Just a friendly reminder that our August specialty beer debuts this long weekend. In honour of John Graves Simcoe (first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada), Ed has once again crafted the Simcoe Hopped Ale.
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.
Have a great long weekend…with great, responsibly-consumed beer! 😉
Our Interview Series continues! As some of you may know, I’ve been administering this blog since 2013. In four years, I have written many articles on brewing, sampled many beers, and done my best to share that knowledge with you!
And so, I thought it would be fun to try something different for this interview. I’m stepping out from behind the curtain and interviewing myself! Besides writing this blog, I’m also one of Black Creek’s History Actors and an award-winning author. I’ve spoken about beer and brewing history at conventions across the United States and Canada, and historically-accurate beer regularly appears in my fiction. And so, without further ado, here I am!
KT: As you know, I love origin stories. Everyone has a different reason for getting into beer—what’s yours?
KT: Ironically, for the longest time, I thought that I didn’t like beer. But what was I drinking at 19? Some Molson, some Sleeman—lighter beers that don’t really suit my palate. I didn’t realize this, however, so I continued in denial until my first year working at Black Creek Pioneer Village. Somehow, I heard that the brewery needed an extra pair of hands for our Christmas by Lamplight event. Since I had my SmartServe certification from a previous job, I volunteered to help out. One thing led to another, and…
I fell in love. From the moment I set foot in the brewery, I fell completely, utterly, hopelessly in love with it. The space captured my heart immediately: this cosy, tucked-away corner of the village with its gleaming brew-kettle and proudly standing casks. The history and technical aspects of brewing fascinated me – forgive the pun, but that first taste awakened a raging thirst for more knowledge. And so, I spent the next 18 months or so learning about beer on my own, preparing myself in case there was another opening in the brewery.
There was. The rest is history.
I’m still in love.
KT: How has your palate changed, over the years?
KT: How hasn’t it changed? Remember: I thought I didn’t like beer, so I resisted drinking it at first. Fortunately, I had our wonderful brewmaster Ed to tutor me. He led through different beer styles: explaining their characteristics and giving recommendations on what to try. I started out really enjoying IPAs—the hoppier the better. I think it’s because the aggressive, sharp bitterness of a hop-oriented beer was immediately apparent to my immature palate in ways that the rich, deep malt flavours of a stout weren’t.
But gradually, I shifted to the dark side. I’ve always been a fan of dark chocolate and black coffee, so my fondness for dark beers makes sense—I just needed to work up to them.
KT: Of all the things you’ve learned about beer, what is your favourite?
KT: Well, I do really like being able to give tasting notes. That’s a cool skill, and one I’ve worked hard to develop. I’ve spent a lot of time training my palate and learning the vocabulary. At time of writing, I’ve got well over 400 different beers logged in my database. This is another instance where I was so grateful to work with Ed: he taught me how to approach beers, examining the colour and appearance, before taking in the aroma and that all-important first sip. It takes practice to train your palate to detect different flavours, and further practice to learn how to describe those sensations in a way that makes sense.
I was also amazed to learn just how important beer was to Canada’s history, and how much beer history is still hidden all around us in Toronto. Culture, politics, nutrition, gender roles, industry…beer touches so many different aspects of our lives, and it’s fascinating to see those connections draw together.
KT: You’re also an author. How has beer impacted your fiction?
KT: In my stories, my beer is always historically accurate, so there is that. I’m also able to describe flavour and aroma with precision – it’s those sensory details that make stories come alive. On a deeper level, though, I’ve been most impacted by the notion that beer touches many different aspects of our lives. My fiction leans towards the historical (I can’t imagine why), and I know how important taverns and beer culture were to Victorian society. And so, taverns tend to occupy a central place in my fiction as well – just as they were deeply interwoven into the society about which I write.
See, while I’m an artist, I’m also an educator. And so, I’m still drawing those connections between beer, culture, politics, et al., as much as I did in the brewery. I’m just doing it through a different form of art.
And there you have it: a behind-the-scenes look at your favourite beer journalist! Thanks, beer-lovers!
