Tag Archives: brewing

Twelfth Night Lambswool Recipe

Hello, beer-lovers!

We hope you had a happy and restful holiday season! If you’re still yearning for festivity and good cheer, don’t worry! Today is Twelfth Night – that is, the twelfth day of Christmas. We may not have any lords-a-leaping for you, but I do have a traditional recipe!

Poet Robert Herrick (www.poets.org)

Lambswool is a drink customarily consumed around Twelfth Night. It’s related to old wassailing traditions, in which apple trees are serenaded and alcohol consumed to ensure a bountiful harvest. This stanza in Robert Herrick’s poem Now, Now the Mirth Comes (1660) paints a good picture of lambswool:

Next crown the bowl full
With the gentle lamb’s-wool
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.

Essentially, it was a mulled ale, called lambswool either for white froth scudding over the bowl’s surface, or as a corruption of the Irish celebration “La Mas Ubhal.”

Curious to try lambswool for yourself? There are many on the internet, but I think that this example from the “Miss Foodwise” blog sounds particularly tasty:

  • Bramley or Cox stewing apples, 500 gr (peeled and cored about 300 gr)
  • water, 100 ml
  • sugar 100 gr
  • freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon
  • ginger powder, 1 teaspoon
  • a good ale, 750 ml

Method 
Peel and cut your apples in small pieces and place in a pot along with 100 ml of water and the sugar and spices. Stew until soft and puree so there are no bits left.
When ready to serve, heat up the apple puree and add the ale while whisking. You should get a nice froth while doing so. Serve at once.

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)

Check out her post in its entirety here (there’s even more interesting historical background)! And waes hael!

Katie

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Historic Recipes

Interview with a Beer Expert: Milan on Home-Brewing

Milan in the Harness Shop

Milan in the Harness Shop

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?

“Yeah.”

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!

Until next time!

Katie

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Beer Glasses 101

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

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

(Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Pint Glasses

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

2000px-pint_glass_mixing-svg

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

2000px-pint_glass_pub-svg

Flutes

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

2000px-flute_glass-svg

Tulip

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

cognac_glass_-_tulip_shaped

Chalice

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

2000px-goblet_glass_schooner-svg

Weizen

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

spiegelau_wheat_beer_glass_2

Pilsner

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

collins_glass

Snifter

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

2000px-snifter_glass_brandy-svg

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

Katie

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Brews

New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Ah, the hop harvest: an unofficial sign that summer is ending. Here at the Black Creek Brewery, Ed’s Wet Hop Ale is a seasonal favourite. When brewing, brewers generally use dried hops (today, they’re often pelletized!). But once a year – when the hops are just ripe – you can use them directly off the vine. It’s only a few metres from our hop vines behind Laskay’s Emporium to Ed’s brew-kettle: it’s hard to get more local than that!

So, one beautiful late summer morning, Ed, fellow Beer Expert Milan, and I harvested our hops. Being much taller than I, Milan and Ed took the vines down from their trellises.

031

030

Then, whilst Ed attended to the mash, Milan and I stripped the hop flowers from the vines. The hops’ pollen (lupulin) is what gives beer that distinctive floral aroma. You can see it if you very gently peel the hops’ delicate layers apart. Fresh off the vine, the pollen is a wonderful bright yellow colour – and it smells pretty good, too!

027

029

(We did wash our hands thoroughly after, though. Hops are all well and good, but the aroma tends to linger.)

Coming in at 5% ABV, Ed’s Wet Hope Ale is 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. Like much of life, it is far too fleeting – which makes us appreciate it all the more. Stop by and try some for yourself at our annual Pioneer Harvest Festival and Artisans’ Village – another seasonal favourite! From September 17th-18th, you can see exciting demonstrations and crafts, sample delicious food (I’m picking up sausage and cheese curds), and celebrate all things handmade!

025

The village gets more beautiful every season…

The Seven Crowns Society Ale is also available now! This is a luscious cherry porter, brewed with help from our very special apprentices! It’s a little lighter than our usual porter, with lots of rich chocolate and dark fruit aromas. On first tasting it, there’s a sweetness that’s almost reminiscent of our brown ale, but that quickly deepens to cherry, chocolate, and a rounded vanilla booziness.

Until next time,

Katie

 

Leave a comment

Filed under New Brew

From the Vaults: Cooling Off

Hi all! It’s been a very, very hot summer, but it seems like we’ve turned a corner into some cooler weather. Of course, hot weather could be a challenge for brewers in the 1800s – in my archives, I found this very timely post! Enjoy!

