Society of Beer Drinking Ladies – All Ladies’ Craft Beer Festival

img_6548

It was long a matter of regret that in all my years as a Beer Expert and resident Beer Journalist, I had not attended a Beer Festival. Curated beer tastings, yes. Other breweries’ tours, yes. But ill luck and circumstance had prevented attendance at a larger event.

Clearly, this had to be remedied. Last Saturday, November 5th, former beer expert Steph and I went to the All Ladies’ Craft Beer Festival, organized by the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. If you’ve not run across the SOBDL before, they are a vibrant group of beer lovers:

We are a group of Toronto ladies passionate about all things craft beer. On the last Friday of every month, we hold a “bevy” in a secret location, where we explore delicious craft beer in the company of other fantastic women. Join us at our next event.

So I duly turned up at the beautiful Artscape Wychwood Barns, tickets in hand. While I waited for Steph, I saw something really cool.

Women. Women of all sorts – getting out of cabs, hopping off the bus, walking up with huge grins. Down in the Black Creek Brewery, we see this every day: craft beer is for everyone. But the sense of camaraderie was palpable; the atmosphere charged with excitement, but still low-key.

When Steph and I got our drink tickets and stepped inside, we both stopped.

“Wow.”

fullsizerender

Imagine the cavernous, high-ceiling barns filled with breweries and chalkboards proclaiming their offerings. Directly ahead of us, a display of malt and hops. To the right, SOBDL merch. And tables stretching as far back as we could see – table upon table upon table of beer. We grinned at each other.

“Where do we start?”

I’ve manned the Black Creek Brewery table at various events, but this was my first time on the other side of the table. We quickly fell into a rhythm: check out the beers, chat with the other ladies, choose a beer, duck against the wall to compare tasting notes. For me, the hardest part was deciding between beers I’d tried and loved, and beers I’d never had before. I won’t go through all the beers we tried between the two of us – suffice it to say we ended up purchasing extra drink tickets – but here are a few highlights.

###

Beau’s All-Natural Brewing: Pilot Batch 1

Beau’s All-Natural Brewery is raising funds for the Rwanda Brewery Project – a woman-owned and operated craft brewery in Rwanda. Entrepreneur and soon-to-be brewery owner Fina Uwineza brewed this beer in collaboration with Beau’s, using non-traditional ingredients like cassava and banana.

It was a delightful blonde ale – the banana paired really well with the light malts, almost like a nice hefeweissen. I’ve had cassava on its own before; it tastes not unlike potato. Still, this beer was light and fresh – I got rather more citrus than I was expecting!

img_6556

(PS. You can support the Rwanda Craft Brewery project here – only about a week left on the Kickstarter!)

Royal City Brewing Co.: Earl Grey Porter

My understanding is that this one ran out partway through the night, so I’m glad Steph and I found it when we did!  This is Royal City’s winter beer – a porter infused with Earl Grey tea. And goodness, it’s uncanny! This could almost be a cold black tea with plenty of bergamot, but a luscious chocolatey undertone reminds you of its true porter nature.

img_6550

Nickel Brook Brewery: Raspberry Uber Style Weiss

This was a beer that I needed to try again, although I’ve had it before. This is a Berliner Weisse: a sour wheat beer. While I’m a fan of sour beers in general (beers partially or wholly fermented with lactic acid bacteria, to give it that distinct tang), this one ups the ante by aging on Ontario raspberries. It’s gorgeous in the glass – an almost jewel-like pink – and equally delicious on the palate; the raspberries’ tartness blends perfectly with the style’s natural sourness.

###

All in all, it was a delightful event: wonderful, supportive vibe; an excellent assortment of beers; and exceptional organization. Much thanks to the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies for putting on this event – it was wonderful!

So, if you’re looking to chat with other beer-lovers and try some innovative and unusual brews, a beer festival may be the place for you. Keep your eyes peeled!

img_6553

-Katie

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

Wassail, Wassail!