One of the many things I appreciate about beer is its versatility. You can drink it, you can cook with it…and you can wash with it. That’s right—beer-based artisan soaps and shampoos have been enjoying a vogue of late. To create beer soap/shampoo, all you do is replace the water in your recipe with beer (much like how beer bread is essentially soda bread, only with beer instead of buttermilk!).
But why would you use beer for bathing? Well, apparently beer has several properties that make it an excellent soap additive. According to some artisan soap=makers, the B vitamins naturally present in beer nourish the skin and hair—much the way they nourished thirsty Victorians! The hops also play an important role: soap-makers claim that their amino acids soften the skin.
While we sell beer soap in the Black Creek Pioneer Village gift shop, it is the off-season, and I thus cannot go pick some up. However, I do have some stout shampoo, gifted to me by a friend. The label reads: “Stout, cognac, and lemons make this a supremely conditioning shampoo to give weight and shine.”
On the other side, it reads, “Top tip: Rinsing your hair with beer will give it shine and volume.”
Well, I like shine and volume—more websites claim that beer’s various proteins and vitamins help with that. However, there is only one way to find out.
For you, beer lovers, I washed my hair with beer shampoo.
Right away, I sense this will be a drawback. I love the rich, roasted coffee/chocolate nose of a good stout. This shampoo, however, smells sharp and alcoholic. I guess that’s the cognac.
It’s more…um, liquid than the shampoos I’m used to. Seriously, it looks like I’ve got a handful of stout cupped in my palm.
It actually lathers pretty well, and it doesn’t feel that different from regular shampoo once you get going. That cognac smell is something else, though.
Oh, you guys. The next morning, my hair was super shiny, but it also felt…slick, you know? If I’d been at the Black Creek Brewery, I would’ve been fighting all day to keep it in a Victorian hairstyle. As it was, I spent a long time with the hair straightener this morning, trying to make it behave a little.
It didn’t go well. This is “volume,” I suppose.
So…not my favourite hair-washing experience. For my hair, this wasn’t a great fit. I wonder, though, if that was the cognac more than the beer. It definitely made its presence known! When we return to Black Creek on April 29th, I’m going to see if the gift shop has any beer soap available. I have a feeling that beer alone (no spirits) may turn out differently!
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!
Black Creek Beer Expert Milan is a man of many talents. When he’s not conducting tours and tastings in the brewery, he can often be found trying his hands at historic trades from printing to leather-working. And when he’s not at Black Creek, he’s still a beer expert – after joining the brewery team, Milan has become a burgeoning home-brewer.
We caught up in the Harness-Maker’s Shop recently to chat about his brews. It’s a cozy little space, especially with the woodstove burning away. “So, Milan,” I said, leaning on the counter, pen poised above my notebook. “Tell me about your beer…”
It’s largely a creative outlet, Milan explains. “And it gives me access to whatever styles I want.” Indeed, he’s done everything from oatmeal stouts to pale ales to pumpkin beers (made with real pumpkin, just like Black Creek!). But while an in-house brewery sounds like a dream, surely it’s beyond the reach of the average person with an average (or smaller-than-average) living space?
Not necessarily, Milan says.
“For small batches, you can just use pots and pans that you already have. If you’re going bigger, there are a few start-up costs—getting the equipment and everything—but then it’s actually pretty cheap.”
How much beer does Milan make?
“Four gallons. I built my mash tun from scratch.”
When I point out that Milan has garnered quite a reputation for elaborate costumes and props made from scratch, he laughs. “I guess so, yeah. I like making things and working with my hands.”
I decide not to mention that he’s stitching leather while talking to me. The poetic justice is too great.
“Working with Ed is great too; I can ask him questions along the way. Things like what temperature is best for specific yeasts…he has a very finely tuned process.” He pauses, sunlight catching in his hair. “Ed is a wealth of knowledge. And he’s always happy to share it.”
Indeed, our adult apprentices know this very well. I inquire whether he thinks our apprenticeship program would help people just getting into home-brewing. Milan ponders.
