Five hundred years ago the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot) was born. Declaring that all beer sold could use only three ingredients; malted barley, hops and water, the Bavarian Purity Act is certainly the best known and arguably among the earliest beer purity laws recorded in history. Yeast was later added as the forth ingredient. Following the formation of the Weimar Republic after WW1, the Bavarian Law became a national law; hence: The German Purity Act, still relevant today.
So, while we revel in the 500th anniversary celebrations of the 1516 Bavarian Purity Act, it is time to take pause and reflect how far we have come here in the North American Beer craft beer scene.
This noble idea attracted many beer adventurers from my generation and continues to hold a powerful grip most hearts and minds to this very day. We have since been joined by millions more. In fact, late last year in the US, the number of breweries exceeded the high water mark of 4131 breweries set in 1873! Check out the facts.
But for many experts, The Bavarian Purity Act is arguably an unnecessary straightjacket that restricts deep exploration into the wonderful world of brewing. Despite any truth to that claim, it cannot be ignored that the Reinheitsgebot was, and is a cornerstone that for many, defines purity, quality and at least the potential for world-class beer. So cheers to craft beer and 500 years of excellence in brewing.
Icing on the Cake
At around the time the Bavarians were busy creating brewing laws in 1516, the Icelanders were installing their first printing press to publish bibles, myths and sagas for local public consumption. Brewing beer and mead was already a tradition since the early Viking settlement just before the 1st millennium.
While Viking beer recipes included barley - when the climate allowed for its’ cultivation - they were also prone to adding other ingredients like local berries, herbs and the like as flavour enhancers. Over the years drinking gradually fell out of favour and by 1901 brewing in Iceland came to a grinding halt. Just as in Canada in 1916, the temperance powers of the day called for and won their fight for prohibition.
Incredibly, it was not until 1989 that it was possible to have a beer in Iceland, let alone brew one legally. Slowly but surely small breweries started popping up, mostly in the Arctic North. Today, beer consumption in Iceland is very healthy and the craft beer renaissance has finally taken hold.
On our upcoming Iceland Arctic North Beer Adventure, we will be exploring that most beautiful north western corner of Iceland where nature astounds and the beers flow freely.
In fact, fortune has it that we will be attending an Icelandic Beer festival in Holar. Here we expect to try some of the more exotic local specialties that include, Einstock , Steogi Whale Beer and some rare brews by Bruggsmiojan. So, in one sitting we will be able to have a complete Icelandic beer experience.
In case you didn't see the show, here's a spot Oliver Dawson did on Global TV, all about this history of brewing in Toronto and highlights of the Old Toronto Beer Tour.
Toronto Beer & Chocolate Tour
We're very excited to be adding new products to our tour selection. In addition to our all-day OLD TORONTO BEER TOUR, we wanted to find something that we could offer on a weekday, but that wouldn't require navigating midweek traffic, so we hit on the idea of Neighbourhood Walking Tours. The first to begin in June will be a walking tour of the Distillery District, called the Toronto Beer & Chocolate Tour!
Maybe you'll be the first to try our tour -- June 11th. We will run the tour Tuesdays through Fridays all summer. They'll include stops at Izumi the Ontario Spring Water Sake Brewery and Mill Street Brewery, where we'll have tours and tutored tastings. But we'll also add a delectable stop at SOMA CHOCOLATES to learn about chocolate making and enjoy a "Chocolate Shot". Life doesn't get much better than that!
The tour will be guided by Nick Aiello, our resident beer and food expert and will include a guided walkabout the historic Distillery District with its beautiful cobblestone streets, eclectic shops and galleries. Nick will entertain you with stories of prohibition and the 19th century brewing and distilling history of Toronto.
We are also excited to announce that we also have a "Sunday in the Parkdale" and the "Junction Beer & Booze Crawl" in the works.
Let us know what you think about our new walking tours. Perhaps you have a neighbourhood you'd like to propose for our next tour idea?
After almost 15 years of running the Old Toronto Beer Tour and the Beer Lovers' Tour Co., I decided it was time to get with the modern world and start writing a blog. Well actually, I'm calling it a Newsletter because I still have one foot in the old world... Whatever form it takes, I'm excited to now have a few new ways to keep in touch with the wonderful people we've met on our Old Toronto Beer Tours.
I hope you enjoy it! Drop me a line anytime. In addition to this blog, you might like to subscribe to my new Beer & Travel Newsletter that I'll send out quarterly.
I'll use this newsletter /blog to share news of what we're up to in the land of beer, but as many of you know, my interests extend well beyond beer and so what I write about will likely include a few other things I am passionate about! Just look at this next piece of news...
Life is a Cabaret...
In non-beer related news, some of you may remember that I am also a singer/actor. Well I actually got a big break, and will be playing Herr Schultz in "Cabaret" at the famed Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. So winter in Winnipeg here I come!
I'll keep you posted on my experiences as rehearsals progress. Any of you from Winnipeg, let me know where to go for craft beer and we'll go for a pint after the show!
Tid-bits of History
As part of our passion for history I'd like to share one or two items of interest that you might want to drop at your next garden party.
Growing up as a stamp collector (philatelist) one of my favourite examples is seen here. Two things you might want to take note of. This was the world's first Christmas stamp! It also depicts the vastness of the British Empire at it's 19th century apex. It isn't that I think those were 'the best of times' but when we refer to Toronto's Gooderham & Wort's Distillery as the largest in the British empire (now the Distillery District and home to the Mill Street Brewery), this stamp gives us a sense of what that actually meant in the day.
Speaking of history, this year I was also working as a consultant to help launch a new craft beer, "Old Tomorrow", a Sir John A. Macdonald inspired "Canadian Pale Ale" It has already hit select LCBO stores, just in time to celebrate Macdonald's 200th Birthday party in January. Check it out!
Thanks for reading ! Look forward to hearing from you.
Beer Tour Blog
Stories about Breweries we've visited around the world. Photos and stories about our tours and the interesting folks we've met along the way.