Monday Morning Quarterbacking In Late June

It was a full weekend. I took Friday off to increase my sports spectatorship time. Beat the hell out of watching the anarcho-tots pretend to represent anything (or nothing rather being black garbed nihilists). As far as that bit of action went, it was Police 900 and Anarcho-tots zero. And perhaps Canadian rights zero as well.

  • Nice to see that Obama learned his lesson and has moved on to a better class of beer when making international bets. After Mr. Harper brilliantly leveraged that thrilling prize of Molson Canadian for himself last winter, the actual exchange of hometown craft beers between the US and UK has got me verklempt.
  • The English speaking nations had a poor weekend on the pitch. England was rightly thumped by Germany in a game that pointed out that stacking a team with old guys as well as a set of back that like to play forward a lot is no way to take on ruthless Teutonic efficiency. Thank god I made myself a good breakfast as there was no other reason to be up on Sunday morning.
  • Ghana looked good beating the US, Uruguay’s winning goal was the best of the tournament so far. High hopes today for the Netherlands.
  • The Sox have continued to creep up in the standings after taking the series in San Fran. Jays TV coverage of the Phillies series was embarassing, the fawning talk of Halladay being like a dullard bragging about his hot ex-girlfriend who dumped him.

Surely there must be more. Like the NBA draft and the Syracuse stars. No time. Gotta go.


Stuck In My Own Town’s Mid-1800s Beery History

I had intended to get into the 1900s but have gotten stuck in the newspapers out of my town from the nineteenth century. From its first days at the western edge of the British Empire, as this pretty poor image of an early 1800s map shows, Kingston had a Brewery Street. Its still there even if renamed Rideau. We still have some of our Victorian and maybe even Georgian brewing buildings, re-purposed for other things.

Who wouldn’t get interested with ads like the “ALE! ALE! ALE!” Kingston City Brewery ad from page 3 of the Kingston Daily News on 8 October 1863. Interesting to see that the copy editor had not that much imagination give the “Baths! Baths! Baths!” header for the next ad. The City Brewery was on the waterfront and I think is long gone but the shop the beer was being sold at 158 Princess Street may well still be there, it’s just selling mens’ clothes now.

kdn1862Kingstonians were not only enjoying local brewed beers, however celebrated, in the early 1860s as the ad to the left from the same paper’s 7 October 1862 issue shows. Mr. McRae of Brock Street had plenty of barrels of the empire’s finest Guinness, Barclay Perkins as well as Allsopp beers to be had – along with a range of imported sherries, ports and brandies. The Morton’s “Family Proof” Whisky he offered was locally made. Not sure that it was immune from family members absconding with it or if it had been, conversely, subject to the proof and acceptance by all family members. The Morton distillery and brewery buildings are also still with us and currently under redevelopment as an arts hub. The building which held MacRae’s shop could well be there, too. Another Brock Street store, Cooke’s which opened in 1865, still operates.

The town seems to have had a fairly rich relationship with beer and other alcohol but it was not all fun and games as this 1867 article from The New York Times explains. The watchman Mr. Driscoll of what is likely the same Morton works was murdered the year before during a burglary. His Detroit murderer was sentenced to hang. They’ll each both be still here, too – buried around here somewhere. The town is like that.

Ontario: Dark Ale, Muskoka Cottage Brewery, Bracebridge

1934Just learned that my camera died. Also just learned what a crappy camera I bought my kid last birthday. No focus. No warm tones. The corner of the cold room looks like the corner of a cold room. Sad.

Today for Ontario craft beer week, I went out to the LCBO and bought a few cans of beers that I hadn’t tried before. Muskoka Dark Ale is one of them. Dark ales were Ontario’s version of ambers in the States – an entry style that first generation craft brewers relied upon. Upper Canada Dark was a pitcher beer for me in the mid-90s pre-kid days in Ottawa Valley taverns. Easy and moreish. But, as Stan noted about ambers, they can suffer from sameness and the blahs. This one, however, is a great take on the idea. It’s like Theakston Peculier light. Molasses on the nose and in the mouth except a bit of Frye’s dry cocoa, too. HP sauce, even. Yogurty yeast but in a good way, more rich than sour. Nice dusty texture like the cocoa was sifted in at the end. Like it a lot. Some respect from the BAers.

