More Thoughts On That Pesky Albany Ale Question


I have been thinking more about this pre-1850 invention called “Albany ale” and I am a bit surprised to find so many references to it of one sort and so few references of another. The stuff was made in volume, transported and traded over great distances but now seemingly forgotten to memory. As we will see [Ed.: building suspense!] when we discuss the quote above, it was the stuff of memory even at the end of the 1800s.

But what was it? As noted this morning by Robert in the comments, there is a brief description of Albany’s production of ale in the 1854 book The Progress of the United States of America by Richard Swainson Fisher at page 807:

The business of malting and brewing is carried on to a great extent In Albany; more than twenty of such establishments are now in operation, and Albany ale is found in every city of the Union, and not unfrequently in the cities of South America and the West Indies. The annual product is upward of 100,000 barrels of beer and ale.

Similar text was published in the Merchant’s Magazine in 1849 except it was 80,000 barrels. Interesting to see how far it traveled – California, West Indies and South American in addition to references to Newfoundland in yesterday’s post. There is also this passage in 1868’s A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860 Volume 1 by John Leander Bishop and a few others:

…Kuliu mentions, in his account of the Province in 1747, that he noticed large fields of barley near New York City, but that in the vicinity of Albany they did not think it a profitable crop, and were accustomed to make malt of wheat. One of the most prosperous brewers of Albany during the last century was Harman Gansevoort, who died in 1801, having acquired a large fortune in the business. His Brewery stood at the corner of Maiden Lane and Dean street, and was demolished in 1807. He found large profits in the manufacture of Beer, and as late as 1833, when the dome of Stanwix Hall was raised, the aged Dutchmen of the city compared it to the capacious brew kettle of old Harme Gansevoort, whose fume was fresh in their memories.’ [Note: Munsell’s Annals of Albany. Pleasentries at the expense of Albany Ale and its Brewers are not a recent thing. It was related by the old people sixty years ago of this wealthy Brewer, that when he wished to give a special flavor to a good brewing he would wash his old leathern breeches in it.]

Was Albany ale originally a wheat ale? It was obviously big stuff in the state’s capital for decades.

Reference to Albany ale also appears in an illustration of a principle in a book of proper English usage. In the 1886 edition of Every-day English: A Sequel to “Words and their Uses” by Richard Grant White where we read the following at page 490:

I cannot but regard a certain use of the plural, as “ales, wines, teas,” “woolens, silks, cottons,” as a sort of traders’ cant, and to many persons it is very offensive. What reason is there for a man who deals in malt liquor announcing that he has a fine stock of ales on hand, when what he has is a stock of ale of various kinds ? What he means is that he has Bass’s ale, and Burton ale, and Albany ale, and others; but these are only different kinds of one thing.

The fifth 1886 edition of Words and their Uses by the same Mr. White contains no reference to Albany ale but does indicate he was a prolific US author who lived from 1821-1885. Does the later use by White imply it was an easily understood example? Probably.

albale2In the New York journal The Medical Record of 1 March 1869, there is an article entitled “Malt Liquors and Their Theraputic Action” by Bradford S. Thompson, MD the table to the right is shown that clearly describes Albany ale as a sort of beer the equal to the readers understanding as London Porter or Lager-Bier. I am not sure what the table means from a medical point of view but it clearly suggest familiarity… at least amongst the medical set.

In 1875, it is described in a travel book called Our Next-door Neighbor: A Winter in Mexico by Gilbert Haven (who seems to not have been a lover of the drink himself) at page 81:

Here, too, we get not only our last look at Orizaba, but our first at a filthy habit of man. Old folks and children thrust into your noses, and would fain into your mouths, the villainous drink of the country – pulqui. It is the people’s chief beverage. It tastes like sour and bad-smelling buttermilk, is white like that, but thin. They crowd around the cars with it, selling a pint measure for three cents. I tasted it, and was satisfied. It is only not so villainous a drink as lager, and London porter, and Bavarian beer, and French vinegar-wine, and Albany ale. It is hard to tell which of these is “stinkingest of the stinking kind.” How abominable are the tastes which an appetite for strong drink creates! The nastiest things human beings take into their mouths are their favorite intoxicants.

So, along with grammarians and the drinking medical set, Albany ale was also a name known to the non-drinking traveling set in the post-Civil War United States. It was, as a result, something we might consider “popular” in its day.

Oddly, the story of Albany ale does not seem to make it deep into the 1900s. Without making an exhaustive study, I don’t see reference to “Albany ale” in Beer and brewing in America: an economic study” by Warren Milton Persons from 1940. It is not indexed in Beer in America: the early years, 1587-1840 by Gregg Smith. It does not seem to be in Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer by Maureen Ogle as it really starts with the the rise of lager is in the second half of the 1800s. Why did it fall so far so fast?

That quote way up there? The one at the top? It’s from an 1899 New York Times article entitled “Kicked 90 Years Ago Just the same as Now” in which a 96 year old New Yorker still employed as a municipal engineer who was interviewed about the City’s old days. Talking about his youth in the 1830s, he said “Albany ale was the beverage then that lager beer is today, and a mighty good drink it was.” So, lager likely killed it off but only after it had its day and was enjoyed widely in the days before rail transportation both within the United States and abroad.

