That Time In 1986 When Mr. Jackson Came To Albany

This is an interesting notice in the October 31, 1986 edition of the Times Union from Albany, New York under the heading “Newman’s Brews Beer Tasting”:

English beer authority Michael Jackson will visit Albany Nov. 4 to conduct “The Quintessential Beer Tasting,” at 8 p.m. at the Century House in Latham. The international beer tasting, sponsored by Albany’s Newman Brewing Company, will be open to the public. Jackson, known as “The Bard of Beer” and author of “The World Guide to Beer,” has been called the world’s best authority on beer. He has led beer tastings at Harrods in London and the Pierre Hotel in New York City. For the Albany show, he will lead a guided tour through a selection of 13 international beers. Tickets at $6 per person are available through Newman’s Brewery at 465- 8501 and at the door.

What is really fun about the item is that a few days later, on 5 November 1986, a report on the event written by Fred LeBrun was published in the same paper under the headline “Beer Guru Salutes Newman’s” which I need to reproduce in full to properly undertake a review of the implications:

The real Michael Jackson came to Albany yesterday. Downtown was snoring because it was Election Day, so he did what he frequently does when he’s on the road anyway. He had a well-thought-out Newman’s Albany Amber Ale at Ogden’s. Now Ogden’s, a reasonably serious restaurant, is not a bistro that would first come to mind for a casual beer. But then the real Michael Jackson is not a casual beer drinker.

It should be noted about here that this real Michael Jackson rarely sleeps in an oxygen tent, at least by choice, nor is he likely to be caught fondling a Pepsi. He did wear a sequined glove for a while as a goof, but grew tired of it in a couple of hours. This real Michael Jackson is 44, bearded, a touch pudgy, tweedy and scholarly, wears glasses and speaks with a pleasant, all-purpose British accent. He is also the world’s most respected authority on beer. His “The World Guide to Beer” of a decade ago is still the definitive text on the subject, and his newly published “Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer” will do still more to educate a world awakening to the great variety and styles of beers and ales available, using much the same critical language in the past reserved for fine wines. From Adelaide to Nairobi to Anchor Steam country out in San Francisco, wherever beer and ale is brewed, this Michael Jackson is The Word.

He was in Albany on a pilgrimage of sorts, paying respects to one of his favorite American alemakers, William Newman, and sampling a fresh batch of Newman’s Winter Ale, due out for the general public in a couple of weeks. A few months ago, when Jackson was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times, he listed Newman’s Winter Ale as one of his five favorite American beers. Anchor Steam, for the record, remains his favorite.

For Albany, in its Tricentenniel year, Jackson’s visit offers a double dose of irony. Albany, and the Capital District in general, was once a brewing center of the United States, according to Jackson, along with Philadelphia. At one time, there were breweries in practically every Albany neighborhood, brewing a variety of styles – 18 at one point. But when the Newmans, William and Marie, opened their microbrewery five years ago exactly, there wasn’t a single brewery left in town. Schaefer, the last major brewery, was newly gone, and shortly before that Hedrick’s, owned by Albany County Democratic Chairman Dan O’Connell, and Fitzgerald across the river.

Yet in the five years since, the Newmans has struggled mightily to carve out a steady little market for itself with deep, full-flavored, hoppy ales sold in kegs and jury-rigged take- home containers. They have fought against the biggies, which in this market is Genesee, and Miller, and the ever-present Budweiser, and recently a hot run by Stroh’s. They have eked out standing in this crowd. Now Albany Amber Beer is available in bottles, created to Bill Newman’s fussy specs by the Schmidt’s Brewery in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the active center of new breweries in America has moved to the West Coast, notably Oregon and Washington State.

Out there, the Newmans are positively venerated, idolized, for what they’ve done. They were the first on the East Coast to create a new-style baby brewery offering traditional beers and ales of great character. Now there’s Samuel Adams in Boston, and New Amsterdam and Royal Amber in New York and dozens more. “Newman’s has never had the credit it deserves,” writes Jackson in his newest guide. “Its misfortune is to be in Albany, which may be the state capital but is an unimaginable distance – about 140 miles – from downtown Manhattan.” Prophets in their own land.

Jackson strongly recommended making the trek up the Hudson to sample draft Newman’s, much better than the bottled stuff. Good news for Jackson’s next book, as far as the Newmans are concerned, was his delight with the soon- to-be-released Winter Ale, an ale Bill Newman varies each time it comes out. “It has a very rich aroma, with a lot of fruitiness to the palate,” Jackson said Tuesday, referring to a little notebook he always keeps with him. The Word has spoken.

