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Beer of the Week: Boston Beer Company New Albion Ale

There has been a lot of talk about history on this site the last week. As far as craft beer is concerned, there isn’t much that is more historic than New Albion Brewing of Sonoma, CA. New Albino was the first craft brewery to open in the United states post-Prohibition. While the brewery lasted on 4 years, the effects of the venture still echo today. This January, Boston Beer Company of Sam Adams fame revived the brewery’s recipe. The Beer of the Week is Boston Beer Company’s New Albion Ale.

BOSTON, Aug. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Jack McAuliffe, a pioneer in craft brewing and founder of The New Albion Brewing Company, and Jim Koch , brewer and founder of Samuel Adams announced today their plans to brew McAuliffe’s original New Albion Ale for the first time in 30 years. Recognized by beer experts as the original American craft beer, this American pale ale will be brewed true to its recipe using the original yeast, which has been carefully preserved at the University of California since 1977.

Koch and McAuliffe both share an enormous passion for craft beer and are seen as pioneers in the American Craft Beer Revolution. McAuliffe, a Navy veteran, acquired a taste for flavorful beer while stationed in Scotland in the 1960s. Shortly thereafter he developed a thirst for homebrewing and eventually started the nation’s first craft brewery, The New Albion Brewing Company, in 1976. Although the brewery closed its doors in 1982 due to a weak economy and a lack of financing options, McAuliffe’s vision for New Albion Ale was ahead of his time, helping pave the way for other American craft breweries, and its impact is still felt today.

“Jack was brewing craft beer when nothing was easy. Nobody made small scale brewing equipment, nobody wanted to invest, retailers and distributors didn’t want your beer, drinkers couldn’t understand why the beer didn’t taste ‘normal.’  It was so different from today,” says Samuel Adams founder and brewer Jim Koch . “New Albion is a true legacy. Jack’s passion for craft beer has had a widespread influence, and has shaped the craft beer landscape. What Jack started 30 years ago inspired brewers to explore brewing full-flavored craft beers. His New Albion Ale was the original craft brew.  We wanted to work with Jack to brew his recipe for the first time in almost 30 years and recognize him for his contribution to brewing.”

Samuel Adams is brewing the original recipe for McAuliffe’s flagship beer, New Albion Ale.  McAuliffe traveled to Boston in early July to join Koch and the Samuel Adams brewers as they brewed the first batch.  New Albion Ale is a deep, golden beer brewed with American Cascade hops and a 2-row malt blend.  The Cascade hops, sourced from the Pacific Northwest, create a moderate hop bitterness and lingering citrus and floral notes, balanced by the upfront cereal character and sweet finish from the malt.

“Jim and I share a common passion for craft brewing, so I was honored when he approached me about bringing the New Albion original recipe back to life,” says Jack McAuliffe , brewer and founder of the original New Albion Brewing Company. “I can’t believe I’m brewing New Albion for a new generation of craft beer drinkers – a group that has more great beer choices than I ever had! New Albion will have a place in the growing and diverse craft beer landscape thanks to a fellow craft brewer.”

When McAuliffe decided to turn his passion for homebrewing into a microbrewery, it was one of the first of its kind. At its height, New Albion Brewing Company brewed about 450 barrels annually.  Microbreweries struggled under a market dominated by mass domestic beer, but paved the way for growth in the 1990s. The number of craft breweries has gone from eight in 1980, to 537 in 1994, to close to 2000 breweries in 2012.

Koch and McAuliffe share the same pioneering spirit, and like McAuliffe, Koch was convinced he could find his niche in an uncharted beer market. Koch followed his German-American family tradition and became a brewer, creating the first batch of Samuel Adams Boston Lager ® in his kitchen in 1984 from a family recipe. He insisted then, as he does now, that only the world’s finest ingredients will make the best beer, and that quality and flavor are the only standards worth pursuing. Jim wanted a beer brewed with American craftsmanship and pride.

New Albion Ale will be brewed, bottled and sold by The Boston Beer Company, with all profits going directly to Jack McAuliffe . The beer will be served at special events during the 2012 Great American Beer Festival (October 13), in Denver, Colo. and available nationwide beginning January 2013. New Albion Ale will be available in six-packs for a suggested retail price of $7.99.

Pours a golden straw color with a bit of haze. Foamy white head quickly fades to form a thin bubbly cover for the beer. Grass, line and citrus jump out of the beer from a restrained hopping. These bright hops bite the tongue, bringing it alive and welcoming the light bodied pale ale to wash over the tongue. The finish is crisp with hops and finishes clean, begging you to have another sip.

When compared to beers currently on the market, New Albion Ale isn’t groundbreaking. You’ve tasted a beer like this before. What’s exciting about this beer is to think back to the beers of 1976. Maybe even drink a Budweiser first then have a New Albion Ale and consider the ramifications this beer would have over the next 37 years.

While this beer is a glimpse back in time, we also owe a lot of credit to Boston Beer for their effort in recreating this beer. I never had the chance to try New Albion beers when they were originally in business so my experience is limited to what I can taste today. As many homebrewers know, a recipe is only a small part of creating a beer. Boston Beer, armed with the original yeast used by New Albion, has created a refreshing, tasty beer worthy of honoring the first craft brewer.

As a special treat, Boston Beer kicked off the release of New Albion Ale with a special party at Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, only miles from the original New Albion brewery. On hand were Jim Koch of Boston Beer and Jack McAuliffe, founder of New Albino Brewing. Check out the photos of the pre-party in the Russian River brewpub on the Brewed For Thought Facebook page. Like the album and enter to win a special bottle of New Albion Ale signed by both Jim Koch and Jack McAuliffe.

A nation-wide release of New Albion will bring bottles of to markets across the country. Northern California will be lucky enough to find this beer on draft as well as bottles.