For some craft beer fans, New Albion Brewing is as much an American legend as Paul Bunyan or John Henry. Unlike the latter two, beer aficionados across the country will be able to experience this legend in early 2013 when New Albion Pale Ale is re-released by Boston Beer Company, brewers of the Sam Adams family of beers.
Jack McAuliffe is often recognized as a forefather of the craft brewing movement in the United States and founded New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, California in 1976. McAuliffe tasted flavorful beers in Scotland in the 1960’s while serving with the U.S. Navy and wanted to bring a similar high quality and character to brewing in California. Between its opening and 1982, McAuliffe and New Albion produced a pale ale, porter, and stout that pushed the boundaries of what beer could be at the time.
Although New Albion shut its doors late in 1982, breweries like Sierra Nevada gained inspiration from the Sonoma brewery’s example, and the craft beer trend gained steam.
Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company, recognized Jack McAuliffe’s significant contributions to craft beer, and purchased the New Albion trademark in 1993. Nearly a decade later, Koch approached the New Albion founder about brewing New Albion Ale. This past July, the two got together to brew the beer, and served it at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Didn’t make the journey to Denver? No worries, the beer will be available to the public in limited quantities starting this month.
In preparation for the release, On Tap emailed with Jack McAuliffe and Boston Beer Company brewer Dean Giancostas, a key partner in the project. Here are their thoughts on the special brew and how one goes about recreating a recipe over thirty years old.
On Tap: How pleased were you with the re-make of New Albion Ale? How close is it to your batches?
Jack McAuliffe: It’s exactly the same – we used all the same ingredients!
OT: What do you think of the trend in American beer toward more and more hops in beer, particularly in IPAs? Were there “hop heads” in Sonoma who couldn’t get enough?
JM: Everyone seems to be piling on IPA bandwagon. Hop heads were unknown at the time I brewed New Albion. My ale was probably the most heavily hopped malt beverage any American drinker had had at that time.
OT: Jack, you are known as being the first brewer to use Cascade hops on a commercial level. How did you come to use Cascade hops and how has the world of hops changed?
JM: There are more ingredients available to brewers of all sizes now. When I started brewing, the only hops and malt available to brewers were the ones I brewed with. Cascade hops were a new cultivar, and it seems brokers were excited to sell it to anyone who would buy it.
OT: Where did the yeast for this beer originally come from? At any point did you consider looking toward a new yeast strain for the re-brew of New Albion Ale?
JM: I originally bought it from one of two or three brewing laboratories that existed at the time. They supplied yeast strains to smaller breweries. I described the type of yeast I wanted, an ale yeast that clarified quickly, and it worked. For our re-brew of New Albion Ale, I didn’t consider a new yeast because the one I used had been preserved by UC Davis and it worked perfectly. It was as exact as science could make it.
Dean Giancostas: We talked with Jack about some of the characteristics of his original New Albion ale yeast in order to begin our search. We thought our ale yeast might be a substitute but fortunately, early on in the process, we discovered his was preserved at UC Davis. There are so many yeast strains for ales that it is really hard to compare Jack’s New Albion ale yeast to any other, we were lucky we could find his original strain.
Look for New Albion Ale in January at retailers and craft beer bars and taste an American craft brewing original!