Who Made Ontario’s First Lager And Where?

1932In the 1868-69 edition of Sutherland’s City of Hamilton and County of Wentworth Directory there is listed a little listing that says “Eckhardt, August, brewer, Hamilton Lager Beer Brewery…” This corresponds with Sneath‘s first listing for a lager brewery in 1868 which states:

Edward Eckhardt opens the Hamilton Lager Brewery in Hamilton and it closed three years later.

The name is right as Albert is confirmed as the brewer and Edward the proprietor in another section of the directory. So they must have started lager beer there. No one else is listed even if the Spring Brewery established in 1868, makers of “ale, porter, beer, etc., in great quantities, either in wood or bottle” are working on “an addition is now being made for an ice house.” Except for one thing. In the same directory there are at least six listings under “lager beer saloon” with proprietors with the names Goering, Grell, Kerner, Mansfeld, Schaupp and Winckler. Maybe more. How could all those businesses get up and running selling lager beer in time to get printed in the directory in the same year that the brewery opens? Could it be that the saloons pre-dated this brewery? Oh, for a copy of the 1866-67 edition of Sutherland’s City of Hamilton and County of Wentworth Directory!

I dunno. I do know that the author of this travel piece about Kingston, Ontario published in The New York Times in 1890 states “in all my travels extending through hundreds of miles of Ontario, beginning at this place, [I] have seen the sign ‘lager beer’ displayed only once.” Ontarians were long time pale ale and stout hold outs when their southern mid-Atlantic and mid-western US neighbours were following their immigrant Teutonic ways and breaking out the lager, much to the chagrin of 90 year old Charles H. Haswell in 1899, as is discussed in Maureen Ogle’s book Ambitious Brew.

1931There was another issue, of course, in that the rush of German immigrants was more of a late 1800s rather than mid-1800s event here. There needed to be cold. And the first refrigeration system in Canada is only turned on, according to Sneath, in 1886 in Montreal. So… we had ice houses… and folks doing what they could… figuring out the large investments required compared to the smaller population centres and… well, when you figure all that out… wouldn’t you really like a nice old fashioned trusty Ontario stock ale?

The King Brewery Pilsner clocks in at a sessionable 4.8%. It pours an actively carbonated burnished gold that supports a rich white froth and foam. On the nose, there is plenty of pale malt and graininess with Saaz hopping. In the mouth a jag of steely mentholated spicy herbal weedy hops but plenty of rich maltiness to back it up, more bread crust and biscuit that malteser. A complex beer with waves of flavours. Plenty of BAer respect.

Ontario: Stock Ale, Mill Street Brewery, Toronto

mssa1Where was I? The 1830s and 40s? About there. Local breweries popping up as settlers move west, filling up southern Ontario right up to the Lake Huron coast. Familar names start popping up. In 1835, James Morton is operating out of the old Molson brewery on the Kingston waterfront. John Sleeman starts up in 1836. In 1843, Thomas Carling builds a brewery in London, Ontario. And in 1847 John Labatt enters into a partnership with an existing brewer also in London and Quebec brewers Molson have another go, this time further west along the Lake Ontario shore at Port Hope. It lasts until 1868. Facts stolen from Sneath.

A number of the brewers are also distillers, maltsters, flour millers and a bunch of other things. Which leads me to my first utterly unfounded theory of beer in Ontario. It is related to this beer. When I think of Canadian pale ale, this is the taste I associate with it. It’s ale-y. A musty quality that tastes like the Legion Hall dance or a curling tournaments in 1956. Or 1907. Or 1877. It’s heavy on the grain. Given the small scale farming economy of the first and second generations of most of southern Ontario to the west of Toronto through the mid-1800s, the same entrepreneurs were likely handling all sorts of grains and distilling some, brewing with others.

mssa2They had to make products that both reflected and appealed to their clients and the environment. The had to go with a shot of whisky – whether it was made with barley or rye. In 1862 here in Kingston, Mr. Creighton of the Frontenac Brewery was selling stock ale and porter with the promise of a winter beer in the fall. Farther to the west in 1872, Labatt is selling only pale ale and stout in its local paper.

