New in the LCBO: Canada 150 Ale!

Hello, beer-lovers!

We’ve brewed up a surprise for you! To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, we are releasing a new beer for the LCBO! The Canada 150 Ale is a special edition of our beloved Best Bitter—a refreshing way to enjoy the sesquicentennial.

If you enjoyed the historic version of this beer down in the Black Creek brewery, you’ll probably be a fan of this ale, too. It pours deep, coppery amber; almost like an autumnal maple leaf. As with all our commercial beers, you can expect some moderate head, too.

The nose is fairly mild with sweet, biscuit-like and malty aromas. Those flavours continue through the first sip and mid-tastes as well. You’ll notice some caramel/toffee notes too, and an earthy hop presence on the finish. It’s a light-bodied, easy-drinking beer: perfect for a summer barbeque, patio session, or as a refresher after time in the sun.

Another cool thing! You’ll notice that we’ve got snazzy new cans. We’re kicking things off with a fantastic Canada 150-themed design—it may have caused some swooning down in the brewery. 😉

Our Canada 150 Best Bitter will be available in the LCBO starting in June. As always, I strongly recommend checking availability on the LCBO website before you head out! Here’s to another 150 years!

To Queen and Country!

Katie

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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.

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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

Benson Strong Ale at the LCBO!

Hear ye, hear ye!

We are releasing a new LCBO beer – the Benson Strong Ale. You may have tried its predecessor – the Olde Ale – at the Black Creek Historic Brewery this past summer. This ale is our interpretation of Thomas Benson’s recipe for “Strong Beer”. This recipe was very kindly passed along to us by the Ontario Archives – a very big and heartfelt thank you to them! Without their generosity and diligent research, this beer would not have been possible.

Photo by James Bowers.
Photo by James Bowers.

The Benson Strong Ale rings in at 6%. It pours fairly dark, coppery amber. Additions of star anise (which produces flavours similar to Benson’s liquorice root) and molasses lend this beer a smooth, complex sweetness. Like our summertime experiment, this beer has a touch of cayenne pepper. As we learned last week from our primary source investigations last week, such spices could be used to “liven” up beer and give it a little extra kick. The cayenne here is quite subtle: just a bit of warmth running into the chest on the finish. Mouthfeel: medium weight, and a round body. This isn’t your usual 2015 beer – but it’s a highly drinkable, satisfying brew.

And more excitement! This Saturday, December 5th, Ed and I are making a trip to Peterborough to officially launch the Benson Strong Ale (Thomas Benson was the first mayor of Peterborough, you see, taking office in 1850!). If you’re in the area, come out, say hi, and try some beer!

In other news, tomorrow also marks our first Christmas by Lamplight celebration, during which we’re officially releasing this year’s Winter Warmer. Tasting notes on that to come.

We’re finishing 2015 with a bang, so hold on tight!

Katie

Pumpkin Ale is here!

Spices ready to be popped in the kettle!
Spices ready to be popped in the kettle!

You’ve been very, very patient…and now, the time is come. Our Pumpkin Ale comes out this weekend at the Black Creek History Brewery! This is a perennial favourite, so we’re very pleased to celebrate it the rest of this month.

And this is no “Pumpkin Spice Ale,” either. Ed’s Pumpkin Ale uses real pumpkin puree. One addition during the mashing breaks the pumpkin’s starch into sugar that will be fermented alongside the malt. Another during the boil adds that truly pumpkin-y taste and aroma. Ed’s also added ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice – everything you’d expect in a pumpkin pie. It’s autumn in a glass, perfect for Halloween!

Look for the Pumpkin Ale in the LCBO, too!
Look for the Pumpkin Ale in the LCBO, too!

Speaking of Halloween, our Howling Hootenanny weekends are also here: October 17th & 18th, 24th & 25th, and the big day itself: October 31st. Take the kids trick-or-treating in the village, make creepy crafts to take home, and decorate your own pumpkin. If you find you need some refreshment after braving the Haunted Maze and Apple-Slingshot (though I’ve no idea how ANYONE could get tired of apple-slinging), come join us in the historic brewery for a fresh sample of Pumpkin Ale!

Katie

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!

THAT Super Bowl Ad: Budweiser 2015

Can we talk about Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad for a minute?

Yes, that Super Bowl ad. See, this one. Right here. It’s only a minute long, so take a quick peek.

Let’s go through it bit by bit.

0:00-0:04: We start out okay. Look, it’s a big brewery! Look, hops! This is a Budweiser commercial; I’m cool with that.

0:04: Then this flashes across the screen: Proudly a macro beer.

MacroBeer

For one second, I am intrigued. Is Budweiser stepping back from claiming to be something it’s not? Are they reclaiming a “negative” label in a thoughtful, respectful, and creative way? After all, some people really like macro beers. That’s fine—we’re totally cool with people drinking whatever makes them happy.

0:06: The Clydesdales! I like the Clydesdales. They remind me of Black Creek’s own Clydesdale, Ross. Maybe this is about putting a new spin on macro beers.

Or…not.

0:10: It’s not brewed to be fussed over.

FussedOver

Here is a man drinking beer. The beer is dark, in what appears to be a chalice-style glass, possibly a tulip (hard to tell, with the angle). If this guy is really a beer snob, I hope he’s drinking some variety of Belgian dark ale—it’s often recommended that you serve those in chalices.

More to the point, this man has thick, rimmed glasses, a neat shirt, and a twirly mustache. I think we need a better look at this mustache, actually.

