Today Teena and I ventured out to Black Creek Pioneer Village at Jane and Steeles, up on the northern border of Toronto. We toured the historic buildings and it was quite interesting. The original homes of the the Stong family who built their first home log cabin there in 1816 and another larger home 16 years later, still reside on the property. The village part is all original homes that have been transported from around Ontario to end up at this heritage site. It was quite interesting and worth the trip.
For Teena's blog of the tour, click here.
The part that I was really looking forward to was the recreation of an 1860s brewery that brews ales using the original method of the time, appropriately called Black Creek Brewery. We did the beer tour which lasted an hour and was only $4. Blythe, our guide, is an actress and excellent tour guide. We learned a lot from here and she was very entertaining.
We started in the tavern of the inn, where they brewed the beer downstairs and learned about the importance of beer in that time and how different parts of society viewed the drinking of spirits. Originally beer and whisky was produced as the water was not always healthy. Beer and whisky contained alcohol which killed bacteria. For the most part, it was drank in diluted forms, although it seemed the men, after a hard days work, went for the stronger stuff.
Blythe then took us to the mill to explain the milling process of the barley. Where mills usually grind barley down to a fine powder for baking, for beer they use a coarser mill stone to break the barley to allow for germination. The barley is then laid across a large floor surface, moistened, raked constantly so it doesn't stick together, until it germinates and grows a small sprout that doubles the size of the original barley. Then it is set out to dry.
We then visited a cooperage to learn how the oak barrels were built, and then retreated after every use. It wasn't until the late 1890s that glass bottles were used so most beer was drank from a barrel or firkin.
Then it was back to the tavern and downstairs to the brewery. The brewery is operated by Trafalgar Brewing Company and uses 99% of the methods of the time. If you're wondering about the 1%, the fire is a gas fire and not wood for consistency, and they filter their beer through cheesecloth and not through straw, something I appreciate.
The brewer explained how the water is boiled to purify, then passed through the malted barley in the mash turn. It then drains out the bottom and is reboiled and then sent again through the mash turn. It then is filtered and set in a long tray to cool to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit at which point the yeast is added and the beer is then kegged.
The beers they had kegged that day were Brown Ale, Porter, Stout and IPA. We then were able to sample three, proceeded, of course, by a toast to Queen Victoria. We started with the stout, which I found very nice. As there is no carbonation injected, it did not have the nice head or "storm" in the glass but had a nice coffee taste and I found it to be a very nice brew. I would have enjoyed an entire pint.
Next we had a brown ale. Teena hated it and passed it on to me. I was not too crazy about it either and found it a little weak in taste and watery. Of course, I drank it all. After all, I had to make sure that I was thorough!
The last one was the Indian Pale Ale or IPA, one of my favorite style of beer. It did not disappoint. Again it poured with almost no head and does look flat. It is also very cloudy (see picture as the beer is unfiltered).
And the taste ... it was very, very nice. It had a good hoppiness and was surprisingly sweeter than I expected. A pleasant taste lingered after I had drained my glass. Unfortunately Teena enjoyed hers so I had to be satisfied with mine.
There was a private party in the restaurant area so we were unable to sit down to have a pint. Too bad, I would have liked that.
We tried three beers, so why did I name the IPA as the beer of the week? I was impressed enough to bring home a growler.
The kettle in action ... the steam in the small room almost hides the brewer.
The mill. It was a great bright day for a tour.