For rural brewers, brewing tended to be  a seasonal activity. This was mostly because you have to cool wort before adding the yeast. After all, when the wort comes out of the brew-kettle it is boiling. Yeast is a living organism. If you chuck it into boiling hot wort, it won’t be living much longer, which means that it will not be fermenting anything effectively.

All of which to say: brewers needed some way of cooling the wort. In the first half of the nineteenth century, they used coolers. W. Stewart describes them as “floors of wood, surrounded with a wooden ledge, placed in the most airy and exposed situation in the brewery…in large breweries, they are of an enormous extent” (Stewart, 63).

The idea behind a cooler is to spread the wort out very thinly over a wide surface area in order to let the heat dissipate. That’s why coolers can be so expansive—they’re usually only 2-4 inches deep, so they need to be quite wide to contain a large volume of beer.

Our cooling ship, located on top of the casks - so, a slightly different set-up than the larger breweries. (Courtesy www.greatcanadianbeerblog.com)

Our cooling ship, located on top of the casks – so, a slightly different set-up than the larger breweries.
(Courtesy http://www.greatcanadianbeerblog.com)

So, no problem, right? Run the beer into the cooler and wait.

Not quite.

Beer fresh out of the brew-kettle is extremely vulnerable to contamination. Remember, it’s been at a rolling boil for a significant amount of time (usually an hour, for us), which means that it’s been rendered more-or-less sterile. The longer the wort is left out in the open, the more likely it is to be infected by airborne pathogens or wild yeast. Brewer Thomas Hitchcock also worries about the “acidifying” of the wort through the absorption of excess oxygen, which apparently “takes place most rapidly in warm weather” (Hitchcock, 31).

Modern-day breweries have heat exchangers which can cool the wort very quickly. Victorian brewing guides recommend getting it down to anywhere from 11-20 degrees Celsius. From boiling, that’s quite a drop, especially in the summer—without air conditioning to help.

So how did they do it?

Some brewers avoided summer brewing altogether. According to A Practical Treatise on Brewing (1835), by William Chadwick, “…in hot weather, brewing is a critical operation, and private families should refrain from brewing in summer if possible…no prudent person would willingly brew when the temperature of the air is as high as 60 degrees” (Chadwick, 43-44). In the winter, however, it would be easy to open a window (Stewart does recommend letting a fresh air current pass over the wort) and let that chill Canadian winter help with the cooling.

But for large commercial brewers, sitting out the summer months entirely wasn’t always an option.

Stewart’s brewing guide addresses the conundrum of summer brewing:

When the brewery is obliged to make ale in warm summer weather, it is material to reduce the temperature as low as possible. In such cases great advantage would attend cooling the wort in coolers without any roof or covering whatever, but quite open to the sky; because in clear nights, the wort might be cooled in this way, eight or ten degrees lower than the temperature of the atmosphere… (Stewart, 66-67)

The idea seems to be that the wort would radiate the heat out into the night:

We have no doubt that it might be put in practice with advantage in hot climates; at that, by means of it, good ale or porter might be manufactured in the East and West Indies. Such a manufacture, if successful, would be particularly relished in India… (67)

Of course, this was only a theoretical model. There were other options. While Chadwick urges private families to avoid warm-weather brewing, he notes that the commercial brewer generally “…also has a command of cold spring water, that can he convey through pipes, so contrived to branch in various directions amongst the worts, that they are cooled down to the required temperature in a very short time” (42).

Which is one reason why breweries were often located near streams. It’s pretty similar to what we do at Black Creek: we have pipes branching through our cooling ship, although we use Toronto tap water.

Bloor, Joseph, brewery, n. of Bloor St. E., between Mount Pleasant Rd. & Sherbourne St.

Joseph Bloore’s brewery, located on the stream running through the Rosedale ravine. (courtesy http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca)

By the century’s later decades, cooling had become more reliable. E.R. Southby’s A Systematic Handbook of Practical Brewing dates from 1885, and mentions refrigerators. Don’t get too excited—they weren’t fridges, but rather, three distinct set-ups:

  • Wort flows in a body over pipes placed horizontally.
  • Wort flows in a film over pipes placed vertically.

OR

  • Wort flows through pipes surrounded by cool water.

Southby favours the vertical model, particularly recommending the Riley or Ashby models—reminding us that brewing was becoming increasingly industrialized. The old coolers were still used to aerate the wort—but rather than the old wooden models, cast iron or copper (like ours!) were preferred, as they were easier to clean and didn’t rot. Still, cooling was increasingly based on the principle of heat exchange, much as it is today.

