A Good Beer Blog

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Have you read The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer - A Rant in Nine Acts by Alan and Max yet? It's out on Kindle as well as Lulu.

Maureen Ogle said this about the book: "... immensely readable, sometimes slightly surreal rumination on beer in general and craft beer in particular. Funny, witty, but most important: Smart. The beer geeks will likely get all cranky about it, but Alan and Max are the masters of cranky..."

Ron Pattinson said: "I'm in a rather odd situation. Because I appear in the book. A fictional version of me. It's a weird feeling."


Comments

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Scott -

Just waiting for a recipe...

I got a half pound of old variety cluster/true canada hops sitting in my freezer and a carboy needing some beer.

Craig -

You think you're waiting for a recipe. What about us?

Gary Gillman -

Some gathered thoughts:

- Albany ale was from the early 1800's at least an all-malt product. Taylor and others testifying in New York State legislature hearings on possible drug use stated no drugs or special nostrums were used. Some brewers indicated an occasional use of licorice, coriander or "coloring", which was not uncommon in the 1800's in U.K. and America.

- Its renown seems to have started after 1760 as a result of the efforts of various immigrant brewers of Celtic or British background. While one cannot discount some trace Dutch influence, I think for practical purposes there was none, except perhaps for development of enduring yeast characteristics. Wheat malt is not mentioned in any of the numerous testimonies of the Albany brewers in the hearings mentioned. (I believe this reference was cited earlier in one of the threads, if not I'm happy to supply it).

- Albany Ale was a top-fermented English-style ale albeit using American hops (early Cluster or similar).

- Albany Ale was made in different strengths, as would befit both a local and an export business

- In its top quality form, it was notably strong, at least 7% in the barrel and over 10% in the bottle, rivaling or exceeding Scotch ale and Burton ale (the original Burton ale which was stronger than the later pale ale of Trent Valley)

- Albany Ale was not a style unto itself. America's indigenous styles were very few. Wahl & Henius's early 1900's Handy-Book of Brewing refers to Kentucky Common Ale, steam beer and a Penn State specialty called swankbier, which were distinguished by specific characteristics. I Albany Ale was no doubt uncommonly good but I cannot recall that Wahl & Henius or elsewhere it was memorialized as a unique American beer type. As in Milwaukee for lager beer, some cities became known for the excellence of their malt liquor, Albany was one.

- Albany ale's hegemony vanished quickly with the unstoppable onset of lager brewing.

Gary

Gary Gillman -

Once again I get tripped up as a self-trained typist. I meant to say, in Wahl & Henius, there is reference to a few indigenous beer types: California steam beer; Kentucky common ale (which was a dark ale, top-fermented, that used some corn adjunct (it is not clear if this is really a separate style but they said it was); and the Pennsylvania swankbier mentioned. I can't recall any reference in Wahl & Henius to Albany ale albeit they wrote circa-1900, a scant 20 years or so after it was still a well-known product of Albany and parts of the Hudson Valley.

Odd footnote: in the 1830's, three brothers, named Scribner, emigrated from Albany, NY to a settlement across the river from Louisville, KY in Indiana, and founded New Albany. And lo New Albany became known for its beer too. There was thus a neo-Albanian beer so to speak. And oddly again, it was made quite near to Louisville, known for its common ale. Perhaps there is reason to think the Louisville and New Albany styles were connected with a distant connection to Albany, New York. If so, the Kentucky version had evolved since it used adjunct by the later 1800's (although probably Albany's beer did too by then), was dark only and came only on one strength - or so one infers from Wahl & Henius.

Gary

Craig -

As a graphic designer, I'm sort of obligated to design a logo for all of this, aren't I.

Alan -

You are very useful, Craig. Gary, I think it was something. That is all I see so far. Except it could have been somethings. But it was something(s) that people at the time identified as a commodity to advertise and to acquire.

Craig -

Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover...

We'll do a little email chat about the logo...keep everything clandestine and then BAM! We'll have a big reveal.

Craig -

Again my cream ale suspicion arises... Albany natives move to an area in Indiana, a stones throw away from Louisville and that area starts to produce ale fermented with lager yeast, similar to cream ale?

That has got to be more than coincidence.

