New Brew: Wet Hop Ale

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

So, what is the Wet Hop Ale like?

Ready for harvesting!
Ready for harvesting!

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

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

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

-Katie

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

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