Brewed solely with American Cascade hops (why? Because that was all that was available to Jack at the time), New Albion Ale is a golden American Pale Ale that holds a distinct citrus hop note and subtle piney character. A delicious brew, it’s no wonder New Albion Ale inspired so many of the Pale Ales we drink today. In case you missed it, checkout the video from our brewing day with Jack back in July.
In 1976, Jack McAuliffe was quietly starting the American craft beer revolution when he opened the New Albion Brewing Company in a former agriculture warehouse in Sonoma, CA. Jack’s first brew, New Albion Ale, is the original “micro-brewed” beer that started it all. When he got started, no one was selling small-batch brewing equipment. So Jack (a skilled engineer who studied physics and became an engineer after his Navy days) built a three-level brew house of 55 gallon drums that utilized nature’s most accessible energy source: gravity. Jack would lug all the ingredients he needed up a ladder (including heavy bags of hops and malt) to the top level where he would start his brew. The entire brewing operation was homemade, including the copper tube cooler that Jack made and utilized gravity to move the brew through the different brewing vessels. