“We’re returning beer to its original, local roots,” said Nick Foglia, Manager of Food Services at Black Creek Historic Village. “It tasted like it would have in the 19th century. This is the closest you would get to how it was back then.”
In the 1860s, brewers used various plants from their estate to add to their brew, such as lavender, lemon balm or rosemary. “In [Black Creek’s] second year, they started getting creative . . . putting stuff into the beer that would give it a different flavour,” said Foglia, citing Black Creek’s lemon balm beer as an example of this creativity. “This project is an extension of that.”
The Village planted a hops garden two years ago and, last spring, planted half an acre of barley. In August, Black Creek employees harvested, dried and threshed the hops by hand. However, Black Creek’s “pioneer style burning system” is without the benefit of electricity, so the process is not entirely on site. Trafalgar Ales & Meads in Oakville will malt, roast and return the barley to Black Creek in the fall to complete the brewing process.
“The best thing about this project is it reminds people that beer is an agricultural product,” said Foglia. As such, the project is subject to the exigencies of the growing season. Black Creek’s plans to reduce their carbon footprint and reclaim the local aspect of original Ontario brewing have proven a difficult task. “[Last year] we just didn’t have a good crop. It didn’t take.”
While he admits that growing and processing all ingredients on site is not a sustainable business model, Foglia insisted that a one-kilometer beer is more sustainable for the local community. “We’re going to invite members of the public to be involved in the process.”
People have become more interested in craft beer and want to try new flavours, explained Foglia. “Back in the day, in the 1860s, there were probably over 150 microbreweries in Ontario,” said Foglia. The 20th century saw the rise of large companies like Molson and Labatt, and the disappearance of experimental craft brewing. “It’s kind of funny because we’ve come full circle.”
Black Creek One Mile Beer will be available for purchase in November. Visit www.blackcreekbrewery.ca for more information.