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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Bruce Ticknor -

I find this very interesting, there seems to be so little information about beer in early Ontario. Do you know what business Richard Smith & Son were in? From the ad it sounds like he was a shipper or importer (in today's terms)?
Interestingly (or perhaps not) I spent much of the morning doing some research into Yonge St. between York and Holland Landing. It was opened in the late 1790's and their must have been a bunch of taverns, roadhouses and hotels along the way but I can't find where any of the early buildings a still standing. A shame, some of the old roadhouse buildings of the mid 1800 are still in use today out around the Kitchener area. Many still as roadhouses and restaurants and some even as hotels.

Craig -

After reading this, I went back to my Google map of Albany Brewers. Jacob Cole and McLeish & Birrell were established in... wait for it... 1816. Joseph Ketchum opened his place a year later in 1817. Those three are the earliest 19th century brewers—that I've found.I don't have a specific date, but I'd guess Fidler & Co. started around that time, too. James Boyd was operating as early as 1797 (and was still up and running in the 1820s—he was the one that dug the 500 ft well and found the hard mineral water in Albany.) The Ganesvoorts closed up-shop in 1801, so they were out.

That 1816 date, seems like to much of a coincidence, huh?

Maybe—and this is all speculation—Boyd's beer was the one that gained popularity, as whatever "Albany Ale" was, prior to the war of 1812, and seeing a post-war void, Cole, McLeish & Birrell, Ketchum and Fidler got in while the proverbial getting was good.

Craig -

You might be interested in this little pre-Revolutionary tidbit, too.

For whatever reason, Boyd seem to get a lot of mention on his opening of the Arch Street Brewery in 1796-97. I have a feeling he might be considered the first "modern" brewer in Albany. Nobody is coming out and saying that, or maybe they are...

Alan -

Hey, Bruce. One problem is that the recording of information was limited and a bit controlled. The Kingston Gazette only comes into existence in 1810. I am reading Jane Errington's The Lion, the Eagle, and Upper Canada: A Developing Colonial Ideology from 1994 this weekend which kick started by looking at the Kingston Gazette.

Alan -

Craig, we need one of those time line charts with the span of each brewer's existence... or would Rock Family Trees be the better model?

Alan -

And I am still waiting for Steve Gates' new book.

Craig -

The problem with a timeline, is that some of families, like Boyd, brewed from the early 19th century until the beginning of the 20th century—and changed the name of the brewery 8 thousand times. Check this out from taverntrove.com:

James Boyd (Arch & Green Streets) 1796-1800
Robert Boyd 1800-1808
Robert Boyd & (Hawthorn) McCulloch 1808-1828
Robert Boyd Brewery 1828-1852
Aka: Robert Boyd & Son circa 1850
Boyd & Brother 1853-1856
Boyd Bros. & Co. 1857-1863
Coolidge, Pratt & Co. 1863-1872
Albany Brewing Co. (60 South Fe

Alan -

Also, what about the taverns and their brewing? I mean, was the Kings Arms of the Albany/Kingston Richard(s) Cartwright fame making or just selling? And did they morph in and out of brewers' listings?

[BTW - Richard Cartwright Jr.' death notice is in this same paper. His grandson and namesake ends up with a knighthood and seats in the Canadian cabinet and Senate. His father was the Reverend Robert David Cartwright. Another Cartwright ends up as Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of Canada until 1970. He was the son of John Strachan Cartwright who was the son of John Solomon Cartwright, who was the son of Richard Cartwright Jr. - John Solomon Cartwright and the a Reverend Robert David Cartwright were brothers.]

Will -

I'm a bit late to the discussion, although I've been quietly researching Albany Ale off and on for a few months now. Is it safe to say a general consensus has been reached about what the beer would have been? A pale and highly hopped strong mild perhaps?

I can pull a few strings and get ahold of some brewing logs from a defunct Utica brewery in operation during the mid 1800's. While they probably won't have Albany Ale, it may contain something for an XX beer, which would at least give us an idea of what ingredients made up an American XX ale around the turn of the century.

I'm looking forward to bringing this beer back to life.

