Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Drinking, Again: New Albion, again!

Beer reviews

"How beautifully simple, [an almost] almost mythical beer," says Boston Beer Company's Jim Koch, of New Albion, the original 'craft' beer in America (1977-1983), first brewed in a time before government alcohol warning labels, in a time of breweries closing, not opening, in a time of no cicerones or beer dinners, of no craft brewery equipment manufacturers, in a time indeed of no other U.S. 'craft' beers. A time, not so long ago, yet hard to imagine, really.

Now, Boston Beer (maker of Samuel Adams beers) has 'collaborated' with Jack McAuliffe, owner and brewer of New Albion of that time past, to recreate the beer, and it's on the shelves again, with the original label artwork.

New Albion, now

How does year 2013 New Albion Ale taste? A deep golden/light amber ale, 6% alcohol-by-volume, a bit sulfury, but still firm in toasty malt flavor, and distantly citrusy in aroma, while not nearly as grapefruity as 'modern' American pale ales (a flavor and aroma derived from hops). Does it taste like the beer brewed in 1977? Mr. McAuliffe thinks so, and that's good enough for me.

To read some of the 'meh'-laden barbs on the beer-rating boards is to view firsthand the solipsistic claptrap of those who today declare themselves guerrillas of a beer revolution ... when that revolution —if brewing beer can actually be considered an insurrection— began, without them, over 30 years earlier.

They miss what a treat it is to taste this liquid history (and, yes, thank you, Jim Koch, for doing this), to bridge this distance of brewing time. Attempt to imagine the thrilling shock to the taste buds this must have been, in 1977, when most else was industrial lager. Is a beer that was good, when it was brewed thirty plus years ago, no longer good when brewed now, because of modern 'craft' beer expectations? I think not.

Drink New Albion with historical perspective. To paraphrase that great American composer of the early 20th century, Charles Ives (himself a craftsman ahead of his time): stand up and use your taste buds like a man (and woman). And, drink New Albion just for the flavor. It's not a 'big' beer, but it's a fine beverage.

In fact, I think I'll have another.

  • Read more about New Albion and Jack McAuliffe in historian Maureen Ogle's book: Ambitious Brew. Or, for a shorter on-line reference, read New Albion Brewing, by John Holl.
  • Drinking , Again is a series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits). No scores; only descriptions.
  • Graphic created by Mike Licht at NotionsCapital.


    1. I am really looking forward to trying this, it sounds just my cup of tea to be honest.

    2. Re: meh-laden barbs -- this post of ours describes the same phenomenon -- inflation in beer geeks' expectations of what makes 'awesome' beer.

    3. This beer has a lot to like, and it has some things to not like. Overall, it's highly drinkable and I'm very happy to drink another.

    4. I drank the original at the Brickskeller and then the re-created stout again at a special event at the Bricks. When I sampled this at GABF I loved it but I just knew it would be panned by modern geeks as underwheming. Thank you for this article Tom. I'm going to link it the debate going on in HOnest Craft Beer as it states my opinion to a T.


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