Here we come a-wassailing,

Among the leaves so green…

As we learned last week, alcohol and winter celebrations have a long and intertwined history. This is particularly true when you start looking at the old tradition of wassailing. “The Wassail Song” is one of my favourites anyway – but you can imagine how my ears prick up when we get to this verse:

Call up the butler of this house,

Put on his golden ring,

Let him bring us up a glass of beer,

The better we shall sing…

So what is wassailing, exactly? The word can refer either to a custom of drinking someone’s health and/or going from home to home singing, or to the drink itself. A “wassail” drink is often mulled cider, wine, or beer. A specific type of wassail called “lambs’ wool” was frequently used: this was dark ale, whipped into a froth, spiced and decorated with roasted apples. The admittedly peculiar name may arise either from the appearance of the froth, or from a corruption of the Irish celebration “La Mas Ubhal.”

 

An earthenware wassail bowl from the late 1600s. (Courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum)
An earthenware wassail bowl from the late 1600s. (Courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum)

 

Looking at “wassail” as a verb, there are a few different types. For instance, wassailing can refer specifically to a custom of blessing apple and other fruit trees.

In England’s West Country, usually on Twelfth Night (January 5th), or Old Twelfth Night (January 17th), people carried mulled cider and/or spiced ale to apple and cider trees. Cider-soaked cakes were laid at the trees’ roots, and more cider splashed on the tree itself. Guns fired into the branches, pots and pans were banged together—the commotion was meant to frighten away evil spirits. At the same time, wassail songs were sung, encouraging good spirits to protect the trees and ensure their fertility for the next year.

For it’s our Wassail, jolly Wassail,

Joy come to our jolly Wassail,

How well may they bloom, how may they bear,

That we may have apples and cider next year.

– Apple Tree Wassail

Wassailing can also refer to passing around a common cup or bowl, called a “Loving Cup.” The tradition of passing around a common drink and toasting good health dates back centuries in English history; there is even a reference to wassailing in Beowulf! The term “wassail” itself comes from the Old English phrase “Waes hael!” or, “To your health!” The traditional response to this was, naturally, “Drinc hael!” or, “Drink your health!” It’s interesting to see alcohol consistently used to seal off deals, oaths, and wishes—perhaps a remnant of the practice of pouring libations to the gods?

Bryng us in good ale, and bryng us in good ale;

   For owr blyssyd lady sak, bryng us in good ale.

Bryne us in no browne bred, for that is made of brane,

Nor bryng us in no whyt bred, for theriun is no game.

           But bryng us in good ale.

Bryng us in no befe, for ther is many bonys,

But bryng us in good ale, for that goth downe at onys;

           But bryng us in good ale.

– Bryng us in no Browne Bred (Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, 1847)

Finally, wassailing can also refer to the practice of going around to people’s houses with a wassail bowl and a song. The group would sing and bless the house in exchange for money and more alcohol—this tends to be the version of wassailing in many of the songs with which we’re familiar today. Interestingly, there was a concern in the early decades of the nineteenth century that the old wassail songs and carols were dying out, prompting a concerted effort to record tunes and lyrics (much like Thomas Wright did, just above!). We have much to thank those Victorian writers for!

wassailing2

Wassail, wassail, all over the town,

Our toast it is white, and our ale it is brown…

– Gloucestershire Wassail

Wassailing also gave rise to carolling: travelling around to sing to people’s homes, but without the involvement of alcohol. We’ve kept this tradition at Black Creek, with our own wandering carollers during our Christmas by Lamplight! Feel free to join in the singing—perhaps after a visit to the brewery for some “Waes hael!’ (Hey, with the bitter orange peel and coriander, our Winter Warmer actually makes a decent wassail!)

Drinc hael!

Katie

PS.  A wassailing song in full:

New Brew: Winter Warmer

Christmas_BlackCreek_Wreath

Somehow, the Wheel of Time has turned, and Ages come and passed…and we’re onto our final specialty brew of 2014 (seriously, how did that happen?). Naturally, for December, Ed has brewed up a Winter Warmer.

Traditionally, Winter Warmers are big, malty beers with higher-than-usual alcohol content. Most examples range from almost black to reddish brown, though there is considerable variation. Spices are common in American Winter Warmers, but not strictly necessary: many English versions don’t include them. The Winter Warmer is related to the “Old Ale,” a dark, high-alcohol style that has been well-aged. Sometimes, breweries gave younger, milder ales an “old” taste by blending them with stock ales ­– very aged ales that had been kept behind at the brewery, rather than being sold.

Our 2014 Winter Warmer is a little different than years past. Rather than being a dark, very malty beer, this Winter Warmer is an amber ale, deep tawny-gold in colour. The main players in this ale are 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, with a bit of an edge on the front of the tongue, mellowing on the swallow. The lemony, citrus-y coriander makes more of an appearance on the finish, coming up through the nose.

