Your Thursday Beer News Update: Buy-Outs, Bad Press And Bisulfite Bother

Ah, April. As lilacs breed out of the dead land, we watch baseball beginning. Seven months ahead of baseball baseball baseball. People get spring fever and, as a consequence, sometime buy very big hats. Craig has been brewing Albany Ale again with local brewers C. H. Evans, fabulously holding up the side for the project. I think that collaboration dates now back over five years when his hat was not so tall. I also captured the moment by celebrating the very nice breakfast that I had the next day. All so excellent.

Best boozy April Fool’s Day joke. Best letter to the editor.

I find this bit of craft amnesia really strange. The idea that Allagash White stood alone with haze without reference to Pierre Celis and Hoegaarden is a bit sad. Like people suggesting that sparklers weren’t invented as a way to flog poor beer, I suppose.  Or the idea that micro/craft didn’t start beyond the USA. But, as an entire counterbalance… an antidote even, consider Nate’s incidental beer pictures in the Czech Republic or consider Lars live-baking the mash on so-me or, best of all, consider Martyn finding an ad for US hops being sold in the UK in the 1790s! Wow! I am renewed. Redeemed. You can see that I am a sensitive I might not be alone.

A sensitive man…

I am not alone. Jeff at Beervana is a bit fed up, too, with some of the latest news. He captured the mood of these buy-out PR notices with his Mad-Libs, fill in the gaps form for any craft brewers planning to take advantage of any moolah-laced opportunities:

[ _______________ ] announced today an agreement to acquire a majority interest in [ ________ ]-based [ __________ ] Brewing Company.

I found this refreshing, especially in the context a so much fretting about “rumours” which seem to the UK blogging English for knowing something but living under slightly less freedom of speech than we enjoy in North America, if we trust (as I do) the theme as illustrated by @totalcurtis. I blame an over concern with the interests of lawyers, as perhaps illustrated by Boak and Bailey. I’ve never heard of bloggers facing legal problems over sharing trade information but, well, that’s what it feels like on my side of the gown and wig.

They do raise another point: “…the question of people’s feelings.” I usually don’t put that much stock into this personally* either but then I was reminded of the thought when I read this in a review in The Guardian of Pete Brown’s new book:

Brown moved from advertising into “beer writing”, which is not much of a shift. Beer writing purports to be a branch of consumer journalism. Producer journalism would be more apt. He is forever being invited to judge competitions (beer of course, and cider, veg, pies, cakes, anything). He goes to tastings. He opens food festivals. He attends events…  The proximity of writer/critic to maker or artisan is worrying. Beer or wine or food writing often becomes a sort of dissembled advertising, or advertorial, which doesn’t announce itself save by its gushing enthusiasm and self-congratulation.

Now, even if I am a sensitive man, I point this out for the general concept not the particular. My copy of Pete’s book will come to my house in a few weeks as the release has been delayed in Canada. And I won’t review it because it’s not a beer book. But I do think the review in The Guardian was extremely mean spirited. And not in the A.A.Gill, a hero of mine, sense of mean spirited. Not even in the Pete Brown sense of a teensie mean spirited.  It was actually a bit cruel. Demeaning even.* But the general observation on beer writing set out above? Not too far off the mark for a sadly significant part of beer writing. As you know I have thought and written about for years so don’t… just… OK, fill your boots – what the heck. You gotta be you, too.

Independence.

In other news, Garrett Oliver made The Sunday New York Times. And then an interesting discussion broke out on Twitter between him and Matt C. on the meaning and value of “local” including this comment:

It’s complicated for sure. But there is an extent to which asking a brewery to “double-down on local” is like asking a 12 yr old to “double-down on adolescence.” These days “local” can mean only breweries from your own neighborhood. I can walk to five breweries from my house…

I like the point. But is it what people want today? And isn’t that the only point? The discussion started with this from Matt C and goes along through a large number of threads. Worth thinking about.*** And worth thinking about in the context of all the above and below which is really about how a wide range of writing about beer takes many forms. It’s all fairly robust even if we collectively have not caught up to that realization.

Picking hops in 1800s Wisconsin.