Craig mentioned a Jackson visit in our 2014 book, Upper Hudson Valley Beer. A photo caption states that Michael Jackson, in the middle sporting his Jeff Lynne lid, said on a 1985 visit: [i]f Newman succeeds in his heroic venture, he will undoubtedly inspire many others.” Newman is the guy in the necktie. As we told the tale, Newman spent three months in 1979 under the tutelage of the father of the British independent brewery movement, Peter Austin, at his Ringwood Brewery in Hampshire England. With Austin, Newman received a crash-course in all things brewing, and toured many of the countries breweries—both big and small. He returned to Albany with plans for his own version of Austin’s 10-barrel, open fermenting brewing system and, within a year, was brewing Newman’s Albany Amber as the 1980s were hitting their stride. 

Look what the LeBrun article notes. Jackson knew in the mid-80s that Albany had been one of the great brewing centres. As Craig has learned, that was forgotten history locally.  And Newman’s wasn’t just early, it was good if Jackson’s word the Winter Ale was worth anything. There is an implication that the west coast had passed an earlier east coast prominence in micro brewing – not part of the triumphalism of today but, as we know, history gets forgotten. And Newman was considered their forebearer.

In December 2015, Gary wrote about his own trips in the 1980s from Montreal south to visit Newman’s. It makes for a great companion piece. It was all over soon. On 15 August 1987, it was reported in the Knickerbocker News that Newman’s had filed for bankruptcy and, while it would live on as a contract brewed beer for a few more years, the brewing era was over.

Babylonian Cuneiform And Brewing Patterns

The other day, I read that The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had freed thousands of images from their intellectual property right shackles for free and unrestricted public use. This is good. And being a dutiful beer blogger, I immediately put in the word “beer” in the search engine to see what would pop up. And this is what popped up. A chunk of dried mud with scratchings. I love stuff like this. Three years ago, I stared at Mesopotamian brewing things at the Royal Ontario Museum, aka the ROM.  Somewhere I have photos I took thirty years ago of myself, when a selfie took a tripod, at the British Museum staring at Mesopotamian brewing things made of mud. Scratchings made a person over 150 generations ago. On just a piece of mud.

It’s actually more than that. It’s Urra=hubullu, tablet 23 from Mesopotamia in the late 1st millennium B.C.  “Twenty-three, eh?” thought I. Being a clever man I realized there must be twenty-two others. So off I went. Or, rather, I put a few words in Google… and found what I am sure you all expected I would findCuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Literary and scholastic texts of the first millennium B.C. by Ira Spar, Wilfred G. Lambert published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005 where I learned about what had been scratched into the dried mud thingie over three thousand years ago. Tablet 23 is a vocabulary of food and drink terms. The passage on this piece of cuneiform cites, at page 234, a 1950 article “On Beer and Brewing Techniques in Ancient Mesopotamia According to the XXIIIrd tablet of the series HAR.ra=hubullu” by Oppenhiem and Hartman which describes the content of tablet 23 in the context of brewing.

Fabulous. So fabulous as it is all seemingly quite authoritative. The Spar and Lambert text goes on to state what exactly was written down on three thousand odd years ago in that clay. There is great beer, dark beer, white beer, cloudy beer and beer for the tigi-songs whatever they were. My favourite might be the symbol for “clear/clean beer” indicating, of course, that folk were both skillful and appreciative of skill. That information is all in column 2. In column 3, the words are about process. Yeast is pulverized, barley bread is crushed and spread just right. It is soaked and dried then soaked and mashed. It is rinsed, pressed, crushed, broken and mixed. Malt is dried, watered, opened, spread and warmed. To my mind, this is more than a vocabulary. This is a guide not so very much different from Samuel Child’s 1768 guide discussed the other day.

This is interesting. How is it that I can read a Mesopotamian clay tablet and pretty much immediately understand what is going on? If it was about religion, governance or astronomy I wouldn’t have a clue. But beer and brewing are not strange. They are, in a very meaningful way, constant. You can see that if we go back to column 2 where you see words for 1:1 beer, 2:1 beer, 3:1 beer and even triple beer. The ratio is the relationship of grain input to beer output. If you scroll down to page 238 of the 2005 Spar and Lambert text you see there are footnotes and in the footnotes an explanation of Mesopotamian methodology. I am just going to cut and paste the footnote in relation to column 2, line 11 and what follows as I think it is one of the more extraordinary things I have ever read about beer in a couple of ways:

 

 

 

 

First, it is extraordinary as it basically sets out the scheme of brewing over 3,000 years ago in a manner which is readily understandable to anyone who has home brewed from an all-grain mash. Second, not only is it understandable… it is very familiar. It looks a lot like the parti-gyle process which makes a lot of sense as no one in their right mind wastes resources. So, the first sparging of the mash gives a 18% sugar solution wort, the second a 6% wort and the third a 1.5% wort. Roughly declining to a third each time. And sometimes the wort is recirculated to strengthen it even more to make what the footnote’s author describes as “very powerful” beer.