So, would a small, country, one-man brewing operation enjoy this cold snap?

But I’m still looking forward to May and warmer weather!

– Katie

Sources:

Chadwick, William. A Practical Treatise on Brewing. London: Whittaker and Co., 1835.

Hitchcock, Thomas. A Practical Treatise on Brewing. London: R. Boyd, 1842.

Southby, E.R. A Systematic Handbook of Practical Brewing: Including a Full Description of the Buildings, Plant, Materials and Process Required for Brewing All Descriptions of Beer. London: E.R. Southby, 1885.

Stewart, W. Brewing and Distillation, with Practical Instructions for Brewing Porter and Ales According to the English and Scottish Methods. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1849.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brewing History

Cicerones: The Sommeliers of Beer

The wine world has sommeliers. The tea world has tea sommeliers. What about the beer world? Are there beer sommeliers?

You bet. And they even have a special name: cicerones. (Say: SIS-uh-rohn)

The word cicerone originally meant a guide or someone who conducts visitors (so hey, we’re all cicerones here at Black Creek Pioneer Village!). Today, it usually refers to a Certified Cicerone: someone who has proven their knowledge of beer styles, flavours, and service under the Cicerone Certification Program. This is a certification body created by Beer Expert Extraordinare Ray Daniels.

There are four levels of tests: for Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone®, Advanced Cicerone™, and Master Cicerone®. And it’s tough stuff: of the 75,000 people who have undertaken the Cicerone Certification Program, only eleven have achieved the title of Master Cicerone.

Naturally, my knee-jerk response is, “Then I shall be the twelfth,” but we’ll see.

One day...

One day…

What do cicerones need to know? Short answer: everything. Longer answer: brewing techniques, beer and brewing history, beer ingredients, beer service, glassware, draught systems, beer tastings, and food pairings. Essentially, cicerones are experts in every aspect of the beer experience: from the technical, to the historic, to the artistic.

So, you wanna be a cicerone? The first level—Certified Beer Server—is an online test that takes about thirty minutes. Anything past that has to be done in person at one of the Cicerone Certification Program’s testing locations. And to be a Master Cicerone? You’re looking at two days of examination, including eight hours of written tests, two hours of oral examination, and two hours of beer tasting and evaluation.

To get us all started, I found this short sample quiz, courtesy of the Cicerone Certification Program. How well did you do?

barrel_l

Want to improve your score, or practice for those advanced titles? Drop by the Black Creek brewery this summer. We can all share our beer knowledge together, and add a few more samples to your beer tasting repertoire!

Cheers!

Katie

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Brewing History

Last Call!

Hello, beer-lovers! It seems hard to believe, but we’ve nearly reached the end of our season here at the Black Creek Historic Brewery. Black Creek closes for the season on Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015. So, you’ve got one more week to come down, stock up on growlers (the Winter Warmer is out and lovely and citrus-y), join us for tours and samplings, and of course, celebrate with us during our final Christmas by Lamplight evening.

banner-bcpv-home-xmas-lamplight

We will be back on May 1st, 2016, stocked with beer and full of cheer.

Photo by James Bowers.

Photo by James Bowers.

Need your beer/beer history fix before that? Don’t worry! Our commercial brews will be available in the LCBO all winter long. The Rifleman’s Ration is a permanent listing (you can also get it from the Beer Store, if you so choose), the Benson Strong Ale will be out for a while, and you can check the LCBO website to see what other seasonal favourites are in stock!

This blog will go quieter as I make my habitual trips southward (I am not a cold-weather creature), but I’ll still be popping up occasionally. After all, I’ve had some very fine beers and beer-adventures in the States, and I look forward to sharing my explorations with you!

So to round out 2015, I’d like to indulge in a moment of sentimentality. ‘Tis the season, after all.

I love our little brewery. I really do. My very first Christmas by Lamplight, I was assigned there as an extra pair of hands. The moment I walked in, that was it for me. I loved it.

I love my perch on the barstool. You can see everything from there: the gleaming copper brew-kettle, and the squat mash tun, and the casks all neatly stacked and waiting. It’s a little space. A tucked-away space. But it’s full of the sweet smell of barley, and the steam that creeps along the ceiling when Ed cools the wort.

It’s a little space, but it fits a lot of people, and I think that’s what I love most of all—the stories and the people we meet, and the eyes that light up when someone tries something they really like. Every tour, every sample—you make each one unique, each one memorable. Thank you for that. Truly.

It’s a little space, our brewery .

And it’s home.

Casks

To Queen and Country!

Katie

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized