New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Just in time for our Two-Day Pioneer Harvest Festival, our Wet Hop Ale is ready! Brewed with the hops grown onsite, this seasonal ale has turned out very well indeed. Usually, beer is brewed with dried hops (actually, modern beers are brewed with compacted hop pellets, but that is beside the point). With the Wet Hop Ale, Ed has used hops straight from the vine.

So, what is the Wet Hop Ale like?

Ready for harvesting!
Ready for harvesting!

Coming in at 5% ABV, this beer is a deep gold colour, almost a light amber. Brewing with wet hops is like cooking with fresh herbs rather than dried: the nose is quite delicate and floral. Naturally, this ale is hop-oriented, but they aren’t very aggressive. Floral and citrus notes come through to start, with a hint of underlying earthiness.

Since this brew requires hops that have just been harvested, we can only make the Wet Hop Ale once each year (it’s become my personal sign that autumn is fast approaching). Like much of life, it is far too fleeting – which makes us appreciate it all the more. It’s becoming more popular with other breweries, too – I just picked up a fresh Autumn Hop Ale from Amsterdam Brewery that I’m very excited to try! 🙂

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

-Katie

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

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

Fall Updates

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

September Beers

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

Ed picking hops!
Ed picking hops!

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

Which reminds me…

Pioneer Harvest Festival: Sept. 19/20

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

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

A Spirited Affair: Oct. 3rd

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

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

Pumpkin Ale

It’s coming, I promise.

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Katie

Bonus Post: Simcoe Hopped Ale

We’re back!

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

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

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

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

Check out more in the video below!

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

-Katie

New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

Our Wet Hop Ale is ready! Brewed with the hops we harvested a short time ago, 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. Seriously, maybe 10 minutes passed between filling our bushel baskets and putting the hops in the brew-kettle – and that’s because we walked to the brewery and chatted with Ed!

So, what is the Wet Hop Ale like?

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. The beer has a bit more weight on the tongue than I expected, but this is a smooth, satisfying beer.

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. 🙂

The Wet Hop Ale will be available only at the historic brewery whilst our stocks last. And in another sign of approaching autumn, I noticed a Stout and Porter fermenting in the casks; look for those in a week or so!

-Katie

PS. Save the date! A Spirited Affair, our fundraiser and celebration of craft beers, wines, and spirits, is on September 25th. It’s a great event to support a great cause (restoration of our historic buildings). For more information and tickets, please click here!

Hop Harvest: 2014 Edition

A sure sign that autumn approaches: our hops have been harvested!

2014HopHarvest1

Last weekend, Head Gardener Sandra Spudic and I teamed up with a band of intrepid hop harvesters to gather in our crop for Ed’s Wet Hop Ale. After introductions in the Visitors’ Centre, we went straight to our hop garden behind Laskay’s Emporium. The air was cool and fresh from recent rains – perfect weather for harvesting. As we admired the hop trellises, Sandra told us a bit about their cultivation.

Hops grow fairly quickly and easily, but they are vulnerable to dampness. You need a lot of airflow to ensure healthy plants – hence the wide spacing between our trellises. Sandra describes training the hops as a “Maypole effect.” That is, three plants grow up and around the central pole. When they reach the top, some of the more vigorous ones start spiraling back down!

I then shared a bit about the history of brewing with hops. Hops have two major uses in beer. Their lupulin, the yellowish powder found in female hops, acts as a bittering agent (it also creates a mild soporific effect) and the oils and resins in the hops helps to keep beer from souring. However, hops were not always used in brewing.

2014HopHarvest2

The first reference to cultivated hops dates from 736, and they were used in brewing in the Low Countries by the eleventh century. Otherwise, beer was brewed with gruit, a mixture of herbs including bog myrtle, yarrow, and rosemary that flavoured the beer, but did not provide hops’ preservative benefits. While we consider ale a subset of beer today, this was not always the case either. Until the sixteenth century, they were two different beverages, with a distinction was made between hopped beer and un-hopped ale.

But hops encountered resistance. Partly, this was because the English were particularly protective of their national drink, which was un-hopped ale. As well, the right to produce gruit (the gruitrecht) was granted by your lord: if you wanted your gruitrecht, you had to pay for it. Hops had no such right attached; shifting away from gruit therefore meant less money going to the lords.

However, the benefits of hops outweighed these arguments, and they were more-or-less accepted for use in brewing by 1600. By the 1860s, they were an expected component of beer, and ale had come to mean a beer brewed with top-fermenting yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), in contrast to lagers, which were brewed with bottom-fermenting yeasts (Saccharomyces uvarum).

2014HopHarvest3

After filling two bushel baskets, we carried our bounty down to Ed. Usually, hops are dried before brewing, but for this very special Wet Hop Ale, we put them straight in. Our harvesters assisted with adding the hops to the boil and ensuring that everything was well-stirred.

We then said goodbye to Ed and learned about another important component of beer: barley and malt! Sandra showed us the barley fields, and then it was off to the grain barn for some threshing and winnowing. Threshing with a flail takes skill and a nimble wrist. Our harvesters did very well; I did not.

I would blame the crinoline, but we all know that blame is misplaced.

The process of winnowing separates grain from chaff. One method involves tossing threshed barley with a blanket and hoping for a stiff breeze. We used our fanning mill instead. A hand-turned fan creates the necessary wind, whilst weed seeds pass through an inclined screen, leaving our clean barley to fall out the other end.

(courtesy www.thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com)
(courtesy http://www.thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com)
The fanning mill's inner workings (courtesy www.etc.usf.edu)
The fanning mill’s inner workings (courtesy http://www.etc.usf.edu)

After all that work, our harvesters deserved a break! In our historic restaurant, they sampled cookies and bread made from Ed’s spent grains, while I discussed the social history of beer and brewing in nineteenth century Ontario. Naturally, a beer tasting followed.  🙂

Thank you to all our harvesters for all your hard work! And thank you very much to Sandra Spudic for an amazing event. As I type this, the Wet Hop Ale is fermenting down in the brewery. It should be aged up and ready to hit the fridges by September 4th – watch this space for updates.

Hoppy drinking!

– Katie

PS. Don’t forget, we have another fantastic event coming soon! A Spirited Affair is less than a month away! You can sample craft beer, wine, and spirits while enjoying the best of the 1860s and 1960s – click here for more information.

New Brew: Simcoe Hopped Ale

We hope you had an excellent long weekend! The celebrations aren’t over in the brewery, though. We still have plenty of our August specialty beer: the Simcoe Hopped Ale.

As you may have guessed, this beer was brewed in honour of the holiday. Civic Holiday lands on the first Monday in August, and it’s celebrated through most of Canada. Personally, I enjoy the name “Civic Holiday” (it may just be me, but it reads as “Long Weekend For The Sake Of It Day”),  but as it turns out, the holiday has different names in different parts of the country. In Toronto (not the rest of Ontario, just Toronto), it’s been known as “Simcoe Day” since 1969.

Attempts to get the rest of the province to call the holiday “Simcoe Day” haven’t been successful. Luckily, the Black Creek Historic Brewery falls within Toronto’s limits!

 

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

John Graves Simcoe was the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada. Born in England on February 25, 1752, he established himself as a military officer, commanding the Queen’s Rangers in the American Revolutionary War. Following the Constitutional Act of 1791, Simcoe was appointed the first Lieutenant Governor of the newly-created Upper Canada. Though he only remained in Upper Canada until 1796, Simcoe left an indelible mark on the province’s history.

To name just a few: he was the driving force behind the Act Against Slavery (1793), established the town of York (now Toronto), and began construction on a road system that included Yonge and Dundas streets. Simcoe’s impact on the province is made even more remarkable by the brevity of his time here.

And so, it seems fitting to honour Simcoe with a new brew. Our Simcoe Hopped Ale is a North American pale ale. Surprisingly, given the name, Simcoe hops originate from Washington state—they’re known for their aromatic qualities and fruity fragrance.

The Simcoe Hopped Ale is amber-orange in colour, with quite a lot of orange on the nose as well. The taste is more grapefruit and earthy notes, though. The hops are noticeable on the front of the tongue, but overall, this is a smooth beer. If you like the citrus notes of our North American IPA, but find the hops a bit intense, this may be a good beer to try.

The Simcoe Hopped Ale will be available in the historic brewery while supplies last. See you at the brewery!

-Katie

 

New LCBO Beer: Empirical Ale

That’s right, we have a new beer in the LCBO! Just ahead of Victoria Day, we are releasing the Empirical Ale. The Empirical Ale is brewed along the same lines as an IPA.