2015 Update: came across book by Mr Haswell, the 96 year old New Yorker mentioned up there.

One thought on “More Thoughts On That Pesky Albany Ale Question”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Alan – April 27, 2010 9:55 PM
    Vol. 9 of the American Farmer, 27 April 1827 published in Baltimore includes a letter around page 45 that has this passage:

    “…there is more ale brewed in Albany, than in any one, and probably more than in any two towns, on the continent. There are five extensive establishments; one of which is aided by a twenty horse steam power, and is capable of turning off 240 barrels of beer a day. Others are but little inferior in extent. Two years ago, there were 220,000 bushels of barley malted in this city, during the malting season, and the quantity this year probably exceeds 300,000. Albany ale has a high reputation, and I understand the immense quantity furnished at these establishments has a ready sale in the domestic and foreign market. The barley is furnished by the farmers of this county, and of a few counties west of it; and the hops come principally from Madison and Oneida. Both these articles are becoming important staples; and, in these hard times, contribute essentially to the agricultural profits of the country…

    More on the brewers of Albany.

    The Taylor brewery burned in 1886. 250,000 barrel capacity. Three years later the Albany Brewery was part of a huge buyout of US brewing assets by British syndicates.

    Gary Gillman – April 28, 2010 3:28 PM
    Alan: Albany Ale, judging by its name and the materials you have referenced, clearly was a top-fermenting ale, and of impressive strength. In a time when ale was less stable than lager and indeed was being superseded by the latter, a drink of such strength would have been more likely to last and this explains I think the large area it was exported in. Also, it appears from your sources that Albany in general was known as an area of quality ale production. Peter Ballantine lived and worked there from 1833-1840 (thence to Newark, NJ and ever greater fame) but ale brewing according to the beer chapter of the business history you linked was well-established there much earlier.

    My feeling is that the old Dutch and English roots naturally tended to ale production. When you factor also the availability of grain nearby, the relatively cold climate, availability of wood from the nearby forests for casks and other brewery vessels and abundant fresh water, it seems (at least in retrospect) that Albany was a natural area to make good beer in. Albany Ale was one of the many ales made in America before lager’s ascendancy, but one which had a particular cachet due to these factors – as I indfer – but also the high ABV. It was probably regarded as on a par with the best Burton or Scotch ale. Indeed, there is reason to think Peter Ballantine when he worked there made a strong ale similar to Scotch ale (he had immigrated from Scotland) or Burton ale. And as you know, that Ballantine Burton endured into the 1950’s. Its younger brother, Ballantine IPA, lasted into the 1990’s. (It is a shame that Ballantine IPA has not been revived, it was a classic of the genre and would be a great foil to test the merits of current IPAs against).

    I was privileged to drink Albany Amber Ale, made by Bill Newman in the 1980’s – on cask to boot. Bill was one of the pioneers of modern craft brewing in America. He was well-aware of the importance of ale brewing in Albany’s past.


    Gary Gillman – April 28, 2010 3:33 PM
    And just to complete my thoughts, the broad Hudson River would have facilitated early shipments of the beer. This natural advantage was perhaps the most important of the various factors I listed earlier.


    Maureen Ogle – April 28, 2010 4:24 PM
    Not sure that lager “killed” American ales so much as did temperance/prohibition movements of the mid-19th century AND (more important) American tastes. Ales were still being brewed in the US in the mid-19th century, but they were few and far between (as was always the case…) and yes, being overtaken by lagers.

    Matthew Vassar was perhaps the most important ale brewer in the east (yes, he funded/founded the college) but his brewery closed sometime in the 1860s and 1870s. Prior to that, however, his was a famous brew. Poughkeepsie is near Albany and I’m guessing that there were other ale brewers there.

    The term “Albany ale” was probably used in the same way that “Milwaukee beer” and “Milwaukee lager” were used by the 1870s and 1880s: to refer to a STYLE of beer brewed in a particular location (in this case “Milwaukee” meant not just the city but most “western” beers. At that time, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. were regarded as being in the “west.” Anything to the west of those states was the “Far West.”) (Probably more about geographical terminology than you wanted to know…)

    Also: any NY state brews would have been carried far and wide thanks to the Erie Canal, whicih made it possible to transport beers to the “west” (via the St. Lawrence seaway and the Great Lakes). But the reverse was also true: the beers would have been picked up by cargo vessels taking goods to the Hudson to go to an ocean route.

    In any case, again, I suspect the term “Albany ale” refers to a style of beer (ale) made in a particular region (Hudson/Duchess valley NY).

    Alan – April 28, 2010 4:57 PM
    Never have I had the need to get my hands on ship’s manifests so much as at this moment. Albany is located at the northern point of the Hudson’s navigable waters so its trade should be considered coastal.

    Ed Carson – April 28, 2010 5:53 PM
    “Albany is located at the northern point of the Hudson’s navigable waters” and at the eastern end of the Erie canal. This post and the one previous had me looking for “Philadelphia ales” and I conclude what Maureen said.

    Ed Carson – April 28, 2010 5:57 PM
    And Mr Cornell(I think) had a more technical look at Albany brewing last summer.

    Brendan – May 6, 2010 11:53 AM
    I just found this blog this morning and I thought I’d give this a shot. Does anyone have any information on the Quinn & Nolan Beverwyck Brewing Company? It was based in Albany back in the 1800’s. My family owns an old tavern in Albany and through my quest to find when the building went up, I saw that it was originally owned by Q&N. Their headquarters was downtown on Ferry St. so I’m wondering if our building was meant to hold barrels or if it really was always a saloon. Thanks.

    Kathleen – May 28, 2010 5:46 PM
    I am related to the folks who founded Quinn and Nolan Brewery. Contact The Albany institute.

    I really want to speak to the folks who own the tavern in Albany – Is the tavern on Ferry St. As well? Thanks, Kathleen

    Brendan – June 10, 2010 6:05 PM
    Hey Kathleen,

    Do you mean the Albany Institute of Art? I’ll give them a call.

