Cast Your Vote!

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you have some interest in beer. So, you may be interested in a new, interactive program all about temperance!

Christopher Dunkin, MP.
Christopher Dunkin, MP.

In 1864, an act passed that gave townships the option to go dry. This was the Dunkin Act, named after its architect, Christopher Dunkin. Here is how it worked: if enough people in a county/town  spoke up, a vote would be called. Then, the town would vote on prohibiting the sale of alcohol.

If the majority agreed – no more alcohol would be sold in that town.

If the majority disagreed – the town would continue to sell alcohol.

Bear in mind, though, that the vote was only called if enough people pushed for it. Just because the Dunkin Act passed in 1864, not every township rushed out to decide the fate of alcohol in their communities. After an initial flurry of activity in 1864/65, the Dunkin Act essentially remained a dead letter until 1877, the year after the Crooks Act (another liquor licensing act) passed. (Vaughan – the area around Black Creek – voted to go dry. Toronto did not.)

This interactive program takes us back to 1865 – and you have to decide Black Creek’s fate. Will you join our tavern-keeper’s wife and support alcohol? Or will you side with our temperance advocate and seek to ban it? Will our village go dry? Or will we continue to sell our liquor?

Our resident thespian. ;)
Our resident thespian. 😉

Cast Your Vote is part of our Black Creek History Actors’ series. If you’ve taken the Historic Brewery Tour or joined us for Beer Sampling, you’re probably familiar with Blythe and me. Now, you can Cast Your Vote with us in the drama space beside Second House. Check your weekly schedule for program times!

To Queen and Country!


Maine Musings

Hello, beer-lovers!

I hope that you are enjoying your winter! As I occasionally do over Black Creek’s off-season, I’ve fled south to the United States, specifically to Maine. So sure, I’m in the south (relative to Toronto, anyway), but it’s even colder here.

Considering its tempestuous temperance history (the 1851 “Maine Law” made Maine the first completely dry state), it’s both delightful and surprising to find that twenty-first century Maine has a vibrant craft brewing scene, much of it centred around the city of Portland. According to 2013 figures from the Brewers’ Association, there are 47 breweries in Maine. That same year, beer sales in Maine trumped blueberry sales. Which perhaps sounds odd, until you realize just what a big deal blueberries are down here.

Seriously, they're everywhere.
Seriously, they’re everywhere.

It’s a collaborative, community-minded beer scene as well. Starting in 1986, Maine’s brewpubs and craft breweries united to form the Maine Brewers’ Guild. An active player in Maine tourism, the guild organizes beer festivals, lectures, even a brand-new beer school. Plus, a significant number of the beers I’ve seen down here source their ingredients locally, with Maine-grown hops and barley.

Community, enthusiasm, and local ingredients: no wonder the beer here is so good. Maybe it’s the “New England Vacationland” feeling down here, but it makes me wonder if other parts of the craft brewing industry might learn something from this approach. I ran across an article recently which prompted a lot of discussion: the author argued that a trend towards excessively hoppy beers was ruining craft brewing.

You can read that article here. I had a number of problems with it, starting and ending with the judgmental tone (“Do friends let friends drink only pilsners?” Really?), and including the general omission of the very fine alternatives on the market. If anything, I feel like I’ve seen a lot of porters and stouts lately (granted, it’s winter, but still). The author surmises that hops mask off-flavours and flaws in the beer, their variety allows for extra experimentation, and it’s an easy way to differentiate craft beer from macrobrews.

Hops, hops, hops...
Hops, hops, hops…

Well, you can experiment with malt and yeasts as well, as we’ve seen done down here at Black Creek, and honestly, I think almost any craft ale is immediately distinguishable from a macrobrew at first sniff, hop-oriented or not.

I wonder if early craft beers were abundantly hopped because hops are easy to take to extremes. If you’re competing in a crowded marketplace, it’s perhaps more difficult to notice and market a beer that’s maltier, or yeastier. We like “-ers” when we compete. And hops are distinctive; they can’t really be mistaken for anything else. They hit the palate right away. And they linger on the palate too: that’s why we always serve our IPA last.

