Category Archives: Other Breweries

New in Town: Getting into Craft Beer

Very often in the Black Creek Brewery, we meet people who haven’t really tried craft beer  “I’m not really sure what I like,” they say, in low tones. “It’s all so new to me.”

I can certainly sympathize with that! At some point, it’s new to all of us. And so, if you’re just starting out exploring craft brews, here are a few tips to help you feel at home.

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Be Open-Minded

I’m always so impressed when people who “aren’t sure about beer” join us for a sample. It takes courage! When you’re first starting out, try everything. In my early days learning about beer, I tried never to order the same beer twice. Sure, you’ll hit a dud from time to time, but you may also discover a wholly unexpected new favourite.

Take Notes

Mentally or physically: either way works. But if you find something you really like, take note of it! What style is it? Who brewed it? Try something similar and see if you like that, too. Slowly, you’ll start to build a personal database.

For instance, I’ve had enough pilsners to know that it’ll never be my favourite beer. On the other hand, Ed is well-acquainted with my documented love of stouts and ginger beers…

PumpkinAle1

Read Reviews (with a grain of salt)

Sites like Untappd, Beer Advocate, and Rate Beer are wonderful sources of information. Not only do they provide vital stats for most beers (style, ABV, IBUs, etc.), they often have ratings and reviews as well. If you’re on the fence about a beer, it can be helpful to see what other people are saying.

That said, remember what we say in the Black Creek Brewery: “Beer is very personal.” It’s all right if you disagree with a review. In the end, your palate won’t lie to you.

Pay Attention to Tasting Notes

Reviews can be handy for tasting notes, though! At first, it can feel overwhelming: “How am I supposed to identify cinnamon in this Winter Ale? What undertones of fig and raisin? What do you mean by grassy hops?”

Tasting notes are your cheat sheet. They help you learn the language of flavours and aromas. Soon enough, you won’t need your friendly Beer Expert to point out the toasted grain flavours: you’ll be doing it on your own!

Practice, practice, practice*

*responsibly

Like anything else, beer gets easier with practice. You train your palate, you recognize individual breweries’ quirks, and you grow familiar with different styles. I can’t recommend flights enough. Not only can you try a range of beers, you can do so in moderation. 😉

Beau's All-Natural Brewing's "Ich Bin Ein Bearliner" is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!

Beau’s All-Natural Brewing’s “Ich Bin Ein Bearliner” is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!

Talk to People

Reviews are great, but it’s no match for actually talking to people. I’ve learned so much from Ed, and from chatting with other Beer Experts. So come try a sample at the Black Creek Brewery. Take brewery tours; ask for recommendations; chat with beer experts about their brews. Beer is a social beverage—there’s no need to go it alone!

*

And of course, above all else…

Have fun and be safe.

To Queen and Country!

Katie

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Interview: Toronto Booze Hound

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Hello beer-lovers! Today, we bring you a very special edition of the Growler. Toronto Booze Hound is a wise, insightful voice on the Toronto beer review scene. Run by Kole McRae and Shawna O’Flaherty, they’ve been sharing brews and news for over two years! I recently caught up with Shawna to chat about our favourite topic.

KT: We’re always interested in origin stories! Can you tell us how you got into craft beer?

S: I got into craft beer pretty early, when I was probably 18-19 (the legal age in Quebec is 18 and I lived there till I was 27). Brutopia was near my university and they had $4 pints on Mondays so it was a popular hangout in 2002-2004, when I was in university. Before that I had tried Molson and Sleeman products and it never really clicked. Dieu Du Ciel was in my neighbourhood and a francophone friend brought me there to try a smoked beer for the first time. I was hooked. There was a huge linguistic divide in the beer options in Montreal back then – even now you’ll get radically different results from Google in Montreal depending on your search language.

I got Kole into craft beer. Actually a Sawdust City beer was a test on a very early date at Bar Volo, and Kole was man enough to drink a beer named Princess Wears Girl Pants with me.

We’re getting married at Beer Bistro this spring.

KT: What do you, personally, look for in your beer?

S: Oh boy, that’s tough. In the winter I want something full bodied, rich in flavour like a stout. In the summer a sour really cuts the heat. I like beers that are true to style, I like beers that push the boundaries. I like balanced beers. I like light sessionable beers and I like heavyweight boozy beers. I particularly like when they pair well with food and compliment the flavours. I don’t really go for pilsners, lagers or wheat beers unless it’s very humid out.

KT: Toronto Booze Hound has been running for over two years now! Have you found that your reviewing style and/or palate have evolved?