    The tavern my family owns is called the Orchard Tavern, it’s 68 N. Manning Blvd in Albany, near Swinburne Park. Stop in!

    sue – July 17, 2010 11:02 PM
    From what I understand, My grandmother’s uncle, EJB Murray, was one of the last owners of the Beverwyk Brewery. Do you know of any other references on-line to look at the history?

    Kathleen – September 8, 2010 6:59 PM
    Brenden, Yes, the Albany Institute of History and Art. Doug McCombs the curator of history, is very helpful. I will stop in when I’m in town. On the map, which the institute has, it looks like it might have been for storage.

    Sue, there are a number of places to look for Beverwyck information. Again, the Albany Institute of History and Art would probably be your best resource.

    Both of you will want to check out a vintage painting they have that depicts the Brewery in the Quinn and Nolan days. It’s wonderful. It is my understanding that Beverwyck was a branch of Quinn and Nolan and later the brewery was sold to Beverwyck. The institute has some old photos of a Beverwyck float, and other info that you will enjoy.

    Sorry it took me too long to respond. It’s been a very busy summer! Kathleen

    Kathleen – September 11, 2010 1:30 PM
    This is your connection to information about the Albany Institute’s painting of the Quinn and Nolan Brewery:


    Tim – September 15, 2010 1:48 PM
    Wow! I moved to Tampa from Albany in ’87. It’s great to read that The Orchard is still open!

    Craig – September 23, 2010 3:05 PM
    I suspect the hop bleight of 1909 and 1919 may have has something to do with lack of information in the 20th century. It effected Albany brewing heavily. The industry never really recovered and would be horribly stalled by Prohibition. By the mid 1930’s Albany brewing was predominatley contract brewing and brewing for local consumption only.

    I work at the NYS Museum and I am about to go find a book at the NYS Library to get “Ale in prose and verse” Gray, Barry, New York, N.Y. : Russell’s American Steam Printing House, 1866.

    Contents: A runlet of ale, by Barry Gray.–Ale: antiquarian, historical and literary, by John Savage.–Albany ale. An account of the rise and progress of the brewery of John Taylor & sons … With a biographical sketch of the founder.

    Alan – September 23, 2010 3:37 PM
    Hey Craig – you are my mole in the Museum. Elsewhere on one of these Albany Ale posts there is a link to a scanned web version of that book.

    By the way, do you have any brewer’s journals in the museum? The day to day records of what was being made?

    Craig – September 23, 2010 4:49 PM
    Hey Alan,

    I am apparently your mole. The only reference to “Albany Ale” was a paraphrasing of a medical journal:

    From “Albany ale. An account of the rise and progress of the brewery of John Taylor & sons”…

    “Dr L.C. Beck, quoted in the American edition of Pereira, say that Albany ale in barrels, contains 7.38 per cent,. and that in bottles 10.67 per cent sprits.”

    Check out J. Pereira’s google book from 1843.

    This is my assumption. Beck references Albany ale as a specfic style with it’s own obvious gravity and ABV. Pereira italizes the name. I’m thinking that Albany Ale was an actual style rather than simply named after it’s place of origin.

    Dr. Johnathan Pereira (b.1804–d.1853) was a London pharmacologist. Lewis C. Beck was a bryologist (moss scientist) in Albany, during the early 1800’s.

    Unfortunatley, I’ve been looking for brewer’s logs, too… for Ron Pattinson, no luck, so far.

    Alan – September 23, 2010 5:32 PM
    You’ve been looking for logs for Pattinson!!!

    Ron Pattinson – September 23, 2010 6:39 PM
    Craig, much appreciated.

    Alan – September 23, 2010 7:51 PM
    Suffering succotash!!!

    Craig – September 23, 2010 10:11 PM
    Well, I’m trying to help you, too, right?

    Alan – September 23, 2010 10:13 PM
    Joke! I asked Ron yoinks ago if he knew anything.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 2:54 AM
    Well he just got asked again!! Ha ha!

    Craig – September 24, 2010 8:56 AM
    I’m going back up the library this morning. We have a number of books on brewing printed in the mid 1800s, I’ll se what I can find.

    Alan – September 24, 2010 10:05 AM
    Craig, are there any records of taxation from the 1700s in Albany? Up here these might be kept in the Provincial archives rather than the library or museum but I am not sure how your records keeping administration is organized. I am thinking of excise taxes on beer production. It would be possibly something that might go back even into the 1600s and into the Dutch era.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 10:18 AM
    The Library and Museum would not have anything like that. However The NY State Archives, would, which is also conveniently located in the same building!

    Alan – September 24, 2010 11:23 AM
    Is this all located on the crazy Dali-esque state government plaza? We were there a few weeks ago on return from New England holidays and I plan to get there sometime this winter to, now, meet with you and do a “Ron-a-thon” of research if there is anything to read through.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 11:42 AM
    Going to check this out:

    (1933) Joint hearing before the Senate and Assembly Committees on Excise and Finance on bill of Senator Dunnigan (1805) and bill of Senator Buckley (1775) in relation to imposing and providing for the distribution of a tax on beer

    Craig – September 24, 2010 11:45 AM
    Oh yes, I’m on the third floor of said plaza.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 12:03 PM
    Requested this, too

    Annual statistical reports of cargoes cleared at various canal ports, 1830, 1832

    Tables submitted by the canal toll collectors give quantity (feet, pounds, barrels, etc.) of freight passing up or down during navigation session. Among commodities tabulated are lumber, timber, shingles, lime, beer, oats, wool, iron, brick, cheese, butter, flour, ashes, wheat, salt, and “sundries.” This is a fragmentary series: reports are present for 1830 for Albany, West Troy, Whitehall, Utica, and Rochester, and for 1832 for West Troy, Utica, Rochester, and Buffalo. Toll collectors made statistical reports to the Comptroller pursuant to legislation of 1826.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 12:54 PM
    A bust on the Dunnigan and Buckley Legislation. It was, basically about how NY would revamp it distribution system, and then how it would go about taxing it. Basically it was NY getting it’s house in order before the radification of the 21st Amendment, ending Prohibition in December of 1933.

