Thursday, 20 July 2017

In Search of Tom Thomson: Part 3, Photo Journal

The photojournal of my day. Despite a little cloudiness. it was absolutely perfect.



The Lighthouse

Across the Bay

Heading to the point

Looking Towards Where Mowat Lodge Stood





The Cairn

The Inscription

Blogging Begins

Testing a few shots


The Totem Pole

The Poem that explains the symbols on the Totem

The Dedication

The Grave at Mowat Cemetery

Mowat Cemetery

Hand carved Granite tombstone

Grave of a young boy

Heading back

The old logging road ended here it was too swampy, some kind cottagers allowed us to beach at their property and walk in

The Portage Store

Broken piece of stick found at Grand Lake where Thomson Painted the Jack Pine (1917) Coated in paint similar to Thomson's

Trail Patch

In Search of Tom Thomson: Part 2, A Beer With Tom - Big Timber APA Lake of the Woods Brewery

Big Timber
Beer #364 Big Timber APA

Lake of the Woods Brewing Company

Kenora, Ontario, Canada

Independent Microbrewery
Established: 2013
American Pale Ale
6.0 % ABV IBU: 60
473 ml Aluminium Can
$3.20 (Canadian) At LCBO

Twitter: @LOWBrewCo

The Cairn

So yesterday, We took a canoe trip across Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park to visit some of the Tom Thomson sites. Specifically the Memorial and his grave. I figured Tom Thomson shared his passion with us so I wanted to share mine with him. As I am a beer blogger I knew no better way. In our packed lunch I smuggled in a glass and a can of beer. (Beer is not forbidden in the park. Cans are recommended, bottles are frowned upon, and they prefer you to drink at a campsite... so a little rule bendy...) I had picked Lake of the Woods From Kenora and their BIG Timber American Pale Ale. Since Tom Thomson was a Park Ranger and an avid woodsman, I felt this was appropriate. Plus I think the guy on the can looks a bit like him.
Canoeing shakes up your beer a bit

Onto our Tasting... it's as pretty as a picture.

Pours a light amber gold with a massive off tan head... mostly from the canoe trip herbal hops tropical fruit carmelised pineapple biscuit and woody. First sip gives us a smooth malt forward ale with plenty of fruit and orange zest to back it up. Aeration gives us spicy wood some caramel some bitter green hops lemon zest and a lingering tropical fruit sweetness.
Brew with a view

 Impressions: Fail, So-so, Pass, Exceptional 

Cost: 5/6 PASS
Colour: 5/6 PASS
Beer Style: 5/6 PASS
Re-Order:  6/6  EXCELLENT
Experience: 6/6 EXCELLENT

Final Thoughts: 

Woodsy malty and robust. It was an excellent choice for the trip up to visit Tom Thomson. I'm not sure what was better, tasting the beer or experiencing it in this historic outdoor location. Canoeing across the lake sure built up a thirst and the beer didn't last too long but the memories will always remain. It went well with our Lunch which included homemade smoked chicken liver pate with grilled shallots, a Welsh Cheddar, and some freshly picked kale salad from my garden that morning. But It will pair equally well with burgers, BBQ, friends, and Canadian Art.
Don't Drink and Canoe... I am an
Untrained Professional...



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In Search of Tom Thomson: Part 1, 100 Years of Mystery

Anyone who knows me well, knows I love the Group of  7 artists. That came to me naturally as I grew up in Kleinburg, Ontario and my public school shared a fence with the McMichaels. Robert and Singe McMichael loved Canadian art as well. So much so, they wanted to share it with everybody. They eventually donated their home and their extensive art collection to the Government in trust for the people of Canada. Since it was right next door, our school took us each year on a field trip to what became known as The McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Interestingly, my school (before my time) was the very first group tour of the Gallery when it first opened. As you approach the Gallery down its long winding drive you are first greeted with this sight:

A small rickety looking shack that is locked. Peering through the windows you are transported back in time. Dusty items lay strew about almost haphazardly. A painter's easel stands at the ready, a box of paints nearby and a small stack of well-used brushes. It is known as the Tom Thomson Shack, and it was his winter home and studio in Rosedale, Toronto. The shack stood behind the "Studio Building." An artist's enclave built in 1914 by Group of 7 member Lawren Harris, and the Group of 7's first patron Dr. James McCallum. Tom Thomson was not a Member of the Group of 7. He died the year before their first exhibit. 100 years ago this very month. This rickety old shack was my very first introduction to my favourite Canadian artist.

I visited the McMichael many more times throughout my childhood and got to know the names and works of all the artists including Tom Thomson. But the moment that solidified the artist as my favourite was on our grade 8 trip to Ottawa. We visited the National Art Gallery and it is where I first came face to face with this:

The Jack Pine (1917)
The Jack Pine by Thomson was completed in 1917 the winter before he died, from a sketch he made on Grand Lake in Algonquin Park in 1916. This little .JPG picture does not do the painting justice. It is rough, and thick piled high with paint. The painting style conveys the harsh wilderness and the rough land it was painted in. The sky is alive with colours. Colours you see in a sunset like pinks, blues and greens, but one never really sees in paintings. When I left Ottawa all I took as a souvenir was a small square button depicting the Jack Pine. I was a Tom Thompson fan.