Craig -

Gary, go check out our posts, here:

http://beerblog.genx40.com/archive/2010/april/moreonthat#submit_comment

Gary Gillman -

I did peruse that, did you mean for cream ale? I think cream ale was a generic description, later it became associated with a lager-ale hybrid (cold aged lager) or an actual mixture of lager and ale (rock fans will recall the Max Webster song!) but I think it was used by various brewers to denote simply a rich or creamy beer. Astor meant clearly the strongest type made, it was a brand name, Astor would denote the richest, best kind. Kentucky common ale did not use lager yeast, it used ale yeast (top yeast, as adjacent distilleries in KY do to this day). Stream beer did use lager yeast of course. But this to me suggests an even closer potential link to Albany ale brewing since the latter was based on top-fermentation. Wahl-Henius was available for a long time online but I can't find any trace of it now, it was on a Michigan homebrewers site but the current version doesn't seem to carry it, and what I stated is from memory or checking posts on a bourbon board I posted some time ago on Kentucky common ale.

What I said about New Albany was drawn from Wikipedia. Online too there is information about a large brewery that developed there in the mid- and later 1800's, not hard to find with a search, with a photo of a large tower-type brewery. I can find it again if necessary.

Gary

Scott -

This may be a shot in the dark, but could our mystery beer just be a type of Amber/Cream XX or XXX ale?

I am thinking this for two reasons: First, it seems highly unlikely that Albany developed its own indigenous style of beer. Albany, like Utica and Syracuse, shared a very strong British tradition of brewing (especially in the early 1800’s) and their respective breweries brewed very similar products using similar ingredients. With such similarities in brewing processes, ingredients, and beer drinking populations, it seems unlikely that a need or desire to produce a local style of beer would arise. Also, the latter development of Cream ale is not unique to Albany.

Secondly, Albany’s location on the Hudson would not have created an environment conducive to the development of a specialized beer style. With the tremendous amount of commerce and trade flowing through Albany, it would seem the economic factors of the time would be unfavorable for the production of a unique local product; as an already popular beer style would make more money than a ‘locals-only’ product.

Lastly, I think this advert sheds a lot of light for us.

Is “Albany Imperial Cream XX ale” just a Cream XX ale that has been brewed in Albany and been given the moniker ‘imperial’ as to provide the consumer with some guarantee of its quality??? Makes sense for a large, prosperous brewery at the crossroads of early American commerce to label its products as such.

Well that is my personal opinion on the matter so far. No closer to a recipe or definitive proof. Sorry for the long post...

Craig -

Scott,

I agree and I intiallly contended that Albany Ale was in line with a strong english mild. I also agree that "Imperial" does not denote strength, for export, but is used instead as Budweiser uses "The King of Beers" today, as a slogan or tagline.

Gary,

I also think that the nonmanclature of "cream ale" is refrence to a thick creamy, headed ale. However because we are at the jumping off point for lager, and how it's production effected ale producers, we need to rule out all other possibilites. They real issue here, is what made Taylor & Sons capable of becoming so huge, overnight? Was it quality, quantity or because of some new fad that caught on... such as a cream ale, brewed as we know it today. That style, had to come from somewhere.

Craig -

Scott that wasn't long... read some of mine!

Alan -

Hi Scott - I have to catch up a bit but we should remember that the marketplace is calling this "Albany Ale" for some reason and well before the Erie Canal opened in 1825. Albany was a bit like the end of the earth after the War of 1812 as efforts to open up western NY started. Before the American Revolution, there was only unneighbourly Tryon County and the woods beyond it. It's clear that there was both brewing, a somewhat insular community as well as direct high seas shipping. Plenty of opportunity to do something singular. And why else would someone pay to have it shipped so far, if it was just like the other stuff?