What is extraordinary to me is that this ratio looks a heck of a lot like the proper way to brew that I have read about from Piers the Ploughman in England’s 1370s to Matthew Vassar in New York’s 1830s. It reads like the 1825 advert for Thomas Molson’s brewery here in my hometown. Strong ale, single ale and small or ship’s beer with what looks like double double thrown in for good measure, that hazard from Shakespeare to Schenectady.

Which leads to another thought. Is that pattern a constant? Four grades of beer naturally created solely by the relationship between the sparge fluid and mash?  Following these rules you will have a 11%-ish beer, a 4%-ish one and a 1.25%-ish one. As well as whatever the heck double double was to create all that toil and trouble. A constant pattern. Could be. Could be.

Issac Bobin’s Letter, 6 September 1720

As I was going through the blog posts shifting them over to the new platform for the past few months I realized that I’ve had tight waves of writing enthusiastically separated by other phases of, you know, treading water.  If I had a topic to run with, a new database to explore I got at it. But I also skipped over some things. Failed to suck the marrow. I had in my head that I had a stand alone post on Mr. Bobin’s letter above from 1720 but in fact had only written this in one of my posts about the Rutgers brewing dynasty in New York City from the 1640s to the early 1800s:

In a letter dated 6 September 1720 from Isaac Bobin to George Clarke we read:

…As to Albany stale Beer I cant get any in Town, so was obliged to go to Rutgers where I found none Older than Eight Days I was backward in sending such but Riche telling me you wanted Beer for your workmen and did not know what to do without have run the hazard to send two Barrels at £1 16/ the Barrels at 3/ and 6/. Rutgers says it is extraordinary good Beer and yet racking it off into other Barrels would flatten it and make it Drink Dead…

Isaac Bobin was the Private Secretary of Hon. George Clarke, Secretary of the Province of New York. So clearly Rutgers was as good as second to Albany stale for high society… or at least their workers. And in any case – we do not know if it was from Anthony’s brewery or Harman’s.

The Smithsonian has a better copy of the book of Bobin’s letters. What I didn’t get into were the details of the letter itself. Riche. Albany stale Beer. Drink Dead. Just what a whiner Bobin was. Riche? He seems to be the shipper, moving goods from the New York area to wherever the Hon. George Clarke was located. In another letter dated 15 September 1723, Clarke’s taste in fine good – including beer – is evident:

THERE goes now by Riche (upon whom I could not prevail to go sooner) a Barrel of Beef £1. 17f 6d; a Qr Cask of Wine @ £6; twelve pound of hard Soap @ 6£; twelve pd of Chocolat £1. if; two Barrls of Beer; a pd of Bohea Tea @ £ i.; Six qr of writing Paper. Will carryed with him from Mr. Lanes four Bottles of Brandy with a Letter from Mr. Lane.

In another letter dated 17 November 1719, beer and cider are being forwarded. Bobin’s job includes ensuring Clarke and his household has their drinks and treats. It all is very similar to the shipments for the colonial wealthy and well-placed we’ve seen half a century later from New York City to the empire’s Mohawk Valley frontier where Sir William Johnson received from the 1750s to 1770s: his beer from Mr. Lispenard, his imported Taunton ale and Newark cider .

I find the reference to stale in the 1720 letter interesting as it suggests a more sophisticated beer trade that merely making basic beer quickly and getting it out the door. Albany stale beer. Stale distinguishes as much as Albany does. Plus, Bobin compares to the “Albany stale” to the young Rutgers beer and seems to get in a muddle. What will the workers accept? Or is it perhaps that he is concerned what Clarke thinks the workers will accept. I worry about words like stale like I worry about the livers of the young beer communico-constulo class. We need to do better. Stale seems be a useful word in common usage for (exactly) yoinks but Martyn certainly places it, in the context of beer, as in use around the 1720s so Bobin’s usage is fairly current in England even if at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s thrown around generously in The London and Country Brewer in 1737 and used by Gervase Markham in the 1660s.

Aside from stale-ness, the dead-ness of the beer obviously is about its condition but why raking off is considered is unclear. Was it just at the wrong point in Rutger’s brewing process or was he operating his business by holding it in larger vessels and selling retail to his surrounding market, like the growler trade today? Again, not just any beer will do. In Samuel Child’s 1768 work Every Man His Own Brewer, Or, A Compendium of the English Brewery we see this passage referencing deadening at page 38:

It has been said before, what quantity of hops are requisite to each quarter of malt, and how the same are to be prepared; but here it must be considered that that if the beer is to be sent into a warmer climate in the cask, one third more hopping is absolutely necessary, or the increased heat will awaken the acid spirit of the malt, give it a prevalency over the corrective power of the hop, and ferment it into vinegar: to avoid this superior expence of hopping, the London and Bristol beers are usually drawn off and deadened, and then bottled for exportation; this really answers the purpose one way; but whether counterbalanced by charge of bottling and freight, &c. those who deal in this way can best determine. 

