Mill Street is renowned as one of Canada’s favourite beers, named after its original location at 55 Mill Street in the Distillery District. Now ten years old, Mill Street is a pioneer of Canada’s young microbrewery industry. The Distillery was a natural fit for Mill Street’s craft beer production, as a neighbourhood once known for its spirits and beers. As the Distillery has evolved and grown, so has Mill Street transformed; Mill Street brews over 25 varieties of beer, many of which are shipped across the country and some still exclusive to the Distillery.
The site of Mill Street Brew Pub is the former industrial complex of Gooderham & Worts, the massive 1930s whiskey distillery. Gooderham and Worts was one of the largest distilleries in the British Empire and one of the main suppliers during the Prohibition. This distilling operation became so large that it moved to Winsdor, and even built a tunnel beneath the Detroit River to move more product to the United States. This left the buildings of the Distillery empty and obsolete until Toronto decided to revamp the area. Mill Street got involved at the beginning of the Distillery’s restoration, and was one of the original two tenants alongside Balzac’s Coffee Roasters.
Today, all of Mill Street’s large-scale brewing occurs at a facility in Scarborough. While the Distillery District inspires many of Mill Street’s well-known beers, such as Tankhouse and Stock Ale, the Brew Pub only brews specialty beer that cannot be found at the liquor store. These exclusive brews are available on draught or in kegs, including Betelguese, Pilsner, Maple Ale, Spring Bock and Don Valley varieties.
Mill Street Brew Pub remains an experimenting ground; With 14 different taps available, the Brew Pub has the ability to brew any beer that is ordered. This is a great way to test different beers and understand what people enjoy drinking. In fact, Mill Street’s Lemon Tea Beer started as a small batch, experimental beer. Lemon Tea Beer was so well liked at the Mill Street Brew Pub that it is now sold in cans and shipped across Canada.
For the first time since its bulk production moved to Scarborough, Mill Street will expanding its distillery operations by producing beer schnapps. Mill Street will be unveiling two stills imported from Germany to distill beer schnapps, a product that no other Canadian is producing. Mill Street’s new beer hall will be home to the beer schnapps operation, and will pay homage to the former distilleries that occupied the historic neighbourhood.
Mill Street Brew Pub offers brewery tours that delve into the details of quality beer production. In order to brew beer, four ingredients are required: Malt, water, hops and yeast.
Malt adds colour and flavour to beer
Most beers are made from barley, a versatile cereal grain, while malt refers to the process done to this seed. Barley seeds are first soaked in water until they begin to sprout and germinate, allowing sugars and starches to come to the forefront. Baking or kilning the barley stops the germination process and results in different styles of malt. When the barley seeds are baked for a long time, a darker colour is produced. Beers made from dark malt have a toasted, bitter flavor. Malt that is cooked for shorter periods result in a beer that is lighter in colour and less intense. After the malt is mixed for a brew’s specific recipe, it is funneled into a machine that grinds the malt into a fine, coffee-like texture. The malt is pumped through a tube that carries it to be mixed with water.
Water makes up about 90% of beer
Water is a very important ingredient and, depending on the style of beer, the water used can be either hard or soft. The technology to harden or soften water did not exist hundreds of years ago, and beers were completely defined by different regions with different water softness and mineral content. Mixing the malt with water creates a sticky, sweet substance known as wort, and strips the starch and sugar from the malt. This solution is boiled to both sterilize and add flavour.
Hops is a preservative that adds flavour, aroma and bitterness to beer
The main flavour addition is hops, which is added either early or late depending on the bitterness desired. Other flavours can also be added to the beer at this time, such as the genuine Balzac’s coffee beans that are added to every batch of Mill Street’s Coffee Porter. The effect of hops is to provide beer with bitterness and aroma, as it balances the sweetness of malt. Many people aren’t aware that hops works primarily as a preservative, which keeps beer alive longer and allows it to taste better when not refrigerated. Historically, the British needed to brew beer with plenty of hops, in order to send to their troops overseas in India. Today, people crave and love bitter beers for being full of flavour and high in alcohol.
Yeast is fermented to add alcohol to beer
Finally, yeast is added to the process to eat up the remaining sugar, add the alcohol content, and to contribute some carbonation. The majority of beers are brewed with either ale or lager yeast. Ale yeast is fermented at a warmer temperature, so it can be enjoyed warm. This type of yeast does not eat up the sugar as efficiently and produces a beer that is more complex. Lager yeast is fermented cold and is best served cold. Lager distills more sugar and creates a beer that is more refined, refreshing and crisp. A lager is so delicate that even light can affect its flavour profile, which is why lagers are produced in dark bottles. The next step is fermentation, which takes place in temperature-controlled tanks to ferment beers at different temperatures. Finally, the beer is filtered, carbonated, and ready to be enjoyed.
Post written by Alex Franceschini on May 8, 2013.