This makes sense, given that this beer pays homage to the beers shipped throughout the British Empire to supply thirsty soldiers: particularly those in India. Beer was not completely unknown in India, but it was primarily made from rice and millet. The first European-style brewery was opened by Edward Dyer in the late 1820s, near Kasauli (northern India). By the 1880s, there were still only twelve European-style breweries in India. Soldiers preferred the brews they’d been drinking at home – let’s face it, if you were stationed somewhere far away, you probably would too, right? However, since so little ale was produced locally, they relied on imported beer from Great Britain.

From the eighteenth century, British brewers had struggled to export beer to India. The beer simply did not weather the voyage well; it could take six months travelling around the Cape of Good Hope and then north across the Indian Ocean. However, a brewing manual from 1768 suggests the following:

From "Every Man His Own Brewer; Or, a Compendium of the English Brewery" by Samuel Child
From “Every Man His Own Brewer; Or, a Compendium of the English Brewery” by Samuel Child (1768)

So eighteenth-century brewers already knew that hops helped beer destined for warmer climes.

George Hodgson is a name often associated with the India Pale Ale. According to beer history site Zythophile, Hodgson’s brewery was located a short distance from the East India Company docks; thus, the East India Company used his beer for sale in India. The ocean voyage aged Hodgson’s pale October ale beautifully. By the 1820s, more and more brewers were joining in, creating extra-hoppy pale ales for the Indian market, a style known as “India Pale Ale” by the 1830s at least.

And now, in 2014, we offer our Empirical Ale. This 5% beer is deep amber in colour with a really strong nose. If you’ve ever smelled our jar of hops on our Historic Brewery Tour, you’ll be familiar with the scent. Piney/resin-y aromas abound, with hints of citrus as well.

2014EmpiricalAle

This is definitely one for the hopheads (myself included!). The focus here isn’t so much on the malt, but on the hops: we’ve used Cascade and Nugget. This is a bitter beer, but to me, this bitterness leans more towards pines and resins than towards the grapefruit flavours of our standard IPA.

The mouthfeel is bright and sharp. The front of the tongue feels it first; the finish on this one is shorter than our Irish Potato Stout, but my mouth tingled by the end! It’s the kind of bite that makes you want more—it reminds me somewhat of a dry white wine. This beer would be great on a hot day, or at a BBQ; perhaps over the Victoria Day weekend? 😉

The Empirical Ale should already be rolling out to stores, although it does not seem to be on the LCBO website as of yet. This ale will be here for a limited time, so hop to it!

Cheers!
Katie

We’re Back! Looking at our 2014 season

If you’re reading this, Black Creek Pioneer Village has once again opened its doors after our winter off-season. Or, if you are reading this prior to 9:30 am EST, we’re opening in just a few short hours.

After a long, bitterly cold winter, we are thrilled to return to our cosy brewery in the heart of the village. What are some brewery-related events to look forward to this season?

 

Year-Round

Slide1

Behind Closed Doors

Our Behind Closed Doors tour meets on the porch of the Half Way House every weekday at 12:30 pm. Led by one of our friendly beer experts, it’s a chance to stretch your legs and explore other parts of the village. No, we don’t necessarily explore beer on this tour ­– rather, we take you into closed and/or un-interpreted buildings to chat about parts of history we might not otherwise touch on.

If you’re with me, expect to learn about orphans and home children – a timely topic, considering the work Black Creek is doing with the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association this year.

 

Historic Brewery Tour

The Historic Brewery Tour also meets on the porch of the Half Way House: you can take the tour daily at 2:00 pm. We explore the social history of drinking in nineteenth century Canada, the ingredients used in beer-making, as well as the process of brewing in a historic brewery like ours. And of course, no tour is complete without sampling the finished product.

An additional cost of $4.50 per person does apply; you can purchase your ticket at Admissions!

Casks

Beer Sampler

So, you have a taste for history, do you? Come join us in the historic brewery daily from 3:00-4:00 pm to try some samples of our historic beer. $4.50 gets you a 4 oz glass, which I will fill not once, not twice, but thrice – each time with a different style of beer. On weekends, we have an additional sampler from 12:30-1:30.

 

Brewery Apprenticeship

Try your hand at brewing: the Victorian way! Spend the day working alongside Ed, wearing traditional nineteenth century garments and learning to brew with historic methods. Join the beer tour to learn more about your creation, and then take a growler home as a souvenir. Spots are filling quickly, though – learn more here!

