Where was I? The 1830s and 40s? About there. Local breweries popping up as settlers move west, filling up southern Ontario right up to the Lake Huron coast. Familar names start popping up. In 1835, James Morton is operating out of the old Molson brewery on the Kingston waterfront. John Sleeman starts up in 1836. In 1843, Thomas Carling builds a brewery in London, Ontario. And in 1847 John Labatt enters into a partnership with an existing brewer also in London and Quebec brewers Molson have another go, this time further west along the Lake Ontario shore at Port Hope. It lasts until 1868. Facts stolen from Sneath.
A number of the brewers are also distillers, maltsters, flour millers and a bunch of other things. Which leads me to my first utterly unfounded theory of beer in Ontario. It is related to this beer. When I think of Canadian pale ale, this is the taste I associate with it. It's ale-y. A musty quality that tastes like the Legion Hall dance or a curling tournaments in 1956. Or 1907. Or 1877. It's heavy on the grain. Given the small scale farming economy of the first and second generations of most of southern Ontario to the west of Toronto through the mid-1800s, the same entrepreneurs were likely handling all sorts of grains and distilling some, brewing with others. They had to make products that both reflected and appealed to their clients and the environment. The had to go with a shot of whisky - whether it was made with barley or rye. In 1862 here in Kingston, Mr. Creighton of the Frontenac Brewery was selling stock ale and porter with the promise of a winter beer in the fall. Farther to the west in 1872, Labatt is selling only pale ale and stout in its local paper.
The Mill Street Stock Ale pours the colour of a pine plank in a lumber yard and resolves to a thin rim and froth. But it's that smell - like a bag of wet grain. In the mouth there is a round ball of pale malt sweetness and, then, a heck of a lot of drying grain huskiness. The huskiness is joined by a measured but roughish sort of hop in the finish - more weedy than twiggy. I don't know how this compares to an 1862 Frontenac Stock but I can day dream about it. Worth more respect than the BAers give it.