A Bonny Beer Tasting

A STRIKING IMAGE*

This image, a remarkable capture from 1844, shows three Scots drinking ale. The beer was undoubtedly rich Scotch ale, probably around wine strength, hence the small Champagne flute glasses.  These glasses were traditional for strong ales in Scotland and England until about 1900, when this style of beer finally fell out. The gent on the right probably had been seated in front of the centre glass, since the other men hover over their own glass. He was (see footnote below) apparently the painter and photographer, David Hill, and either joined his comrades for the exposure (lengthy at the time) and/or had his partner Adamson take the image.

These were the beer fraternity, it can be 1844, 1900, 1960, 2015, 1600. Some things don’t change.

*Image in public domain, see here for source which gives fascinating detail on the photographer and persons shown.

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Oystering And Roistering

 

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(Circa-1620, Oysters, Fruit and Wine, Beert the Elder, Osias)*

BEER AND OYSTERS GO TOGETHER FAMOUSLY.

Or do they? The lore of a deep union is so established it seems nothing can unseat it. In the striking image above, a Flemish master, from a seafaring and brewing country, chose to portray the briny comestible with wine. (To be fair, the image does obviously reflect a table of the elite class. Prized as beer was, and is, in Flanders, its depiction in a table of this type would probably have been incongruous to say the least).

My earliest recollection of beer-and-oyster is attending a couple of beer and oyster fundraisers held by the Royal Canadian Legion in Montreal in the 1970’s. The bivalves were served different ways, in soup, on half-shell, fried. The beer was the regular Canadian brands then dominant in the market. These were lively affairs, but I’m not sure that oysters and beer go especially well together. Both at their best are enjoyable and therefore a pairing can’t be bad, but whether there is a special affinity, I’m not sure…

Whence though the old association of beer and oyster? Both were commonplaces in Victorian England, both at the time popular foods too, yet many things common then in cuisine aren’t associated as pairings. Beer and french fried potatoes seem a more natural combination, and are in North America, but not in England particularly, even though “chips” started in the London East End. Michael Jackson observed that fish and chips suits a cup of tea more than beer.

The reason beer and oysters have an association IMO is that oyster shell’s lime carbonate was once used to neutralize acidity, i.e., prevent sourness in beer before the era of refrigeration and sterile plants. The shell was cleaned, ground up and added to the barrels. This practice in time (surely) made people associate beer and the seafood in a culinary sense. Some brewers, especially those on the seaside or near ports, probably had ground their own oyster shell from whole oysters. Eating them with beer on the spot would have been a way to get some nutrition and source the raw material needed for their vats. And it must have spread from there.

Once can envision that brewers, probably forgetting the original purpose of the oyster, later added its meat or concentrate to the beer to remember the old association in brewing. Even though oyster itself wasn’t added originally, this has a kind of logic since even when just the shells were used some briny or fishy taste probably got in and some people got used to it. Today, craft brewers have revived the “oyster stout” tradition and I’m good with it when, as almost invariably, you can’t taste fish in the beer. At most a very light salty taste seems characteristic, which can enhance beer taste or doesn’t seem to hurt it at any rate. It should be said too some “oyster stout” does not employ any oyster at all: the idea is simply that the beer will accompany well the seafood.

Here are some early and mid-19th century explanations of why oyster shell was added – and they don’t refer to a culinary marriage. First, David Booth, from his Art of Brewing, 1829. See top left of page linked, in which he adds:

“It remains … with the drinker whether he prefers this new bitterish taste to that of the acetous acid which would otherwise predominate”.

It seems that as the lime carbonate in the shell did its good work, a new taste arose which in Booth’s view meant the cure was worse than the malady –  or at least as bad. This 1850’s American Family Encyclopedia  advises oyster shell to this same end or ground egg shells or marble, as they too contain the vital calcium carbonate.

Given Belgian-style and other “sours” and “wilds” are all the rage in craft brewing these days, a brewer wanting to make hay of the old connection between beer and oysters should obtain ground oyster shell and see if it works a change on the vinegary taste. It sounds, according to Booth, like a new strange bitterish taste will arise, but craft beer is all about new and sometimes strange tastes. I hope someone tries this.

Informative and Attractive Label for a Contemporary Oyster Stout:**

 

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*Image in public domain. Source used is here.

** Image taken from Internet which indicates production brewery is the source.

 

 

 

 

The Next Path For India Pale Ale

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Click on the above image for good resolution. It is from an English hop harvest, 1944.*

I was looking at Beer, the 2007 and last book from Michael Jackson before his passing in the same year.