Alan -

And just so we are not confused too much, I see the following very coarse eras:

- 1640 to 1800 - this may get split into Dutch, British and post-Stamp Act hi-jinx
- 1800 to 1850 - the rise of AA
- 1850 to 1900 - the fall of AA

Gary Gillman -

Here are some savvy homebrewers` takes on Kentucky Common Ale, which some of them called cream ale:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f62/kentucky-cream-ale-177393/

One of the posts references Wahl & Henius`s 1902 book but the online link, when I use it, is snippet view only. Still, even using this it is clear the authors consider cream ale to mean the U.S. equivalent to mild ale in England, in its 1800`s sense of course, i.e., an unaged beer that is fresh and lively, not a stocked or stored beer. This would mean cream ale would not be heavily hopped and indeed surviving examples (e.g. Genessee Cream Ale from not-too-distant Rochester) is rather mildly hopped. So Taylor`s Imperial cream meant this kind of beer broadly. I agree it didn`t necessarily denote very strong beer. But it didn`t mean a weak one either. XX was strong ale, probably 7-8% ABV. Quality and strength were linked at the time.

Gary

Craig -

I like you Gary. In all honesty, I agree with you about the Cream Ale stuff. I think the first reference from 1846 to an Albany Cream Ale is waaaaay to early as a reference to a modern techinqued Cream Ale. But, as I said before, we've still got to exaust all other possibilities.

1850–1900 makes me sad.

We still have a whole lotta work to do, since we have no idea what the recipe was!

Alan -

Recipes. Each decade for every brewery meant many brands.

Scott -

Alan,

I agree that we don't have a definitive understanding of what exactly "Albany Ale" is and we probably wont know until we get a hold of some brewing records.

However, I still don't think there was really anything supremely unique about Albany Ale except that it made a name for itself at home and abroad. Why? Well, I would argue that the success of Albany's ale had more to do with geography and economics than it's individuality as a product. With Albany positioned on the northern most edge of the longest navigable river in New York/New England with connections to Canada, it was literally sitting at the seat of all trade in the area and atop one of the largest hop and grain growing areas in the country (and this is by the year 1800). With all the materials needed to brew beer, it is no surprise that the Albany-Hudson area became one of the biggest beer centers in early America. James Vassar's 1797 brewery in Poughkeepsie would become one of the largest brewers and exporters of ale in America, shipping it to India by the 1850's (producing 15,000 barrels by 1840). With cheap materials and transportation costs to America's largest sea-going port (NYC), it is no wonder that Albany Ale would become a juggernaut of a product at home and abroad, regardless if it was the same as anything else on the market at the time. If you have cheap means of exporting your product, the chances of making a name for yourself is always pretty good. Not to mention having a geographically linked product name leads to the illusion of a better product - such as Bordeaux or Champagne.

I'll have to do some research on the topic and see if I can rustle up some brewing logs...

Very interesting topic though!

Scott -

I just read through pretty much all comments submitted on the topic. Much of what I said had already been covered before. My bad.

However, I did find this little snippet from a genealogy page for John Taylor.

"The beer from John Taylor & Son’s Brewery is still remembered by beer collectors and historians today. Their process resembled the process used by Coors today. The beer was unique as it included unprocessed cane sugar."

Alan -

Check my math but here is a brief look at one of the beers described in the 1835 Senate documents, Thomas Read and Son, Strong Pale Ale, 1835. Not sure I would like it.

Craig -

Yeah, I just saw the Facebook post. Nash, Burt & Co. report almost the same recipe. 3 to 3-1/2 barrels of "malt a light amber", high dried hops (no quantity) and 4 quarts of table salt per every 50 barrels.

Pretty similar. Here's the thing, though... Even if you were testifying in front of the Senate, would you give away your best recipe? Anybody could get access to this, I think these are their Pale Ale recipes, or Bitters, not the bigger sellers.

Gary Gillman -

Good extrapolations Alan but that beer would have been aged a long time I think. The long aging would have knocked down some of the hop character. But that 2-4 lbs or so is very typical of 1800's beers. Honey was sometimes used in the Scotch ale recipes by the way. But net net it is a strong and very hoppy beer that a voyage - just as for IPA and some porter - would have ameliorated, hence perhaps the export market that developed although the natural advantages Craig mentioned were surely critical to that as well.

Gary

Alan -

I was thinking that, too. What if it was all a fix. But they do actually give separate affidavits to lawyers in different locations before the invention of the internet and even before the invention of periodic golf-based industry get togethers.

Alan -

We co-clicked, Gary. There is actually a later reference somewhere around here to the 10+% brews aging two years.

