Nothing like someone else doing the heavy lifting. Me? Me, I am fine with the idea of history being murky and unclear, prone to romanticism and post hoc hero creation, frankly, being often a bit irrelevant. But not regular commentator Gary Gillman who sent me this information today to bolster the discussion about the roots of American pale ale discussed the other day. He provided this link and then went with it:
We have to be careful here because technically, Jackson is talking about IPA, not pale ale. Jackson is saying, Bert Grant made the second IPA so-called, after Anchor’s Liberty Ale (1975), in 1982. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale began earlier, in 1979-1980. Why doesn’t Jackson mention Sierra Nevada? I think he easily could have, but he seems to have considered Liberty Ale, despite the non-use of IPA on the label, as an IPA and of course Bert Grant issued his IPA, and presumably Sierra Nevada Pale Ale wasn’t a IPA by Michael’s palate definition. (But in fact, pale ale and IPA are essentially the same thing as Michael’s World Guide to Beer itself suggests, it has only the one rubric, Pale Ale, under which IPA is also discussed). You made the point earlier that Michael later deviated from his initial scheme, and this is an example. Michael would have said probably he was just being more of a “splitter” as time went on…
Where does this leave us? I think it’s hard to say. Bert Grant’s beers did endure but many of the early players in the craft beer business did not – New Albion in the Bay Area was the first true post-Anchor micro – it failed after a few years. Cartwright Brewing, which made a noted pale ale with American hops, also left the scene early. But Sierra Nevada endured and also grew a lot and also made a great product. In a business sense, you can make the argument that Sierra Nevada is foundational to hoppy ale brewing or possibly the craft beer movement itself. Perhaps though it is more accurate to say it is a key early player – the distinctions become murky at this point so I have no trouble agreeing with Jeff’s main point. At the same time, the SN story is part of a broader picture and you can also argue, as many have, that it all really started with the way Maytag revived Anchor. Where did New Albion (1977) start? Bay Area. Where was Anchor? Bay Area. I never got to taste New Albion’s beers, by the time I arrived in the area it had closed and the beers were gone, but I’m pretty sure it was similar (their pale ale) to Liberty Ale and that Grant’s IPA, which I well-remember, was similar. And there was a whole group of early players, some in Portland, who helped push the message along. These brewers were also inspired as I said by the import scene and by Jackson’s and others’ writings on the history of IPA – and by Ballantine IPA. Indeed I believe Maytag is on record as saying that Liberty Ale was intended to be like that beer although in fact it was quite different. Ballantine IPA was sort of a cross between Greene King IPA and Ron Keefe’s Best Bitter (not his dry hop: Ron’s Dry Hop is a classic APA – his Best Bitter though has more English influence).
To conclude, here is Jim Robertson in 1978 on Ballantine IPA: “Deep brown gold, pungent aroma of hops, enormous body for a beer,powerful flavour yet surprisingly good balance, tastes very slightly on the sour side [probably from wood tannins, because it was pasteurised], long, long finish… unquestionably long-aged, maybe even in wood and it shows in the flavour”. [From Robertson’s The Great American Beer Book, 1st edition]. Ballantine IPA was not an APA though because its hop type was English-type, Bullion or Northern Brewer.
But if you a look at the big picture: the business side, the way pale ale/IPA became the leading craft brewing beer type, the case can still be made for SN Pale Ale.
But he didn't conclude as he followed with another link and further discussion:
One more thing. Look at one of Jess Kidden’s posts of 09/18-08 in this discussion: http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/Your-Favorite-Discontinued-Beer-m439379.aspx. As you see, he states that if you if blend Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot and Celebration Ale, you will get something like Ballantine IPA. I agree with that. Since both these beers are easily available to you in upstate New York, you might try this some time. Celebration Ale is, to my taste, a bigger SN Pale Ale, and Ballantine IPA had more of an English character than a U.S. one. So you might try also, Greene King IPa (or Wells IPA) and Bigfoot, 50/50. I know what he means by the Bigfoot though, it has a mealy amber malt quality I recall well from Ballantine IPA.
So here is another link between Ballantine IPA and SN, and you will find similar in accounts of the origin of Liberty Ale. Ballantine IPA was a legend and it is weird that Pabst has not revived it, England has revived White Shield and many other older beers continue there, but Ballantine IPA seems forever lost here.
P.S. Jess Kidden has done a lot of research on Ballantine as you see from his home pages cited in the link above, with some great period label reproductions. That name is a pseudonym (based on Just Kidding), I don’t know his real name although we’ve exchanged the odd e-mail.
Masses of stuff there and not really anything I would have necessarily pursued myself. Have a think and have your say.