It’s a party in the Village! Tonight is our exciting Light Up The Night event at Black Creek Pioneer Village! Tonight, see the Village like never before as you explore the site after hours!
· Enjoy craft beer, artisanal whisky and local wine as you take in the sights and sounds
· Create your own gourmet treats at the Tostada, Crepe, and Mashed Potato Bars, made with local ingredients
· Unwind to local musical talent performed in intimate heritage settings
· Stop by “The Un-Bar” and sip 1800s virgin cocktails
· Try your hand at genuine 19th century trades, crafts, and games
· Laugh and learn with special performances from our History Actors
· Bid on unique and hand-crafted items and experiences at the Silent Auction
· Meet the Village’s newest residents – our heritage breed goats!
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE:
The Devin Cuddy Band will take the stage in an intimate open-air performance, bringing their unique blend of New Orleans Blues and Country to Black Creek. If you’ve not heard the Devin Cuddy Band before, you’re in for a treat. Take a listen to them performing at the Dufferin County Museum and Archives last year!
The proceeds from Light up the Night go towards restoration of historic buildings at Black Creek Pioneer Village to provide cultural experiences for future generations. And it’s not too late to join the party! Tickets are $40/person and can be purchased here, or at the door. You do need to be 19+ though… craft beer/whisky/local wine, you see. 😉
It’s that time of year again! Yes, it is our annual shindig and fundraiser – A Spirited Affair! Last year, we boogied down to the 1960s. Now, we’re jiving in the 1940s as the Boys Come Home!
This event gives you two time periods in a single evening, as we mix the elegance and tradition of the 1860s with the excitement and spirit of the late 1940s. Sample traditional ales alongside modern offerings. Tap your toes to violin music and toss a few horseshoes…and then take our slang challenge (it’s a gas!) as you sample fine foods. And of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without some lindy hop dance lessons!
And we want you to join in the fun: 1940s outfits are highly encouraged. There were some very sharp dressers at last year’s event—we look forward to seeing your favourite get-up!
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 continue to support the much-needed restoration of our Burwick House. Burwick House was one of the first buildings to be moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It’s one of the best examples we have of 19th century middle class life and customs. Situated in the heart of the village, it is also situated close to our hearts—now it’s time to show it the love it so richly deserves.
A Spirited Affair will be held on Saturday, October 3rd, from 7:00-10:00 pm. Tickets are $80/person and include drink samples and gourmet foods—advance reservations are required. To avoid disappointment, book early! Click here, or call our customer service line at 416-667-6295.
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…
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?
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!
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!)
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! 🙂
Well, almost. We’re back on Friday, May 1st. And we’re launching straight into things! Ed’s already been in to brew, and he’ll be bottling Friday morning to make sure our fridges are filled. My lovely and talented colleague Blythe will be ready to kick off the first Historic Brewery Tour of the season, followed by yours truly this weekend.
What have we got in store for 2015?
Lots, as always! Here’s a sneak peek at some selected brewery events.
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 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.
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 does apply – you can purchase your ticket at Admissions!
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. We’ll give you a 4 oz glass, which we 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.
Same as the tour: additional charges do apply. (You don’t have to go to Admissions, though: the Beer Sampler is available for purchase right in the brewery!)
Try your hand at brewing: the old-fashioned 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!
Our list of specialty offerings for 2015 can be found here. With a new brew (or two!) every month, it’s always a good time to visit the brewery!
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!
The hops are usually ready for harvesting around late August/early September. You’ll want to book your spot early to avoid disappointment, so watch this space for details!
A Spirited Affair
Our perennial favourite returns! It’s always an affair – and this year, the boys come home! Start with 1860s ballroom dancing and traditional ales, and then be whisked away to celebrate the food, drink, and fashion of the post-War years. Dance the night away to boogie-woogie swing music, sample an array of fine refreshments, and join the fun!
Costumes are highly encouraged. You were certainly a dapper bunch last year!
This one is for the members! Gold and Village Members can join me in the brewery on December 17th for an old-fashioned pub night! With tavern games, traditional Canadian folktales, rousing pub songs, beer from the historic brewery and treats from the Half Way House kitchen, it’ll be a night of fun and frolic in equal measure. There may also be revelry. I’ve yet to decide on that one.
(Psst…you can become a Member at any time. Just saying. 😉 )
And for now…
The beginning of the season is always an exciting time for us. It’s been a long, cold winter – we’re so glad to get back to sunny days and our cosy brewery. Can’t wait to see you all for another adventure-filled season. We’ve missed you, beer lovers!
As we learned last week, alcohol and winter celebrations have a long and intertwined history. This is particularly true when you start looking at the old tradition of wassailing. “The Wassail Song” is one of my favourites anyway – but you can imagine how my ears prick up when we get to this verse:
Call up the butler of this house,
Put on his golden ring,
Let him bring us up a glass of beer,
The better we shall sing…
So what is wassailing, exactly? The word can refer either to a custom of drinking someone’s health and/or going from home to home singing, or to the drink itself. A “wassail” drink is often mulled cider, wine, or beer. A specific type of wassail called “lambs’ wool” was frequently used: this was dark ale, whipped into a froth, spiced and decorated with roasted apples. The admittedly peculiar name may arise either from the appearance of the froth, or from a corruption of the Irish celebration “La Mas Ubhal.”