As was traditional in his books, the U.S. section featured a regional subdivision. Northeast, South, Midwest, Mountains, Pacific Northwest and California and Hawaii were canvassed.

It’s instructive to peruse the styles covered across the regions.  While a brewery and beer selection of this type are never an accurate sample, it is striking how many blonde and other lagers, brown ales, “ambers”, bocks and ESBs there are, i.e., next to the pale ales/IPAs and porter/stouts which are still or even more so part of the craft scene. These beers were typical fare in the first decades of the beer revival.

A modern beer menu of any scope will feature, aside again the pale ale and porter group, Berliner weisse, Gratzer, Gose, Saison, Grisette, Belgian and Black IPA – in my view not really IPA subsets – and generic “sours” and “wild ales”, often flavoured with spices, fruits or other things. These have shouldered out many of the non-pale ale and porter group of 2007.

If “murky” keg IPA and other beers are a kind of style, those are new too.

It is doubtful that some of these currently fashionable beers will have staying power, whereas pale ale and IPA have proved theirs. Yet, I’ve never really understood their great appeal. The taste is strongly citrus of some kind (usually grapefruit), with a white pith aftertaste and some rough bitterness. The current craze for turbidity usually adds a stinging yeast note, too.  It can be refreshing and good with food, but the taste and relatively high strength of IPA certainly seem in many ways outside the traditional beer ethos of “moreish” drinks. I’d guess it’s due to being so different so relatively early, like Jagermeister, say. (The name India Pale Ale has a certain romance too though, that’s part of it).

A new focus I’d like to see is English pale ale or IPA. By this I mean, a beer, i) using hops that are traditionally English (Fuggles, Golding or Challenger, Target or other later growths which do not taste “Pacific Northwest”), ii) that uses mainly pale ale malt with a low percentage of, or no, brewing sugars or crystal malt, and iii) which uses a traditional English yeast. I should add as well that you need to use a lot of these hops both for bittering and aroma. 19th century brewing manuals are good guides for this. Using just a little hop makes people think English ales or their hops are “mild” and this is very far from true. In fact, using the same amount of Pacific Northwest hopping vs. English in the ways typically done for bitterness and aroma puts English hop flowers at a disadvantage. But as historical recreations prove, pale ales/IPAs brewed to authentic period recipes had huge character.

I experienced many of these great beers in the 80’s in England. Despite the variety, there was a uniquely English stamp to them, part of it was the yeasts used, part the hops, part the floor-malted traditional malts. The beers tend to taste best naturally-conditioned on the hand pump but so-called keg versions, poured chilled and fizzy, can be very good too. In Ontario, we have a couple of beers that deliver this English character. A new one I had recently is Collingwood Brewery ESB, soon to appear on the market in cans. Junction Conductor’s Brakeman’s Session in Toronto often has an English character although the hop character seems to vary from time to time. At Bar Volo, House Ales’ Session Bitter, now at 4.2% ABV, is a decidedly English interpretation of the pale ale style. In Quebec, Albion in Saint-Hyacinthe is a historical English revivalist and makes some some wonderful beers.

Many brewers in North America have claimed to make English-style ales, indeed in the Northeast the craft beer revival flew this flag proudly in its earlier period. Most in fact are hybrids, mixing American and U.K. flavours.

I don’t buy the argument that we “should” drink grapefruity, piney or “dank” beers because those are the hop flavours our soils produce. By that logic, the U.S. never would have developed a vinifera wine industry. I believe hop varieties can be developed which closely match an English or allied taste, shall we say. The Sterling hop is an example, which produces a superbly fragrant pale ale yet one rarely seen in the market. And our brewers can import English hops that deliver the real deal and encourage the suppliers to grow more. Nothing like demand to stimulate a market. I find it ludicrous that a new generation of U.K. brewers are avid for our hops – Cascade is being grown now in England –  and we are blasé about theirs, arguably the superior for fine pale ale. That was English brewing opinion, and North American too, for generations until recently.

To mix poetical references, go east young (or any) brewers, to Albion’s shore; drink deep of the Pierian spring whence flowed the first pale ale; the ribbon’d wreath shall be yours.

 

*Image is in public domain, details here.