Portrait of an Artist

Thomas John Thomson was born August 5th, 1877 in Claremont, Ontario near what is now Pickering. But, he grew up in Leith, near Meaford. He always loved sketching and painting but it wasn't until later in his life they would play a major role in his career. In 1899 he took work as a machine shop apprentice in an iron foundry but was fired for constant tardiness. He then volunteered for service in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in the Second Boer War; however, he was turned down for a health condition. He also tried to join the Forces for WWI and was turned down again. In 1912 he went to Algonquin Park for the first time. He worked as a Ranger, a firefighter and a guide in the Park but complained it took too much time away from his painting. In Toronto, he worked for a series of printers and art designers where he met the other members of the Group of 7. He first exhibited a painting in 1913 (Northern Lake) and it was acquired by the Government of Ontario for $250, a huge sum of money at that time.
Northern Lake (1913)

He divided his time over the next few years earning enough money to keep himself in paints and living most of his summers on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. He and his artist friends started to make a name for themselves and were gaining some attention, until the summer of 1917 when tragedy struck.

Last Days on the Lake

July 8th, 1917 Thomson Took his canoe out in the morning for some fishing and never returned. The canoe turned up later in the day complete with packed lunch and fishing gear, but no Thomson. Eight days later two park workers found his body floating in the water near Little Wapomeo Island. There was no coffin available for him so they towed the body in and tied him to a dock and left him in the water. July 17th Thomson received his first burial. He was taken to the Mowat Cemetery behind Mowat lodge where he used to stay. and interred there. On the 19th of July, his brother came to collect the body for reburial in Leith at the family plot. He was buried again on July 21st. That was the official account.

Or did it happen that way?

Fishing on Canoe Lake
Many, many questions remain unanswered about Thomson's death. How did an experienced woodsman just fall out of his boat and drown? Was he murdered? Did he commit suicide? Who knew what? The body was beginning to decompose and no formal post-mortem was conducted. Witnesses said that he had bruising and an injury to his left temple. (which could have been consistent with falling out of a canoe and striking the gunnels or a rock. He also had a length of fishing line wrapped 14 times around one of his legs. Some said he was despondent in love or felt rejected in his work and shot himself; neither of which seems likely. There are some who say he had troubles with some of the locals, possible affairs with married women. Then there was the question, was his body even sent to Leith?  One of the workers had claimed a sealed, empty casket was sent instead because the body was in too bad a shape and they did not want to dig it up again.

Then In 1956 a couple of locals who firmly believed Thomson was still in his grave at Canoe lake decided to find out for themselves.  After a few drinks (don't you love it when stories start this way...) They headed up to the Mowat Cemetary with some shovels and began to dig in a depression just outside the gate of the small enclosure. The place where Thomson was reportedly buried. And they found a body. But not just any body, one with a large hole in the head. There was a blunt force trauma hole 3/4 of an inch in diameter on the left temple. Exactly where Thomson was injured. The skeleton was dismissed as an unknown aboriginal and reburied. However recently scans of the photos taken were compiled into a 3d representation and a forensic artist recreated the face of the skull. She was astonished to find Tom Thomson looking back at her.
Tom Thomson's Skull? 1956

The Completed reconstruction
Now, this was by no means definitive as the skull was re-created by artists and not 3d scanned as it the current practice. So we cannot rule out accidental artistic bias. For some people, this answers a lot of question, for much more it opens up another can of worms. Was he murdered? How? The forensic report from 1956 stated that no bullet was found in the skull and there was no corresponding damage on the opposite side of the entry wound. There were no radiating fractures as are usually seen when a skull is pierced by a sharp object. However, I think they overlooked the simplest answer my thought on the murder weapon is a hammer. More specifically a British style claw hammer from the late 1800s early 1900s such as this one:

It is certainly something a cottager would have on hand. Impacts from hammers are consistent with the damage seen in the Mowat skull. But... I'm a beer blogger, not a forensic examiner.

My Expedition

All these things aside, the mystery may never be solved. The rabbit hole is so deep, I could not explain it all in the confines of one blog post. I could devote an entirely new blog to it and several books. But people have already written them. If you want more information there is plenty out there all freshly re-printed for the 100th anniversary. What I could do is go walk in his footsteps on this the centennial of his demise.

I went out yesterday and visited Canoe Lake. Something I have wanted to do for a very long time. It was the anniversary of his disinterment from Mowat. I didn't get out on the day he died... it was a Saturday, and the lake looked like a canoe parking lot (I saw pictures). But I stood at the memorial where he liked to camp, paddled the waters he called home. and took a long muddy bug infested walk up into the woods behind the ruins of Mowat and visited (one) of his grave(s).