Confession time. I am down to maybe having one or two beers a week. Work pressures? Health concerns? Nope. Allergies. Now I am a sensitive man so I am comfortable sharing with you that more and more I am having histamine reactions from beer like many folk get with red wine. The problem has always been there but I managed it by avoiding naturally high sulfate beers like Burton IPAs or anything Burtonized.  For example, I get a headache during the first Sleemans. Always have. Hard water brewery. Then, as with one really good eastern Ontario Porter,**** I started noticing a reaction from some craft breweries that I put down to smaller newer places using sodium metabisulfite (the pink powder home brewers use) as part of the cleaning regime. That one gives me a set of thrilling achy reactions down the throat. But, recently, I have noticed a new class of randomly sulfate laced beers: some of the ones with fruity flavours added. For decades, I avoid anything that is a flaky pastry treat  that’s foil wrapped  for freshness and boasts of “real fresh fruit filling” because that stuff has actually put me in the hospital a few times. Has anyone else noticed this? I know… I am a sensitive man. And it’s not that I mind. Good for the wallet and the waist. Great sleeps, too.

Not unrelated.

That must be enough for this week. This busy week. The week that BeerAdvocate magazine wrapped it up for good. Where will we end up? Back here?

But the bartender is not quite
so sensitive as I supposed he was
the way he looks at me now
and does not appreciate my exquisite analogy

Now, it was brought home to me a long time ago that beer poems and beer history and critical essays about drinking culture will not really buy beer or flowers or a goddamn thing…

and I was sad
for I am a sensitive man

Uncertain how to cope with it all? Read Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday. That might help.

*Honestly, without being the slightest bit pointy fingery, I could not imagine writing “imagine how those team members feel learning the news from Twitter, or on some poxy beer blog” myself but that is why they are they and I am me and, beyond that, there are far more vulnerable voices out there. Too sensitive. But what can you do. Beer is made of flowers.
**Compare to this review in The Observer. Covers the same ground but seems to have no grudge. Odd. And, as I say, cruel.
***And worth hauling out again when someone once again says with a vapid flourish that you can’t explain thing in detail or have a civil discussion on Twitter.
****Which I mention only after I have had the reaction corroborated by someone else I recommended the beer to who had the same odd response.

Now That It’s March It Must Be Thursday So Here’s The News

Well, here we are. March. -15C this morning with the wind chill but at least it’s March. Things could be worse, I suppose. I could find myself at what the British call a hen party like we see in the photo of the week captured by temporarily angry Katie apparently practicing her mind control in the attached photo… except I’m not in Britain so she can’t reach me… and… I’d be at a Rooster Do or whatever they call it to make sure we are not getting all inter-species. The rural Ontario stag and doe makes so much more sense. But I am struck how fabulous Katie is… for some reason… give her money… give her power.

We continue with a rather odd tale out of Syracuse NY where we find a craft beer bar shut down due to a rather firm boycott:

Talisman struggled to attract business after its August opening due, at least in part, to a boycott effort from former J.Ryan’s regulars and bartenders. They blamed Carvotta for J.Ryan’s sudden closure and the firing of bartenders and other staff. Former J.Ryan’s fans also posted false negative reviews on the Talsiman Facebook page, attempting to make it difficult for the new bar to get off the ground. They derided the new bar as the “Taliban Tap Room.”

Yikes. Staying in upstate New York, Craig has proved again how flammable he is… and the answer is very… because his FB posts and new findings relate to Albany Ale are on… wait for it… fire. This clickable one to the right from 1832 is my current favourite notice related to Albany ale because it’s from a notice for immigrants to a frontier village in what is now suburb or city to the west end of Lake Ontario, then in Upper Canada, seeking specifically a person who is a tanner, currier and brewer of Albany Ale. Fabulous.

Back in Britain, there was another sort of unhappiness with CAMRA facing apparent or at least alleged revolt from within based on generational shift in appropriate standards:

A war is brewing among members of a real ale campaign group after younger reformers accused the ‘sexist’ old guard of treating the organisation like a ‘pensioners drinking club’.  The feud has been made public after seven reformers – all in their early forties or younger – of Campaign for Real Ale wrote a scathing letter claiming the organisation was ‘riddled with allegations of sexism and cronyism’.  In the letter published in this month’s newsletter, they wrote: ‘We need to see a campaign thinking more seriously about the next generation of pubgoers — a campaign whose public image is not riddled with accusations of sexism…’

Good. Very good. But how many old guard members are there really out there? You’d know better than me. ATJ knows more and he wrote an article for The Telegraph. Here’s a handy Twitter search for “CAMRA sexism” to measure the temper of today.

Crystal takes one of more obligatory sort for the team.

Jordan on why his beer appreciation college course is the best beer appreciation college course:

Luck doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it. I basically started from the proposition that I’ve got to be more useful for less money than both established programs. Cicerone can’t customize their content. Prud’homme can’t customize their content. I can tell the students what happened last week and change out recipes between semesters. 