Just bask in that passage for a moment. It’s (i) a contemporary that British beer was prepared for transport to warmer climates and (ii) among a few other techniques, the intentional deadening a beer followed by bottling was a technique used for export. Burton was, after all, brewed for export. As was Taunton for Jamaica’s plantations. The British simply shipped beer everywhere. IPA was not unique. Was there a beer brewed for Hong Kong that we’ve also forgotten about? Dunno. What we do know is that Bobin is saying is that Rutgers warns against a deadened beer for local use. Would he have been deadening beer for export? In 1720s New York City?  We know that porter was shipped out of town later. We know that late in the century shipments of bottled porter were coming in.

Excellent stuff. I need to think about this more. But, like the seven doors of the Romantic poets, suffice it to say that a good record in itself can open up a wonderful opportunity to chase an idea. In an era of such early and falsely confident conclusion drawing, a useful reminder.

“…In The West Indies And In The Southern States…”

albgaz03april1820albanyaleformerfame

That is from the 3 April 1820 edition of the Albany Gazette. Harkening back to an earlier era when Albany ale had a reputation – “a great and high character” – in the West Indies and the southern states. I think this both confuses and confirms a number of things. Not sure. It’s located in the schedules to a report of the Commissioners appointed to devise a plan for improving navigation on the Hudson river. It’s in a list of products that could be shipped were the river just improved. So, yes, it’s about a bit of the brag up – but it’s still a curious thing:

1. Who was brewing the better beer before 1820 that was called Albany ale? Le Breton only posted his first ad in 1803 and it’s two years later when “Albany ale” was used for the first time as far as we knew when the book was written. Is 17 years enough to justify such a harkening back to an earlier era?

2. Who was shipping it to the West Indies way back in that golden era? We know that NY City brewed porter was shipped to the West Indies in the first years of the 1800s but did we know that about Albany ale?

3. What’s the dip in reputation? In an article in the Albany Argus about LeBreton passing through town in 1822, we are told “the repuation of the Albany brewers has long been established in New York.” Does the report writer mean that the West Indies markets were lost as opposed to the beer went off?

This is obviously a plea fro Craig and Gerry to pipe up and have a think. Is this just the same old 1820s river navigation improvement consultant talk? Does it just relate to the general post-war economic decline? Or does it actually mean something specific?

Yesterday The Rutgers Motherlode Fell Into My Lap

rutgerfamilytree

So, last October I posted about the location of Rutgers’ 1700s brewery in New York that seems to have ended its days in a fire in the 1780s – and then went off looking at other stuff from the same era related to other families and other breweries. But I got to wondering about when that Rutgers brewery was built and came across a dense essay on the family’s genealogy that just about answered every question I could imagine asking about them. So, once again, I am up at 5:30 am instead of snoozing for another two hours to see if I can get all this out of my head. The essay is located in that best seller from 1886 called The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volumes 17-18 published, neatly enough, for the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.

The particular article in that journal is named “The Rutgers Family of New York” and it was written by Ernest H. Crosby. Without getting into the story of the Society itself, it’s interesting to note that the sister of the last wealthy brewing Rutger married into Crosby folk, one of whom, Enoch, was a Revolutionary spy for the unLoyalist side who became the basis for a novel by James Fenimore Cooper. I know this because there is an other article in the same book entitled “Geneological Sketch of the Family of Enoch Crosby” but enough about that. Let’s look at the Rutgers. Some highlights for starters and then, maybe over the weekend, I am going to keep adding more detail as I go along. I know. That’s not professional. It’ll be messy. I hear you. Bear with me.

1. Five generations of the family from the 1640s to 1830 were wealthy brewers who converted their resulting wealth into land ownership and political power.
2. They are slave owners – something not much mentioned with New York. Notice the reference in the lower left of the 1639 Vingboons map of Manhattan to the “Quartier van de Swartz & Comp de Slaven.” Here’s a very searchable reprint from 1670 to play with.
3. Before the Revolution they had at least four separate breweries concurrently being operated by fourth generation siblings and cousins.
4. They also operated two farms in downtown Manhattan that supplied their breweries with their own grain and which were likely worked by slaves.