    I’ll get the Erie canal tables this afternoon.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 10:21 PM
    I traced down a few more newspaper mentions from a link on the NYS Library website. a few articles, but mostly adverts from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. There are 85 hits, I’ll list changes as I get to them. A series of ads in 1844 ran mentioning “Boyds” Albany Ale, and then again in 1890 from the same dealer Thomas J. Gerald, however, it is only referenced as Albany Ale. Another article on Albany brewing and it’s widespread distribution of product (from Labrador to Chili) in general from 1854. By 1876 it referred to as Albany Imperial Cream Ale and specifically produced by Taylor & Sons. Taylor was feature in “Ale: In Prose and Verse”. In 1842 Boyd’s Celebrated Albany Ale is found. An 1855 article mentions that Albany Ale and monongahela whiskey were prohibited to distribute, while other imported alcohol, was not. Some sort of legal case involving the purchase of brewery items from Taylor’s Albany ale brewery was reported in 1875. In 1854 a fire was reported at No. 117 Warren St, N. York, occupied by Eggleston & Mix, Albany Ale dealers. Again from 1844, it is reported that a barrel of Albany Ale exploded. In 1890 Gerald and Albany Ale, along with other alcohol is mentioned in a “Trade and Commerce” article. Albany Ale comes up again in an 1851 in what seems to be a romance story.

    So, we know that there were at least two manufacturers of Albany Ale, Taylor and Boyd Taylor had facilities in both Albany and New York. Whether he brewed in both facilities is unknown.

    Here’s the link for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

    I’m going on to the next paper.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 10:27 PM
    The Rockland County Journal on April 12, 1856, mentions Albany Ale in conjunction with something called Godfrey’s Cordial (I can only imagine what that is) Lager beer and Philadelphia porter.——-20–1—-%22Albany+Ale%22-all

    Craig – September 24, 2010 11:11 PM
    The Schenectady Daily Evening Star from Jan 14, 1865 has a advert for Amsdell & Bros. Celebrated Albany Ale

    Here’s an excerpt from the Albany Evening Journal May 16, 1888. The author is speaking about Taylor & Sons, trade union issues

    “All ale made in Albany, except Amdell’s is considered non-union. No ale was placed in Albany in opposition to the Albany ale until the re-employment of discharged men was denied and they were blacklisted.”

    I’m starting to think that there was ale made in Albany and then there was Taylor’s Albany Ale. I think the name Albany Ale became synonymous with Taylor. Taylor & Son, it seems, was huge, and had huge problems. The unions later in the century and sanitary problems in the earlier part.

    In the 1830’s they were accused of using stagnant water and water contaminated with dead bodies from a nearby alms house.

    Craig – September 24, 2010 11:40 PM
    This is Interesting, from and 1854 Franklin County Gazette:

    Albany Ale, XXX, constantly on hand at the Grocery Store in the basement of the Franklin House

    Is the XXX referring to Albany Ale, or the British indication of a higher strength mild?

    How about this, from an 1853 Saloon advert in the same paper

    OYSTERS will be served up in every style.
    NUTs, of all kinds, kept constantly on hand.
    ALBANY ALE right from Albany,
    NEW CIDER, always on hand.

    That implies that Albany Ale may have been made somewhere else. Right? I take that as in the owner gets the good stuff from Albany not the “other” Albany Ale produced, elsewhere.

    Alan – September 24, 2010 11:50 PM
    I owe you a lot of beer, Craig. My theory so far is this:

    1640 to 1780 – Dutch made local beer with a lot of wheat malt.
    1780 to 1850 – more and more barley malt but a tradition for really really strong ales.
    1850 to some point – riding on reputation and the industrialization of breweing consistent with other regions.

    Taylor seems to have been the big entity but there would be, as is usual, consolidation – so tracing the amagamation of brewers leads you to following the records. I wonder if what was Taylor ends up as an intellectual asset of some still existing brewery?

    Email me with your idenity so you can be rewarded in nowhere near as rich as way as you deserve:

    Craig – September 24, 2010 11:59 PM
    From the Long Islander (Huntington) Feb. 23, 1844

    Albany Ale –This has always been a celebrated article: of late years, however a very superior quality of ale is brewed at Poughkeepsie, most of which, it appears is consumed in Philadelphia, one ale house alone, disposing of one hogshead per day, all the year round. Albany Knickerbocker gives us some Brewer Statistics of some interest. The first brewery that paper says, established in Albany was in year 1790, by the late Matthew Gill an Irishman. He was succeeded in business by Mr. Boyd, a Scotchman and Kettears & Le Brittan, Englishman; the latter gentleman gained great celebrity for his ale throughout many of the states. His business in 1860 had increased to four thousand barrels per annum which deemed a very heavy business. There were doubtless other establishments commenced about this time and others following soon after; we remember the names of Fidler and Taylor; Goeway; Boyds and Co.; McKnights; Kirks; and the establishment of John Taylor, whose celebrated “Imperial ale” is known from one end of this continent to the other, and has we believe the largest manufactory in the Union. So great a demand is their “Albany Ale” that the supply requires the malting annually, of 250,000 bushels of barley and nearly the same number of hops, during the same period. The above interesting facts we obtained from one of the oldest Brewers in Albany, and we have…

    I think there must have been typos, 1790 must have been 1690 and 1860 must have been 1760. I’ve seen records of sales of Dutch Colonial breweries, in Albany dating to the 1650s.