Coriander!
Coriander!

At 6% ABV, this beer is a little more alcoholic than our usual offerings, which is true to style. As I went back outside into the cold, I definitely noticed some alcoholic warmth smouldering in my chest. The mix of warmth and citrus puts me in mind of Christmas oranges – a different approach than the usual malty-chocolate-y Winter Warmers, but very much appreciated!

Ed’s doing several brews of the Winter Warmer, but it will only be available here at the historic brewery, not the LCBO. It hits the fridges in time for our first Christmas by Lamplight on December 6th, so be sure to pick some up before we close for the season on the 23rd!

banner-bcpv-home-xmas-lamplight

Cheers!

Katie

Oktoberfest: Beer and Royalty

First of all:

The Pumpkin Ale has officially hit the fridges. Ed’s also doing a few more batches. Thought you might like to know. 😉

Now that we have that out of the way, tonight is our first “Say Cheese, Say Cheers!” event of the year (don’t worry, if you’ve missed this one, there is another on November 13th). In honour of our Oktoberfest theme, I decided to do a little digging into this famous festival. Now, when I think of Oktoberfest, I immediately think of beer:

Lots and lots of beer... (image via www.wikimedia.org)
Lots and lots of beer… (image via http://www.wikimedia.org)

However, there is much more to this Volksfest (People’s Fair). It is a sixteen-day funfair in Munich, the largest of its kind in the world. And it’s been running a long time; the first true Oktoberfest was held on October 12th, 1810, to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. That first year, beer did not play a prominent role: the main attractions were horse races. In fact, the races were so well-received that they were repeated the next year, and a tradition was born.

By 1814, there are references to numerous Oktoberfest beer shacks. Gradually, the focus shifted from horses to beer. Officially, the only beer that can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest is beer that was brewed within Munich’s city limits and also conforms to the Reinheitsgebot (a German/Bavarian purity law dating from 1487—it states that only malted barley, water, and hops may be used in making beer). Thus, six breweries can produce official Oktoberfestbier:

  • Augustiner-Bräu
  • Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu
  • Löwenbräu
  • Paulaner
  • Spatenbräu
  • Staatliches Hofbräu-München

The Oktoberfestbier has its roots in another, similar beer style: the Märzen beer. Medieval brewers had difficulty brewing in the summer months. Without refrigeration, it was difficult to keep the beer at temperatures at which the yeast could properly ferment, and the beer itself was vulnerable to bacterial infection during warmer weather. As such, a 1553 Bavarian brewing ordinance restricted the brewing season from September 29th to April 23rd.

Thus, to ensure a supply of beer during the summer months, brewers produced extra beer in March. This Märzen beer (Märzen is the German word for March) was usually brewed to have a higher alcohol content and more hops—similar to the reasoning behind brewing India Pale Ales. By the time the brewing season started in the fall, the casks of leftover beer needed to be emptied to make room for new brews. This need to drink all the beer led to small, informal festivals through September and October, which were eventually absorbed in the 19th-century Oktoberfest.

Märzen-Oktoberfestbiers are usually well-aged, deep amber to dark copper in colour. Medium-to-full-bodied, the long aging time mellows out the hops and highlights their malty character. Early Märzen-Oktoberfestbiers tended to be darker than we’re used to. But then, in 1841, two brewmaster friends, Gabriel Sedlmayr and Anton Dreher, experimented with lighter malts. They added a new malt to their mix: one which was quite pale and slightly caramelized.

This was the Vienna malt. Thirty years later, the Spaten brewery released a Märzen with a slightly darker version of the Vienna: the Munich malt. This beer was also explicitly released under the Oktoberfestbier brand name.

Vienna malt on the right; Munich malt on the left.
Vienna malt on the left; Munich malt on the right.

So really, Oktoberfest has arisen from two wonderful things: a royal wedding and celebration of the new brewing season. I think we can all raise a glass to that!

Prost!

Katie

A Spirited Affair: It’s Here!

At long last, tonight is the night! At 7:00 pm tonight, Black Creek Pioneer Village will glow with lamplight, echo with laughter and dancing feet, and host local breweries, wineries, and distilleries!