So you make a beer that’s hoppier than the next guy’s. You make a beer that’s more alcoholic, because we want the bang for our buck, right? And suddenly, you have a beer that’s hoppier and more alcoholic, so it’s probably an…


This is theorizing, anyway. But from my research (cursory as it regrettably is) I don’t see that spirit of competition here in Maine. I see a group of brewers who don’t necessarily want to be better than the other guy. I see a brewing community in which each brewery wants to make the best product it can.

There is a difference here, one as rich and satisfying as chocolate malt.


PS. A look at what I’ve been drinking this week (not shown: D.L. Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale- really nice amber).

Scottish Ale (Gritty's)
Scottish Ale (Gritty’s)
Coal Porter (Atlantic Brewing Co.)
Coal Porter (Atlantic Brewing Co.)

Out of the Cold: Does Beer Keep you Warm?

Well! It seems winter has caught us in its icy grip! The Village looks beautiful with every grove and roof sparkling white, but it is just a touch chilly.

Cold, but worth it! So beautiful!
Cold, but worth it! So beautiful!

In circumstances like these, some people may well reach for a beer; alcohol has a long and vibrant reputation as a warming agent. After all, think of Winter Warmers: they are usually brewed to a higher alcohol level to take the edge off the cold. Or St. Bernard dogs, carrying brandy to travellers lost in deep snow.

But does alcohol actually protect you from the cold?

Alcohol can make you feel warmer, but as it’s a deceptive warmth. Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, bringing blood to the surface of the skin. This is why people who have been imbibing looked flushed. Extra blood close to the skin’s surface raises the body’s external temperature; you feel warm, and the skin is warm to the touch.

Unfortunately, dilating the blood vessels is the exact opposite of what the body usually does in the cold. You know how your fingers and toes get pinched after time outside, or how people can sometimes have a waxy, pale look? That’s because the body reacts to cold by constricting blood vessels. By bringing blood away from the skin and extremities, the body can keep it close to the vital organs and maintain core body temperature.

When blood is close to the skin’s surface, that can’t happen. So, while the face may appear flushed and warm, core body temperature is actually dropping. And the story doesn’t stop there. The superficial warmth created by blood vessel dilation makes you sweat, which lowers body temperature even further. But because you feel warm, you may not realize. Add in impaired judgement after a few drinks, and you have a potentially dangerous situation.

Oh, and there’s one more thing: alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the nervous system. That means it reduces your body’s ability to shiver, depriving you of another means of staying warm.

So really, given all of that, alcohol is about the worst thing for a body in the cold. It’s like a domino chain of negative effects.

Bundle up!
Bundle up!

Although popular opinion celebrated whisky and beer as a means of fighting off the cold, Victorians were aware of alcohol’s effects on the body. In his Temperance Lesson Book, Dr. Benjamin Ward Richardson cautions, “It is a sense of warmth that is felt, not an actual warmth that is given to the body” (147). He claims that alcohol weakens the small blood vessels. In their enfeebled state, they can’t resist the force of blood being pumped from the heart – and so, the blood is carried closer to the surface of the skin.

Which is pretty much it, really. He also states that the drop in core body temperature can be as much as 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit, which means it can exacerbate and complicate hypothermia (onset of which can begin between 90-9 degrees Fahrenheit).

Fortunately, our brewery is warm and cosy; and in 2014, we usually don’t have to walk several miles through cold and snow to get home. As with many things, knowledge is power – enjoy those special seasonal brews, but stay safe!


For more…

Richardson, Dr. Benjamin Ward. The Temperance Lesson Book. New York: National Temperance Society and Publication House, 1880.

A Toast to Cheers! (or: why do we toast, anyway?)

If you’ve ever taken our Historic Brewery Tour, you know that before every drink, we toast, “To Queen and country!” Since my brewery compatriots and I end up saying this toast almost every day, I eventually got to thinking: what’s the origin behind toasts, anyway?