    Unfortunatley, this bring up more questions than answers.

    “Imperial Ale” – to what Empire? Was it just a stronger brew? Was it exported out of country? Are Taylor’s Imperial Ale and Albany Ale the same thing?

    Craig – September 25, 2010 12:37 AM
    As far as the Taylor aspect goes, I found this, his Genealogy.

    A couple of interesting tidbits:

    In 1850, his brewery advertised in the 1850 NY Mercantile Union Business Directory:
    “John Taylor and Sons Albany Imperial Pale and Amber Ale constantly on hand and for sale in hogsheads, barrels and half barrels, either for city use or shipping.

    Now it’s pale and amber

    I actually stopped to read “A Runlet of Ale” reprinted from Grey’s book “Ale in Prose and Verse.” It was written after John taylor had died.

    “A Runlet of Ale
    Among the ales most famed in story,
    From Adam’s down or old or new
    There’s none possessing half the glory
    Or half the life of Taylor’s brew.
    Their amber brand is light and cheery,
    Their XX is strong though pale,
    But give to me, when dull and weary,
    Their cream, imperial Astor ale”

    Amber, XX (mid-strength mild?) and again cream imperial, but what’s an Astor ale?

    Here’s how Taylor & Sons ends, read the last line.

    Tragedy hit the family in the early 1870s which destroyed the empire that John had so carefully built during his life. First in 1871 William’s wife Jennie Agnes Dickson Taylor died. Only two years later his only living son William Henry died at just 41 years of age. His death resulted in the sale of the brewery by the remaining family members. After the sale, the brewery operated under the name of Taylor and Son Brewery and apparently the extended family still held some financial control.
    A beer bottle from the John Taylor Brewery dated about 1880 or later was described as a stoneware bottle with two tones and 8.25 inches in height, with two paper labels, foil and cork. The upper label read “Bottled at the Brewery, Albany, NY. Pale Stock Established 1824”. The lower label read “Taylor’s celebrated Imperial Albany Cream Ale” and had a trademark in the center which read “Entered according to Act of Congress in 1868 by John Taylor’s son.” The stoneware bottle had a maker’s mark on side that it was made by Port Dunbar Pottery Co. Glasgow.
    In 1887, the brewery’s name changed yet again to Taylor Brewing and Malting Company, under which it operated until 1905.
    In 1891, Esther E. Taylor, John’s widow, was still alive and she was living at 257 State Street. Also living with her at that time were Mrs. John Taylor and Edward L. Taylor, who was the Vice President of the Brewing Company. A Nicholas B. Taylor was the president of the Brewing Company and his work address was 133 Broadway and 243 State Street. George R. Hodgkins was the bookkeeper for the company and he lived at 213 Hudson Ave. Charles J. Oaks was the treasurer and he lived at 290 State Street.
    Esther died on September 18, 1898 at the age of 81 years. She was buried on September 21st with her husband and family members in Albany Rural Cemetery lot 1 section 57.
    By 1903 the Taylor family was no longer associated with the business in any way.
    The beer from John Taylor & Son’s Brewery is still remembered by beer collectors and historians today. Their process resembled the process used by Coors today. The beer was unique as it included unprocessed cane sugar.

    Craig – September 25, 2010 12:45 AM
    Oh, by the way, John Taylor was the mayor of Albany. I’ve lived in Albany for 25 years, I’ve never heard of any of this.

    Martyn Cornell has gotten in on the Taylor action, too. I’d send a link, but wordpress seems to be udating

    Alan – September 25, 2010 2:01 AM
    You just remember that I can get the cash to you between dawn and lunch, right? I am just a hard half day’s drive away. Those UK guys talk big but can they deliver? You have to ask yourself that. Just sayin’.

    Craig – September 25, 2010 11:03 AM
    I’ll write a number down on a folded slip of paper and slide it across the desk to you.

    Alan – September 25, 2010 12:17 PM
    You shall know me by my large yellow sombrero.

    Alan McLeod – September 25, 2010 2:12 PM
    Here it is in Connecticut in 1825.

    Here is Barker & Pruyn’s Albany Ale in New York, NY in 1839:

    Here is Boyd’s Albany ale in Brooklyn in 1844:

    Here it is in Texas in 1846 at Port Lavaca just one year after joining the United States:

    Here it is in California in 1850:——-en-logical-20–1—–all—

    Here it is in Boston in 1851:

    Here it is in Kingston, NY in 1857

    Here it is in Newfoundland in 1857.

    Here it is in Paterson, NJ in 1859

    An Australian paper described the NY booze scene in 1865 to include Albany ale and other beers.

    And here is reference in the 1870s to Beck’s analysis including the +10% stuff being two years old.

    Craig – September 25, 2010 3:26 PM
    Here’s my position. Feel free to rebuke as you see necessary.
    1) I don’t think Albany Ale had any Dutch influence

    2) I don’t think it was a wheat ale

    3) I don’t think Albany Ale was specific style prior to John Taylor.

    4) I think Taylor’s meteoric rise and subsequent distribution made for a convenient branding opportunity.

    Stanley Axelrod states that he “was apprenticed in the Boyd, Dunlop, or Burt brewery during his early years, so by 1822 he was competent enough to open his own brewhouse.”

    …the Evening Journal on October 22, 1825 wrote it was the “…largest in the United States, capable of manufacturing 250 barrels of beer a day.”

    5) I think Taylor took the basic concept of a regionally specific ale and ran with it. I think he may have “borrowed” a few ideas from the other breweries that he worked and capitalized on them.