 

 

Tenfidy Imperial Stout

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A gift from commenter G. Hodder, this fine – very fine – Imperial Stout has a sweet, musky/molasses richness edged with good bitterness of lightly herbal and quinine qualities. 10.5% ABV. One can see the name of the beer is a take-off from that impressive strength. Poured at room temperature as any impy stout should be, its merits sing out with clarion certainty: all other considerations including the ambient 90F temperature recede into insignificance.  Now, I recall Tenfidy being brewed in Colorado where Oskar Blues started. This can states the beer is made by Oskar Blues in Brevard, North Carolina. I could check, but it must be a satellite operation. The brew is first-class all the way, so the second location of brewing either helped or did no harm.

Imperial stout is the greatest beer style yet devised. There, I’ve said it. I’ve had all the styles, and it amazes me this style is known, at best, to a few ten of thousand in North America and elsewhere. It should stand with vintage port, well-aged single malt and Cognac, Sauterne, and the classified and other highly reputed growths as the most aristocratic of drinks. It would benefit from such imprimatur, but it doesn’t need it for validation at that level. Enough distinctive voices, starting with the late beer critic Michael Jackson (albeit the style was noticed before his definitive accounts), have raised their voice to put this beyond question.

Strong porter of this type, top of the metaphorical coal heap, had its origins in the popular public houses of early 1700’s London. Porter seems to have emerged as a kind of accident, possibly a use of cheap (burnt) malt charged at a discount, later blended with other beers which brewers then emulated in a single brew. Whatever the explanation, the strongest and most malt-laden of the porter and stout family ended as princely drinks.

The best porter should be aged a year or two but I think this Tenfidy is at the top of the aforesaid coal heap: one year gives it just the right tone and depth without sending the drink into an (irrecoverable) tailspin of autolysis or oxidation. If you taste a strong soy-like effect in your stout, that’s likely autolysis at work; the yeast starts to feed on itself. Of course some people like that, and more power to them, but the Tenfidy as currently tasted won’t benefit by much longer in the can, IMO.

 

 

Taking 5 For Fifty Ale

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A CANADIAN CLASSIC REVISITED

Pictured (foreground) is an old Canadian favourite, Labatt 50 Ale.

This beer dates from 1950, and represents a style of ale which used to be called Canadian sparkling ale. This meant it was fermented like an ale, at warm temperature with a top-cropping yeast, but aged cold with the full carbonation and expected clarity of a blonde lager. This type of beer was the commercial norm for ale in North America until craft ales were introduced which themselves represent an older stage in the history of top-fermented beers.

Labatt 50 seems to me to be better than 10 years ago and perhaps more like it was in the 70’s or even earlier. It had a very full estery (fruity) taste, lemon/pineapple-like, some decent, neutral-type bitterness, and a grainy, slightly astringent flavour.  The malt base seems clearly to be classic 6-row North American which has a famous “husky” quality. I’d guess there isn’t much or any adjunct in the current version either.

A very creditable pint and left to decarbonate 90% and warm for an hour, it could pass for an almost-still English bitter. The comparison sounds like a stretch but it isn’t. The fullness of taste may be due as well to no, or a lesser form of, pasteurization.

But back to how it normally was/is consumed, this vintage ’71 commercial says it all. The grooving crowd, hopefully all still with us, would be in their late 60’s now, I reckon. Got to get my head around that.

 

 

Grace Brothers Brewery, Santa Rosa, CA and the Puzzle of Memory

Circa-1900 Image from Grace Bros Brewery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circa-1900 image of Grace Brothers Brewery, Santa Rosa, CA. From Sonoma Heritage Collections,  http://heritage.sonomalibrary.org/).

This melancholic account  of the history and passing of Grace Brothers Brewery of Santa Rosa, CA appeared in 1977 in The Press Democrat, the small city’s newspaper.

I’ve been to Santa Rosa, a few times in fact. Most of the visits were not beer-related but rather bourbon-related! The major domo of www. straightbourbon. com, the world’s largest online bourbon club, used to live there and occasionally held a party for the members of which I’m one. It’s one of the nicest parts of the world I’ve ever been to, the “North Bay” as it’s called.

Santa Rosa is not a large place of course and in the 1970’s, it had to be smaller, not just in the obvious sense, but in a time when society was less mobile both physically and electronically. Yet, as Gaye LeBaron wrote in her memorial piece, there were people in town who didn’t remember or never knew that Grace Bros Brewery operated there a mere 10 years earlier. Even in a smaller place where memories, actual and handed down, tend to last longer than in the megalopolis, people forget about such things fairly quickly.