The Mill Street Stock Ale pours the colour of a pine plank in a lumber yard and resolves to a thin rim and froth. But it’s that smell – like a bag of wet grain. In the mouth there is a round ball of pale malt sweetness and, then, a heck of a lot of drying grain huskiness. The huskiness is joined by a measured but roughish sort of hop in the finish – more weedy than twiggy. I don’t know how this compares to an 1862 Frontenac Stock but I can day dream about it. Worth more respect than the BAers give it.

Why Did Ontario Beer Have To Make Its Own Way?

1782mm1Why did Ontario have to make its own path to beerdom? Well, a war and a river for one thing. As we discussed yesterday, the land that is now Ontario was settled in 1783-84 by Loyalist refugees from New York state after the American Revolution. For the first five years, Kingston is a military town without civic government. Over the years that follow until about 1843, it is the leading town in the new British colonies of Upper Canada and then Canada. But the threat of war with nearby America hovers over it well into the 1860s. Kingston sits where the first Great Lake meets the St. Lawrence River which flows on past Montreal, past Quebec and out to the sea. For well over the first hundred miles of that flow, the south shore of the river is in US hands as are half of the islands. And that made shipping drink to that spot particularly difficult as this summary of a letter to the Governor of Canada dated 11 May 1783 suggests:

The want of rum; the Indians have been supplied a little more liberally than usual to keep them in good humour. The honourable and liberal conduct of Hamilton and Cartwright in lending rum, by which they must be considerable losers, only stipulating that a certain quantity of dry goods might be shipped for them at Carleton Island, to which he had agreed. The Indian officers that have resided at the Indian Villages for some time cannot be removed for fear of creating suspicions, but they will be discontinued as fast as circumstances permit, The Indians behave well, but he wishes Sir John Johnson would appear soon.

The Johnson clan, founders of Kingston, were an integrated family of Anglo-American’s and Mohawk. John Johnson’s step-mother was Molly Brant or Konwatsi’tsiaienni so the references to rum and its use describe a bond, not the disrespect and degradation that came in later generations. Almost thirty years before, in 1775 William Johnson, the elder, described his provisions of beer and their purpose in his accounts: on 6 June as ” 2 Barrels beer of Hend’k Fry for the Conajoharees to drink the Kings Health” and again on 22 July of the same year “To a Bull to the Mohawks + 3 Barrels of Beer for a War Dance at their Castle”. Beer and rum were part of the supply requested and required when you were making allies at the farthest end of the reach of the Empire. Because until 1777 – and really for some time later – the Johnsons and their well stocked booze stash are the western end of the British Empire except for a few thinly manned forts.

Which leads to a few observations. If you click on the map above, you will see that there is a route A and a route B to Lake Ontario, the navy filled buffer that protected the Loyalist settlers and later immigrants for their first four decades there. The St. Lawrence, a 112-gun first-rate wooden warship of the Royal Navy along with other cannon laden ships, was built at Kingston in 1814. It was bigger than any other ship in the fleet globally. But it could not reach the sea. Not by route A or route B. The St. Lawrence, route A, was filled with rapids that left the early inhabitants lake locked. Route B fell into US revolutionary hands with the fall of Johnstown in 1777 after thirty years of the upper reaches effectively under control of the one family, one man.

dkb1So, how to get beer to Kingston when one route is under constant risk of attack and the other is in enemy hands? Well, you don’t. You have to wait to grow crops and then you have to feed yourself, sell some off for cash and then sooner or later you get to the point that there is enough extra to make beer. Have a look at that ad we looked at yesterday placed in a Kingston newspaper in 1820 by the brewer Thoma Dalton. He is seeking both ale customers and malt suppliers in the local farming community as a means to overcome imported rum, as a means to create a local economy. The next year he is in Montreal with a trial shipment of 100 barrels of “Kingston ale” for public auction. He must have convinced the farmers of Kingston to do business.