The Oxford English Dictionary is usually a good place to start investigations. According to the OED, a “toast” is a…call to a gathering of people to raise their glasses and drink together in honour of a person or thing, or an instance of drinking in this way, while “cheers” is defined as expressing good wishes.

Lovely, but less etymology than I usually like. Continuing my digging, I found a myriad of explanations for the origins of toasting. One such theory, claims that the Ancient Greeks believed beautiful, spiritual things should appeal to all five senses. Thus, the colour of wine pleases the eye; the bouquet pleases the nose; and the body, both taste and touch. Clinking goblets together is therefore a way to include the ear. Indeed, if we look at the word aesthetics (in the sense of it being a philosophy dealing with the appreciation of art and beauty), we find it is ultimately derived from the Greek word aisthanomai: “I perceive, feel, sense.” But, while there is a possibility this is true, and while I personally really like the concept, I remain unconvinced—a few more primary sources would be nice.

It certainly has an aesthetic of its own, though...
It certainly has an aesthetic of its own, though…

Other theories include: banging mugs together to slosh part of your drink into your partner’s mug, and vice versa. Thus, if you had poisoned your partner’s drink, you’d end up contaminating your drink, too. Alternatively, toasting might have originated through the desire to frighten away spirits by banging mugs. Or, from offering the first drink to the gods: a remnant of sacrificial libation-pouring.

So the origins of toasting are likely multifaceted, and certainly nebulous. Luckily, the Victorians were a little clearer on their stance towards toasts. Surprisingly, they were not overly fond of them:

“The custom of drinking toasts, and of forcing people to drink bumper and bumper of wine, until drunkenness results, is quite banished from gentlemanly society to its proper place—the tavern. It arises from a mistaken idea of making visitors welcome… (Charles William Day, Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society, with a Glance at Bad Habits: 1844, p. 47)

Nor was this an isolated opinion:

“And you must drink whether it pleased you to do so or not; and the glasses were often refilled while you drank to the health of this person or that, while to refuse to do so was considered an insult. Such feasts are within the memory of many men now living, but let hope that our children may never return to them.” (Sophia Orne Johnson, A Manual of Etiquette with Hints on Politeness and Good Breeding: 1868, p. 58)

Of course, toasting meets temperance with a fabulous collision. They’re absolutely right: it is still considered impolite to refuse a toast (actually, the semantics of toasting etiquette caused quite a scandal between Canada and Ireland in the 1940s). It is easy to see why pro-temperance writers would worry about toasting leading people to drink an excessive amount (advice-manual writers and pro-temperance writers seem to overlap quite a bit). As well, temperance claimed that alcohol threatened health, society, and morality. Their aversion to it being used to celebrate to express well wishes therefore makes sense.

As one “gentleman” said,

Gentleman,—You have been pleased to drink my health with wine… Your drinking me will do me no harm; drinking it will do you no good. I do not take wine, because I am determined wine shall not take me. You are most daring, but I am most secure. You have courage to tamper with and flatter a dangerous enemy; I have courage to let him alone…I would rather drink your diseases; would rather root out from you whatever is wrong and prejudicial to your happiness… (A Manual of Etiquette with Hints on Politeness and Good Breeding, p. 69).

Sounds like this gentleman was great fun at parties. Sounds like he was also invented to make a point.

In any case, in temperance schools of thought, this anti-toasting attitude continued into the twentieth century. The Sacred Heart Review, a Catholic newspaper published in Cambridge/Boston, said:

“Toasting is a foolish old custom which ought to have died a natural death, years ago. Among temperance people, or at a celebration run on total abstinence lines, it is an anomaly. If there must be toasts, however, there are lots of temperance beverages, beginning with water (the best of all) in which to drink them.” (The Sacred Heart Review, February 16, 1901).

I find it interesting that so much emphasis is put on the vehicle of expressing those good wishes, rather than on the good wishes themselves. As we’ve seen, temperance becomes far more intolerant as the century progressed; this staunch stand makes sense in context, I suppose I’m just always surprised by how fervent temperance rhetoric can be.


