New Albion Ale (photo from Samuel Adams)

New Albion Brewing Company – New Albion Ale

New Albion Ale (photo from Samuel Adams)

New Albion Ale (photo from Samuel Adams)

Craft beer, you’ve come a long way, baby!

Turning the pages bak in craft beer history, we find Jack McAuliffe’s New Albion Brewing Company at the forefront of the craft beer renaissance. Opened in the 1970s, McAuliffe’s goal was to replicate some of the tasty brews that he had gotten a chance to sample while abroad serving in the Navy. Not finding close on American shores, he sought out ways to make the beer himself.

From the Samuel Adams website:

In 1976, Jack McAuliffe was quietly starting the American craft beer revolution when he opened the New Albion Brewing Company in a former agriculture warehouse in Sonoma, CA. Jack’s first brew, New Albion Ale, is the original “micro-brewed” beer that started it all.

Like many breweries born at that time, New Albion closed in 1982 due to lack of funding to continue brewing.

So how am I holding this beer in my hand? Boston Beer Co. owner Jim Koch heard that the trademark was running out for one of the breweries that inspired him as a brewer – and couldn’t let it go. Several months ago Koch announced plans to pick up the trademark, and planned to brew Jack’s original recipe – New Albion Ale.

Stories like this make me really happy to be a part of craft beer. Respect for history (and learning from it) is very important, and it is great to know that a new generation of brewers can get a “taste” of the founding days of craft beer.

I found it to have a very delicate aroma, and it harkens back to what I remember beer smelling like as a child. Admittedly, I’m not old enough to have ever tried the original, but there is something viscerally familiar about the smell of this beer in particular. My initial impression is not that of a hearty, malt-forward ale that dared challenge the lagers but a much more subtle punch. It is very light in color – but at the time, its slight orange hue would probably have raised some eyebrows.

The biscuity flavor reminds me a bit of a light lager or a pilsner. However, I know this is an ale, and that there are more hops than would have been expected in a beer at a time – it is a callback to a different time for beer. At the time, this must have been almost shockingly different and flavorful. There are hops here – but to our modern over-washed hop palate – it might be difficult to pick out their subtleties. It is very mild.

From a historical context, it’s an excellent beer to allow one to look back in time to what our parents and grandparents were drinking and what started to change the face of beer. I’m not sure I could see myself drinking it regularly, but it’s a great place to start. I’m really happy that Samuel Adams has taken the time to resurrect such a historic beer. I hope that in addition to being eye-opening for our palates, that this beer will educate a few more people about the history of craft beer in the U.S.

Categories: Beer Reviews, Local brews

5 comments

  • Christopher Rumm

    I tasted this at the Russian River Brewing Company. After a few Pliny the Younger’s, we thought it was awesome! Bought a six pack last week in Ohio. Several of my relatives sat around and tasted a ‘blatz from the past’. A wonderful ale as many today are too hoppy! I look forward to our market carrying this sometime soon!

  • Harish Phadke

    this is a really good beer….just opened the first bottle….smooth, with a lovely after taste. I love the label art too>!

  • Al Strong

    I cant wait to get my hands on some of that! That was the one early craft beer that I always lamented never being able to try. Such a sad story that the first craft brewer failed. But in doing so paved the way for the rest. I remember tasting sierra Nevada for the first time in the early 90s and it was the hoppiest beer I ever had! For its time it was extreme! Nowadays it gets hardly a shrug.
    I think brewers back then emulated the Brits for a reason; they understood simplicity and balance.

  • Allen

    Very nice write up. I can’t wait for people to taste this and try to see how things were in the past. I have a hard time imagining what it was like for Sierra Nevada back then as well.

    I was waiting for this to hit shelves and it seemed to get everywhere but here. When I read the BYO article about it I considered brewing it and tasting Side by Side but decided just to drink it and appreciate the beginning of our Craft Beer Culture!

    Cheers!

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