Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Tag: 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.

New England Craft Brewers Scoop Up GABF Medals

Kegs have been tapped, beers have been poured, cups have been dropped, and medals have been won at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival (GABF). While the event participants and organizers were nursing their hangovers, I was doing some thinking on my front steps while watching the first autumn leaves fall. While I have heard some local news about winners at this year’s GABF, I began to wonder about how New England breweries stacked up against the rest of the country.

Some basic stats about New England and the 2011 GABF:

  • Total breweries in attendance: 466
  • Breweries from New England attending: 14

So, New England apparently made up a very small chunk (3%) of the nearly 500 breweries pouring brews. (At some point, I want to map out all the breweries in New England and figure out what percentage of all the craft breweries in the U.S. they represent, but I digress…) But they were there, alright. And, it turns out, they were winning some serious medals.

This year, there were 7 medals awarded to New England Breweries (out of the 249 medals awarded) which included 3 gold medals, 1 silver and 3 bronze. [See a list of all the 2011 winners]

New England breweries winning medals in 2011:

Intrigued by this, I did a little bit more digging to see if this was a “typical” year or if there were any trends in the number of medals awarded to craft brewers in New England. Here’s what I found:

I was honestly surprised to see a downturn this year after a three-year trend but then I thought further. I’ve read a few bloggers say that there was a disappointingly few number of actual brewers pouring, so this may be evidence that there were external factors that might have made make it less likely for a brewery (especially a small one) to attend. Additionally, the number of craft breweries in attendance (14 this year) from New England is down from 16 the previous year. Without data on the number of beers entered each year, I’m not sure what to make of the trend.

What does make me happy though is that there are breweries that are pretty small still making an appearance and picking up some honors. This year, I think thatCambridge Brewing Company embodies the throngs of small brewers in New England who make some excellent beer. The remaining 2011 New England winners are significantly larger in size and distribution, adding some validity to the theory that this year may have been more difficult for the “little guys” to enter. Last year, medals were awarded to many more small-scale New England Breweries (including Portsmouth Brewery, Prodigal Brewing (NH), The Alchemist (VT), Haverhill (MA) and Trinity (RI)).

Some food for thought. For me, I’m proud of all of the wonderful beer made in New England, whether it gets shipped out to Colorado to be judged or not. Cheers!

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