Cheers! (courtesy

In any case, we are quite pleased to toast you, the Queen, Black Creek, and various and sundry people down here. And we’re pleased to do so across languages, too! How do you toast?

Afrikaans: Gesondheid!

Breton: Yec’hed mat!

Chinese (Cantonese):  飲勝 (yám sing) 飲杯 (yám bùi)

Chinese (Mandarin): 乾杯! [干杯!] (gān bēi)

Czech: Na zdraví!

Danish: Skål!

Dutch: Proost!

English: Cheers!

Fijian: Bula!

French: À votre santé!

German: Prost!

Greenlandic : Kasuutta!

Igbo : Mma manu!

Irish Gaelic : Sláinte!

Italian: Salute!

Klingon: Iwllj jachjaj!

Korean: 건배 [乾杯] (geonbae)

Latin: Bonam sanitatem!

Māori: Mauri ora!

Old English: Wes þū hal!

Polish: Na zdrowie!

Portuguese: Viva!

Russian : За здоровье! (Za zdarov’e!)

Scottish Gaelic: Slàinte!

Sindarin : Almiën!

Spanish : ¡Salud!

Swahili : Miasha mareful!

Vietnamese : Chúc sức khoẻ!

Welsh: Iechyd da!

Xhosa: Impilo!

(Please note: this is just a small smattering of languages!)

To Queen and country!


For more information…

Day, Charles William. Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society, with a Glance at Bad Habits. Bostin: Otis, Broaders, & Co., 1844.

Johnson, Sophia Orne. A Manual of Etiquette with Hints on Politeness and Good Breeding. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1868.

n.d.  “As to Toasts and Other Things.” The Sacred Heart Review (Boston), February 16, 1901.

A Spirited Affair meets Rowland Burr: Temperance Advocate

A Spirited Affair is coming quickly! On September 25th, we’ll be having a night of wine, whisky, beer, music, and food to fundraise for the restoration of our Burwick House.


Ironically, the man behind Burwick was a staunch temperance advocate. Rowland Burr (1798-1865) was born in Philadelphia, but moved with his family to Canada as a young boy. He was a contractor, landowner, and Justice of the Peace. While he didn’t live in our Burwick House, he established the village in which it was built (Burrwick: now Woodbridge). From 1851 onwards, he lived in a large house in Toronto—the 1861 census lists him as living in St. Andrew’s ward (between Queen/King and Yonge/Strachan streets) with his wife Hester. That census also lists him as being a Wesleyan Methodist, which may partly explain his attitude towards alcohol.

I first found an outside reference to Burr in an American treatise on temperance: it referenced a “Mr. Burr, Esq.” who had petitioned the Canadian legislature to adopt prohibition. “Say,” I thought, “I wonder if that’s our Mr. Burr.”

Spoiler: it was.

In 1860, Burr published a pamphlet of extracts from temperance-related reports. Some of them from an 1834 British parliamentary inquiry into drunkenness; the majority were from The Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Assembly of Canada on the Prohibitory Liquor Law (1859).

Burr felt that alcohol was dangerous, but more, a twisted use of divine gifts: “…an immense amount of wholesome and nutritious grain given by a bountiful Providence for the food of man, which is now by distillation converted into a poison” (5). The symbolism here is potent. Grain which is given by God (think of the importance of the bread of life in an Evangelical/religious context) is instead transformed into something sinful.

Indeed, according to the Committee, intemperance was the reason behind most of the suffering, sorrow, and poverty in Canada. Burr himself was particularly worried about the role alcohol played in encouraging crime and pauperism. This is in itself very telling of the Victorian mind. In the nineteenth century worldview, poverty was a moral failing and/or defect. Alcohol just made you a worse person.