Martyn has written a cheery attack on the shadowy Portman Group, all over its stance on strong ale:

Among the beers that break the new Portman Group guidelines, and therefore face a potential ban, by being stronger than eight per cent and sold in 75cl bottles, are beautiful brews from the US, such as Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops, or Local 2, Rogue’s XS Old Crustacean barley wine and Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments; a rake of great beers from Italian craft brewers, who go for 75cl bottles in a big way – pun semi-intended – including the wonderful Xyauyù Barrel from the Italian brewer Baladin; and a fair number of beers from the Netherlands and Belgium… and Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux.

The bastards. The only thing that lets me go on is knowing that there’s Avec Les Bons Voeux out there. Matt took an interesting take on the subject via tweetfest:

…there are thousands of videos of people chugging cans of DIPA on Facebook and Instagram like it’s a game. If we want to encourage responsible drinking of a premium product, perhaps we start by addressing the reality of the situation.

In very happy news… Go Ray… go Ray… go go go Ray!!!

More great news, this out of CBN and the east coast Canadian fabrication scene:

Diversified Metal Engineering (DME) in Charlottetown ceased operations and went into receivership last November along with its sibling business, Newlands Systems (NSI) in Abbotsford, BC. The company and brands have been bought by CIMC Enric Tank & Process B.V. (CETP) of the Netherlands, and the Charlottetown facility has been reopened under the name DME Process Systems. Previous DME staff members have returned to work, and the plant will continue to manufacture DME and NSI equipment, as well as provide parts and technical support to previous DME and NSI customers.

There’s background on the DME story in former weekly news.

I had no idea that there was a German tradition of drinking beer and throwing political insults on Ash Wednesday but state radio folk Deutche Welle says there is:

…every Ash Wednesday the gloves come off, and political leaders are allowed to push the rhetoric to the limits of fairness — and sometimes beyond. That’s been the case this year, too, in the centenary edition of the ritual. Here are some best zingers from the 2019 edition of the political roast day Germans call “political Ash Wednesday.”

The zingers include such winners as “Good PR isn’t going to lift one single child out of poverty” and, of a leader of another political stripe “In her heart of hearts, she’s a Social Democrat.” Wow.  Consider my knee well and truly slapped.

That’s it for this week. A little thin… unlike me in either respect. I got through a kid’s 19th birthday and the intro to drinking legally as well as an radical expansion of the life at work and survived. By next week, the clocks will have changed and the snow will be muchly melted. Check out Boak and Bailey on Saturday and Stan on Monday as well as the slowly simmering #MoneyMakerMarch that everyone… well, Stan… is talking about.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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:

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More maps:

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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:

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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: Straw In Wheat Beer Is Next Big Thing

It’s not quite like ten years ago when one’s name could appear in The New York Times, but I got word from cousin Mike Malone of, amongst many other things, “Books and Beer” on 1460 AM radio WVOX that news of the May 16th event in Middleburgh, NY had hit the Ale Street NewsCraig has been working on a press release:

On May 16th, The Middleburgh Public Library, The Albany Ale Project, and Green Wolf Brewing Company are hosting a day long (1pm to 5pm), family-friendly event celebrating beer, brewing, and Middleburgh’s Revolutionary War history to benefit the Middleburgh Public Library. MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Company, of Bath Ontario, will also be participating. The event will be held on Baker Avenue around Green Wolf Brewing Company (315 Main Street, Middleburgh) and behind the Middleburgh Public Library (323 Main Street, Middleburgh.)

The day’s activities include a Revolutionary War encampment, colonial brewing and cooking demonstrations, 18th century toys and games for kids, talks on the history of beer and hops in upstate New York and the Schoharie Valley, a Schoharie Valley hops display at the Middleburgh Library, beer samples from Green Wolf and MacKinnon Brothers.There will be Green Wolf brewery tours, as well as food from Middleburgers BBQ and Under the Nose gift shop and bakery. Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod will be selling and signing copies of their book Upper Hudson Valley Beer, and the day culminates in “The 1780 Beer Challenge”, cask tapping and tasting.

This is really neat. Looking forward to learning more about one of the areas of New York where the people who found refuge in eastern Ontario came from 240 years ago. And really looking forward to seeing recreations of how straw was used to make strong wheat ale. The more I learn about straw the more I think it was critical to pre-industrial scale brewing even if we have all forgotten its usefulness. Go straw!

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:

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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.