India Pale Ale – Black Creek Historic Brewery

This past Friday, I was invited up to Black Creek Pioneer Village, in Toronto’s north-end of the city, next to the main York University campus, to visit their historic brewery.  Despite an insane long-weekend induced drive, I was happy and excited to be going up.  I really like Pioneer Village, and have actually been a few times since the usual person stops going in public school.  I’m also a big fan of their two brands available at the LCBO, a Porter and a Pale Ale.  And, of course, I love visiting breweries of all stripes, and going to one that is in an historic style, is even better.  I’ll be writing a post shortly about the tour itself, but I bought a growler of their India Pale Ale while there,  and wanted to drink it, which meant doing a review, as it’s awesome.  Now, you need to understand:  The two brands that are available at the LCBO, are brewed on contract at Trafalgar Brewing.  The Historic brewery in the Village is actually only licensed to sample beer, and sell it at the brewery.  They can’t even distribute it to the restaurant that is in the same building (on the other side of a wall).  So, to enjoy this, you need to actually go to Pioneer Village (you can check hours of operation etc, at  On the tour, Ed, the Brewmaster, told us that the casks they ferment in and mature the beers in were recently sent to the cooper to be maintained, and he toasted the insides again, which pops all sorts of extra oak flavour.  After a few batches, they will calm down, but for now the beers that they produce are hugely oaked.  The Brown Ale we tried was like oak tea, with very little maltiness cutting through.  So while I think this is quite a nice beer, it isn’t exactly how it is supposed to be.  All of their beers are made in oak, and have some of that in their flavour, but not this much.  So all that being said, here’s how it goes down:

India Pale Ale - Black Creek Historic Brewery

India Pale Ale - Black Creek Historic Brewery

BC IPA side label

Great label, hand-signed freshness date.

From a growler with an impressive date label on the side, the beer pours an opaque orange-brown with no head (to be fair on both these points, Black Creek uses no other filtration, other then passing the wort through cheese cloth in the hop-back before pitching the yeast.  I have to keep the growler sideways in my refrigerator, so it gets disturbed every time I lift it.  It would be noticeably more clear if you let it settle, as a cask ale should. And of course there is no head, as this is cask-condition ale, fermented and aged in oak casks that cannot hold more then a slight amount of pressure.  No where near enough to get enough pressure to saturate the beer the way you could in a steel/aluminium cask).  Aroma is heavily oak, with some lovely caramel sweet grains.  Hops are there, but are a bit muted in the nose.  With the sweetness of the grains and the oak from the cask, there is a nearly rum-like quality to it, though without any of the booze you would expect.  Taste is still quite oaky, but much more hop-forward.  Quite a bit of bitterness from the mid-palate onwards, with a pronounced pine bite on the finish.  The sweetness that had been so present in the aroma is much more of a balancing background warmth.  Despite the fact that I know it’s got more oak than it is supposed to, the beer holds up well against it.  It adds such a nice layer of taste that is there from start to finish.  Very interesting.  Despite being fairly hoppy on the tongue, the medium body and nearly still carbonation make this incredibly sessionable.  It was all I could do to leave this glass last night, rather than just finishing the whole growler.  If I could drink at a pub that had this in an oak cask all the time, I don’t think I would ever leave.  I’ll make the trip to Pioneer Village at least a few times, just to enjoy this.  Amazing beer.

Thanks to Ed and the crew at Black Creek Historic Brewery!


  1. Posted May 26, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Man, I can’t wait to try this IPA! I just signed up to brew for a day at the brewery with Ed. Sweet!

  2. Posted May 26, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I’m sure it would be fascinating to see how beer was made and how it actually tasted back in the 1800’s …

  3. Stormland
    Posted June 6, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    It is an absolutely phenominal beer. I like how it has no syrupy aftertaste like most of the Western IPAs taste like. Feel free to stop by my youtube channel. Search `stormland, or Chris beer reviews` and you`ll find me for sure.

    Cheers beer fans!

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