Won't someone think of the children??? (Courtesy
Won’t someone think of the children??? (Courtesy

Hence why Burr was pushing not just for increased control of liquor sales, but for outright prohibition:

“I believe the morals of the public are greatly injured by the use of intoxicating liquors. My experience as a Justice of the Peace and Jail Commissioner for nearly 20 years, shews that 9 out of 10 of the male prisoners and 19 out of 20 of the female prisoners, have been brought there by intoxicating liquors. I have visited the Jails from Quebec to Sandwich through the length and breadth of Canada, and I have personally examined nearly 2000 prisoners…they nearly all signed a petition that I presented to them for a Maine Liquor Law, many of them stating that it was their only hope of being saved from utter ruin, unless they could go where intoxicating liquors were not sold.” (20)

Here’s where the story gets particularly interesting: the Maine Liquor Law that Burr references is in fact the prohibition legislation that had been passed in Maine in 1851. You know, the same Maine Law that we learned about last month. Burr was also very keen to get Neal Dow, the temperance-loving/alcohol-hoarding mayor of Portland, up to Toronto. Dow couldn’t make it, but did communicate with the Canadian Committee about the history and operation of his prohibitory system in Maine.

We meet again, Mr. Dow (courtesy
We meet again, Mr. Dow (courtesy

There are a few things to tease out here. First, it’s interesting to see how well-organized and far-reaching the temperance movement had become by the 1850s. These temperance advocates are reaching across national borders, drawing on the experience of other figures in their field. It’s a more consolidated movement.

Second, it’s interesting to see the transition from “tempering” alcohol consumption by avoiding hard liquors, to prohibiting all alcoholic beverages: from controlling alcohol to criminalizing it. Burr states several times throughout his report that measures aimed at simply regulating the sale of alcohol do nothing to curb intemperance; the only way to solve the problem is to ban alcohol outright. This is certainly a strengthening of rhetoric and attitude. Temperance advocates are becoming more rigid, more extreme in their views, and more willing to adopt radical measures.

Finally, Burr also includes several references to former/current alcoholics who support the Maine Law. Essentially, they claim that they are slaves to alcohol, and thus they have more freedom to enjoy their rights without it. I suspect Burr is trying to circumvent the argument that the government is restricting the populace’s rights and freedom through prohibition by reframing ideas of liberty. To his mind, he’s actually giving people more freedom: the freedom from the control of alcohol.

The extracts themselves are fascinating reading and give great insight into the dialogue that was happening at the time. Temperance ties itself up in so many other social and political issues—like many other parts of brewing history, it’s not solely about beer!


PS. Dear Mr. Burr: I hope that you are okay with our using alcohol sales to restore the house you built.

Maine: Temperance and Rum Riots

And once again, your beer journalist has gone international. This time, I’m spending a short period in Maine, busying myself with some academic pursuits. Whenever I travel, particularly if it’s outside of Canada, I love checking out the local beer scene. I’ve discovered that Maine has a thriving craft brewing industry, mostly centred in Portland.


This is actually fairly ironic, given Maine’s beer history. Maine was one of the first states to start heavily pushing for prohibition. Legislation to enact prohibition in Maine was tabled in 1837. And yes, I mean prohibition, rather than temperance. Maine cut straight to the chase with its alcohol legislation. Considering the American Temperance Society was established in 1826, followed by Upper Canada’s first society in 1828, an 1837 call for all-out prohibition feels early indeed!

But this early legislation ultimately failed to pass. Another attempt was made in 1849, but that one never got off the ground, either.

And then, Neal Dow was elected.


Neal Dow (1804-1897) was elected

Neal Dow (courtesy
Neal Dow (courtesy

mayor of Portland in April, 1851 as a “Temperance Whig.” He has variously been called “the Napoleon of Temperance,” “the Prophet of Prohibition,” and “the Father of the Maine Law.”

This is what my MFA’s faculty would call “foreshadowing.”

Dow was a strict temperance advocate with strong patriotic and religious beliefs. Alcohol had no part in Maine as he saw it, and so he crusaded for prohibition in the state. If nothing else, Dow was a man committed to his cause: Governor John Hubbard signed Dow’s proposed legislation into law on June 2, 1851. Known as “the Maine Law,” it prohibited the sale of any “beverage alcohol” in the state (that qualifier of “beverage alcohol” is important—we’ll come back to that). The Maine Law proved popular amongst temperance politicians in other states, too. By 1855, twelve other states had gone dry.