It is pretty glorious...
It is pretty glorious…

This man is a hipster. Alas, hipsters come with a lot of stereotypes, pretentiousness and self-importance among them. “Thus,” Budweiser says, “if you fuss over your beer, you share those characteristics.”

At this point, I’m shaking my head, but sure, there are clichés about beer snobs. Down in the Black Creek Historic Brewery, we try very hard to dispel that image. As anyone who’s had a drink with us knows, we have a strict policy of No Judgement.

But this is a Super Bowl ad. Budweiser is defending itself as a macro brewery. I don’t like the stereotype of craft-beer-lovers-as-snobs, because it hurts craft breweries, and I think playing up stereotypes is lazy marketing, but I haven’t popped any veins yet. Mostly, at this point, I’m just wishing we could all leave each other to drink what we like in peace.

0:16: It’s brewed for a crisp, smooth finish.

Exactly. It’s a thirst-quenching beer. That’s fine. Honestly, if people like the taste of Budweiser, then they should drink it. If they’re okay with it, I might recommend a few craft beers they might also like, but I’m never going to judge someone on their beer tastes, or make them try something. Again, that’s not our policy.

Alas, judgement is Budweiser’s policy, but again, it’s a Super Bowl ad. I do understand why a company isn’t saying, “Let’s spend a fortune to tell people to drink whatever they want!”

Unfortunately, it’s about here that logic flies out the window.

0:19: This is the only beer beechwood aged since 1876.

BeechwoodAged

But…I thought we’re not fussing over Budweiser? Why, then, do we care about its beechwood aging? Isn’t that something that (gasp) craft beer lovers might care about?

(My author alter-ego would also like to point out that the phrasing makes it sound like Budweiser has been aging its beers since 1876—as in, for 139 years. That would be quite a beer.)

0:27: It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting.

Oh, look, more hipsters. You can tell because they are all bespectacled, and they are sharing a flight that arrived on a wooden board with different glassware for each style.

Here, I would like to point out that “drinking” and “dissecting” are not mutually exclusive. Part of the enjoyment of drinking beer (for us, anyway) comes from figuring out what those flavours and aromas are. Admiring the way ruby highlights come through a dark porter is part of the package that makes beer appealing to all the senses. Taking that first sniff is another thing that you can enjoy.

Budweiser is also aware that to distinguish all of these flavours, aromas, and characteristics, you do have to drink the beer, right?

0:28:-0:31: The people who drink our beer….

Are people who are filmed with a blurriness strangely reminiscent of intoxication. Interesting subtext. I kind of prefer the hipsters’ airy, brightly-lit brewpub, myself. Although, I’ve suddenly realized: the only females we’ve seen in this ad are women serving Budweiser. We haven’t seen any girls drinking beer, either. Even the hipsters are all male.

GirlWithBeer

I guess women don’t drink beer? And I guess they don’t hang out with nerdy hipsters, so clearly, you have to go to the blurry bars to find them. I almost typed all that with a straight face, but then I didn’t.

The thought of Budweiser seeing me pour samples in my hoops makes me smile.

0:34: The people who drink our beer like to drink beer.

If I have this right…the ad is saying that the people who fuss over and dissect beer, who pay so much attention to detail, including the proper glassware…don’t like to drink beer.

What?

0:40-0:42 Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale.

PPA

I have several things to say about this. First, I feel bad for our poor hipsters. I’d also like to look at the specific word choice of “sip.” Sipping” is restrained. It is controlled. It is quiet. It is deliberate. It also prolongs the time it takes to drink your beverage, which means it takes you feel its effects more slowly. It also means you drink less beer.

Clearly very different from the blurry, raucous bar of a few scenes prior, where partying blokes and lads are buying lots and lots of Budweiser. Also—so, let’s say a guy prefers the airy, brightly-lit brewpub? Does that make him less manly?

No, it means he prefers airy, brightly-lit brewpubs. I shake my head again.

The other hilarious thing about this bit is that Pumpkin Peach Ale actually exists. Elysian Brewery, a craft brewery in Seattle, brews a pumpkin/peach brew called “Gourdgia on My Mind.” To cap it off, Anheuser-Busch is in the process of acquiring Elysian.

So…they just insulted a beer…made by a brewery…that they will soon own….

What?

But wait. Maybe they didn’t know about Elysian’s brew. Maybe they were trying for absurdity and it’s all a coincidence.

So…they don’t know what the brewery they’re acquiring actually brews…

What?

0:43-0:46 We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.

BrewingUs

Proper grammar is also for hipsters.

0:58: This Bud’s for you.

For whom, exactly? For the people that already drink Budweiser? I assume so, because I certainly don’t think that they’ve won over any craft beer drinkers with this ad. Which means, essentially, they spent $9 million telling people who already drink their beer…to keep drinking their beer.

What?

After Viewing

At first, I was inclined to approach this ad with our usual no judgement attitude. Some people genuinely like Budweiser, or Coors, or whatever macro beer you care to name. That is fine. Drink what you like, in the most literal sense. But this is where idealism hits reality:

Ideally, we’d all just happily drink the beers that make us happy. Realistically, beer is big business. I will support people’s right to drink whatever they like, but I can disagree with macro-breweries’ interactions with craft breweries: whether through ads like this, buyouts, or sweetheart deals with the LCBO that hamstring smaller brewers.

Two different things: the drinkers and the business. At the end of the day, though, this ad gives an awful lot of exposure and attention to craft beers—ironic, considering that it was supposed to be about Budweiser.

And now…I think there’s a honey-ginger winter warmer in my fridge that needs dissecting. 😉

-Katie

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!

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Cheers!

Katie