sniff, I thought, “Wine,” but then richer, more chocolate aromas came through. Those carried through the flavours as well­—chocolate and roasted grains carry things at first, but then the elderflowers emerge in the mid-taste. They give a subtle, floral edge to the beer: a hint of grape-like fruitiness. The BBC’s food writer likens elderflowers’ aroma to a “heady Muscat grape,” so the very strong wine character I’m getting isn’t too surprising!

This beer is medium-bodied: some weight on the tongue, but nothing too heavy. It’s very round and smooth, with a dry finish. This would make a good dessert beer, I think, perhaps paired with some lighter tea-cakes or scones.

The Elderflower Stout launches this weekend, and will last until we’re out. Come on down for a floral taste in the middle of November! (And don’t forget, Black Creek’s Christmas events and activities begin November 21st!)

Cheers,

Katie

Pumpkin Ale is here!

Spices ready to be popped in the kettle!
Spices ready to be popped in the kettle!

You’ve been very, very patient…and now, the time is come. Our Pumpkin Ale comes out this weekend at the Black Creek History Brewery! This is a perennial favourite, so we’re very pleased to celebrate it the rest of this month.

And this is no “Pumpkin Spice Ale,” either. Ed’s Pumpkin Ale uses real pumpkin puree. One addition during the mashing breaks the pumpkin’s starch into sugar that will be fermented alongside the malt. Another during the boil adds that truly pumpkin-y taste and aroma. Ed’s also added ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice – everything you’d expect in a pumpkin pie. It’s autumn in a glass, perfect for Halloween!

Look for the Pumpkin Ale in the LCBO, too!
Look for the Pumpkin Ale in the LCBO, too!

Speaking of Halloween, our Howling Hootenanny weekends are also here: October 17th & 18th, 24th & 25th, and the big day itself: October 31st. Take the kids trick-or-treating in the village, make creepy crafts to take home, and decorate your own pumpkin. If you find you need some refreshment after braving the Haunted Maze and Apple-Slingshot (though I’ve no idea how ANYONE could get tired of apple-slinging), come join us in the historic brewery for a fresh sample of Pumpkin Ale!

Katie

Something Sweet: Honey Brown Ale

Soon, soon, soon
Soon, soon, soon

October is shaping up to be a busy month here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery! Our Spirited Affair last Saturday was a killer-diller of an evening. Ed’s brewed his first batch of the Pumpkin Ale (out October 18th). But before we get to that, we have another specialty beer for you!

Our Honey Brown Ale hits the fridges this weekend, just in time for Thanksgiving. Honey’s having a resurgence of interest in the brewing world, but its alcoholic roots actually go back much further – not to beer, but to mead. Mead is a mixture of fermented honey, water, and occasionally spices, fruits, and grains. It was a hugely popular drink in the Medieval Ages, particularly through Scandinavia and Great Britain (no Norse or Old English saga would be complete without mead being consumed at a mead-party in a mead-hall on mead-benches…Old English literature has its peculiarities). In those contexts, alcohol was an important accompaniment to ritual gatherings, the binding of oaths, and the making of boasts…which essentially amounted to the same thing as binding an oath.

On the technical side, honey has a lot of delicate, complex flavours and enzymes, which makes it a really interesting addition to brews. However, honey is mostly sugar, and yeast love it. In fact, 90-95% of the sugar in honey is fermentable. So, it takes a careful hand while brewing: you don’t want the yeast to devour it all and leave you with none of that honey flavour.

Luckily, there are several brews out there that do an excellent job. Besides our Honey Brown, there’s the Chateau Jiahu from our comrades at Dogfish Head Brewery. They’ve replicated an ancient Chinese beverage that used honey both for flavour and alcohol content (it’s upwards of 9%!). Closer to home, you may have tried the Royal Stinger/Apiary Ale from the Fairmont Royal York. Only available on draught in the hotel, it’s made with honey from their own rooftop beehives!

Hotel-bees-piclarge

You could also try this Victorian recipe:

Spruce beer recipe: Boil to a jelly half a pound of fine starch, and add to it one and a half pound of strained honey, and one gallon of soft water, allow for three times this receipt two ounces of the essence of spruce, add yeast, and close the cask as soon as fermentation ceases. It will be fit to use in two days, and will not keep a very long time.