S: I think I’m more in tune with style guides for beer and can offer a more balanced criticism. I’ve taken many classes now on beer and wine at George Brown College and that helps me develop my palate and interests. When we started, I would not drink sour beers and now I love them! Brettomyces has grown on me too. The beer scene has changed a lot since October 2014 in Toronto.

KT: And finally, you have an impressive array of badges on Untappd. Which is your favourite?

S: Any of the travel badges, or the “from the source”. Apparently we recently untapped our 50th from the source beer so that’s 50 distinct beers at their brewery or brewpub. We always seek out breweries or vineyards when we travel.

untappdbadge2

Thank you very much to Shawna for chatting with us! You can follow Toronto Booze Hound here, and across various social media platforms (links below). Check them out!

Follow Toronto Booze Hound:

Instagram:

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Untappd:

-Katie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wild vs. Sour Ales

Hello, beer-lovers!

Welcome back to the Growler! I hope that you enjoyed the holiday season. Long-time readers will not be surprised that I spent mine gallivanting through the United States. (We hit up a brewery, distillery, and cider mill/winery all on the same day. It was awesome.)

But now I’m back, and looking a little closer to home. I was reading this article about Bar Volo’s new offspring, Birreria Volo, when something caught my eye: “Sour and spontaneously fermented beers are the focus…”

“Hold up,” quoth I. “When I visited Pen Druid Brewing a few weeks ago, they talked a lot about wild fermentation, but I don’t remember them being particularly sour.”

Tasting at Pen Druid, in Sperryville, VA.

Tasting at Pen Druid Brewing (Sperryville, VA).

The difference between wild and sour ales is not one to contemplate when the beers in question are 7.8% ABV (their . However, it is a good topic for the Growler.

The wonderful Urban Beer Nerd blog reminds us that “…there are no concrete definitions of sour beer and wild beer.” I think we can all agree that sour beer tastes…well, sour, but “wild beer” is a little trickier. BeerAdvocate defines American Wild Ales as “…beers that are introduced to ‘wild’ yeast or bacteria…” while Jeff Alworth’s Beer Bible says, “The category of wild ale includes any beer that derives its central character from wild yeast and bacteria” (p. 528).

But see, I have to agree with Urban Beer Nerd: every definition distinguishes between “wild yeast” and “bacteria.” Both play roles in fermentation, but they’re different microorganisms that result in different flavours.

Take Pen Druid’s “Golden Swan” Wild Blonde. It’s a blonde ale made with a wild yeast culture (genus Brettanomyces, rather than Saccharomyces). While it’s certainly got a “funk” to it, it doesn’t have the sour tartness of a lambic or a Flemish ale. Compare that to their “Saturnalia,” an “all-Virginia soured Blonde.” That one had a sour bite.

So in the end, I think UBN and The Oxford Companion to Beer have it right:

Brettanomyces yeast strains = Wild Ale

Brettanomyces yeast strains AND/OR bacteria = Sour Ale

No matter what you call them, though—they taste pretty good to me. And with Pen Druid now so far away, it looks like it’s Birreria Volo for me!

To Queen and Country!

Katie

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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!

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Sour Ales

Hello, beer-lovers!

As part of my quest to expand my palate, I have been tackling beers beyond my usual English/Irish/Scottish-style ales. For the past little while, I’ve been sampling beers from the continent, enjoying German weisses and witbiers, but most particularly—Belgian sour ales.

Sour ales are very different from what we do at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. Down here, we cool our wort very quickly—it’s quite an endeavour to get it from kettle to cooling ship to cask as soon as possible. See, wild yeasts and bacteria naturally occur everywhere. If you’ve got a piece of fruit nearby, you probably have some wild yeasts, too! Not all yeasts are created equal: some create very odd flavours indeed. Likewise, some bacteria devour the sugar in wort and turn it into acid.

Ed running wort through the cooling ship.

Ed running wort through the cooling ship.

So generally speaking, we try to avoid those microorganisms getting into the beer. However, sour ales specifically seek them. Sour ale brewers deliberately encourage bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus and wild yeast strains like Brettanomyces to set up shop in their wort. These microbes impart a tartness and sourness to the beer that’s very different from our ales here at Black Creek. An article on NPR phrases it very well: “Sour beers are to the adult beverage world what yogurt is to dairy. It’s beer that’s been intentionally spoiled by bacteria—the good bacteria.”

Some of the most common varieties are lambics, gueuzes, and Flanders red ales. Lambics are a variety of spontaneously fermented Belgian ale. When cooling, the wort is exposed to open air overnight. Unlike our “crash cooling,” this allows those sourness-producing bacteria to help ferment the beer. Gueuzes are blends of various older and younger lambics, while Flanders red ales are an ale often inoculated with the Lactobacillus bacteria, and left to mature in oak casks.