But the salt? Maybe that was perceived as form of a richness.

Craig -

They also weren't stupid. They obviously were going to say "the purest malt, hops and water," the lot of them. You'll notice the big boys Boyd, Fidler, Taylor, Vassar barley even give that up. It's the smaller, one man, un-partnered guys who get into the semantics. They were testifying under oath, but who was going to challenge them? Delavan did and Taylor sued him and won.

Gary Gillman -

Salt was often used in the copper, partly for sanitation/preservation, partly perhaps for taste. But again this is common as well in contemporary English practice. I wonder if it dropped out over time in the bottle, with the yeast dregs.

Gary

Craig -

Salt could have been used exactly as Alan mentioned, to soften the water. Especially if the water that the brewers used came through The Hudson River penstocks at the pumping station. The Hudson was polluted, even back then. It's banks were littered with factories. As far as other sources of water, in the Senate report I saw a few references to wells and there were a number waterways around the city Patroon Creek, Tivoli Lake and the Normanskill.

Alan -

There is reference to nutritional value as well, a perception we would not share. And there is that reference to "country" beer being preferred in the City. I find it far too early to make any conclusions, Gary, That level of salt is very odd if only in terms of modern taste perception. I once made a home brew with far too much Irish moss and it was not unacceptabll salty but it was odd.

Oddly, too, Syracuse (originally called Salina) was a boomtown 120 miles west in the early 1800s based on the salt trade and the craft beers made there - especially Middle Ages - are very moreish very salty soft water beers.

Alan -

Interestingly, Stan notes today that Gose was a salty beer. Somewhere areound the blog, I once noted a local fest in some German town celebrating their salt beer. Can't find it now.

I came across this roughly contemproary US Army tender for food in outlying area and salt seems to have been the main food for soldiers, flavoured with pork and other things. Maybe we are the odd humans, having no taste for salt due to current medical theories.

Ed Carson -

I think the time-line of Colonial, Pre-Civil War, Post-Civil War is helpful. I also think that defining Pre-Prohibition beer in America according to style guidelines developed in the 1970's to judge homebrewers efforts isn't very helpful. It was Albany Ale. And it will be different for each time period we look at it. And it will be different for each brewer.

Alan -

That is likely sensible but I do think there is colonial and colonial, especially with Albany. Before a certain point in the early 1700s, there was no settlement to its north, east, south or west.

Gary Gillman -

Salt is legion in 19th century brewing and earlier in some cases, e.g., for Gose Bier as was mentioned. In the affidavits from 1835, the New York State brewers offers varying reasons: one states it is used for the same reasons salt is added to food. This statement is ambiguous. It may refer to the preservation factor, especially in that pre-refrigerator time. It may refer simply to the relish sodium gives to bland foodstuff. Another brewer states that salt assists clarification of beer (which suggests to me it made the water harder, a la Burton), and also that it promoted fermentation. Salt is a cleanser, a purifier, and it may have assisted yeast not to turn. Countless brewers' specifications in the 1800's advise the use of salt, many of the English texts refer to its use, and also, it was often added by publicans, to create a larger thirst or disguise the watering down of beer. Not all the deponents used salt, just as some used sugar or honey but not all. I can't say what Albany ale tasted like but those recountings of brewing method in 1835 strike me as very typical of the English brewing tradition, except probably for hop flavour in some cases. I don't think we will find a more precise description of Albany brewing, although it may appear. Just a final thought, that I am still not sure how much of that salt ended up in the final product. Perhaps it precipitated out with the yeast (in cleansing). I have had a few examples of Gose and it never tasted salty to me, so there may be more at work in that regard. Anyway these are my thoughts at this time based on the evidence I've seen.

Gary

Alan -

Gary, I hear you but I am just not prepared to foresee future findings anymore than I am going to make swift conclusions. I expect that we will find more information as one always does. It is all too interesting to presume otherwise. These are early days and there are almost four centuries to cover.

MaureenMcKenna -

Members of my family started Quinn and Nolan aka Beverwyck Brewery. I had searched Quinn and Nolan and this blog came up.
I will have to read more of the blog later today. I have many pieces of Beverwyck and journals I figured I would research what I have.