The housekeeper’s encyclopedia of useful information for the housekeeper in all branches of cooking and domestic economy, Mrs. E.F. Haskell, 1864

So how does our Honey Brown taste?

It pours a dark golden-brown colour, and you can smell the honey right away. At first sip, it’s mostly notes of our classic Brown Ale: some slight burnt caramel and toasty malt flavours. Then the honey hits. Playing along the rear of the palate, the honey comes up through the nose and leaves a very sweet finish as well. This is an incredibly smooth beer, almost silky in mouthfeel. After swallowing, you’ll notice the honey on the tongue for a long time; it’s a lot more noticeable than last year…

And I think it would pair well with some post-Turkey relaxation. We’re open all long weekend, so drop by and say hi!

Katie

 

 

 

New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Just in time for our Two-Day Pioneer Harvest Festival, our Wet Hop Ale is ready! Brewed with the hops grown onsite, 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.

So, what is the Wet Hop Ale like?

Ready for harvesting!
Ready for harvesting!

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.

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. It’s becoming more popular with other breweries, too – I just picked up a fresh Autumn Hop Ale from Amsterdam Brewery that I’m very excited to try! 🙂

The Wet Hop Ale will be available only at the historic brewery whilst our stocks last. And in another sign of approaching autumn, our Stout and Porter are back in the fridges!

-Katie

PS. Save the date! A Spirited Affair, our fundraiser and celebration of craft beers, wines, and spirits, is Saturday, October 3rd. Shake and shimmy at this 1940s-themed event and support a great cause (restoration of our historic buildings). For more information and tickets, please click here!

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

Fall Updates

Another summer has come and gone. With Labour Day behind us, we are looking forward to cooler weather here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. A new season at Black Creek always brings new developments, so here is a quick rundown of what we have in store this autumn…

September Beers

Ed has brewed his last Pale Ale and Best Bitter for the year, so if you want some before 2016, you should visit us sooner rather than later—once they’re gone, that’s it! Never fear, though: this means the Porter and Stout are back. What better way to enjoy the brisker days than with a lovely, full-bodied beer?

Ed picking hops!
Ed picking hops!

Our September specialty beer is the Wet Hop Pale Ale. Ed brewed this beer using fresh hops from our own gardens. This is a very seasonal brew (you can only make it when the hops are ripe; it’s no use asking for it in February), and it’s become an unofficial sign of ending summer around here. The Wet Hop Pale Ale will be released on Saturday, September 19th.

Which reminds me…

Pioneer Harvest Festival: Sept. 19/20

The Pioneer Harvest Festival is one of our busiest days in the Black Creek Historic Brewery. This year, we get double the excitement! The festival runs two days this year—Saturday, September 19th, and Sunday, September 20th. On Saturday, enjoy demonstrations of pioneer trades, delicious food, a fast-paced quilt auction, and much more! Sunday celebrates local food, live music, and farmer’s markets.

Of course, the brewery will be open all weekend long for sampling and growler purchasing. We look forward to seeing you there!

A Spirited Affair: Oct. 3rd

It’s an affair! This year, the Boys Come Home as we celebrate the 1860s and 1940s. Dig out your snazzy duds, and come prepared to sample tasty treats and divine drinks, try your hand at one of our many games, and dance the night away! Craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries will have their products available for sampling throughout the village. Ed’s also brewing up a special whisky-barrel-aged ale in honour of the event (think Innis & Gunn).

Remember, proceeds from this event go towards restoring our historic buildings, for you and future generations to enjoy!

Pumpkin Ale

It’s coming, I promise.

October’s a very busy month for specialty beers (Whisky Barrel, Honey Brown, and Pumpkin, oh my!), but Ed will be releasing the Pumpkin Ale starting October 17th. Perfect for sampling while the kids enjoy our Howling Hootenanny!

In the meantime, you can pick up the commercial version of the Pumpkin Ale from the LCBO. As always, check the website before you venture out, but your intrepid beer journalist has spotted it in several downtown locations. (She saw the Rifleman’s Ration, too!)