Over the next decade and a half Ontario continues to fill and local breweries are there. In 1836 there is a brewery for sale or rent in St. Catherines and another at the River Credit at the western end of Lake Ontario. Five years earlier, in 1831 there was a brewery even further to the west serving the 800 residents of the area of Guelph, currently home to micro turned national Sleeman as well as the craft brewers of the Wellington Brewery and the F+M Brewery.

So why did Ontario become a land of local beers made with local products sold to local people? There was really no other reasonable choice, no other good way to get your beer.

The Origins Of Ontario’s Good Beer Tradition

dkb1Beer. It only gets to you in so many ways. You make beer and provide it to your community. You make beer and ship it to another community. You ship beer in and provide it to your community. There are not too many other options for the beer trade whether you are talking about 1810 or 2010. Today we are talking about the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The community I happen to live in now, Kingston Ontario, is a lucky choice if you are interested in the history and beer in Ontario as it is where Ontario began. Actually, it was all the Province of Quebec when it began as a British governed community in 1783. At that point, Quebec then ran all the way west and included Ohio and Michigan. The people who first settled here were wealthy Mohawk Valley NY land owners, their slaves, their Mohawk allies and their Loyalist tenant farmers evicted from New York state during the American Revolution. Not the British. This is a community started by battling Yorker farmer warriors.

Allen Winn Sneath in his book Brewed in Canada states that the first brewery in what by then was called Upper Canada was the Finkle’s Tavern, founded a few miles west of Kingston in Bath in 1800. The Ontario historic plaque indicates it was built earlier, in 1786 when the area was still Quebec. Sneath’s book has a photo from the collection of beer writer Ian Bowering. What did they do before then? For the first years of Kingston we are likely looking at locally made home brewed ales, maybe some casks of strong ale being brought in for the wealthy but mainly lots and lots of rum if you go by the ads in the available newspapers. In a way, the tastes of Kingston echo of the community led by Sir William Johnson who died suddenly in upstate NY in 1774 just before the Revolution. He left his affairs to his son John who went on to lead led the Loyalist defense of upstate NY in the Revolution and then because the Superintendent of the resettlement here, the first colonization of the Great Lakes basis under British command. William Johnson was in the habit of importing good strong beer. It’s likely his son, John, continued the practice.

Kingston was still a strong ale town in 1890 according to this article from that year in The New York Times. The town was filled with farmer warriors who would have immediately grown their own grain crops as soon as they hit the shore. In that clip from the Kingston Chronicle of the 3rd of March 1820 above, the first commercial brewer in Kingston, Thomas Dalton, seeks out local grain to make his extra strong bodied ale, even using a nationalist argument to encourage drinking of Canadian beer over West Indian rum.

So, good strong ale was likely being both brewed and brought into Kingston soon after its founding in 1783. And with it came the genesis of the Ontario craft beer trade that continues today.

I Am An Ontario Craft Beer Week Event

ocbwI love it. Things are getting interesting. In response to Troy and Cass setting up a beer crawl, I asked and have been personally declared an Ontario Craft Beer Week event in my own right. Me. Not me going somewhere. Not even me doing something. Just me. Mr. Event. I had some Beau’s in the back yard this evening. Event. I am doing some research into beer in my town in 1810 to 1830. Event. Woooooooooooot!!! Here is what the listing in the beer week events calendar says:

Alan McLeod will spend all week blogging about the OCB. He will include craft beers from Ontario and will explore what Ontario’s great beers mean, where they have been and where they are going. Historical, observational, poignant and humourous, Alan will take readers on a journey that will surely leave them thirsty for more.

Get out your kleenex everybody because I am taking a journey. I am told I am even going poignant, for God’s sake. I have no idea where they got that idea but I guess it means that I have to tell you about that time I had some Ontario craft beer and… it was on a moonlit night… and … no… I am getting verklempt. Not ready to share.

Anyway, like the idea of having a province-wide craft beer week, this is a hoot. We are going to talk a bit about what beer means around here, how long it has been here and what I think about its future. You join in, too, because this is not just about me. I hope to have some good local beer, to visit a few craft beer places in my town and hover expectantly over some great craft beers I have yet to try. Ontario Beer week runs from June 20th to 26th. Be prepared. Brace yourself.

