Albany, New York: America's Forgotten Beer City

Discussion in 'Article Comments' started by BeerAdvocate, Nov 21, 2017.

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  1. BeerAdvocate

    BeerAdvocate Admin (17,075) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Society

  2. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,803) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    Good article, I wasn't aware of Albany's brewing history.
    5thOhio likes this.
  3. rtrasr

    rtrasr Disciple (328) Feb 16, 2009 Arkansas

    Yes, a great article. I have read that Albany Ale might have a kin to English Mild. There is a website devoted to rekindling Albany Ale called the Albany Ale Project.
    Durge, mikeinportc and TongoRad like this.
  4. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona

    Interesting, I never knew this. Amazing how you can have a history like this and not many even know it existed, cool stuff.
    Harrison8 likes this.
  5. kell50

    kell50 Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2007 North Carolina

    Nice quick read! Full of interesting facts and historical insights. Good job!
    5thOhio likes this.
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,620) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I enjoyed reading this article.

  7. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (599) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    I actually thought this was going to be a contemporary piece about how poor the Albany beer scene is considering it’s surrounded by some of the best regarded beer markets in the country.
    BeerBeak81 likes this.
  8. Ziptosa

    Ziptosa Initiate (57) Oct 4, 2017 New York

    Great article, well written! Being from Albany it was great to get a history lesson.
    tobelerone likes this.
  9. Markaye

    Markaye Initiate (0) Mar 10, 2016 New York

    I feel older every time I realize how many "bros" missed these days. There were two brief rays of hope in the mid eighties, both extinguished by a combination of BIG BEER price strangulation and the slow pace of conversion to real beer/ale.
    In addition to Albany Amber, the sale of Genesee to Brits briefly brought Jubilee Porter to Upstate NY, where Twelve Horse Ale was about the strongest brew available. Poor sales = bye bye hope.
  10. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,517) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Vaux of England purchased the Fred Koch Brewery of Dunkirk, NY (south of Buffalo) in 1981 and created the Jubilee Porter brand, which was only about 5% abv, ("4% abw", according to a 1985 All About Beer article).
    I liked the bottom-fermented Jubilee Porter) but it wasn't very "porter-ish" even by US standards of the era - clear and deep amber, rather than black and opaque like Yuengling and Stegmaier porter in PA. The modern geeks would not appreciate it at all based on color and yeast.

    Genesee, still under Wehle family ownership, bought the Koch brands in late 1984 - according to reports at the time, they were going to only continue Black Horse Ale and Koch Anniversary (as I recall it, Black Horse Ale was dropped early on, but Koch became a pretty long-lived discount brand for Genesee).

    Genesee 12 Horse Ale (I always thought they should brew a "12 Black Horse Ale" as a superpremium after the Koch purchase) wasn't particularly high in ABV by the1980s, after being dumbed down (well, dumbed down even more) into a "Canadian style golden ale". M Jackson's first Pocket Guide (1982) said it was 5% abv.

    Among NY state brewers, Matt's malt-liquor-ish Maximus Super was 6.5% - 7.5% - sources vary, the brewery claimed it "had about twice the alcoholic content as regular beer". And both Ballantine IPA (still around 7% at the time) and Molson Brador (6.25%) were available in NY in the mid-80s.
    BBThunderbolt, Dan_K, Durge and 4 others like this.
  11. Markaye

    Markaye Initiate (0) Mar 10, 2016 New York

    A good researcher bests an old memory every time!
  12. TomFoley

    TomFoley Aspirant (259) Mar 19, 2005 Pennsylvania

    went to college just north of Albany in the late 70's/early 80's. Drank many a pint of Newman's Albany Amber.
    Durge likes this.
  13. dbrauneis

    dbrauneis Poo-Bah (10,259) Dec 8, 2007 North Carolina
    Moderator Society Trader

    Where? I was at RPI for most of the 90s.
  14. TomFoley

    TomFoley Aspirant (259) Mar 19, 2005 Pennsylvania

    same, '83, was a brother at the Castle.
    dbrauneis likes this.
  15. BallantineBurton

    BallantineBurton Initiate (97) Jan 22, 2012 Massachusetts

    Now I know how Beverwyck Breweries got its name. Beverwyck was active in Albany from 1878 until 1950 when it was purchased by Schaefer. With the post Prohibition combination with Quinn & Nolan (founded 1845), Beverwyck's products included Irish Cream Ale, Famous Beer, and of course, Beverwyck India Pale Ale. Schaefer continued the Beverwyck ale tradition for another 10 years from its Albany brewery. Then in 1972 the last Albany brewery closed and the city went brewery-less until until Newman's opened in 1981.
    mikeinportc likes this.
  16. Amateurbrewmaster