Ironically, just a year before, 1976, not far away in the same Sonoma County, a brewery started up which, while it lasted under 10 years, helped shake the foundations of brewing not just in America but most everywhere. New Albion Brewing Company, which emerged from the homebrewing hobby of founder Jack McAuliffe, started to produce unfiltered hoppy pale ale and stout. North American breweries had once produced these styles in their thousands of examples but they died out with the consolidation of brewing and imposition of a virtually single standard of beer flavour (bland, corny). While recalled by Gaye LeBaron as a supermarket brand, it is unlikely that Happy Hops, former star brand of Grace Brothers Brewery, tasted the same in the 60’s as in 1940, say, much less 1910. But in any case, people didn’t have the chance to judge that in the 70’s, or to compare the brand to the crafted brews being issued by new boutiques. It was too late, the brand and brewery were gone, never to return.

The pattern of small brewery closures was repeated a thousand times around North America and perhaps is an inevitable cycle.

After the nadir of the mid-70’s, the phoenix arose. Today brewing is a vibrant scene in Santa Rosa and in California in general. I’d like to think that in ways not always easy to trace, the earlier existence of small breweries in the state and the long history of hop-growing in the north – ever heard of Hopland, CA? – did influence the rebirth of local brewing. Older history can reverberate through the generations but not always in ways easy to explicate and document. Despite the paucity of memory in Santa Rosa a mere decade after the Grace Brothers brands faded away, I think beer and hops were rooted somehow in the collective memory, subconsciously perhaps. This smoothed the way for the new generation of brewers to emerge.

Russian River Brewery, as I mentioned yesterday, has issued a Happy Hops in recent years to salute the old local favorite. Good for them to honour the history in their own town – certainly there is no one more appropriate. And the beer is pretty terrific judging by these reviews at Beer Advocate. A purist would want the beer to be a close copy of the original, but if it isn’t, that’s not really important: what’s important is that people remembered.

Note to readers: I wanted to learn more about Gaye LeBaron given the uncommonly good article her 1977 piece was. A little googling revealed that she is still with us and not only that, still on the staff of The Press Democrat; she has been a staff writer there for 56 years! Here is a sample column from – yesterday. Ms. LeBaron is a noted local historian and co-authored a two-volume history of Santa Rosa.

Did The West Coast Have Hoppy Beers Before the 1970’s?

It is commonly thought that the emphatically hoppy, pale ale-IPA style of the United States was inaugurated by Liberty Ale (Anchor Brewing), Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Grant’s India Pale Ale (Bert Grant). It is also understood that albeit diminished by the mid-1990s, Falstaff’s Ballantine India Pale Ale, which arose from an earlier ale tradition in the East, survived long enough to influence early American craft brewing. Pabst has since returned the beer to the marketplace.

But consider this quote in 1976 from the The Beer Can: A Complete Guide To Beer Can Collecting by The Beer Can Collectors of America, ed. by Larry Wright:

“[A] curious aspect of the brewing scene on the West Coast is the Happy Hops phenomenon. Although the brand bearing this name has been obsolete for quite some time, several of the other Grace Bros brands carried a Happy Hops emblem for many years thereafter. Other hoppy beers that have poured on the scene over the years include Hop Gold (Vancouver, Washington), Hopsburger (Oakland, California)…”.

The text goes on to mention certain East Coast and Mid-West beers which contained a reference to hops.

Now, it may be all these beers simply used the word hops in a general way, without meaning to suggest the hops had a dominating or special characteristic. Still, it is interesting to check some history on these beers.

Grace Brothers were in Santa Rosa, CA. Russian River Brewing is famously located there now.

Grace Bros.’ labels advertised that the brewery used its own malt and hops. The brewery probably owned a hop field somewhere, as hops were raised in northern California well into the 1900s. Given this pride in the hops used, probably a Cluster type that grew particularly well in California, and given too the relatively large amount of hops used in early post-Prohibition brewing, perhaps Grace Bros.’ beer was full of hop character. The trait may have endured until the brand passed from the scene in late 1960’s.

Perhaps there are residents of Santa Rosa who remember the beer – someone might ask them. Russian River released a tribute to Happy Hops some years ago, a creditable move from the successor to a brewing tradition which started in the 1800s.

The same might apply to Hop Gold, from Star Brewery in Vancouver, WA. 1930s ads indicate it came in both an ale and lager version. The label for the ale claimed a “Burton” inspiration, meaning Burton pale ale – famous for its hoppy quality. Only the lager apparently survived the 1930s. That beer continued into the 1950s under different ownership names, Enterprise was one.

