What The Heck Was “Albany Ale” In 1847… Or 1807?


So I am nosing around looking for India pale ale references on Google news archives when I spot this one in a newspaper from 1847’s Newfoundland to something called Albany ale. In hogsheads no less.

What the heck is it? It is listed in the The Public Ledger of 12 Oct 1847 amongst other imported goods from around the world – even Gourock canvass from the Old Country. In 1853, there is notice again in The Public Ledger of Newfoundland as being “just arrived” in a 50 barrel lot. It looks like an import. Albany ale is listed in the Hartford Courant as far back as issues from 1806 and 1807. In 1846, its for sale in New Orleans and, in 1854, there was a fire at the agents of an Albany ale manufacturer in New York City according to The New York Times. It’s even a drink at a church supper in Adams County, Pennsylvania in 1850.

But what the heck is it? Is it a style? Or is it just an ale from Albany, NY? If so, why is that the pale ale that makes it all the way to Newfoundland?

One thought on “What The Heck Was “Albany Ale” In 1847… Or 1807?”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Alan – April 26, 2010 10:12 PM
    Is the answer in this odd book of ale poems and ale prose from 1860? Or this one?

    By the way, please say this of me one day: “He consumed enormous quantities of chicken broth and drank immoderately of Old Port and Albany Ale.”

    Robert – April 27, 2010 6:47 AM
    In the 19th Century, it was very common for food items (and all sorts of items of manufacture, for that matter) to take on the name of the city in which they were made, and individual cities would earn a reputation for a particularly high quality of a product. In the case of Albany ale, it seems the city became a center of beer brewing and exported its products all over the United States. (See this 1854 description, for instance).

    It looks like Albany was American’s beer city long before St. Louis or Milwaukee!

    Alan – April 27, 2010 9:00 AM
    So if Albany ale was in every city in the Union, where did the idea that lager created the mass market come from? How did Albany ale get to every city in the Union if that 1854 report is correct? What was it like that it could travel so far and receive such praise?

    Martyn Cornell – April 27, 2010 1:55 PM
    Very interesting, Alan – and I also note the mention of “Twankay” tea, which made me realise for the first time where Widow Twankey, Aladdin’s mother in the pantomime, got her name from …

    Ed Carson – April 27, 2010 6:02 PM
    I think demographics created the demand and the market for lager beer. While there was a large influx of people to the United States from the ale drinking part of Europe,primarily Ireland, starting in the 1840’s; a larger number came from the German States(the potato also failed there, and the usual political reasons.) German workers were often recruited by manufacturers( they were seen as more industrious than most.) By the 1880’s, the large cities of the Northeast and Midwest were largely culturally German.

    Alan – April 27, 2010 6:38 PM
    Oh, I agree – that is not my point. Here is a good that was transported far earlier than lager and apparently quite successfully. We seem to know very little about it. It deserves its own analysis separate from lager.

    dave – August 23, 2010 1:57 PM
    In regards to “What was it like that it could travel so far and receive such praise?” could also be asked of ‘Philadelphia Ale’, which seems to fall in the same classification of Albany Ale in that the name is a place representing a bunch of beer styles, because they were shipping their Porters to India. http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com/2010/08/ale-and-porter-brewing-in-philadelphia.html

    Alan – August 23, 2010 3:27 PM
    And also Taunton. Seems like there were lots of trans-Atlantic beers being shipped.

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