I have seen 18,000 booted around as the figure for the population of New York City around 1760. By 1790, there are over 33,000 residents of the City. By 1830, there are over 202,000 living there. Good to keep those figures in mind as we go through this. Also, keep in mind the ugly diagram from this blog post from last weekend which gives a sense of the urban expansion during those years.

rutgersstonestreetmap1660detailrutgersstonestreetmap2016

The first brewery operated by the Rutgers dynasty was located on Stone Street in very downtown Manhattan by the second generation’s only male, Harman Rutgers, who moved from Albany in 1693 bringing his sons, Harman and Anthony. The street corner where it was located is still there, Stone Street and Whitehall. Click on the pale coloured thumbnail. The original name for Stone Street in the Dutch era was “Brouwer Straet” or Brewers’ Street. Gregg Smith in Beer in America: The Early Years 1587-1840 identifies this brewery but confuses the location saying it is “located on the north side of Stone Street near Nassau.” Nassau did not extend south of Wall Street at the time. The Rutgers were not the first to brew at the site. They bought an existing brewery operated by the family of the late Isaac de Forest. De Forest had immigrated to the New World with the father of Harman Rutgers (1st) in 1636. It had been operated since the 1650s relied on a well that was apparently still there in 1886. The insanely detailed Costello Plan of New York City from 1660 shows the location as well. Drawn as a bird’s eye view with every building set out, you can clearly see the intersection of Stone Street and Whitehall on this 1916 reprint. Click on the other thumbnail.

nymap1731rutgerdetailrutgersmaidennassaust

The second Rutgers brewery is that of Anthony Rutgers (1st) of the third generation. Located on Maiden Lane, it sits according to the record on the north side of the street on the blog between William and Nassau Street. This is an odd site as it is one block from the better recorded brewery of uncle then cousin Harmen. As you can see, like Stone Street, the location of this brew house on the block between is still there. The block is also shown on the 1730 Bradford map also shown right there on a thumbnail with the “A” showing where this brewery would have been. Not a lot of detail. In a letter dated 6 September 1720 from Isaac Bobin to George Clarke we read:

…As to Albany stale Beer I cant get any in Town, so was obliged to go to Rutgers where I found none Older than Eight Days I was backward in sending such but Riche telling me you wanted Beer for your workmen and did not know what to do without have run the hazard to send two Barrels at £1 16/ the Barrels at 3/ and 6/. Rutgers says it is extraordinary good Beer and yet racking it off into other Barrels would flatten it and make it Drink Dead…

nygaz3july1769Isaac Bobin was the Private Secretary of Hon. George Clarke, Secretary of the Province of New York. So clearly Rutgers was as good as second to Albany stale for high society… or at least their workers. And in any case – we do not know if it was from Anthony’s brewery or Harman’s. Not a lot of detail. Unfortunately, the 2014 book Manhattan in Maps 1527-2014 states at page 40 that there were basically no maps drawn from 1695 to Bradford’s in 1730-31. Drag. We will have to leave it at that for now for Anthony’s brewery. Except for this irritatingly detailed but undated reference in a letter, the PPS referencing this brewery for someone needing to find a nearby residence, meaning it is a known landmark. Oh – and in the notice in the New York Gazette from 3 July 1769 confirming the brewery was in operation as late as that date. That’s in the thumbnail up there.

The third Rutgers brewery is the other one on Maiden Street that I discussed last October. A few more facts. In the book History of the New Netherlands, Province of New York, and State of New York, to the Adoption of the Federal Constitution by William Dunlap, Volume 2 from 1840 at page CLXXV there is this:

Cart and Horse street is described, as “leading to Rutgers’s brewhouse,” that is, from Maiden Lane to the present John street, and is now part of Gold street. The brewhouse was burnt on the memorable 25th of November, 1783, in the evening of the day the English troops embarked and left the city to Americans.

nyrag19april1781rutgersgoldcarwithammap1730

See, like many anti-Loyalists and others simply wanting to keep their heads down, plenty of New Yorkers fled to safer areas during the Revolution, Albany or Connecticut. So, as we read in this history of the law practice of my fellow Kingsman Alexander Hamilton, the brewery is abandoned in 1776. In the book Generous Enemies, Rutger’s brother-in-law Leonard Lispenard is identified as seeking a way out of the city in the fall of 1775. The brewery is left idle until 1778 when the British co-opt it for local needs and then they destroy it on the way out of town as they dd with many assets in the fall of 1783. The other thumbnail up there is from the British era of brewing, appearing in the Royal American Gazette of 19 April 1781. The burnt brewery is still a landmark in 1787. If you want to learn more about the British cruelty in NYC during the war, get a copy of Forgotten Patriots. Notice also under the thumbnail a detail from the 1730 Carwitham map of NYC in 1730. See how the first block of Gold Street north of Maiden Lane is called “Rutgers Hill.”

nycplan1776rutgerseastriverrutgerseastestate2016

The last two of the breweries were located on country estates, not in the urban core of British New York. The first I will discuss is the one on the East River facing Brooklyn Ferry brewery across the water and to the east of the site of the Catherine Street spruce beer brewery. You can see the thumbnail image of a current map of New York. See the grid of streets outlined in red? That is the Rutgers estate where the last of the men named Rutgers, Henry, lived until 1830 on lands first acquired by his grandfather Harmen (1st) in the 1710s and developed by his father Hendrick. You can see the same lands on the detail of the 1776 Hinton map shown on the next thumbnail. What is now Henry Street, New York is the lane to the family mansion. In The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volumes 17-18 at page 89 describes the development of the property:

rutgersbreweryeastrivertext

More maps:

rutgersbreweryeastrivermap1865rutgersbreweryeastrivermap1776detail

The blue green thumbnail is really interesting. It is a detail from the fabulous Viele map of New York and shows the original land mass, the original boggy lands as well as the area of landfill into the East River as of 1865. It also shows the topography. Now notice on the brown thumbnail, a further detail from the 1776 Hinton map, how Rutgers managed the drainage of the bog that extended the farthest inland.