I haven’t explored Oaklan’s Hopsburger (great name) as yet. Rainier Ale, from Rainier Brewery in Seattle, aka The Green Death, also in its prime may have had a notably hoppy quality. Early labels for this brand also suggest a British influence on the beer.

At a minimum, Blitz-Weinhard’s Henry Weinhard Private Reserve, released about 1975 and which had a decided influence on the early craft breweries, may itself have been influenced by an indigenous, West Coast hoppy beer tradition as against, say, the first (Paul Revere) Liberty Ale released by Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, or imports from Europe. A local, hoppy beer tradition did not have to be extensive by the 1960s – it was enough that some brewers remembered it. Perhaps Bert Grant knew of such a tradition. Of course, only research in original brewing records could show what the hop bills were for the beers  mentioned.

The hop fields of California were replaced by those of Oregon, long active in the field, and Washington State. New varieties were developed from the 1960s in these regions especially the grapefruity Cascade, and then a raft of others. But the West Coast was always a hop growing area.  Local breweries – some of them – may have taken pride in releasing hoppy beers, as the beer names mentioned suggest. These beers may have been as impactful as early craft pale ales considering again of 1930s hopping levels which may have survived in pockets in America. And if they were going to survive anywhere, the West Coast in the small settlements, especially those near hop fields, was a likely place.

Something that has always struck me about beer is how short memories really are. What seems new often isn’t at all but people forget in a fast-paced society what was available only a few years ago. I have never read accounts from ordinary people in Dublin on the character of naturally-conditioned Guinness vs. the nitrogen version that replaced it in the 1960s. There have to be numerous older citizens who can talk about this, even today, but who thinks to ask them?

For some background with illustrative labels on the Star Brewery, see here.

For some great labels for Happy Hops of Santa Rosa, see here.

 

 

 

 

 

Blending At Home

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BLENDING AT HOME FOR FUN AND … FUN

Blending of beers is an area which has gained interest in recent years, All About Beer has an article on it in the current issue, and many breweries are barrel-aging and blending. It’s just the return of very old practices, both as practiced by brewers but also pub-goers who would mix beers to their taste. Famously that is how porter got its start.

Anyone can do this at home but as I’ve mentioned in an earlier posting, blending raises all kinds of hackles, even amongst the Faculty so to speak. This is silly really, for many reasons which I’ll detail in a future post. But here I just want to point out that, following some simple steps used by many brewers historically and still employed here and there in Belgium and England, I came up with a beer that (IMO) is easily the equal of, say Liefmans Goudenband or one of Rodenbach’s beers. These are renowned beers from Belgium which have a lactic or sourish edge from both yeast selection but also careful blending from different stocks and ages of the beer.

AAB magazine very usefully explains the recent commercial expansion of these older blending techniques in the States, as well as development of “house” techniques to blend – and why not, that’s what innovation and change are all about.

I had some Chimay Blue Cap, the Trappist ale icon which I must say in the last 15 years or so seems reduced from its prior self as all the Chimay line seem to me. The beer is characterized by a huge, typically Belgian corky/raisiny taste – mostly from the yeast surely – and the rest seems rather subdued (malt, hops). I poured about 10 ounces in a wine bottle and part of a bottle of McEwan’s Scotch Ale. Really I wanted to dilute down the big yeast hit of the Chimay while keeping in the same colour and ABV territory. I left it there (cupboard, room temperature) for some months, closed with a bourbon stopper cork.

It came out a touch too lactic I thought, so I poured in some Terrestrial Brown Ale, a malty-hoppy brown ale which is an occasional release from Wellington Brewery in Guelph, ON. Laid it down for a couple of months more. The Terrestrial is about 6.5% ABV – close enough to the Chimay. It has more hops than the others, or more I can taste, so I thought its use would be salutary.

Now it is actually much as it was when I first opened it as continued fermentation has dried it down again but there is a malty body – malty but not sweet – that is very pleasant.  The Chimay yeast is so big you can still taste it, chalky and spicy-like, but it’s balanced by these other characteristics with some of the Terrestrial’s hops in evidence. There is no “barnyard” brettanomyces (wild yeast) taste – a good thing IMO, somehow the original yeasts have elbowed out any air-borne interlopers.

In a way, I think I can see if I aged the Chimay telle quelle for 5 years or 10, it might taste like this, but anyway the blending is really good. It would be a great beer to accompany a good meal.