    Amateurbrewmaster Initiate (0) Feb 5, 2016 New York

    I was born in 1995 born and raised in Albany and still live here. I didn't know much about the history of Albany in relation to beer, but after doing a lot of reading, finding books entirely on beer up here, I'm just amazed and pleased and saddened all at the same time. I'm amazed that this city contributed as much as it did to the beer scene from the first settlers of the country until just 26 years or so ago. I'm also pleased to know this city mattered to the world as it did. But I'm sad that it all went away. When I'm going around the city, because of all my reading, I know what buildings and parking lots are standing in the footprints of old breweries and maltsters. I do like this article, and I know that this article addresses the history and not the present, but the beer advocate folks should know that the beer, cider and distillery scene is coming back and it feels great to be here for it. There are great beers being brewed by great people. A good amount of breweries opened up just this year. From the Catskills to the Adirondacks, from Albany, Schenectady and Troy to Saratoga, breweries all along the Mohawk and the Hudson, you'll even find a handful of breweries in just the middle of nowhere. They serve great beer and some serve great food and if they don't serve, the nearby food is good or there's a food truck outside. There are also nice bars serving nice beer and food as well. Yes, when you think of New York, I know you think of New York City, Long Island, Buffalo, Rochester, and the only thing about Albany you heard of is UAlbany, but there is a good scene in beer up here and I love being a part of it. If you're ever traveling through, take some time to visit the breweries. It will be well worth it.
  17. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,517) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Yeah, like many other ale brewing regions in the northeast, there were still some pretty interesting sounding beers coming out of the Albany area in the first few decades after Repeal - it wasn't all light lager and cream ale. (I can't personally attest to them, having been born there but, unfortunately, moving out of the region when I was about 18… months).

    Both of Albany's two major brewers, Beverwyck and Dobler (the latter owned by Newark's famous Feigenspan brewing family) brewed India Pale Ales, and Beverwyck also marketed a Stock Ale "guaranteed to be not less than two and half years old".

    Beverwyck advertised it brewed "BEER & ALES" - the pluralized "ales" typically implying the brewer offered several different styles of ale – usually, a modern cream/sparkling type ale as well as something heavier/darker, an ale closer to a pre-Pro style. Bevewyck also continued brewing their Bevewyck Famous Wuerzburger after Repeal.

    Dobler brewed a version of Feigenspan's flagship, P.O.N. Amber Ale as well as 1865 Special Pale Ale, a porter, a stout and a Half & Half of, unusually, their stout and IPA.

    Dobler and Beverwyck both brewed a Bock for Spring, as was close to universal for lager brewers.

    The smaller Hedrick Brewing Co. offered a Dark Cream Ale - a not very common take on the style - and what they described as English Style Ale.

    Over in Troy, Stanton Brewery, another company that advertised it brewed "ALES & BEER", with one of the ales being their Stanton's Olden Ale, advertised as "Recalls the days of old"- different from the flagship Stanton's Pale Ale. .

    Similarly, Fitzgerald Bros. in the same city offered both a Pale Ale and Garryowen Ale - "The Ale that made Fitzgerald's Brewery popular in 1857…Note its rich mellow flavor, creamy head, nut-brown color, aged to perfection".

    Both FB and Stanton brewed porters into the 1940s, and offered Bock Beer in the Spring..

    The 3rd Troy brewer, Quandt Brewing Co. brewed a "real old-fashioned" India Pale Ale, along with Sparkling Ale and Lager.

    Up the Erie Canal west of Albany was the Amsterdam Brewing Co., where masterbrewer George Largay (formerly of Evans Brewing Co., where he brewed Hudson Cream Ale, and Molson in Canada) brewed Amsterdam Sparkling Cream Ale, XXX Cream Amber Ale, Porter, Stout, and Half & Half (ale and porter, blended and further aged together – not sure how common that aging process for a Half & Half was).

    For me, that illustrated Albany’s continued ale tradition in the post-WWII era - when F & M Schaefer (then the #5 brewer in the US) bought Beverwyck in 1950, they apparently initially dropped the Beverwyck brands like their well-known Beverwyck Irish Cream Ale and and brewed only Schaefer Beer. Schaefer soon gave in to popular demand and re-introduced their own Schaefer-branded Irish-brand Cream Ale, with pretty much identical graphics.

    It probably helped their decision when Genesee moved into the Albany region heavily promoting their 1950s version of Cream Ale, with ads that read, in part:
    ."Cream Ale drinkers will be glad to know that they can now switch to GENESEE Cream Ale ... to replace another product which will soon go off the market!"

    Schaefer briefly brewed another Cream Ale (w/o the "Irish" prefix) in the late 1970s during the "Great Cream Ale Scare" period, when numerous brewers in the Northeast and the mid-West added the style to their portfolios due to the success of Genesee and Schoenling/Little Kings.

    Rumor had it at the time that it was going to be a revival of their Irish-brand Cream Ale. A friend and I toured the Schaefer Lehigh Valley plant (by then, their only brewery - Albany, Baltimore and Brooklyn all shutdown) and we struck up a conversation with the bartender at the end of the tour who turned out to be a retired former Albany brewery worker.