“As Beer Experts, we learn a lot from watching Ed work. But so many key things happen before we arrive—the mash, for example. Seeing every step would’ve helped a lot; I made some mistakes at first.”
But Ed was able to help?
When asked whether he has any tips for other beginning brewers, Milan suggests purchasing a beer-making starter kit. “It’s a good way to try it out.” And of course, coming to chat with Ed and our Beer Experts, right here at the Black Creek Brewery!
It’s a party in the Village! Tonight is our exciting Light Up The Night event at Black Creek Pioneer Village! Tonight, see the Village like never before as you explore the site after hours!
· Enjoy craft beer, artisanal whisky and local wine as you take in the sights and sounds
· Create your own gourmet treats at the Tostada, Crepe, and Mashed Potato Bars, made with local ingredients
· Unwind to local musical talent performed in intimate heritage settings
· Stop by “The Un-Bar” and sip 1800s virgin cocktails
· Try your hand at genuine 19th century trades, crafts, and games
· Laugh and learn with special performances from our History Actors
· Bid on unique and hand-crafted items and experiences at the Silent Auction
· Meet the Village’s newest residents – our heritage breed goats!
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE:
The Devin Cuddy Band will take the stage in an intimate open-air performance, bringing their unique blend of New Orleans Blues and Country to Black Creek. If you’ve not heard the Devin Cuddy Band before, you’re in for a treat. Take a listen to them performing at the Dufferin County Museum and Archives last year!
The proceeds from Light up the Night go towards restoration of historic buildings at Black Creek Pioneer Village to provide cultural experiences for future generations. And it’s not too late to join the party! Tickets are $40/person and can be purchased here, or at the door. You do need to be 19+ though… craft beer/whisky/local wine, you see. 😉
It is good to see you all again! It’s been a long, cold (and busy…very busy) winter away from our lovely Black Creek Historic Brewery.
(I did try some interesting beers, though. Highlights include the Mean Old Tom—a mouthwatering stout from the Maine Beer Company—and the Koru—a Belgian pale ale with a New Zealand twist, from our friends at Beau’s All-Natural Brewing.)
But I know we’ve all missed Ed’s historic brews. Happily, Black Creek is now open for our 2016 season, and our fridges are already full! Currently, we have our Porter, Stout, and India Pale Ale all ready for purchase and sampling. And there’s more on the way! Here is our 2016 Specialty Ale Lineup!
May – Apricot Ale
June – Ginger Ale
July – Maple Brown Ale
August – Simcoe Hopped Ale
September – Fresh Hop/Wet Hop Pale Ale
October – Whiskey Barrel Aged Brown Ale, Honey Brown Ale & Pumpkin Ale
November – Gingerbread Stout (Katie raises a curious, appreciative eyebrow)
December – Winter Warmer
What else can you expect for 2016?
That’s right, we now have another beer sampling block! From 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm daily, you can visit us in the historic brewery, try a flight, purchase/return growlers, and have a chat with your friendly neighbourhood Beer Experts.
Our ever-beloved Historic Brewery Tour is back! Pick up your tour ticket from Admissions, and then join us on the Half Way House porch, daily at 2:00 pm. We’ll meet 1860s drinkers and temperance advocates, explore brewing processes and ingredients, and lift a glass to Queen and Country!
Once again, Ed is looking for eager apprentices to brew side-by-side with him! Spend the day at the village learning brewing secrets straight from the master himself, join our Beer Expert on tour, and then take a growler home with you! Spots are filling fast (already!), so book early to avoid disappointment!
Yes, I have returned from my winter hibernation! Look for news, updates, and assorted beer history right here on this site—new posts go up on alternate Thursdays.
We’re really looking forward to another season at the Black Creek Historic Brewery, and we hope you are, too! It’s funny—every year in May, I shake my head, because I can’t imagine how we’ll fit all of our tours, specialty beers, events, and tastings in. There’s always so much happening at Black Creek!
And yet—and yet, the year flies by. It always does, when you’re having fun. 😀