I can also use it to cut with a rich mild brown ale, say the Terrestrial again, or almost any rich hoppy beer, 1:3 or 1:1.  This is so easy I’m amazed more people don’t try it at home. Or if any of you do, pray tell us of the results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Never Found the Place, But It Was a Find Nonetheless

Gary: “Hey, guys, we were talking about a beer downtown before the game”.

Steve R.: “Right, so Gary, where? You know all the places”.

Gary: “Well, just read about a place I don’t know called Mart Ackerman, I saw their menu on the Internet, I was looking quickly but it looked good, a kind of retro concept – saloon they call it, kind of cool. Beer looks good and the food is chops and that kind of thing, retro again”.

Steve R.: “Mort Ackman’s you say…? Don’t know it, must be new”.

Gary: “No Steve, Mart Ack-er-man, a ‘saloon’ on Wellington St.”.

Steve R. “Must be one of those downtown-type bars, lots of imports but nothing really local”.

Gary: “Well, yes and no”.

Steve R. “What kind of beers do they have?”.

Gary: “English pale ales, Irish stout, a ‘Burton’ – that’s a strong English ale – but some stuff too from a local outfit I haven’t heard of”.

Steve R.: “What’s the local place called?”.

Gary: “Bains & Thompson, they supply an ale but also a cider too, makes sense ’cause cider is in now”.

Steve R.: “Bains & Thompson?  Never heard of them”.

Gary: “Well I looked into it, didn’t have much time but that’s what it said, in a book on Toronto breweries. Let’s just walk down Wellington past the Fashion District, it’s obviously in that part, we’ll find it. Don’t check online, it’s more fun to ‘happen’ upon a new place”.

Steve R. “Alright, we’ll go there, I’ll tell the others, we’ll meet at 6:00 p.m. at University and King and walk from there, weather’s still good”.

The group met after work at University and King and ambled westerly and south along Wellington. Busy on the streets too, must be all those young condo-buyers, they stay downtown of course after work, no “flight” north like in our day. No Mart Ackerman’s either though, where is it? They reach the end of Wellington, no Mart Ackerman. Gary checks his Blackberry again, “Ai-yai-yai guys. This is crazy, but Mart Ackerman was an 1856 bar in Toronto! It probably hasn’t existed for well over 100 years! I must have read too quickly, could have been that Sazerac drink I made after dinner last night”.

Steve R.: “Oh wonderful, but what’s all that you said about Bains & Thompson??”. (Exasperation, which the good-humoured Steve rarely shows). “Er, sorry, Steve, of course, I see here now, it’s from the same time, I’m looking at the book more closely now, it explains the brewery became part of Cosgrove, very well-known in Toronto for a long time and later absorbed into E.P. Taylor’s group in the 30’s, and later O’Keefe”. Steve R.: “Fascinating Gary, thanks. Hey [to another in the group], Ron, do you know a good bar around here, I mean a real bar that exists?”.  And so the group did find its way to a decent place for a drink before the game (for which they were late). Gary was thinking how the Rickard’s beers there from Molson Coors were kind of a link back to Cosgrove and B&T via O’Keefe etc. He hazarded some comments about it but the others didn’t want to know and gazed stolidly at the action on the field.

Later at home, chastened but intrigued by this old Toronto bar, Gary checked further on the Internet, taking time now to get the facts right.

He found the saloon menu again, which is here.

Just like he gleaned the first time, it offered English Pale Ale, Younger’s Ale (Scottish), Burton Ale, which was probably English too, and that local ale and cider from B&T – well, they were local at one time. They had been at Queen St. and Niagara St., just a hop and skip from Mart Ackerman, no doubt. He found some amazing early photographs of a Toronto in the 1850’s, a town that counted hardly more than 30,000 souls then, in this link.

In that group of pictures there is, astonishingly, a photo of Wellington Street, and a map from the time showing that Garrison Creek wasn’t buried and ran by the brewery.  So that’s where they got the water for the beer and to cool the fermented wort, it all makes sense. He wondered if Mart Ackerman Saloon was in one of those buildings in the picture of Wellington St., maybe it was further west though, hard to say. Amazing to be able to look at the actual street Mart Ackerman was on in the very same decade the menu was from.

He packaged all this up and sent it by e-mail to the guys who had been so cruelly (but innocently) misled.  “See guys, this is amazing, this must be one of the very early bars in town, they had fancy imported beer and Champagne and oysters too, for the ancestors of the crowd at Bay and King! Don’t you see…?

One guy answered, not Steve R. (he actually gets a lot of this stuff) but another one, he said: “Gary, next time, I’m choosing where to meet before the game, got it”?

I got it, yes.