My Untappd has been getting some exercise. Rodenbach is one of the oldest sour ale breweries - it was founded in 1821!

My Untappd has been getting some exercise. Rodenbach is one of the oldest sour ale breweries – it was founded in 1821!

So what do these beers taste like? They remind me very much of red wine. It’s a fruit-like tartness—I’ve gotten a lot of cherry and raspberry. The level of hop bitterness is noticeably low: practically absent in some places. Certainly not an unpleasant taste, just a very unusual one, particularly for someone so used to our historic ales!

That being said, it’s worth remembering that early Victorian beers likely would have had some sourness. By the 1870s, breweries were the largest consumers of harvested ice, and the science of fermentation was much better understood thanks to Pasteur’s work in the 1860s, but prior to that it’s quite likely that brewers would not have been entirely able to keep their wort free of wild yeast and bacteria.

My favourite sour ale so far? A Berliner Weisse from our friends over at Beau’s All-Natural Brewing. It’s still very tart, but more like citrus than cherry. Like so many things in beer, it’s down to personal preference. 🙂

Beau's "Ich Bin Ein Bearliner" is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!

Beau’s “Ich Bin Ein Bearliner” is in the centre. Love that gorgeous light colour!

What unusual beers have you tried lately?

Cheers!

Katie

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We’re Not Alone! Historic Brewing at Colonial Williamsburg

Hello, beer lovers!

We hope that you are enjoying the signs of spring: warmer weather, more daylight, and pale ales and maibocks starting to edge out the porters and stouts on the shelves of the LCBO. (Our Irish Potato Stout is still kicking around though, and we recently saw the Empirical Ale downtown.)

A short-ish note this week, as fate (and ill-positioned tea) have temporarily deprived me of my computer.

There’s only about a month until the Black Creek Historic Brewery begins its 2015 season. While we wait, I grew curious—are there other historic breweries out there?

Sort of. I was fascinated to find that Colonial Williamsburg has been doing work on eighteenth-century brewing. Much as it was for nineteenth century Canadians, beer was a part of everyday life for the Virginians of the 1700s. Frank Clark, historic foodways supervisor at Colonial Williamsburg, notes that beer was the preferred choice of beverage, as the water was often contaminated. If you’ve visited us at Black Creek, you know we usually bookend this statement with many qualifiers and caveats. However, Clark observes that in the case of eighteenth-century Williamsburg, the wells were demonstrably contaminated by sewage, and the water table was only about twenty-five feet deep, meaning that salt water sometimes mixed with the fresh (remember, Williamsburg is pretty close to the coast).

(Check out the video here!)

Much like us here at Black Creek, Colonial Williamsburg has a small brewery onsite, mostly for demonstration purposes. I haven’t been able to find many pictures of it, but based on the clip in the video below, it looks like a fairly similar set-up: small batches, no electricity, everything done by hand. Unlike Black Creek, however, the beer produced onsite is not consumed:

“The beer we make is in such small quantity, and such dangerous conditions, that we could never sell it to the public.”

Well, sure, eighteenth and nineteenth century beers were more likely to go off due to infection. But I think that we’re living proof that you can safely and effectively brew historic beer for general consumption! I’ve watched Ed clean and sanitize before/after brewing: it takes a lot of attention to detail, and a low of elbow grease, but it can certainly be done, if you wish.

Brewing at Williamsburg. Looks familiar. :)

Brewing at Williamsburg. Looks familiar. 🙂

But scale of brewing is certainly another consideration. We make about 70-ish litres per brew (it varies), which equates to about 18 gallons. Colonial Williamsburg’s onsite capacity is about half that, and they are a much bigger site with a much higher number of visitors. I can see why that wouldn’t end well.

And so, like us, they are partnered with a modern brewery. In their case, recreations of eighteenth century brews are produced by AleWerks: a craft brewery in the town of Williamsburg itself. Currently, they’ve got two historic brews sold at Colonial Williamsburg: the Old Stitch (an English brown ale) and Dear Old Mum (a spiced wheat ale). Personally, I love the names—and the beers themselves sound pretty good too!

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Making the pilgrimage to Colonial Williamsburg has been a goal of mine for a few years now. With brewing dotting their demonstration calendar, and the lure of this Old Stitch (I love brown ales), it looks like I may need to start making more concrete steps to achieve it.

I just need to figure out how to transport a growler over the border…

Cheers!