 Event Apprentice 01

 

Seasonal

Specialty Ales

Our list of specialty offerings for 2014 can be found here. With a new brew (or two!) every month, it’s always a good time to visit the brewery!

 

Hop Harvest

 The hop garden looks a little bare and forlorn right now, but in a few short months, our hops will have attained some impressive height. Spend the day harvesting our hops with Head Gardener Sandra Spudic, sample some special goodies and beer after working up that appetite, and come back in a few weeks to taste the Wet Hop Ale you helped us make!

This year, our Hop Harvest is on Saturday, August 23rd. Reservations apply; book early to avoid disappointment.

 

A Spirited Affair 

We had so much fun last year, we’re doing it again…but with a twist! We’ll be jumping a whole century in time, from the 1860s to the 1960s. Come enjoy drinks, food, and dancing at this event to fundraise for the restoration of our Burwick House. Best of all: 1960s-style clothing is highly encouraged. Between the inspiration of Mad Men and the Beatles, we anticipate a very sharp-looking crowd!

September 25th – save the date!

 Spirited Affair

 

Say Cheese¸ Say Cheers! 

This perennial favourite is back! Join cheese expert Julia Rogers as she pairs artisanal cheeses with craft beers. Our first event, on October 16th, celebrates Oktoberfest, while our second, on November 13th, is all about bold and beautiful Winter Warmers.

Visit our website to reserve your spot!

 

Day-to-day…

Honestly, I love it all. Let me pick four things; one for each season at the village.

Watching the new lambs skip and headbutt each other (they’re so soft and white, sometimes they almost seem to glow); the coolness of the brewery on those roasting summer days; the crisp snap to the air and frost-sheathed grass when I arrive each morning in autumn; and the gentle, amber-orange glow that fills the village during Christmas by Lamplight.

Our hops, on one of those gorgeous summer mornings that you just know is going to ignite into a scorcher...
Our hops, on one of those gorgeous summer mornings of restrained heat; the kind that you just *know* is going to burst forth into a scorcher of a day…

Staring down the season on May 1st, it’s hard to imagine fitting so many wonderful events into eight short months! We certainly look forward to seeing you here at the brewery.

It’s good to be back. 🙂

Katie

 

 

 

 

Death by Small Beer? (A History Mystery)

It all started with this photo:

Embedded image permalink

My boss sent it to me, adding, “…read as much of the small print as possible.” 

Luckily for my eyes, the full text is available elsewhere:

In Memory of Thomas Thetcher a Grenadier in the North Reg. of Hants Militia, who died of

a violent Fever contracted by drinking Small Beer when hot the 12 May 1764. Aged 26 Years.

In grateful remembrance of whose universal good will towards his Comrades, this Stone is placed here at their expence, as a small testimony of their regard and concern.

Here sleeps in peace a Hampshire Grenadier,

Who caught his death by drinking cold small Beer, Soldiers be wise from his untimely fall

And when ye’re hot drink Strong or none at all. 

What? How did the beer kill him? Did it have something to do with the temperature, or was it the “small” (low-alcohol) nature of the beer? Your trusty beer journalist cannot resist a history mystery like this, so of course I’ve spent the last three days digging. What killed Thomas Thetcher?

Let’s look at three possibilities: food/beer poisoning, mould, and contaminated serving vessels.

 

Food/Beer Poisoning

Is it possible that Thetcher’s beer was contaminated? My first instinct was to say, “No, in the 1700s, beer was likely safer than water.” After all, boiling the wort kills most bacteria, hops have some antibacterial properties, and fermentation drops the pH to a level where most bacteria can’t survive. One exception is the bacterium Acetobacter, which can survive well under 5.0 pH—beer tends to be around 4 pH, unfermented beer around 5.1-5.4.

 

I like malt vinegar. I don’t like these. (courtesy http://microbewiki.kenyon.edu)

But all Acetobacter does is convert the alcohol in beer into vinegar. Drinking vinegar wouldn’t have killed Thetcher, and anyway, he would’ve noticed the taste at the first sip.

A few other strains of lactic acid bacteria can survive in beer, but again, they just produce off-tastes and odours.

I did wonder if the “small” nature of the beer might have allowed for something else to take hold. What if this beer was low enough in alcohol that other bacteria could survive? Maybe this is what the militia meant when they declared drink Strong or none at all?