    6) I think the other brewer’s knew a good thing when they saw it and jumped on the band-wagon. Did you now have a number of breweries producing the same general style? Hard to say.

    7) I do not think Albany Ale was a Scotch Ale.

    8) I do not think Albany Ale was unusually strong for the era.

    9) I do think that it was produced for both local and export market and I think the export or “Imperial” style was higher in alcohol to prevent spoilage

    Here it comes:

    I think Albany Ale was a lightly hopped, XX or XXX strength mild ale, locally, and brewed stronger for export, perhaps in line with a strong ale.

    It may have been brewed as a cream ale, using lactose, although I have no hard evidence of this, other than a few adverts mentioning cream ale.

    Now, since this has become an obsession of mine, dare I suggest:

    “Shut Up About Taylor & Sons”

    Just kidding Ron

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Until someone changes my mind.

    Craig – September 25, 2010 4:57 PM
    Okay wait… I’m revising my last thought. Martyn Cornell brought up a point, on Zythophile, about Taylor, that I agree with. He thinks that Imperial had no correlation to strength. I agree. I think Imperial was Taylor’s way odf setting itself apart or a descriptive tag line, like “The Champange of Beers” or “The King of Beers”.

    We knoe they produced Pale Ale and IPA, bitter beer styles, but I still stick to the idea that “Albany Ale” as it were refers to a mid strength mild. Even if lactose was introduced at some point, it still fits the base characteristic of a lightly hopped light mild.

    Now I’m sticking to it!

    Alan – September 25, 2010 5:27 PM
    (1) and (2) I think there were Albany ales, Craig. You are seeing the 1825 to 1870s information and I agree that this is a straight up high test barley pale ale. But there are earlier references to the Dutch malting wheat. You don’t do that if you are not making booze and the Dutch are the source of the Cluster hybrid, too. They are up to something pre-Revolutionary War. But it is not sustained. William Johnson writes of still dealing with the Dutch clique in the 1750s and many Dutch become revolutionaries. My city is the Tory bastion against that, being settled by the Tryon County Loyalists.

    (3) Disagree as Boyd and Dunlop have agents elsewhere selling Albany Ale earlier than 1850.

    (4) (5) Agree. Taylor may have come up with a business plan that made him excell. Not sure what it was. Yet they are not the only exporters.

    (6) No, have a look at the 1835 Senate report. Taylor takes somethnig indigenous and runs with it.

    (7) Agree

    (8) and (9) I think there is more to that. It seems to be brewed at an “export” strength, strong enough to sterilize itself. How else does it get to California? But I agree, there are different grades and styles in the mid-1800s being described.

    I am actually seeing phases and styles including the export version. I do also share this obsession from the opposite side of the Revolution as the taste for whatever this is travels with the Loyalists here after the Revolution. In 1890 the NY TImes still describes Kingston as having a taste for strong ales.

    Neato, isn’t it.

    Alan – September 25, 2010 5:28 PM
    Oh, and the hopping rates described in the 1835 Senate report are gi-normous. This stuff was rank with the damn stuff.

    Alan – September 25, 2010 5:29 PM
    And notice, too, how it travels with the opening of the West. New Yorkers were moving out there and wanted their own beer. It would be interesting to see if in the 1830s it shows in the “northwest” as New Yorkers settle what is now Michigan, etc.

    Craig – September 26, 2010 3:55 PM
    A couple more pints… er uh points!

    I don’t disagree that there was older beer recipes by the mid 1850’s in Albany, I just don’t think they were Dutch influenced. I have no doubt that the colonial Dutch used wheat in brewing. I just don’t think that the reported “Albany Ale” as of 1806 or 1807 had anything to do with that brew. Look at the 1835 report, all of the brewers and brewery owners were of Anglo decent*, why would British born or descended brewers use anything remotely similar to 150 year old Dutch brewing techniques. As I’ve said before, I think the “Albany Ale” advertised in the mid 19th century, across the country, is Taylor’s Albany Cream Ale.

    Why Cream Ale? John Wagner started producing lager in Philadelphia in 1840. Bright, crisp, cream ale was the perfect way for ale producers to be able to compete with the upstart lager producers, without refrigeration equipment. Most of the references to Cream Ale came after 1850, while lager was gaining popularity.

    I think we may be arguing two side of the same coin

    You: What was “Albany Ale” prior to the American Revolutionary War

    Me: What was “Albany Ale” or “Albany Cream Ale” during the height of American 19th brewing.

    1) think the adage of “strong ale” is to differentiate average strength beer or ale (5 to 8% ABV) from small or table beer (1-1/2 to 2-1/2% ABV). Fiddler brings this up in his testimony on page 7 of of the Senate report. He’s comparing the gravities of the two and their cost.

    2) William Amsdell worked for Taylor for (at the the time of his testimony) three years, from 1832-1835. American Publishing and Engraving Company, New York, NY, would publish “The Empire State: It’s Industries and Wealth, 1888. It writes:

    “Amsdell Bros., Brewers of Albany Cream Ale, India and Scotch Ales, Jay and Lancaster Streets… This business was originally founded in 1844 by Wm. Amsdell, and eventually was succeeded in 1853 by T.M. Amsdell…

    Any coincidence that Amsdell Bros., of whom was founded by a former brewer of Taylor & Sons, is now in the business of producing an “Albany Cream Ale” in 1888. Remember, Taylor is on the downslide, at this point.

    Hmm… “Albany Cream Ale” has a familiar ring to it.

    By the way I lived on Lancaster Street.