Katie

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Guest Blogger Tee Morris: Two of a Kind – Beer Pairings in Steampunk

Today, we welcome back author and beer aficionado Tee Morris, who has introduced me to many delicious American craft beers. We hope you enjoy his exploration of beer and literature! 

You might remember me as the blogger that introduced you to Untappd, the social network for beer lovers. Well, at the end of the month, I have a novel coming out called The Diamond Conspiracy; and this steampunk novel of mine was a reoccurring subject between me and beer blogger and historic interpreter Katie Bryski while she stayed with us for an extended visit. Upon finishing an advance copy, Katie and I proceeded to our tradition of visiting local breweries and alehouses, her trip beginning with a visit to Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia, and ending with a delightful King’s Feast Dinner at the Dogfish Head Alehouse of Fairfax, Virginia.

(Old Bust Head's growler: it made me feel a bit nostalgic for Black Creek! -Katie)

(Old Bust Head’s growler: it made me feel a bit nostalgic for Black Creek! -Katie)

At the King’s Feast, we were focusing on what beers pair up best with dishes, and that was when Katie asked me, “Do you ever wonder what your characters would drink?”

Pairing beers with characters? Sure, why not?

Character: Eliza D. Braun

Beer Pairing: Smoked IPA

An agent from the farthest reaches of the British Empire, New Zealand native Eliza goes against the standard norms at the home office in London, England. She is bold, powerful, and memorable; and so is an exceptional India Pale Ale. However, as Eliza loves her incendiary devices, a Smoked IPA is the perfect pairing with this firecracker.

Character: Wellington Thornhill Books, Esq.

Beer Pairing: Porter

Porters are smooth, offer a wide variety of flavors (depending on how they are brewed), and grow darker in color the longer you enjoy them. Porters—and yes, I’m including Black Creek’s own porter which earned 4.5 caps from Untappd—are always immensely satisfying. That’s why a Porter is best paired with Wellington Books. A man of the manor born now serving at the Queen’s pleasure, Books is a walking analytical engine who harbors an inner darkness.

(Speaking of dark beers - our Irish Potato Stout is back in the LCBO!)

(Speaking of dark beers – our Irish Potato Stout is back in the LCBO!)

Character: Brandon D. Hill

Beer Pairing: Lager

HWHTaproom

The Half Way House taproom.

 

The lager is the working man’s drink. This does not mean that the lager cannot be a refined brew for a sophisticated palate. That’s the charm of a good lager. It can appeal and satisfy a wide range of gentlemen; so is also Brandon D. Hill a wide range of gentleman. Lager would be Brandon’s brew, whether he is enjoying a night at the opera or a good brawl at a Whitechapel pub.

Character: Bruce Campbell

Beer Pairing: Ale

A very specific ale: Arrogant Bastard.

You are what you drink.

Character: Sophia del Morte

Beer Pairing: Stout

Pairing up a stout with an assassin like Sophia may seem odd as stouts are usually associated with warmth, comfort, and social settings by a fireplace; but that’s how stouts work: they get you to lower your guard. Stouts like Black Creek’s own or Old Bust Head’s Mocha Macchiato Stout catch your attention with exotic flavors like coffee, chocolate, and rich malts. With the right brewer, stouts will completely catch you by surprise with balanced, efficient, and effective brews, all under the cover of darkness.

Just like Sophia.

These are my characters, characters that I know, but what about your favorites? If Sherlock Holmes were to take a break from sleuthing at Black Creek this March Break, what would he prefer—a sharp IPA or a moody Stout? Or, returning to Victorian science fiction, what if you found yourself 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the Canadian harpooner, Ned Land? What would you be sharing with him? (The time period is right. He might have enjoyed a delicious brew from Black Creek.) Think about your favorite characters from literature, television, or film, and leave your own pairings here. We would love to hear what you come up with.

-Tee

When he’s not enjoying the odd pint or four, Tee Morris is an award-winning writer and podcaster of fiction. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, written with his wife, Pip Ballantine, is about to see their fourth adventure, The Diamond Conspiracy, hit bookshelves in March 2015. Their companion podcast, Tales from the Archives, also offers a window into their steampunk world. He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and three cats.

PS. Did you know that TWO of Black Creek’s Beer Experts have connections to Tales from the Archives? Katie’s written for the podcast, and Blythe has lent her considerable acting talent!

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3 responses to “Untappd: A Social Network for Beer Lovers (with Guest Blogger Tee Morris)

  1. Pingback: Happy 2015! | The Black Creek Growler Edit
  2. Pingback: Happy 2015! | The Black Creek Growler Edit
  3. Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to mention that
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