First There Was Albany Ale… Now Taunton Ale

I have a great pal with whom I have a recreational and professional interest in events in the Mohawk Valley of New York from around 1750 to 1785 and particularly William Johnson or rather Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet of New York. Johnson was the landowner whose tenants become rather successful Loyalist soldiers under Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet, who kept upstate New York largely in British hands during the American Revolution. But for that little thing called the Treaty of Paris, they would have had no reason to become the founders of my town Kingston and thereby the founders of Ontario and thereby in significant part the founders of modern Canada by being the first British colonizing settlers on the Great Lakes.

What am I going on about? You will recall that Albany Ale discovery indicating that there was a sea trade of strong ale out of New York’s capital city from roughly 1800 into the middle of the nineteenth century. Well, my pal had the ability to do a quick word search through the papers of William Johnson looking for the word “beer” and, in addition to a reference to “Hyson tea” which is also along side Albany ale in the Newfoundland newspapers of almost a century later, came up with the following classes referenced in his correspondence:

  • 1755: two barrels beer of Hend’k Fry,
  • 1768: Taunton ale,
  • 1772: six barrels of Lispenards beer.

That last reference is neither to the shipper or the wholesaler as this note from the merchants Hugh & Alexander Wallace from Oct. 2, 1772 shows:

…There is no Red port to be got here [at] this time, if any comes shall secure some for you – The Syder (sic) is not yet made, nor fitt to be bought for [at least] a Month. & Mr. Leispinard Says [he] will have the Beer ready to go along with the Syder (sic), at present he says he has none brewed that he would recommend to you. We hope all the things will please you, we have taken all possible care in the Choice of them, & bought them on the lowest terms.

It looks like Lispenard or Lispinard was the actual brewer. And one month later on Nov. 3, 1772, the following is invoiced by Hugh Wallace to William Johnson:

We have put on board Capt. Marsails in Mr. Adams’s care for your use:
6/-/- for 3 Barrl Strong Beer at 40/
4/10/- for 3 Barrl. Ale @ 30/
1/7/- for 6 Barrels at 4/6
7/-/- for 10 Barrels Newark Syder at 14/
0/3/- for Carting ale to the Sloop

Interesting to see three grades of beer being bought but the more interesting reference for me is to “Taunton ale” as it also is referenced in a 1789 meal put on by George Washington as well as in a shipment to Newfoundland in 1810. It is clearly not a reference to something in passing or personal to some particular step in the supply. But what was it?

So How Many Boycotts Are There Out There?

The news of NDP deputy leader Libby Davis getting in hot water about supporting a boycott of Israel has got me thinking. Not about Israel’s right to exist – even if I understand any nation’s right to defend itself in order to better assert and ensure continuation of its existence – but about boycotting. The National Post reports it in this way:

The video shows Ms. Davies answering a series of questions about the situation in the Middle East, starting with comments suggesting that Israel has been occupying territories since 1948, which is the year of its independence. “[The occupation started in] ‘48. It’s the longest occupation in the world,” she said in the video. “People are suffering. I’ve been to the West Bank and Gaza twice, so I see what’s going on.” Ms. Davies also expressed her personal support for an international campaign for a boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, breaking ranks with her party’s official position.

Now whether or not she has deviated from the party line is one thing – not to mention to the entirely wackier thing that is any call for the end of Israel – but time was it was all boycotts all the time. We all remember the South African boycott in the 70s and 80s (actually going back into the 60s) but I seem to recall that boycotts of France over nuclear testing and Nestle were also part of my parent’s shopping reality as a kid. Earlier, there were boycotts against the Nazis as well as by them. Farm workers in the US have successfully used the boycott as did politicians in relation to the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympics. Right now people apparently want me to boycott Alaska, Nokia and Cheetos.

The thing is boycotting always seemed to me to be about a sort of personal expression or at least participation. My Mom could join in and neither she nor France were at risk. Cheetos will go on. They may even be improved in their Cheetos ways, policies, practices and products. It means folks don’t have to be Ghandi but can be like Ghandi. But only if the cause is right.