One more thing:

nyramgaz29july1779henrickrutgersnymerc09june1760rutgersslave

There is a grim, dark aspect to the Rutgers fortunes. The overall system is a vertically integration operation. The estates supply the grain which feed the breweries which create the profits to buy the lands. But the lands were worked by slaves. That large text thumbnail is a notice placed in the 9 June 1760 edition of the New York Mercury. It’s particularly grim when you compare it to this notice in the New York Journal 9 January 1772 about a stray horse. The other thumbnail shows how the brewery was used in the Revolutionary War for the storage of war supplies. The issue of slavery was brought to the forefront in the war.

[More later… it’s now 3:45 pm on Saturday. I wrote the family tree on Thursday after supper.]

[Two and a half weeks later… I am probably going to pick this up in another post… maybe…]

[November 6, 2016: and I did…]

So…There Was An Exporting Albany Brewery Before 1790

albfaulkalbreg18oct1790It’s been a busy time. Busy at work. A family matter to attend in the States. A federal election to fret about. Baseball playoffs to obsess over. Hardly time to play around with newspaper databases. Ah, well. Winter is coming. There will be time for that. Time to come across things like this ad from The Albany Register of Albany, New York from 18 October 1790. Craig and I told the story of William D. Faulkner in Upper Hudson Valley Beer in this way:

Faulkner began his brewing career in New York City in the late 1760s. Faulkner initially partnered with New York City merchant Leonard Lipsenard—the son of Albany brewer Anthony Lipsenard—to sell bottled ale and beer; then with Stephen Rapalje and Anthony Ten Eyck, but by 1771 had opened his own brewery on Cow-foot hill, in what is now modern-day Harlem neighboorhood of Manhattan. A fire in his New York brewery brought about his relocation to Albany, and in 1790 Faulkner began renting a brewery in the city’s northern neighborhood of Arbor Hill—advertising Ales, Porter, Bottled Ales and Spruce Beer. By 1792, however, William Gibbs, announced that he would be occupying that brewery. No record of William Faulkner after that point has been found.

What more can we learn from the ad? Notice that he is asking for malt, barley and hops. Local hops were both a wild and cultivated crop for over 150 years at that point in Hudson Valley history. We have a record of wild hop picking by members of the indigenous Mohawk community supplying Albany’s Dutch brewers from the first decade of the 1700s. But notice another thing. This is at least his third brewery, the second one local to Albany. He’s in New York City from the second half of the 1760s. Here’s his ad from a New York City paper from 1768. Albany is in Revolutionary hands from 1776 to 1783, cut off from British held New York City during the war. In the spring of 1779 Faulkner is in NYC and he is hiring a gardener and labourers in the middle of the conflict, according to this ad in The New-York Gazette of 22 March 1779. So, his first Albany brewery must have existed sometime during the years 1783 to 1790 after he relocates up the Hudson after peace breaks out. His last ad from the fall of 1791 shows him brewing at least four beers. And during that time not only is he selling down to New York City but he is selling on to Charleston, South Carolina as well as the West Indies. The Dutch empire held what was then named New Netherlands from the second decade of the 1600s until it finally fell to the English in 1674. Trade routes to the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean were established by the Dutch and continued after the establishment of the colony of New York.

Faulkner was sending his beer down a well trod path. Ales and porters were apparently part of that trade after the American Revolution. Remember that Taunton ale was also being sent to Jamaica, even before the declaration of American independence. It shouldn’t come as any surprise. The English had been shipping large quantities of beer across the Atlantic since at least 1577. Did they all bear the “greatest eclar”? Not sure. But if anyone tells you that all beer before lager starting in the in America in the mid-1800s was smokey, brown and crappy – clearly an untruth – why would anyone in their right mind pay to have it shipped so far? Don’t believe it.

Albany Ale: Beer Rewarded Loyalty Against New France


A month or less to go for the delivery of the Albany and Upper Hudson Valley beer history and Craig and I are putting on the almost finishing touches. One difficult stretch was the first two-thirds of the 1700s as, basically, the same families kept brewing and – surprise – got richer generation by generation. Fortunately, a war broke out in the middle of the century to spice things up. I had presumed that the only news would be about the suspension of brewing as that is what war does… among other things. But then I came across this in his papers:

johnson1

johnson2

johnson3

 

 

 

 

johnson4

johnson5

 

 

 

 

These are accounts from William Johnson, the 1st Baronet of New York and a personal favorite of mine. Near my work there are two streets, “William” and “Johnson” which commemorate the guy whose son helped settle our fair city. But that was after the war after the one just begun when these accounts were noted in 1755. In 1755, the Mohawk, the British and the Dutch were all united against New France and its plans for invasion from the north. In the defense of the empire, Billy Johnson did everything he could think of including, apparently, shelling out beer.