ReallyNiceGrowler

A Spirited Affair is an annual fundraiser to restore a selection of our historic buildings. Our Flynn House received A Spirited Affair’s attention last year. This year, we’re focusing on Burwick House: a prime example of a middle class home in 1860s Ontario.  With your help, we can preserve these unique buildings for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

For more information about a Spirited Affair, click here! And for a detailed breakdown of tonight’s events, here!

And don’t worry, we’ve got lots more happening at the brewery through October. Ed will shortly be brewing the Pumpkin Ale – perfect for Thanksgiving and Halloween. And on October 16th, we have the first of our two “Say Cheese, Say Cheers!” nights. Join expert Julia Rogers as she pairs five local cheese varieties with fine craft beers, sample our homemade bread and root chips – and of course, tour the brewery! Reserve tickets early to avoid disappointment; see here for more details!

Also coming up in October: our Hallowing Hootenanny returns! On October 18th/19th and 25th/26th, bring your wee ones to Black Creek for a frighteningly good time! Wear your favourite costume, trick-or-treat through the village…and maybe slip away for a sample of our Pumpkin Ale! 😉

BCPV_autumn2

No question: with some much going on, autumn is one of our favourite seasons at Black Creek. We look forward to sharing it with you.

Cheers!

-Katie

A Spirited Affair: Spotlight on Whisky

Less than a week to go until our Spirited Affair! This is our annual fundraiser featuring local beer, wine, and spirits. Now, we’re pretty familiar with beer here on the Growler. We also did a spotlight on wine last year.

But what about spirits? What’s the story behind distilled drinks like whisky?

Whisky

If you’d like the dictionary definition, distillation is the “…process of separating component substances from a liquid mixture by selective vaporization and condensation.”

The dictionary definition is not terribly helpful.

But what it means is that the different substances making up a liquid mixture evaporate at different temperatures. If you can control the temperature correctly, you can extract alcohol from a wort-like mixture by boiling it out, and then condensing those gases to turn it back into a liquid. All while the water remains behind, resulting in a beverage with a much higher alcohol by volume.

Whisky has its roots in Ireland, dating back to roughly 1100 CE. According to the stories, Irish monks had travelled through the Mediterranean and Middle East; they then brought knowledge of distillation back with them. In any case, distillation of whisky was established in both Ireland and Scotland by the 15th century. Whisky-making spread to North America with British, Irish, and Scottish immigrants (George Washington had quite an impressive distillery),and in Canada, it was also helped along by the Late Loyalists who arrived from the States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Québec in particular had quite a large number of distilleries around this time—the Molson family actually started out distilling, rather than brewing.

Brewer, distiller, kindly smile - John Molson, is there nothing you can't do?
Brewer, distiller, kindly smile – John Molson, is there nothing you can’t do?

Indeed, through the early 1800s, whisky was more popular than beer. By the middle of the century, there were over 200 whisky-makers in Canada. However, since hard liquors are very high in alcohol, they attracted attention from early temperance advocates, who urged people to drink milder beverages like beer. Some of these Victorian distillers are still quite familiar to us today: Seagram, Hiram Walker (Canadian Club), and of course, Gooderham and Worts.

Advertisement for the Waterloo Distillery, operated by Seagram and Sons (courtesy the University of Waterloo)
Advertisement for the Waterloo Distillery, operated by Seagram and Sons (courtesy the University of Waterloo)

CA531819

20090219-Gooderham

However, there are a few key differences between brewing and distilling. It starts very similarly: a cereal grain (barley, rye, corn, it doesn’t really matter) is malted, milled, and then placed into a mash tun. With the addition of hot water, enzymes formed in the malting process convert the starch into a fermentable sugar. The sugar-infused liquid is then separated from the grains.

The pot still's set-up.
The pot still’s set-up.

This is where things diverge. At this point, brewers would boil this “sweet wort” in a brew-kettle and add hops for flavour. Distillers cool the “wash” immediately and add the yeast to start fermentation. When fermentation is complete, the distiller now has a liquid that is about 8% ABV. Pretty high for a beer, nowhere near high enough for whisky (legally, whisky has to be at least 40% ABV).

So, the distiller then places the wash into the still and begins heating it. In the 1800s, distillers were still using copper pot stills. As the wash is heated, the alcohol will evaporate before the water. The vapour passes into the condensing tube where it cools and turns back into liquid form—except most of the water has been left behind, meaning the alcohol is much more concentrated. Victorian condensers were often submerged in open wooden “backs” (vessels) containing cold water.