Alan -

Will, if you can find any logs, that would be great. It amazes me that Taylor's are not out there. Makes me think they are in a large brewery's private library somewhere, the result of various rounds of consolidation. And they don't let just anyone in.

Also, we should be wary. I think pre-lager taste was different. Lager was lighter and was tied to cultural change. An 1850s log might not help with what was around in 1820.

Craig -

I have a sneaking suspicion that Albany Ale in 1805 was different than Albany Ale in 1825 and that Albany Ale in 1825 was different than Albany Ale in 1855.

For what it's worth I think "The Albany Ale" the one from legend, was the one from the 1850s. My thinking is that the earlier 1805 and 1825 versions were simply popular beer made in Albany—the launching pad, as it were— while the 1840s and 50's ale made by Taylor/Amsdell/Kirk/McKnight/etc...was what became known as "Albany Ale"

Alan -

Can't agree as "Albany Ale" fit for travel, advertised and identified as strong goes back to at least 1816.

Alan -

And in the 21 Dec 1816 issue there is Hibbert's Best Brown Stout.

Craig -

Albany Ale wasn't advertised in 1816, Albany Strong Beer was. We have no proof the they were the same thing. I'm not sure if they made a distinction between the two at the period in North American history, but they did in England.

I'm not saying that ale wasn't advertised as "Albany" implying that it was produced in Albany and that it may have had some certain style characteristics. That being said, the ale had to have changed over those thirty five or forty years. Look at Ron's stuff and ow much did beer changed during that period in the UK. I think Albany gained notoriety as a good brewing town in the early 19th century and it's beer became popular. From that point,Taylor/Amsdell/Kirk/McKnight/etc... exploited the situation and comendeered the name for advertising purposes to make money—and it worked.

As far as Hibbert's goes, Smith may have had beer from more than one Albany brewery. That would explain why Albany is referenced, and why a specific brewer isn't named.

Will -

I found a few advertisements from 1850ish Syracuse that have three distinct types of beer listed, "Strong Ale, Albany Ale, and Brown Ale". I would suspect, as craig said, Albany Ale probably became a wider known style by the mid 1800s and as such, very well could have been a totally different beer than one brewed a decade before. Furthermore, I also came across a reference to Albany ale in a poem from the early 1800's where the author stated that strong ale, burton, and albany ale were the same thing.

One thing I do know is that most Upstate breweries were importing almost all of their barley from Canada. Hops, of course, were local. I am trying to figure out where some of the big CNY brewers got their yeast...

Alan -

You are not convincing me. There is nothing describing a substantive difference in the beers of different eras. AA is ASB - both strong pale ales. Until I see better data.

Alan -

Damn. Simul-posts.

Alan -

Ok, can you link to an image of the ad, Will? Also, where are you getting the malt info ? Does it indicate Quebec or Upper Canada?

Craig -

I found this...

It seems like the brewers of colonial Albany gained a reputation for making strong beer. Either way, I still don't think that the beer brewed in 1689 was anything like the beer brewed in 1816—let alone 1855. Except for being strong, that is.

Alan -

But that might be the point. Momentum is a powerful thing and if folk like the beer, why change it?

That being said, I am far more interested in pre-1820/30 than after as I think that is were the more interesting cultural stuff is given the weird history of Albany from settlement to after the War of 1812, a span of 200 (frikkin') years.

And we have to take into account, like Dow half a century ago, reputation has a large part in the end of things as well as their ascendancy.

Craig -

I'm more drawn to the later stuff. To me that is the period when Albany became Albany. What interests me more, however, is, if those beers—1805, 1825 and 1855—were different, how were they different.

Steve Gates -

Alan, I am proud to announce that my book on the History of Brewing in Kingston and the St Lawrence Valley is available at Novel Idea on Princess Street. Feel free to scoot down and have a look or you can purchase one from me in person and save some money. The book has been available since Monday, it features plenty of early material from the pioneer brewers of this geographical locale. Let me know if you wish to interview me as previously mentioned, I'm in the telephone book under A. Gates. Talk to you later.

Steve

Alan -

Hooray! I may just scamper down this afternoon.

Alan -

PS - let me know if you want to set up an ad on the blog. Why not?