I had known he was a beer buyer but not like this. Names like Hendrick Fry appear in these accounts, some the same as names that appear over a decade later in the lists of members in the Masonic Lodge at Albany. The accounts show how barrels of beer were used to retain and reward loyalty with the Mohawk allies in the summer leading up to a campaign at the south end of the Champlain valley when Johnson took on the French and kept them from marching farther on to Albany.

The last image on the right is interesting. It makes passing reference to one Barent Vrooman. Vroomans were a Dutch brewing dynasty who, like their fellows, expanded from the Hudson valley into Schenectady in the late 1600s and then into the western stretches of what was then called Albany County in the first half of the 1700s. Barent the brewer died in 1746 so this must be a nephew or a cousin. In any event, Johnson seems to have sent him something more useful than beer. He sent a Mohawk warrior to guard him.

Albany Ale: Horatio Spafford’s Gazetteer Of 1813

It is not often you get to see such ripping drama in the very first paragraph of a gazetteer of two hundred years ago but there it is. He had to radically alter the plan of his work. Wow. What did he mean by this? Well, he wrote letter to people. See, he had planned to travel around and then got tired of it. So he used letters to gather information instead. Amazing!

Anyway, the really neat stuff in the Spafford Gazetteer are the stats that feed the narrative of that point in Albany ale story and also line up with later Gazetteers to sketch a greater picture of change over time. But then you find these great passages which illuminate the author’s own observations and perhaps prejudices. Like this on page 36:

The increasing use of ardent spirits, calls for consideration of these matters but to examine the characteristic diet of our varied population, would be deemed invidious. If breweries of malt-liquors were multiplied over the country with the rapidity of small distilleries of grain and fruit-spirits, the increase might prove a national blessing instead of a curse. I do not know that intemperance is more prevalent in this, than in the other American states ; but I know that social meetings depend too much on the bottle for their convivial pleasures; and that hilarity is dearly purchased, when obtained from this source.

You know, if someone had said that I ought to consider how dearly I was purchasing hilarity back in my twenties maybe things would have turned out differently. Here embarking on my sixth decade, however, it is more obvious and especially obvious now given all this history, research and writing. There is one thing pretty clear that jumps out when one considers eastern North America circa 1620 to 1820 and that is that temperance was not only inevitable but a pretty good thing. Temperance won and we are it. Just as we have to put up with people who say beer is greater than wine we all know the wag who will use phrases like neo-prohibition, folks talking down temperance. Don’t believe it. All that hilarity was in fact dearly purchased and sure needed someone to turn on the lights, lift the needle off the LP and let them know the party was over. Or at least that sort of party was.

Just have a look at what Horatio found out about Jefferson Co., NY. That is the county nearest me as I sit across on the royalist side of the river. At pages 80 to 81 he says it was divided off the neighbouring county in just 1805 and has a population of 15,136. There are two breweries there already as well as a whopping sixteen distilleries. Large ashery operations are selling large qualities of pot and pearl ash likely into the Montreal market, bringing “much money into the country.” Boom times even with the War of 1812 begun.

At pages 50 and 51 there is a handy table that has masses of data. It states that the price of beer was 17 cents a gallon while the local whiskey was 80 cents a gallon. The two breweries produced a total of 25600 gallons or 31 gallon barrels or around 826 barrels. The sixteen distillers made 32000 gallons of the hard stuff. “Fruit spirits”? Maybe apple cider hootch? Maybe it was too soon for that many apple trees to be in place. There are cloth mills about which Spafford says quite extraordinarily:

The automaton habits, and the immoral tendencies of these establishments, will be better understood in this country 50 years hence.

The grim satanic mills of Watertown, NY? Carding machines and fulling mills. We learn at page 323 that the city was first settled in 1798 and that five of the 16 distilleries are there along with both breweries. For 1849 souls with almost 14 gallons of beer each between them. Plus the rot gut. Ah, the pre-temperance world of Watertown. Spafford what all very Old Testament prophet raging in the storm about these things… except without the religiosity in his concerns as we see again at pages 36 and 37:

The vast number of inns, taverns, and groceries, licensed to retail strong drink, is a growing evil, felt most in cities, but extends in some degree to every borough, village, town, and settlement in the state. By an actual enumeration in 1811, of those in the city of New-York, there were 1303 groceries, and 160 taverns. A small revenue, is collected from licenses, but it is the moral duty of the Legislature to attempt a remedy for the growing evils of intemperance, the source of numerous ills. It is presumed that Albany has as large a proportion of these houses as New-York ; and there is hardly a street, alley, or lane, where a lad may not get drunk for a few cents, and be thanked for his custom, without any questions how he came by his money, or perhaps any care. Parents and guardians face the evils of this system most sensibly, and first perceive the deep wounds thus inflicted on the public morals. The inn, is the traveller’s home, and groceries are also convenient, if duly restricted in number, and well regulated. But the multitudes of mere grog-shops serve only to encourage idleness, dissipation, intemperance, and as the prolific nurseries of vice.

