A Visit to New Albion Brewing Co. (1981)

A Chat with Jack 

The Great American Saloon Series of The American Spectator, mentioned in my second-to-last post, turns out to be a fecund source of circa-1980 American drinking lore.

And this time, no it’s not a disquisition on the merits of Olympia, Coors, Budweiser, or Ringnes from Norway (interesting as that can be), but rather a multi-page account of a visit to the landmark New Albion Brewing Co. Yes, the literal gran-daddy of all modern craft breweries.

Douglas Bartholomew, a regular contributor to the Saloon Series, penned the account in the July 1981 issue. Rather than multiply quotations, just read it for yourself, from the website of the American Spectator.

But a tidbit to tempt you, Bartholomew’s description of New Albion Porter:

And Jack’s brew is not to be missed, especially the porter. The porter is a mellifluous blend, a richly hued amber liquid that is cloudy because of final fermentation in the bottle. It combines the best of New Albion’s heavier, darker stout and the light bodied, traditional ale. The stout is, typically, bitter and throaty, yet somehow lacking in the classic bite of the ubiquitous Guinness. All three “beers,” as McAuliffe is wont to lump them, are fully natural, embodying only malt, hops, yeast, and water.

Not least interesting is the account of the 19th century brewing texts Jack consulted daily in his brewing, books that are mother’s milk (sorry) to beer historians. He knew what he was doing, and he was doing it before almost anyone. Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco was a contemporary of importance in this regard, although Jack did not seem to think much of his beers, due mostly I think to their filtration and pasteurization.

Sadly, as those who care about beer history know, New Albion went under in 1983, two years after the article was written. Yet, after a long and winding road, Renee DeLuca, Jack’s daughter, produces the original New Albion Ale in a venture with Platform Brewing Co. at its Cleveland, Ohio location.

So we have the best of both worlds, don’t we, we can see how it was when hopes were high and Jack was building a revolution, and the beer can still be tasted today, alongside to be sure its million and one progeny. Cheers.