    3) From the “Annual Report of the State Board of Health of the State of New Hampshire, 1882

    “It was written by a Mr. Tappan, of New York, and purported to be an accurate description of a brewery in Albany, where “Pure Albany Cream Ale” was manufactured. A libel suit was brought by the proprietor of the brewery..”

    It’s referencing Taylor v. Delavan, 1835. That case was the reason for the NYS Senate investigation of the same year.

    4) I think it’s movement west had more to do with the Erie canal than, New Yorkers immigrating west. But, the opening of the west probably contributed!

    5) I’m sure that higher strength ale was produced for export, to help with sanitation. But I still think it was a tagline to set Taylor’s apart, maybe from the lager brewers or to say they brewed in a traditional English or “Imperial” way.

    6)This is interesting, a Google book with a prohibitionists version of how brewer’s and distillers adulterated there booze, with recipes!

    *With the exception of Wortendyke, who was from NYC and had only gotten into the brewing business the previous year.

    By the way I won’t hold that whole tory thing against you.

    Craig – September 26, 2010 4:11 PM
    Amsdell Bros would belly up in 1907

    Craig – September 26, 2010 7:17 PM
    Okay, so I’m reaaaalllllyyyy going out on a limb here, and I will admit to having no proof or even a slight knowledge of the background of cream ale

    Is it possible that Cream Ale was invented by Taylor or one of his brewers? The brewery was big enough and had the distribution and it was around the right time.

    I don’t know, I’m just saying.

    Alan – September 26, 2010 8:15 PM
    Early days, yet. There are a number of masters degrees to be had here. But you are right. I see 1750s Albany beer and 1850s as very different things – but each vital and singular. How interesting to have such a wealth of possibility open before us.

    Craig – September 26, 2010 9:39 PM
    I’m really excited about this. This is my home town. I want Albany to be known for something other than shady politics. Taylor & Sons, the largest brewery in the country, producing tens of thousands of barrels a year, It’s owner a mayor of the city, standing 6 stories high, 200 feet wide and 80 feet deep, is now a parking lot for a Hudson River cruise boat.

    The place and names in this old volumes are real to me. I have friends who lived on Ryckman Street. Ganesvoort is a town near here. This is a big deal to me.

    Alan – September 26, 2010 10:27 PM
    Well, I have been writing for over eight years on the internet about beer and also have certain professional, political and cultural connections to your very town, too. “Albany” to any Ontarian should speak both to the grandfather and a paradice lost. Plus I am involved with certain upstate negotations that include people at the end of your plaza, the very beast itself. Happy to make these connections and happy to imagine the day that someone makes the 1850 as well as the 1750.

    Craig – September 26, 2010 10:30 PM
    So this doesn’t do Taylor’s cream ale any favors, but it does infer to Taylor by mentioning Albany cream ale and the 1835 libel case.

    It’s from a “Ross’s Souther Speaker,” 1901, It’s a collection of southern orations and addresses.

    From “Trows New York City Directory” 1862 :

    Look at that, two mentions of steam brewing (The New York Steam Brewery and Matthew P. Read) and two mentions of Cream Ale (A.B. Nash, just up the river from Albany in Troy and Taylor)

    Here’s the kicker from “The Mechanic Mirror, Vol 1” 1846.

    Cream Ale in 1846? In the Trows ads, It seems like cream ale was pretty common, but this new fangled Steam beer was way out of the ordinary. The two brewing processes aren’t that much different. Was the ale just called cream ale (like the bit from Ross’s book) because it had a rich creamy head?

    Alan – September 26, 2010 10:41 PM
    I understand that cream ale was not a lactose beer but a lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures. That 1846 reference would be really early for that as lagering in America starts in that decade. If you did not have the capaicty to cool the fermentation for an extended time, cream ale was the answer.

    Craig – September 26, 2010 11:16 PM
    Yeah, I did a little research, too. The lactose thing never seemed right, anyhow. My only experience with Cream Ale is Genny Cream Ale. I’ve never made one, and I’ve never really drink them.

    So what the heck are we dealing with? If you read the Taylor section in “Ale in Prose and Verse” There is no mention of a cream/steam brewing method. Just S.O.P. ale brewing. This is 19 years after the “Mechanics Mirror” Publication what makes it a cream ale?

    I’m going to give a fella’ over at the Albany Institute of History and Art a buzz tomorrow. I’ll see if they have anything on Taylor.

    Craig – September 26, 2010 11:36 PM
    As an act of full disclosure I submit this.

    “From and early period, Albany and other towns in that part of New York were noted for the brewing of beer, most of which was sold under the familiar name of Albany Ale.”

    “Triumphs of Enterprise, Ingenuity, and Public Spirit” James Parton, 1871

    What does that dude know?

    Craig – September 26, 2010 11:42 PM
    What the hell does this mean?

    In former times, when Albany ale was in greater demand than since the triumphs of Washingtonians, hops and barley were cultivated to a very great extent, and large sums of money were realized from hops.

    New York State Agricultural Society,1843

    Craig – September 27, 2010 12:12 AM
    They were writing about it in Germany in 1853

    … für mehr als eine Million Doll. Hüte und Pelzmützen, große Massen Seife u. Licht zc. Die Brauereien sind berühmt, Albany-Ale geht nach Südamerika, Kalifornien u. Europa, es werden etwa eine halbe Million …

    The brewers are famous, Albany Ale goes to South America, California and Europe, it will be about half a million bushels of barley and 80,000 barrels ???? brewed beer and ale

    Alan – September 27, 2010 12:20 AM
    I have no idea what it means. I just hope you are not a Yankees fan tonight.

    GO SOX!!!