However, the Maine Law was decidedly unpopular with working and immigrant classes, particularly the Irish, who saw prohibition as an attack on their culture. I like to think that this was one reason behind Dow losing the mayoral seat in the next year’s election, but that may be wishful thinking on my part. Regardless, Dow used the next few years to travel the US and Canada, spreading the good word of prohibition, before getting re-elected in 1855.

Did you know that Portland had a Rum Riot in 1855?

Me neither.

After Dow resumed the mayoral mantle, rumours spread that he was stockpiling alcohol at City Hall. Remember—he was a staunch temperance advocate, so this seemed dodgy, to say the least. A search warrant was issued, and on June 2, 1855, four years to the day after the Maine Law was passed, a crowd assembled outside City Hall, some 2000-strong. The hordes turned violent, and Dow ordered the local militia to open fire. One man, John Robbins, was killed, seven were wounded, and Dow was soundly criticized for his overly-harsh response.

Looking towards Portland's City Hall just after the Great Fire of 1866. Portland couldn't catch a break. (courtesy the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views)
Looking towards Portland’s City Hall just after the Great Fire of 1866. Portland couldn’t catch a break. (courtesy the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views)

As it turns out, there was alcohol in Portland’s City Hall. But it was intended for Portland’s medical community (thus slipping neatly through the loophole prohibiting only the sale of beverage alcohol—see, it was important!). Ironically, Dow had acquired the alcohol improperly, and thus violated his own law. In any case, the Maine Law was repealed the next year, in 1856.

And so it seems that American beer history is just as delightful to explore as our own. Their beer’s pretty good, too! (The standouts so far are a lovely, citrusy IPA and a complex brown ale with an interesting, lingering fruitiness.)

The Stowaway IPA from Baxter's Brewing Co.
The Stowaway IPA from Baxter’s Brewing Co.
Old Gollywobbler Brown Ale, from Sea Dog Brewing Company.
Old Gollywobbler Brown Ale, from Sea Dog Brewing Company.

To Queen and country!

PS. Back at Black Creek, our Lemon Balm Pale Ale will be available in the historic brewery very shortly! For a refresher on this fresh summer ale, click here!

Women and Alcohol – What’s the Story?

Hello! Have you missed us? We miss the smell of boiling wort, the great questions we get on tour, the gentle humming of our fridges…

But there is still beer in the LCBO! In fact, I went recently and found our Porter lining the shelves. As I purchased some, I wondered—I’m female. Just how easily could I have strolled in to buy beer in the nineteenth century?

It’s very easy to state generalities about women and alcohol in the 1800s. We’ve probably all heard statements like this: “Oh, ladies would never, ever go into the taproom!” “If you were a woman working with beer, you would be considered a fallen woman.” “Ladies drank tea; men drank beer and liqueurs.”

I dislike generalities. Exceptions abound in history; it’s rarely that easy. In fact, it’s quite difficult to paint a clear picture of the extent to which women and alcohol mixed in the 1800s. Perhaps that’s a project for me next season.

Certainly, women were involved in the manufacturing of alcohol. We’ve discussed Susannah Oland on this blog: the woman who managed and provided the original recipe for Moosehead. Industrialization saw both men and women working in factories, and the expanding breweries were no exception. The jobs filled by women were often deemed similar to their usual, domestic tasks. Bottlers, for instance, did an awful lot of washing, filling, and corking, not so much rolling casks (Molson’s brewery employed female bottlers by 1879).

But while Australia, New Zealand, and Britain had barmaids (and indeed, it was actually a good job for women at the time—decent wages, a sturdy bar between you and the customers, and the chance to learn some accounting skills), but there were far fewer female bar staff in Canada. In the early nineteenth century, women might work in taverns as servants or as relatives of the owner, and they might drink in taverns as well. Sometimes out of sight of the main barroom, but still drinking.

