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Niagara-on-the-Lake farmerettes inspiration behind Oast House Brewers’ latest Farmhouse Ale release

Oast House Brewers have released Farmerettes, a special edition, as part of their Farmhouse Ale Collection.Oast House Brewers have released Farmerettes, a special edition, as part of their Farmhouse Ale Collection.

A Niagara-on-the-Lake craft brewery offers a taste of Niagara’s agricultural history with its latest special.

Earlier this year, to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, Niagara Oast House Brewers are launching Farmerettes, the latest addition to their Farmhouse Ale Collection.

The brewery’s founding co-owner, Cian MacNeill, said they usually debut limited-edition Farmhouse Ale single releases in June, but given the inspiration behind this year’s creation, they settled on March.

“Coordination with International Women’s Day was key,” he said, adding that it took a lot of preparatory work to make it happen.

The publication pays tribute to Farmerettes, the young Canadian women who worked on farms during World War I and World War II while the men were drafted or conscripted to fight in the wars.

“The absence (of men) left a job market vacuum that needed to be filled,” said Shawna Butts, associate curator at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum. “Agriculture to provide food for the troops was considered essential to winning these wars. So thousands of women got on and worked on farms, picking, packing and later the tender fruit of Niagara.”

MacNeill first came across this part of the story years ago while researching Niagara-on-the-Lake’s farming past while also establishing branding for the brewery prior to its opening.

“It caught my eye because I’d never really seen any of it before,” he said. “It felt like an untold part of our local history.”

MacNeill and his wife Brooke, who also owns the company, wanted to highlight the Farmerettes and get the ball rolling to push their special release to March.

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They let brewer Aska Koabel take the lead, and the recipe features ingredients that would have been on the farms or in the canning sheds where the Farmerettes would have worked: canned fruit, apple puree, raspberry jam, Concord grape jelly, canned peaches, canned pears , strawberry jam, cherry juice and red raspberry jam.

“We wanted to recreate the way they would have been made and sent to war,” MacNeill said.

The Farmhouse collection features bottle conditioned beers, meaning they are naturally fermented in the bottle. MacNeill said that for this release they recreated a recipe for canned syrup to use with the yeast to ferment.

To celebrate the release of Farmerettes Ale, Oast House Brewers is hosting a special event at their brewery on March 8th from 6pm to 8pm. They bring the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum to share details of this part of local history. Butts will be there to share stories from the period and answer people’s questions. The event is free to attend and there will be pizza and refreshments.

The special edition will be available at the brewery’s store located at 2017 Niagara Stone Rd. and at their online store, OastHouseBrewers.com.

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