Looking at “wassail” as a verb, there are a few different types. For instance, wassailing can refer specifically to a custom of blessing apple and other fruit trees.
In England’s West Country, usually on Twelfth Night (January 5th), or Old Twelfth Night (January 17th), people carried mulled cider and/or spiced ale to apple and cider trees. Cider-soaked cakes were laid at the trees’ roots, and more cider splashed on the tree itself. Guns fired into the branches, pots and pans were banged together—the commotion was meant to frighten away evil spirits. At the same time, wassail songs were sung, encouraging good spirits to protect the trees and ensure their fertility for the next year.
For it’s our Wassail, jolly Wassail,
Joy come to our jolly Wassail,
How well may they bloom, how may they bear,
That we may have apples and cider next year.
– Apple Tree Wassail
Wassailing can also refer to passing around a common cup or bowl, called a “Loving Cup.” The tradition of passing around a common drink and toasting good health dates back centuries in English history; there is even a reference to wassailing in Beowulf! The term “wassail” itself comes from the Old English phrase “Waes hael!” or, “To your health!” The traditional response to this was, naturally, “Drinc hael!” or, “Drink your health!” It’s interesting to see alcohol consistently used to seal off deals, oaths, and wishes—perhaps a remnant of the practice of pouring libations to the gods?
Bryng us in good ale, and bryng us in good ale;
For owr blyssyd lady sak, bryng us in good ale.
Bryne us in no browne bred, for that is made of brane,
Nor bryng us in no whyt bred, for theriun is no game.
But bryng us in good ale.
Bryng us in no befe, for ther is many bonys,
But bryng us in good ale, for that goth downe at onys;
But bryng us in good ale.
– Bryng us in no Browne Bred (Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, 1847)
Finally, wassailing can also refer to the practice of going around to people’s houses with a wassail bowl and a song. The group would sing and bless the house in exchange for money and more alcohol—this tends to be the version of wassailing in many of the songs with which we’re familiar today. Interestingly, there was a concern in the early decades of the nineteenth century that the old wassail songs and carols were dying out, prompting a concerted effort to record tunes and lyrics (much like Thomas Wright did, just above!). We have much to thank those Victorian writers for!
Wassail, wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white, and our ale it is brown…
– Gloucestershire Wassail
Wassailing also gave rise to carolling: travelling around to sing to people’s homes, but without the involvement of alcohol. We’ve kept this tradition at Black Creek, with our own wandering carollers during our Christmas by Lamplight! Feel free to join in the singing—perhaps after a visit to the brewery for some “Waes hael!’ (Hey, with the bitter orange peel and coriander, our Winter Warmer actually makes a decent wassail!)
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.
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. TheSacred 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.
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?
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!
French: À votre santé!
Greenlandic : Kasuutta!
Igbo : Mma manu!
Irish Gaelic : Sláinte!
Klingon: Iwllj jachjaj!
Korean: 건배 [乾杯] (geonbae)
Latin: Bonam sanitatem!
Māori: Mauri ora!
Old English: Wes þū hal!
Polish: Na zdrowie!
Russian : За здоровье! (Za zdarov’e!)
Scottish Gaelic: Slàinte!
Sindarin : Almiën!
Spanish : ¡Salud!
Swahili : Miasha mareful!
Vietnamese : Chúc sức khoẻ!
Welsh: Iechyd da!
(Please note: this is just a small smattering of languages!)
At long last, tonight is the night! At 7:00 pm tonight, Black Creek Pioneer Village will glow with lamplight, echo with laughter and dancing feet, and host local breweries, wineries, and distilleries!
A Spirited Affair is an annual fundraiser to restore a selection of our historic buildings. Our Flynn House received A Spirited Affair’s attention last year. This year, we’re focusing on Burwick House: a prime example of a middle class home in 1860s Ontario. With your help, we can preserve these unique buildings for future generations to learn from and enjoy.
For more information about a Spirited Affair, click here! And for a detailed breakdown of tonight’s events, here!
And don’t worry, we’ve got lots more happening at the brewery through October. Ed will shortly be brewing the Pumpkin Ale – perfect for Thanksgiving and Halloween. And on October 16th, we have the first of our two “Say Cheese, Say Cheers!” nights. Join expert Julia Rogers as she pairs five local cheese varieties with fine craft beers, sample our homemade bread and root chips – and of course, tour the brewery! Reserve tickets early to avoid disappointment; see here for more details!
Also coming up in October: our Hallowing Hootenanny returns! On October 18th/19th and 25th/26th, bring your wee ones to Black Creek for a frighteningly good time! Wear your favourite costume, trick-or-treat through the village…and maybe slip away for a sample of our Pumpkin Ale! 😉
No question: with some much going on, autumn is one of our favourite seasons at Black Creek. We look forward to sharing it with you.