OK, maybe a little moralizing but he likely had a very good point. Frontier hellholes and urban booze shacks abounding. That’s New York State a couple of hundred years ago. You know, unlike a lot of Gazetteers, this one hardly comes off as being commissioned by any chambers of commerce. Which makes it – as well as the inevitable reflections on the two hundred years of progress since – quite pleasant reading even if the implications are grim.

Albany Ale: Not Served In Only The Best Places

Well, at least not in 1865, that is, according to this travel tale in the Sydney Morning Herald on 5 June 1865 by name of “America in the Midst of War: Low Life in New York”:

The first “full-blooded” establishment we entered was many degrees noisier than the lager beer saloons. There was an atmosphere of roughness and rowdyism not to be mistaken. The same respectable and blue spectacled Germans were sawing away at the double bass or blowing lustily into brazen instruments in the orchestra; but little attention was paid to the music. There was much beer about, but it was not all lager. Philadelphia and Albany ale, and an especially nasty compound retailed in ginger beer bottles, and libellously called “Edinburgh ale” were plentiful; nor was a dreadful combination of turpentine and white rye whisky, falsely called “London Dock gin,” wanting. This colourless poison is brewed from I know not what, unless from the most inferior rye, but it forms the basis of much hell-broth, sold indifferently as gin and whisky. It tastes like camphine which has been racked through a cask full of Seven Dials “all sorts.” It is not unlike the Russian vodka; but it must be less pure, and consequently more unwholesome. In Canada it goes by the name of “fixed bayonets,” and is much affected by the military stationed there – in fact, overdoses of “fixed bayonets” have brought many a gallant, foolish British soldier to the halberts.

You know, one of the plainest effects of the writing the Ontario beer book with Jordan and diving back into the Albany’s beer history for that book with Craig is the sneaking suspicion that the temperance crowd of the second half of the 1800s not only had it exactly right but… we is them. No matter what your drinking habits are, I suspect none of you are drinking a hell-broth called fixed bayonets on your way to the halberts.

Halberts? No, me neither until now. Viva not drinking fixed bayonets on way to the halberts! Viva!! Viva!!! Errr… funny that I was no struck by this so much on the book with Max. By the way, a second installment of our excellent adventures through time and space is in the works. Short stories. Like the Hardy Boys series but with more… colourless poison.

What’s With The Boxes For Cutting Straw?

Again with Lord Selkirk’s diary of 1803-04, I noticed one thing on page 114 that sorta suck out. In his description of the set up of the kiln, there is a particular notation: “…small portable boxes for cutting straw are made for $9…” What the heck is that about? What is the function of the box? Why do you need a number of them? And what is the function of the straw?

Here is a very detailed discussion of the straw or chaff cutter. In that discussion, the tool is shown as going back centuries. The function of the cutter was to make the straw digestible by cutting it into small enough lengths to be mixed with the feed of a horse. And in this case, Selkirk’s note follows a reference to a horse run mill to grind the malt. So it could be just that.

But there are two other uses for straw in this brewery. One was expressly mentioned the other day. Mr Grieve the brewer mixed straw into his mash to keep the wheat from gumming things up. Torrified or popped wheat can be used for that today. Cutting the straw would make sense to ensure it was evenly distributed through out the mash. Straw can be a multi-purpose resource in what I am starting to call if only to myself “vernacular” brewing. Brewing with the locally available resources. If, out of that, you make a unique beer maybe that is an “indigenous” form of beer.

But there is another possibility. Or is it an additional one? Maybe he was kilning with the straw. Attentive readers will recall the fern ale post of the fall of 2011. In that discussion, we see that in the 1600s and 1700s, while coke was growing as a kilning fuel for large operations, straw was still a reliable fuel to make the palest and least smokey malt. Good wheat straw, when used with skill, made the sweetest pale malt. Notice, too, that Grieve is kilning his malt in a place and at a scale where other desirable fuels are unlikely to be as readily and cheaply available. Wheat was the monoculture crop, the gold standard for sale and even export. There may have been plenty of wheat straw sitting around as the district filled with settling farmers. If so and as the beer had a high proportion of wheat, these strong ales of his my well have been quite pale despite their frontier origin.

Just a thought. Could be tasty stuff.