The year is 1976. To this day I feel as if my earliest memory happened during this year (July 4, 1976, it stands out strongly as the bicentenniel for the US… I was very patriotic). This was also the year that Budweiser celebrated its 100th birthday. Mind you I was 4, beer wasn’t something I could remember from back then. This was also the year that New Albion Brewing was born.
In this day and age where a new brewery seems to pop up every other day, the birth of a new brewery doesn’t even cause the bat of an eye. But in 1976 when pretty much all that existed for beer was light American lager, and a new brewery hadn’t opened in close to 100 years, it was a pretty big deal. But no one knew.
Jack McAuliffe was doing something unheard of, he was stepping into unknown territory and creating a legacy that is still growing right now. No one knew how to start a brewery, especially on such a small scale. There were no suppliers for equipment, he had to fabricate and repurpose everything he used. In the brewery, they only brewed three styles of beer. They only had pale ale, porter, and stout. They were limited to only a couple malts and only a couple kinds of hops. The limited brewhouse only put out about 7.5 barrels of beer a week.
But from this it was the “hops smelled around the world,” a start of something greater. In 1982 due to financial reasons New Albion closed for good. They were just unable to make enough beer to financial support themselves. (side note 1982 was also the year that Budlight was born) When others saw what Jack McAuliffe had done with so little a grain of hope began to germinate. It was the birth of New Albion and then from the ashes of its failure that the modern craft brewing movement was born.
Imagine, from just three beer styles and piece meal equipment we now have battles of what constitutes muckity muck style compared to blahsity blah style. It is said that the first to arrive isn’t always the flashiest. Trendsetters are the ones who push through the jungle opening the way for others to make the place pretty. And to their credit, the trendsetters are the ones who usually don’t know they have even done something amazing. In the case of Jack McAuliffe he was just home brewing but on a bigger scale, at least thats how he tells it. He didn’t realize at the time that what he was doing would change the brewing landscape in such a huge way.
Time for a pint…