Ontario: Did The Beer Stay In Town In The 1830s?

I am thinking I may have a theory or at least a bit of half an idea. I was in the library yesterday waiting for the kids swim lessons next door at the Y to end and came across a copy of a book from 1913, a History of the County of Lennox and Addington by W.S. Herrington from which I found this passage from an interview of a man then in his nineties:

I remember the first election I ever witnessed. It was over seventy-five years ago, about the year 1836. John Solomon Cartwright and George H. Detlor, the Tory candidates, were running against Peter Perry and Marshall Spring Bidwell. They ran in pairs; Perry and Bidwell were called the rebels by the other side. There was only one polling place and that was in Bath. It was a little booth at the edge of the village. I was quite a young man at the time and didn’t know much about the issues; but I could understand that the people were greatly excited. The taverns of Bath were crowded with men wrangling about the votes. Whiskey was flowing freely, and there were plenty of drunken men and brawls in the streets. There were plenty of taverns all over the county. There was Charter’s tavern near the head of Hay Bay; John Davy’s over near Sandhurst, and Griffith’s in the second concession about four miles west of Charter’s. Ernesttown must have had a dozen at least.

I like these sorts of old guy interviews. Like the one from 1899 with the recollections of a ninety year old guy of his pre-Victorian youth including Albany Ale. In this recollection above, the guy being interviewed is from a farm outside the village beyond the smaller town to the west of the military, mercantile and brewing centre of Kingston. He grew up in a log cabin. The degrees of distance from the big centre, the layers of the hinterland, describe distribution. See, Ontario – or rather Upper Canada – at this time was still a tenuous proposition given the continuing uncertainty of the Republic’s intentions. It was also one run on a combination of an imperial demand economy tied to local sustainable farming. Before the 1840s repeal of the Corn Laws, crops from here were shipped to Britain and manufactured supplies were shipped back. We were part of the great Georgian hive.

It seems to me that the references to whiskey in the book are what they are – not a euphemism for drinks so much as confirmation of the drink that’s on offer. The same man quoted above stated all the crops were wheat and corn. He did’t see barley until he was in his twenties – right about the time of the repeal of the corn laws in the 1840s and the end of guaranteed supply to the empire. Elsewhere in the book a country store ledger is described. Plenty of spirit references and a few wine sales but no mention of beer. I had in my mind for a while that all the references to whiskey may have meant they were brewing their beer at home but if there’s no barley being grown that’s unlikely.

So, where was the beer going in the 1830s? Likely it stayed in town, was sold to the military or was moved by sailing ship in multi-cask loads to other centres along the shore of the big lake like York, later named Toronto. It maybe takes the railroads in the coming decades for beer to get more deeply distributed. In a world of coastal sail and carts on questionable roads, a cask of the hard stuff is probably the safer bet, the better investment for the families operating the taverns and the country stores.

It’s Friday And What Have We Learned Beery?

image37It’s Friday. Friday evening. The Friday that is the end of the first full week after summer vacation. If it was undergrad this would be the weekend you show that you learned the lessons of frosh week. But it’s not frosh week, is it? No, instead of cheap ass beer or rot gut booze it’s a glass of the dessert wine after another milestone in the generation coming up behind. Cake and wrapping paper piles. Note to file for the 13,753rd time: beer does not go better with desserts. Give me a beer with noble rot and then maybe we can talk.

This week I discussed brewing with two groups that are thinking about opening that first production brewery in my town. For a few years a couple of times a year I have had the lunch or the cup of coffee, discuss what it might take and… still no brewery. These groups are different, however. Well funded and populated by folk who have run businesses, made decisions. People who understand that a sack of grain needs to be carried up that ladder. I hope one of them makes a go of it. At least one. If only for my sake.

The first draft of the Alan and Max Book was sent out to a few readers. It is so weird that I am not sure what to make of it other to suggest it’s a stark and incisive dialogue that bends time and space. I’ve been writing three things other than this blog for a few months now and, given I also have three co-writers, I am fairly pleased that I can even say even that much about this one. I am really worried the Ontario beer history will have a scene in which Ron Pattinson crawls out of my shed. The most honest assessment so far is the one from Craig. We’ll be hundredaires! And so shall we be.

Now? Now there is an Oktoberfest mixed pack from Beau’s to consider. They were so rightly pleased with the design that the sample came with instructions on how to recreate the cardboard carry all. The results are shown above. Roggenbier, maibock, rauch weissbier and German porter. Think I am starting with the Oktobock.

Ssshhhuuuusshh – Don’t Mention Cascazilla!!!

Oh dear.

Toho Co., Ltd. is responsible for crafting the giant monster’s original cinematic adventure back in 1954. The creature’s enemy, the robotic Mechagodzilla, was brought to life in 1974. Not surprisingly, the company isn’t exactly thrilled with having these characters ripped off in the US. According to The Daily Meal, Toho has taken issue with the products manufactured by New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Company. Apparently the Godzilla creators feel that Mechahopzilla beer violates a few copyright laws. As a result, the company has filed a lawsuit against the brewer. The folks at Toho reportedly filed the lawsuit after the brewing company decided to ignore requests to halt the manufacturing of Mechahopzilla beer.

Yikes!! What about that beer from Ithaca? You know, the one whose saving grace now, as Craig noted two years ago, might be the fact that Ithaca is the site of Cascadilla Falls. But who knows. Anyone can sue anyone, right? I’ve been enjoying Cascazilla on a regular basis for over eight years now but I have to admit that were it to be called something else it would be just as tasty. Which does put a lot of beer branding in context, no? I mean is it one thing to get fetishistic over “lambic” but is there anything intrinsically related between any particular beer and any particular word? I think not.

Beer words are wonderful. They are ancient and monosyllabic. Guttural and descriptive. But for the most part they are irrelevant, aren’t they. A beer by any other name is just as sweet. No?