The Barmaid
“The Barmaid” from “Gavarni in London” (1849)

Later, wives might help their husbands run a hotel, or own their own business as widows, but they rarely worked in the taproom itself.  By the 1870s, the saloon seems to have become almost entirely males-only. Almost.

Even women’s alcohol consumption in the home is difficult to trace precisely. Florence Hartley’s The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness (1860), states:

“You can never know, when you place wine or brandy before your guests, whom you may be tempting to utter ruin. Better, far better, to have a reputation as strict, or mean, than by your example, or the temptation you offer, to have the sin upon your soul of having put poison before those who partook of your hospitality. It is not necessary; hospitality and generosity do not require it, and you will have the approval of all who truly love you for your good qualities, if you resolutely refuse to have either wine or any other intoxicating liquor upon your supper-table.”

(Emphases mine)


So, no wine with dinner, then.

Or was there? Our beloved Mrs. Beeton (published in 1861, a contemporary of Hartley) has several recipes for wine, including a malt-wine:


1824. INGREDIENTS – 5 gallons of water, 28 lbs. of sugar, 6 quarts of sweet-wort, 6 quarts of tun, 3 lbs. of raisins, 1/2 lb. of candy, 1 pint of brandy.

Mode.—Boil the sugar and water together for 10 minutes; skim it well, and put the liquor into a convenient-sized pan or tub. Allow it to cool; then mix it with the sweet-wort and tun. Let it stand for 3 days, then put it into a barrel; here it will work or ferment for another three days or more; then bung up the cask, and keep it undisturbed for 2 or 3 months. After this, add the raisins (whole), the candy, and brandy, and, in 6 months’ time, bottle the wine off. Those who do not brew, may procure the sweet-wort and tun from any brewer. Sweet-wort is the liquor that leaves the mash of malt before it is boiled with the hops; tun is the new beer after the whole of the brewing operation has been completed. (

Let’s analyze this. We’re mixing together heaps of sugar (sugar, raisins, and candy), some water, and three types of alcohol/potential alcohol (sweet-wort, which hasn’t been fermented yet; brandy; and very young beer).

I don’t see any yeast in this recipe, but Beeton later calls for the wine to ferment. Likely, remaining yeast in the two types of alcohol (wort has no alcohol yet) will attack the three types of sugar, making something that I imagine would be fairly high in alcohol, but still quite sweet.

Ah, Mrs. Beeton... (courtesy National Portrait Gallery;
Ah, Mrs. Beeton…
(courtesy National Portrait Gallery;

She also calls for teas, coffees, wines, and liqueurs for dinner parties. Interestingly, though, “The mistress of the house should always be certain that the coffee be excellent; whilst the master should be answerable for the quality of his wines and liqueurs” (

So, did women drink?


Did they work in bars?

Sometimes. Less often in Canada after the middle of the century or so, but sometimes.

Did they work in breweries?


Stay tuned for more…


A Spirited Affair: Saving Flynn

A Spirited Affair is on the horizon! We’re less than two weeks away from our fundraising event featuring beer, wine, and whisky. Come join us as we step back in time to the 1860s! Dodge the Temperance advocate, sample fantastic food and drink, and then leap forward to the 1920s where we’ll dance the night away (and enjoy more fantastic food and drink)!

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 Flynn House.

The exterior of the Flynn House.
The exterior of the Flynn House.

The Flynn House is one of my favourite buildings at Black Creek. Built in 1858 and originally located on Yonge Street in North York, it was the home of Daniel Flynn and his family. Daniel Flynn was a shoemaker who emigrated to Canada from Ireland. His boot and shoe shop is also located at Black Creek Pioneer Village, standing just around the corner from the home.

The Flynn House is unique. It is the only building in the village that shows how a tradesman’s family would have lived. The building’s rectangular façade reveals that home and shop were originally connected. The Flynn House also provides a unique opportunity to discuss the experience of new arrivals to “the Canadas.”