    We asked him about the new cream ale and if it was the same recipe as Albany's Irish-brand Cream Ale. I still recall the wistful look on his face upon its mention but said, "No..." disappointingly. He did go to a back room and pull an unlabeled bottle of the not-yet on the market Schaefer Cream Ale out of a small fridge, and we split the bottle.
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  18. surfcaster

    surfcaster Zealot (526) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina

    I was stationed Saratoga Springs, NY at a Navy facility in '88 (try explaining to folks you are stationed in the Navy in upstate--most folks thought it was a front). Anyway, it seem Genesee was akin to Bud/Miller/everyone else combined up there then. I am not sure these other Albany beers fro m'81 were still around but as a poor as a church mouse Navy guy then, super cheap Genny worked. Somewhere had it for 2-3$ a pitcher on your one night out every 10-14 days.

    Last I revisited Genny cream ale, was not so excited about it.
  19. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,517) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Well, the other Albany breweries had all closed by the time Wm. Newman Brewing Co. started up in 1980, and Newman closed his brewery in 1987 due to financial problems associated with the contract-brewer for his bottled beers, C. Schmidt & Sons, Phila., closing and selling out to Heileman. Newman continued on as a contract-brewer only with their beer coming from F. X. Matt.

    Saratoga Springs was a big market for Newman (I remember having it on tap at joint on the main drag there after a rec from Bill Newman, and a few years later, during a X-Country ski trip, being disappointed the place was closed for the season :slight_frown:). In the early 90s, Newman even created a Dortmunder recipe marketed as Saratoga Lager, brewed by Matt.

    Genesee was already off a million barrels by then, after having peaked at 3.6m bbl in 1980, on its l-o-n-g slide downward (maybe having lost more barrelage than any current brewery still in business other than Pabst - which, of course, has not been a "brewer" at all since 2002).

    But Genesee was still in the US Top Ten brewers in the 80s and the largest "regional" brewery operating out of only 1 site (Coors by then was mixing high gravity beers and packaging in Virginia) and were in 16 states in the northeast & eastern mid-west.

    Not sure Genesee's NY state market share but, yeah, it was pretty ubiquitous upstate. Interestingly, in their peak '80s Philadelphia was their major metro market (mostly on the strength of Cream Ale but I used to see lots of cases of deposit "Pounder" bottles of the beer going out of PA retail distributor), then Buffalo, Albany and hometown Rochester fourth.
  20. TomFoley

    TomFoley Aspirant (259) Mar 19, 2005 Pennsylvania

    going rate in the early 80s for a half of Genny Screamers was $19.
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,620) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Maybe you should write an article for the BeerAdvocate magazine on the present day upstate (Hudson Valley) beer scene?

  22. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (169) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    That area also grew the most hops in the Country during the 1800's.
  23. Durge

    Durge Poo-Bah (2,855) May 22, 2007 Connecticut

    Nice to see a beer article that reveals history. It really does relate in some ways to the current craft brewing industry. I hope to see more such articles. A nice overview on Albany.
    Lone_Freighter and Keene like this.
  24. plaid75

    plaid75 Poo-Bah (4,623) Jan 13, 2005 New York
    Society Trader

    Koch's Golden Anniversary was about the toughest beer I ever had to swallow. Good memories though.
  25. plaid75

    plaid75 Poo-Bah (4,623) Jan 13, 2005 New York
    Society Trader

    A dozen years later Golden Anniversary was only about $15 more.
  26. plaid75

    plaid75 Poo-Bah (4,623) Jan 13, 2005 New York
    Society Trader

    Great article. I sure miss Mahar's.
    BBThunderbolt likes this.
  27. Keene

    Keene Initiate (0) Sep 11, 2009 Washington

    It's been a couple of years now, but we actually did publish a feature on the Hudson Valley's "new primitives." Give it a read and consider supporting our journalism with a subscription.
    ingchr1 and JackHorzempa like this.
  28. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,620) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Thanks for the link; I enjoyed reading it.

    Based upon numerous posts on BA it sounds like that area (Hudson Valley) has significantly changed in the past 2-3 years. Maybe an updated article is in order.

    ingchr1 and Keene like this.
  29. JoePasko

    JoePasko Initiate (97) Mar 10, 2018 New York

    My German-born great-grandfather went to work as a fermenter at Dobler Brewing, in Albany, in 1933, when they resumed brewing operations upon repeal of Prohibition, until his retirement in the mid-1950's. My great-grandparents had a bar in their basement, decked out with all sorts of Dobler paraphernalia. I still have a Dobler tray in my possession; not sure what happened to the rest.. I wish my family had saved more of it. Before Prohibition, my great-grandfather lived in Brooklyn, and worked for Excelsior Brewing Co. (which was owned by famed Manhattan restaurateur John Resienweber). My great-granduncle was John A. Knoll, the brewmaster at Excelsior, who hired his brother-in-law (my great-grandfather) around 1908.
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