Less than a week to go until our Spirited Affair! This is our annual fundraiser featuring local beer, wine, and spirits. Now, we’re pretty familiar with beer here on the Growler. We also did a spotlight on wine last year.
But what about spirits? What’s the story behind distilled drinks like whisky?
If you’d like the dictionary definition, distillation is the “…process of separating component substances from a liquid mixture by selective vaporization and condensation.”
The dictionary definition is not terribly helpful.
But what it means is that the different substances making up a liquid mixture evaporate at different temperatures. If you can control the temperature correctly, you can extract alcohol from a wort-like mixture by boiling it out, and then condensing those gases to turn it back into a liquid. All while the water remains behind, resulting in a beverage with a much higher alcohol by volume.
Whisky has its roots in Ireland, dating back to roughly 1100 CE. According to the stories, Irish monks had travelled through the Mediterranean and Middle East; they then brought knowledge of distillation back with them. In any case, distillation of whisky was established in both Ireland and Scotland by the 15th century. Whisky-making spread to North America with British, Irish, and Scottish immigrants (George Washington had quite an impressive distillery),and in Canada, it was also helped along by the Late Loyalists who arrived from the States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Québec in particular had quite a large number of distilleries around this time—the Molson family actually started out distilling, rather than brewing.
Indeed, through the early 1800s, whisky was more popular than beer. By the middle of the century, there were over 200 whisky-makers in Canada. However, since hard liquors are very high in alcohol, they attracted attention from early temperance advocates, who urged people to drink milder beverages like beer. Some of these Victorian distillers are still quite familiar to us today: Seagram, Hiram Walker (Canadian Club), and of course, Gooderham and Worts.
However, there are a few key differences between brewing and distilling. It starts very similarly: a cereal grain (barley, rye, corn, it doesn’t really matter) is malted, milled, and then placed into a mash tun. With the addition of hot water, enzymes formed in the malting process convert the starch into a fermentable sugar. The sugar-infused liquid is then separated from the grains.
This is where things diverge. At this point, brewers would boil this “sweet wort” in a brew-kettle and add hops for flavour. Distillers cool the “wash” immediately and add the yeast to start fermentation. When fermentation is complete, the distiller now has a liquid that is about 8% ABV. Pretty high for a beer, nowhere near high enough for whisky (legally, whisky has to be at least 40% ABV).
So, the distiller then places the wash into the still and begins heating it. In the 1800s, distillers were still using copper pot stills. As the wash is heated, the alcohol will evaporate before the water. The vapour passes into the condensing tube where it cools and turns back into liquid form—except most of the water has been left behind, meaning the alcohol is much more concentrated. Victorian condensers were often submerged in open wooden “backs” (vessels) containing cold water.
The first liquid to come out of the condensing tube is a mix of volatile compounds (methanol, anyone?) that evaporate first. They are called the “heads,” and must be thrown out. Similarly, distillers don’t use the very end of their distillation—the “tails”—as it does not actually add anything useful to the whisky. To concentrate the wash even more, it is distilled again—Scotch and Canadian whisky gets two rounds, Irish whiskey gets three. The product is then aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels, where it can “breathe” and develop mature aromas, flavours, and colours.
(Sidebar: properly, this beverage is spelled whiskey in the United States and Ireland, and whisky in every other whisky-producing country in the world, including Canada.)
Now that I have your attention – a Spirited Affair draws nigh! We’re two weeks away from our fundraising event featuring local beer, wine, and whisky. First, we’ll step back in time to a lively 1860s town. There, you can learn Victorian dancing, sample fine drinks and 1800s snacks (personally, I’m looking forward to the bacon jam), and interact with lively local characters—including our shopkeeper, brewmaster, and barmaid. But watch out for the Temperance advocate! Before you leave, be sure to drop by our Flynn House to see what’s changed since last year’s Spirited Affair. (Spoiler: a lot)
Tired yet? We hope not! Next stop: the 1960s! Twist and shout with a Beatles tribute band, and learn the cool moves of 1960s dance crazes. When all that dancing works up an appetite, sip cocktails and nibble on gourmet food – does mini quiche Lorraine, salmon mousse, and shrimp cocktails sound good for starters? 😉
Then, enjoy the smooth crooning of Andy de Campos, participate in our silent auction, and play our exciting fundraising games—there are prizes to be won!
And we want you to join in the fun: 1960s outfits are highly encouraged. There were some very sharp dressers at last year’s event—we look forward to seeing your favourite get-up!
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 our Burwick House.
Burwick House was one of the first buildings to be moved to Black Creek Pioneer Village. It’s one of the best examples we have of 19th century middle class life and customs. Situated in the heart of the village, it is also situated close to our hearts—now it’s time to show it the love it so richly deserves.
A Spirited Affair will be held on Thursday, September 25th, 2014, from 7:00-10:00 pm. Tickets are $80/person and include drink samples and gourmet foods—advance reservations are required. To avoid disappointment, book early! Click here, or call our customer service line at 416-667-6295.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.