However, the boiling process still poses serious problems for bacteria. Let’s look at the most commonly troublesome ones:

E. Coli (courtesy http://www.wikipedia.org)

Salmonella generally grows from 7-48 degrees Celsius, with optimum pH around 6.5-7.5. Between the rolling boil and acidic nature of even unfermented beer, it would die.

E. coli? More acid resistant, but can grow to 49 degrees Celsius. It would die.

Listeria? Optimum growth temperatures range from 4-37 degrees Celsius. It would also die (surprise!).

So…it seems that the small beer would leave the brew-kettle free of bacteria, which means Thetcher didn’t die from a bacterial infection.

But what happens after the beer leaves the brew-kettle?

 

Mould

I got really excited when I discovered that Britain experienced very wet summers from 1763-1772. Probably too excited, but that’s all right.

You see, mould likes damp conditions. Mould also likes wood. Guess what’s made of wood?

These:

Casks are made of wood!
Casks are made of wood!

So, imagine our small beer arrives from the brew-kettle nice and sterile, and goes into the casks. The mould-contaminated casks. Not being a microbiologist, I wonder if the relatively low-alcohol environment of a small beer might have allowed for some mould growth.

Penicillium mould can grow in and through the joints and bung holes of wooden barrels, infecting the beer inside. It’s usually not dangerous if you’re healthy—unless Thetcher had a penicillin allergy? (I assume he would immediately taste it, but maybe it was really hot and he was really thirsty.)

Looking earlier in the brewing process, Fusarium is another fungus that infects cereal crops, including barley. Moreover, Fusarium makes a fun little mycotoxin called Deoxynivalenol (DON). The fungus itself is killed when the malt is kilned, but the toxin it produces can survive malting, kilning, boiling, and fermentation.

Barley infected with Fusarium – see the black spots? (courtesy http://www.gov.pe.ca)

I got really excited again…but it turns out that DON is more dangerous for livestock eating contaminated feed than it is for humans drinking contaminated beer. Short-term, humans may experience some nausea, headache, and fever after eating infected grains, but the long-term health effects of drinking beer made from Fusarium-infected barley have yet to be determined.

So, Thetcher likely didn’t die from Fusarium either.

 

Contaminated Serving Vessels 

One more theory.

In pubs today, it is actually really important that draught beer lines are kept clean. Yes, you can get foodborne illness from beer. Dirty pipes accumulate yeasts, bacteria, and moulds that may well survive the trip from your beer glass to your digestive tract.

I suspect that early beer engines (invented in the late 1600s) were difficult to clean.

Victorianlife18

Likewise, we have a sanitizing dishwasher. Thetcher’s local watering hole didn’t. Perhaps the issue was not the beer, but rather the manner in which it was served—perhaps a mug wasn’t washed, or a mug held E.coli-infected water and then Thetcher’s small beer.

Cross-contamination and subsequent foodborne illness seems plausible to me.

 

So what killed Thomas Thetcher? 

Ultimately, we’ll never know. It’s just as likely that he caught a completely unrelated fever and died, leaving his compatriots to unjustly malign small beer.

But if we’re speculating…

I would speculate cross-contamination of serving vessels. Think of it this way: alcohol “kills bacteria,” but would you keep drinking your sample if I tossed a piece of raw chicken in there?

I thought not. Now imagine that instead of drinking a 5% beer, you have a 1-2% small beer.

It’d still require a huge amount of bad luck, but not an impossible amount.

Otherwise…this is even less likely, but the damp conditions that characterized the 1760s may have led to increased mould growth on the beer casks. If that mould included Penicillium, if it got into the beer, and if Thetcher was unlucky enough to have a severe penicillin allergy…well, it’d be hugely unfortunate, but not totally impossible.

And with that ringing endorsement, we have not solved this history mystery to my satisfaction…but we’ve learned that beer is remarkably resistant to pathogens!

-Katie

Further Reading/Sources

deLange, A.J. “Understanding pH and its Application in Small-Scale Brewing,” More Beer, July 18, 2013, accessed April 22, 2014.

Donaldson, Michael. “A kick in the guts,” Stuff.co.nz, September 15, 2013, accessed April 23, 2014.

Doyle, M. Ellin. “Fusarium Mycotoxins,” Food Research Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, December 1997, accessed April 22, 2014.

Jones, Kendall. “The Elephant in the Room: Dirty Draft Beer Lines,”  Washington Beer Blog, August 22, 2012, accessed April 23, 2014.