Our Pumpkin Ale is essentially an liquid, alcoholic pumpkin pie...
Our Pumpkin Ale is essentially an liquid, alcoholic pumpkin pie…

So there you have it: the shape of the next few weeks. And you thought summer was a busy time for the village. The 2015 season is only half-over: you haven’t seen anything yet!  🙂

Cheers!

Katie

Bonus Post: Simcoe Hopped Ale

We’re back!

Just a friendly reminder that our August specialty beer debuts this weekend. In honour of John Graves Simcoe (first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada), Ed has once again crafted the Simcoe Hopped Ale.

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

This is a burnished amber ale  with some subtle caramel notes. The addition of Simcoe hops from the west coast give this beer an abundance of pine/citrus notes. As the beer moves over the tongue, there’s even a hint of nectarine. It’s a fresh patio beer, with a little more malt character than our Pale Ale and IPA. According to Ed, “If you like real West Coast beers, this one is for you.”

Simcoe hops originate in the Pacific Northwest. They’re a dual-purpose hop: great for  aroma, but also for bittering. They impart lovely earthy and pine/resin notes, perfect for summer! As well, Ed has dry-hopped this beer. Usually, hops are added during the boil, to extract oils and resins and integrate it into the wort (isomerization). When dry-hopping, they are added at different points in the fermentation process. Because they’re not boiling, you’re not extracting any oils, but you are getting even more of that hop aroma.

Check out more in the video below!

Have a great long weekend…with great, responsibly-consumed beer! 😉

-Katie

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. 😉

New Brew: Thomas Benson’s Olde Ale

Hello, beer lovers!

Remember how a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Ed was pondering a very special beer here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery? Well… we were both so excited by it, that he went ahead and brewed it!

To recap: a few years back, MPP Kevin Flynn gave us a historic beer recipe, written by Thomas Benson sometime between 1827-1837. We were thrilled to return to it! For my part, it was fascinating to watch Ed work with this historic recipe…and to see and taste the finished product.

As per Thomas Benson’s recipe, Ed used cinnamon, licorice root, and capsaicin (cayenne pepper) to flavour the beer, along with a healthy dose of molasses. (Molasses adds extra sweetness, and also gives the yeast more to work with.)

Some ingredients...
Some ingredients…

According to Ed, capsaicin was used to give the impression that the beer was stronger than it was. Before the industrial revolution, beers were typically served at strengths of “mild” and “old” or “strong.” “Mild” beers cost publicans less to buy from the brewers. So, it was common for tavern-keepers to buy mild beer cheaply, and then age it to “old” beer to turn a profit. Similarly, a bit of strong or stock ale might be added to a mild beer to give it a stronger taste—and thus justifying an increased price! In some cases, capsaicin might have been used in a similar way to create a stronger flavour.

The Olde Ale pours a deep, burnished orange/dark amber. Molasses and caramel notes come through on the nose, and the sweetness carries through on the initial sip. This beer has a nice weight, and the mouthfeel starts quite smoothly—but the spices add a nice tingle as the beer moves over the tongue. There are definitely cinnamon notes, but the cayenne is the real player here. Its heat hit most at the back of the throat and tongue.

Recipe from the diary of Thomas Benson, part of the Benson family fonds at the Archives of Ontario
Recipe from the diary of Thomas Benson, part of the Benson family fonds at the Archives of Ontario

I am notorious for my love of spicy things, so I was all over this. That being said, I found the sweetness of the malt and molasses really calmed and balanced the spice here. As well, licorice root has a coating effect, which also tempered the intensity. Expect a long, long finish—but honestly, the cayenne heat just made me want to have another sip. This is a great beer for hot weather—definitely one to sip on the patio, maybe with some barbeque or pulled pork. Again, thinking sweetness to balance the heat!

Of course, my favourite part of the Olde Ale is its historicity. Not only has it been made with historic methods, it was sourced from a historic document. I wonder what Thomas Benson would make of it?

And what will you make of it? Well, you can drop by this weekend and try some for yourself. After all this is probably the closest you can get to drinking 1800s beer!

See you in the brewery!

-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