Oh, Look – Peter Gansevoort Needed Barley In 1798

gansevoortalbgaz_07-28-1798After an intense amount of effort researching only the very finest digital archives, Craig (and not I) came across this sweet ad from 28 July 1798 from the Albany Gazette. He explains himself over at his blog how he was hot on the train of Edward A. Le Breton, Albany brewer in the first decade of the 1800s. This ad? Just something for me, for Al… Mr. 1600s and 1700s.

It’s interesting how we have separated our interests generally around the time of the fall of the Federalists. The time of the Federalists’ height of power in central New York frontier is set out in Alan Taylor’s excellent William Cooper’s Town. A failed dream of an American aristocracy to replace the Loyalist aristocracy that founded my town after the American Revolution, the Federalists are about to start on their decline soon after this advertisement appears in 1798. As we learn in 1969’s breakout best seller The Gansevoorts of Albany: Dutch Patricians in the Upper Hudson Valley, Peter Gansevoort would soon demolish the brewery in 1807 after a string of partners he had hoped would take over the operation run by his family for 150 years. He was a man with a new mansion. A Revolutionary war hero who now wanted income from rents, not the troubles of actually doing things.

But what does his ad tell us. He wants barley and not wheat. Only 45 years before, touring Swedish professor noted the local – and one might speculate – traditional Dutch use of wheat malt. Through the aftermath of the Revolution, central New York is flooded with first New Englanders and then other immigrants and suffers lose of its cultural isolation. The ad also asks for empties. Which quite the thing. Bottles indicate, you know, the use of bottles. Which indicates something other than bulk communal drinking from casks, doesn’t it. For me, it is an implication of that old theme of the strength of Albany’s brew.

But most interestingly are those six sorts of drinks on offer – three porters, table beer, ale and bottled ale. Clearly predates the ad man, the marketing guru. What is it that would distinguish an American porter from a London porter in the marketplace of Albany in July 1798? Were there the great great great great great great great great great grandfathers and similarly situated great uncles of beer tickers and style nerds arguing over the difference? We know so little about the tastes of those, in the big picture, so recently alive.

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