Pambianchi, Daniel. “Keeping it Clean,” Brew Your Own: The How-To Homebrew Beer Magazine, Jan/Feb 2008, accessed April 22, 2014.

Sobrova, Pavlina, et. al. “Deoxynivalenol and its toxicity,” Interdisciplinary Toxicology 3:3 (Sept 2010): 94-99, accessed April 22, 2014, doi: 10.2478/v10102-010-0019-x

n.d. “1750-1799,” Meteorology at West Moors. accessed April 22, 2014.

 

Tasting Beer: A Guide for the Perplexed

Not long to go, now! The first day of our 2014 season will be Thursday, May 1st—exactly two weeks from today. We’re very excited to return the brewery and get back to our usual schedules of sampling, touring, and talking about beer.

One of the things I love about the brewery is how many different people come through our doors. We meet everyone from staunchly devoted beer lovers to people who are genuinely interested in beer—they’re just new to the concept of really tasting it.

There is a difference between tasting beer and drinking it. For myself, I spent years claiming not to like beer. Part of the problem was that I’d never had good beer. I’d also never learned to taste it properly.

Everyone starts somewhere! If you’re thinking of visiting us for the first time this season (or if you’d like a refresher after our long, cruel winter), here’s a handy guide to get you started!

GuideforPerplexedTasting

Step 1: Appearance

First impressions count for a lot, and sight is an important part of the overall sampling experience. Pour your beer into a clear glass (at the brewery, we’ll do this for you). Take a good look at it. Hold it to the light.

Just look: you can see the bar rail through the glass!

What colour is it? Pale gold, copper, pitch-black? Can you see through it?

Look at the clarity: can you see my smiling face through the glass, or is it clouded? Hint: our beers tend towards cloudiness because they’re unfiltered—and the further down in the growler your sample was, the cloudier it will be!

Our naturally carbonated beers don’t have much head, but make sure you note it in modern beers!

Step 2: Swirl

You’ve seen people swirling wine glasses before, right? Same idea: swirling the beer around your glass releases aromas and nuances you wouldn’t catch otherwise. Just a few gentle swirls will do it, and don’t worry about looking pretentious: this is exactly the behaviour we encourage.

Step 3: Smell

Our senses of taste and smell are closely linked. Don’t be afraid: give your beer a good sniff. How intense is the smell? What aromas do you notice?

More malt-oriented aromas? (Grains, nuts, chocolate, coffee, caramel, toastiness, sweetness)

More hop-oriented? (Citrus (often grapefruit for us, particularly in our IPA), earthiness, resins, pine, floral and/or spicy aromas)

Step 4: Sip

And now, it’s time to taste the b—do not chug it! Slow down and enjoy your drink. We’re friendly people, I promise. Take a small sip, but don’t swallow it right away.

Start with the beer on the tip of your tongue and move it slowly through your mouth. Different flavours will trigger taste buds in different regions of the tongue, so enjoy the different sensations as your beer travels over the tongue.

growler

In tasting notes, I frequently mention “mouthfeel.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this term refers to the way the beer feels in one’s mouth: that is, its weight and texture. Is it thin and sharp? Smooth and rounded? Does it feel heavy or light?

If you’d like to be really thorough, some people suggest exhaling while tasting; this is called “retro-olfaction.” Essentially, beer is warmed by being in your mouth, which causes more aromas to travel through your nasal cavities. It’s a different way to experience the beer’s aromas than the preliminary sniffing.

Got all that? Good—swirl the beer around your mouth once, letting it touch every part of your tongue, cheeks, and palate.

And swallow.

Step 5: Finish

We’re not done yet! The finish is highly important. Swallowing lets the very back of the tongue and throat experience the beer. How does the flavour change?

As well, note any flavours that linger after the beer has left your mouth. Are they bitter and/or floral (more hoppy), or more rich and grainy (leaning towards malts)? How intense are they?

Oh, that Chocolate Stout...
Oh, that Chocolate Stout…

Give it an extra second—sometimes, you might be surprised by how long the finish lasts. For me, sampling BadWolf Brewery’s stout epitomized the necessity of waiting. I’d swallowed my beer, and I thought the finish was over—only to have another surge of chocolate flavour catch me completely off-guard.

Take a moment to let all these impressions settle.

Now, the most important question of all…

Do you want to keep drinking this beer?

See you soon, beer-lovers!

-Katie