The first liquid to come out of the condensing tube is a mix of volatile compounds (methanol, anyone?) that evaporate first. They are called the “heads,” and must be thrown out. Similarly, distillers don’t use the very end of their distillation—the “tails”—as it does not actually add anything useful to the whisky. To concentrate the wash even more, it is distilled again—Scotch and Canadian whisky gets two rounds, Irish whiskey gets three. The product is then aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, where it can “breathe” and develop mature aromas, flavours, and colours.

(Sidebar: properly, this beverage is spelled whiskey in the United States and Ireland, and whisky in every other whisky-producing country in the world, including Canada.)

You can try some delicious offerings from the Toronto Distillery Company this Thursday. We look forward to seeing you—it will be a spirited event indeed!

-Katie

A Spirited Affair: 2014

We’re having an affair!

14-main-image420spiritedaffair

Now that I have your attention – a Spirited Affair draws nigh! We’re two weeks away from our fundraising event featuring local beer, wine, and whisky. First, we’ll step back in time to a lively 1860s town. There, you can learn Victorian dancing, sample fine drinks and 1800s snacks (personally, I’m looking forward to the bacon jam), and interact with lively local characters—including our shopkeeper, brewmaster, and barmaid. But watch out for the Temperance advocate! Before you leave, be sure to drop by our Flynn House to see what’s changed since last year’s Spirited Affair. (Spoiler: a lot)

Tired yet? We hope not! Next stop: the 1960s! Twist and shout with a Beatles tribute band, and learn the cool moves of 1960s dance crazes. When all that dancing works up an appetite, sip cocktails and nibble on gourmet food – does mini quiche Lorraine, salmon mousse, and shrimp cocktails sound good for starters? 😉

Then, enjoy the smooth crooning of Andy de Campos, participate in our silent auction, and play our exciting fundraising games—there are prizes to be won!

And we want you to join in the fun: 1960s outfits are highly encouraged. There were some very sharp dressers at last year’s event—we look forward to seeing your favourite get-up!

But there’s a serious cause alongside our celebration. The Spirited Affair is a fundraiser, directly impacting a restoration campaign called “Explore History­ – Build a Better Future.” This campaign was launched by the Living History Foundation with support from the Toronto Region Conversation Authority. This year, we are focusing on the much-needed restoration of our Burwick House.

Burwick has had a long, long life - some of the resulting damage is visible in this image.
Burwick has had a long, long life – some of the resulting damage is visible in this image.

Burwick House was one of the first buildings to be moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It’s one of the best examples we have of 19th century middle class life and customs. Situated in the heart of the village, it is also situated close to our hearts—now it’s time to show it the love it so richly deserves.

From the archives (Katie may have too much fun with the archives...): Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1959, the year before it officially opened. Burwick House has already been moved (just right of photograph centre).
From the archives (Katie may have too much fun with the archives…). Black Creek Pioneer Village in 1959, the year before it officially opened. Burwick House has already been moved (just right of photograph centre).

Our guests this year include:

A Spirited Affair will be held on Thursday, September 25th, 2014, from 7:00-10:00 pm. Tickets are $80/person and include drink samples and gourmet foods—advance reservations are required. To avoid disappointment, book early! Click here, or call our customer service line at 416-667-6295.

You can find more information here as well.

It’ll be an affair to remember! We can’t wait to see you there.

-Katie

A Spirited Affair: Spotlight on Wine

Our Spirited Affair fundraising event is rapidly approaching – it’s just over two weeks away! The Spirited Affair promises to be spirited indeed. This night won’t be just about beer (though of course, we do like our beer) – we’re also hosting wineries and distilleries, which means that wine and whisky will be flowing as well!

The Victorians weren’t exclusionary when it came to their tastes in alcohol. Rye whisky was quite common, particularly in the early days of the colony. However, down in the brewery, we tend to get questions about nineteenth century wine.

In nineteenth century Ontario, wine tended to be a bit more expensive and thus drunk less than beer and spirits. Although Ontario now has a thriving wine industry, this wasn’t always the case. This wasn’t entirely an issue of climate: southern Ontario sits at the same latitude as southern France (specifically the regions of Provence and Languedoc). However, the native grapes that flourish in Ontario tend to produce a “foxy” (musty) wine, less fine than the wine produced by European grapes.