The Flynn family was of Irish origin. The Irish formed the single largest immigrant group in nineteenth century Canada and many immigrants were among the working class, traveling to the colonies in hopes of building a better life. The Great Famine (1845-1851) spurred even greater emigration from Ireland. In “Black ’47,” 38,560 Irish refugees arrived in Toronto – which at the time had a population of just 20,000. Many of these Irish immigrants continued their journey to the United States, but those who remained formed a vital source of urban labour during Toronto’s economic boom of the 1850s-60s.

The cosy kitchen.
The cosy kitchen.

There are few other opportunities at Black Creek to explore this vital chapter of Toronto’s history. Stories like the Flynns’ not only highlight the conditions of the working class, but also the ways in which Canadian history has been shaped by the experiences and contributions of new Canadians.

The Flynn House has had virtually no maintenance for several years and was shut to the public in 2010. Without this much-needed restoration, its decline will continue.

Damage to the floorboards is visible to the right midground of this image.
Damage to the floorboards is visible to the right midground of this image.
Weathering to the exterior.
Weathering to the exterior.

So, come out for an unforgettable evening of food, drink, music, and dance – and raise a glass to Daniel Flynn!

– Katie

A Spirited Affair: Participating Drink Companies

– Forty Creek Distillery

– Still Waters Distillery

– Black Oak Brewing Company,

– Black Creek Historic Brewery

– Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

– Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

– Pelee Island Winery

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

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.


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!

Ginger Beer to Ginger Ale: How a Brew Became New

Currently in our fridges at the Black Creek Historic Brewery: Brown Ale, India Pale Ale, Best Bitter, and Rye Pale Ale. The Lemon Balm-Mint is coming soon—keep your eyes open for a post on that!

But sometimes I feel like a temperance drink. In these warm summer months, that often means a ginger ale (although I often yearn, absolutely yearn for a Bundaberg Ginger Beer…but alas). Victorians would have been familiar with these beverages too; and you’d be more likely to find them in a brewery than a temperance hall!

Either I need to go back to New Zealand, they need to distribute this in Canada, or we need to try brewing (alcholic) ginger beer!

Ginger ale derives from ginger beer, which is itself descended from drinks such as mead and metheglin. These were sweet, honey-based beverages, fermented with yeast and flavoured with a variety of spices, including ginger, cloves, mace. Ginger beer was made from water, sugar, and ginger, and fermented with the ginger beer plant. Interestingly, the ginger beer plant wasn’t really a plant at all, but a gelatinous symbiotic composite of yeast and bacteria! From the eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century, ginger beers were impressively alcoholic, sometimes reaching 11%.

By the 1850s, however, new laws forced English ginger beer brewers to water their product down to 2% alcohol. It still remained incredibly popular. In 1877, writers John Thomson and Adolphe Smith estimated that some 300,000 gallons of ginger beer were being sold in and around London. With the rise of imperialism, ginger beer also went global. Soldiers stationed in the Caribbean and Africa were particularly fond of this spicy brew, drinking it to combat homesickness. Local populations adopted it, though they typically made non-alcoholic versions.

So, what’s the difference between ginger beer and ginger ale? Easy: ginger beer is brewed, ginger ale is carbonated water flavoured with ginger. With some exceptions, ginger beer tends to be spicier, with a more pronounced ginger taste and cloudier appearance, while ginger ale is lighter in taste and colour.

(Courtesy )

Although ginger ale was reputedly invented in Ireland, Canada has a role to play in ginger ale’s history. In 1890, University of Toronto alumnus and pharmacist John McLaughlin opened a carbonated water plant in Toronto by Old City Hall. By adding various fruit juices, he developed sodas to sell to pharmacies. His Belfast Style Ginger Ale was one notable example, and by 1904, he had refined the recipe into a lighter, sharper version he called “Canada Dry Pale Ginger Ale.”

The rest, as they say, is history. And as they also say, just don’t drink Canada dry. You might regret it the next day. 😉