    I do know that eastern CNY was the bread basket. Future founders of Kingston visited the Mohawk Valley from the north during the summers of the Revolution to destroy their former mills and farms to keep the army of Washington out. It worked It was a major bread basket from the 1630s to well past the opening of the Erie Canal in the 1820s. Hops were also grown by the Dutch and boomed in the post-canal period.

    It’s there. But what is it?

    Craig – September 27, 2010 12:34 AM
    I got it, the “Washingtonians” were a group of reformed alcoholics who became staunch prohibitionist and temperance advocates. They gained some popularity between 1840 and 1848. I guess they put a bit of a dent in NYs beer making.

    Not that big of a dent, thank goodness.

    Craig – September 27, 2010 12:35 AM
    Oh and I’m a Mets fan… and the New Orleans Saints.

    Alan – September 27, 2010 1:26 AM
    There you go. The Mets are my surogate or, I suppose, replacement Expos. Credit the reach of WFAN 66 AM.

    Craig – September 27, 2010 12:34 PM
    I just emailed the director of the Colonial Albany Social History Project, here at the Museum, and the Assistant Director of the Albany Institute:

    I’ve been corresponding with a friend in canada and we are attempting to unravel the mystery of the popular libation “Albany Ale.”

    He is researching early, Albany area brewing, from New Netherlands up until after the American Revolution. I am concentrating on the period from 1790 to the 1880’s, and breweries such as Boyd & McCulloch, Robert Dunlop, Fidler & Co, Fidler & Taylor, Amsdell Bros., but primarily from 1825-1865 with the rise of John Taylor & Sons Brewery.

    As well as the more established breweries of the 19th century I thought you might be able to give some insight into such 17th and 18th century figures as Arent van Corlear, Benjamin Corlear, Albert Ryckman and Harme Ganesvoort. Ideally we’d love to find brewing records or logs, but any information at this point would be great!

    The ulimate goals are to asses how Albany brewing evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries; why it sky-rocketed in the 19th century; determine what ale in Albany was like up until the 19th century, and what the “Celebrated Albany Ale” of the 19th century, was.

    We both have outh theories, but we have a lot of work to do…

    Then we’re going to try and make it!

    I think that’s it in a nut shell, right?

    Craig – September 27, 2010 1:58 PM
    From Steve of the Colonial Albany Social History Project :


    Beer research indeed! Supremely worthy.

    After about 40 years in the early Albany record, I can say that I have found more myth than fact and no real records for the period before 1800. We have some people who were brewers but little about the stuff of their enterprise. However, I have much more to say about the brewers as historical characters than about the actual art… [Ed.: or art.]

    We could talk about it sometime.


    Stefan Bielinski
    Community Historian

    My Response:

    It may take another 40 years, but I will drink the fruits of our labor!

    I appreciate any help and I would be more than happy to sit down, perhaps over a pint, and pick your brain. I would imagine that Alan would also love to partake in that conversation. I think I might be able to persuade him to take a jaunt south.

    I’ll drop you a line in the near future and maybe we can work something out and thanks for the quick reply!


    Now you have to come down.

    Alan – September 27, 2010 5:16 PM
    Excellent. I am interesting in all eras but do think there may have been eras with different phases and products. I should lay out what is identified chrionologically and get some structure around this thing. I have Thursday off (actually for an upstate meeting of the other sort of Albany) that was postponed.

    I wonder if the NY state dept of agriculture might have research grants. I know they treat craft ale as an agricultlural project.

    Alan – September 27, 2010 5:19 PM
    Man I have to stop bloggin woouth my glasses on. What rotten spelling. Anyway, I am also seeking out craft brewers down there, too.

    Alan – September 27, 2010 5:26 PM
    By the way, Cartwright is a great example of the Albany-Kingston connection. I also pass by the parallel “William” and “Johnson” streets between my parking spot and work at City Hall.

    Craig – September 27, 2010 6:07 PM
    I’m proposing a name. The Albany Ale Project. It’s clichéd, but I like it.

    Alan – September 27, 2010 6:14 PM
    Snap. I already started loading information under that very name in an article.

    Craig – September 27, 2010 7:25 PM
    Sweet! I love the timeline. Just got an email back from the Albany Institute. They are going to check there manuscript collection for us. Contacted the authority on John Taylor, but haven’t heard back from her as of yet.

    Craig – September 27, 2010 8:04 PM
    Do you want me to pull togethr the links for all the crap I found? I have a few references for some early stuff, too…Ryckman, Ganesvoort, etc

    Have you seen the ad with the drawing of the Taylor brewery on it?

    Alan – September 27, 2010 8:35 PM
    Yes, please. I am setting up the minimum social media presence as well – Twitter, gmail and Facebook for starters. Need to be all widgetty.

    Craig – September 27, 2010 10:19 PM
    I’m going to make you smile.

    Alan – September 27, 2010 10:26 PM
    Excellent stuff! I have described an entire new world of multimedia Albany Ale Project communications in tonight’s blog post.

    Craig – September 28, 2010 11:54 AM
    would you be interested in this?

    A3191, Accounts relating to excise tax of the Colony of New York, 1715-1733 (0.1 cubic feet).
    NYSV86-A326, Agency history for the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (catalog record only).

    Yeah, you would.

    Alan – September 28, 2010 1:21 PM
    Of course I would!

    Craig – September 28, 2010 1:57 PM
    Do you want me to go get it, or do you want to wait for your trip… whenever that might be? The stuff isn’t going anywhere.

    Kathleen Quinn – January 31, 2013 2:08 AM
    The Albany Institute of History and Art will be hosting a beer fest/tasting in the museum April 20th, from 4 to 8 PM. There will be historical information, and some speakers.
    Worth attending!

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