Mowat Cemetery 2017



Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Beer # 363 Anniversary Ale: Moosehead Breweries

Beer #363 Anniversary Ale

Moosehead Breweries

Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Independent National brewery
Established: 1867 (As the Army Navy Brewery in Halifax, Nova Scotia)
Pale Ale
5.7 % ABV IBU: 38
473 ml Aluminium Can
$2.75 (Canadian) At LCBO

Twitter: @MooseheadLager

When one thinks of Moosehead, especially here in Ontario, one usually thinks of the lager, served in green bottles, often skunky, adored by many and reviled by almost as many. I'm in the latter category. I do not like Moosehead Lager. I use to work a Bar that had a 75-foot long bar along one wall with three complete bar stations. Once a Moosehead was cracked, I could smell it almost anywhere on that bar. However, this is not that beer... So I must try it. It is also important to note, that along with the #Canada150 celebrations this month Moosehead is also celebrating 150 years of operations. Started in 1867 just as the Articles of Confederation were being shopped around, by a woman: Susannah Oland. Now, this seems remarkable given the time and place, but we must remember that traditionally brewing beer was a job for a woman. In fact, the name "Brewster" is the only occupational name (eg. Smith, Baker, Cook) That was originally feminine. 

Canada has a long history of brewing. Basically, as soon as the Europeans set foot in the new world... somebody looked around for something to malt and brew. The first commercial brewer in Canada was reputed to be Louis Prud'Homme who set up a small brewery in Montreal in about 1650 (prior to this beer was brewed at home). There have been many breweries since then but only a few remain in operation. Molson (1786), Carling (1818), Alexander Keith's (1820), Labbat (1847), and twenty years later The Army Navy Brewery, which grew to be Moosehead. However, of those names... Carling was bought by Molson which in turn merged with Coors of The United States. Labbat bought Keith's brewery and then was in turn purchased by Belgian company InterBrew which merged with Brazillian Company Ambev which merged with Anhueser-Busch which merged with SAB MIller to make the enormous zombie beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (UGH!). That leaves Moosehead. Moosehead is still owned by Susanah's grandchildren. For six generations the Oland family have owned and operated Moosehead breweries making it the only wholly independent National Brewery left in Canada. 

To celebrate, they brewed a beer... Let's try it.

Pours a cloudy medium to dark gold with a massive off white head made up of small to medium bubbles. Aroma is very malt forward with some strong hints of caramel, and molasses. A little grassy and hoppy right near the end. The first sip gives us classic Brittish Pale Ale stylings with a sweet fruity maltiness. Medium bodied malt gives way to a nice warm caramel, vanilla with a hint of molasses on the finish. Aeration is biscuity and bready with hints of wine.

 Impressions: Fail, So-so, Pass, Exceptional 

Cost: 5/6 PASS

Colour: 5/6 PASS
Beer Style: 4/6 PASS
Re-Order:  4/6  PASS
Experience: 5/6 PASS

Final Thoughts:

This was a good pale ale. Not a standout, but drinkable. I would have expected something a bit more spectacular for a sesquicentennial anniversary. But it is still far better than their lager in my opinion.



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Beer # 362 Smoked Honey: Royal City Brewing Company

Beer #362 Smoked Honey Brown Ale

Royal City Brewing Company

Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Independent Microbrewery
Established: 2014
Smoked Honey Brown Ale
5.5 % ABV IBU: 25
500 ml Brown Glass Bottle
$3.95 (Canadian) At Sobey's Grocery

Twitter: @RoyalCityBrew

Haven't been to Guelph for a while and This brewery has not made it onto the blog yet either. They were at FUNKFEST but I ran out of tickets and liver space before I got to them. Tonight's brew is a smoked honey brown ale. Now I'm not sure how all of that fits together I believe it's a smoked grain brown ale that has had honey added to the wort. At least that's what it tastes like. I'm not sure if you can smoke honey... But, when I build my new smoker I will find out... (I will blog, about it stay tuned!).

Onto tonight's tasting...

Pours a translucent dark chestnut with a short tan head made up of small bubbles. Aroma is sooty char and sweet honey. The first sip is malty and mineral, which gives over to a light ashy smoke with a residual honey clover sweetness. Refreshingly light, yet with a nice thick malty brown bread or pumpernickel feel. Aeration gives us and herbal hoppy hit, with hints of smoked honey ham.

 Impressions: Fail, So-so, Pass, Exceptional 

Cost: 5/6 PASS

Colour: 5/6 PASS
Beer Style: 6/6 EXCEPTIONAL
Re-Order:  6/6  EXCEPTIONAL
Experience: 6/6 EXCEPTIONAL

Final Thoughts:

This was a wonderfully well balanced, full flavour beer that managed to stay nice and light in the body. The smoke elevated the beer, instead of drowning out the ingredients in a harsh, bitter cloud. I was so pleasantly surprised by this beer and enjoyed it thoroughly. I was actually disappointed when I looked down and the bottle was empty. Such a great all purpose beer too. I would cook with this, drink it on a patio, or in front of a campfire. Trust me, put one of these in your glass, you will not regret it.



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