Ontario Concord Grapes (image courtesy http://www.winesofcanada.com)

So, naturally, aspiring winemakers imported European vines. While grapes native to Ontario thrived, the European vines struggled with humid summers that left them vulnerable to disease and harsh winters that damaged young vines. As such, most wine drunk in Ontario continued to be imported. Initially, this wine came from Europe, until the aphid Phylloxera vastatrix (an invasive species from North America) devastated vineyards across the continent. Wine production in the United States, particularly in California, then increased in response to the shortage of European grapes.

One of the first documented vineyards in Ontario was established in 1811 by a retired German corporal named Johann Schiller. Settling in Cooksville (Mississauga), he fermented wild grapes and sold the finished product to his neighbours. The first commercial winery (Schiller was selling, but not at a commercial scale) was founded in 1866 on Pelee Island. By the end of the century, there were as many as thirty-five wineries in Ontario. However, after Prohibition ended in 1927, a moratorium on new wineries saw this number decrease to six by 1974.

Victorians could usually find a reason to drink beer: as a medicine, a social beverage, a thirst-quencher, or a fortifier. Wine tended to be reserved for meals – and rather more elaborate ones at that. In meals with multiple courses, wine was served at the end of each course. After the fish course, the man seated to the right of the hostess could ask if she would take wine with him, thus beginning the libations. Otherwise, servants poured wine suitable for each course.

(courtesy http://www.livinghistorylectures.com)

In upper-class homes, the wine cellar fell under the responsibility of the butler. He kept the keys, advised his master on the quality and price of his wines, and handled the inventory personally, noting every bottle in his “cellar book.”

Wine could be drunk directly, or it could be mixed with other drinks. Fortified wines, in which wine was augmented with brandy or other liquors, were common. Sherry and Madeira was drunk as an aperitifs and/or dessert wines, while port was solely drunk after dinner, and predominantly by men. Mulled wine, or negus, was also common, particularly during cold Canadian winters! The Cook Not Mad, a Canadian cookbook published in 1831, gives the following recipe for mulled wine:

Boil spice in a little water till the flavour is gained,

 then add an equal quantity of port, Madeira, or sherry, some sugar and nutmeg;

boil together, and serve with toast.

(The Cook Not Mad)

If you’d like to taste the vibrancy of today’s Ontario wines, there’s still time to purchase a ticket for our Spirited Affair! Come have a drink with us, and then dance the night away!

Our Spirited Affair is a fundraiser to restore Flynn House. The home of Daniel Flynn, an Irish bootmaker, Flynn House is a unique asset to Black Creek - even if it needs a little love!
Our Spirited Affair is a fundraiser to restore Flynn House. As the former home of Daniel Flynn, an Irish bootmaker, Flynn House is a unique asset to Black Creek – even if it needs a little love!

Still Waters Distillery – A Spirited Affair

swlogoBlack Creek Historic Brewery has met it’s match in Still Waters Distillery!  Founded in 2009 by Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein, this micro-distillery in Concord, Ontario produces hard liquors like we produce beer, one handmade batch at a time!  Like Black Creek, they start from scratch with raw materials including grains, corn and fruit.  Once brewed and distilled, it’s into wooden casks to age.  Due to the small scale of each batch, the bottles produced are numbered and released as limited editions.  Their current line up of products includes Single Malt, Rye and Corn Whiskey, Vodka, Rye, Brandy and in the near future – gin! 

SpiritedAffair-OnPupleWe are thrilled to welcome Still Waters Distillery as our whiskey supplier for A Spirited Affair, our fundraiser celebrating beer, whiskey and wine on September 27th, 2013.  They will be on site providing samples and talking about the unique methods they use to create their amazing beverages.  Tickets for A Spirited Affair are available through our website.

In the meantime, you can purchase Still Waters products through the LCBO, online or at the brewery at 150 Bradwick Drive, Unit #26 in Concord.  They also love to do tours which you can book ahead of time by contacting the brewery.

Once you’ve got your bottle home, here’s an 1860s recipe for a summery Whiskey Cobbler from The Bon-Vivants Companion.

Whiskey Cobbler.
(Use large bar glass.)
2 wine-glasses of whiskey.
1 tablespoonful of sugar.
2 or 3 slices of orange.
Fill tumbler with ice, and shake well.  Imbibe through a straw.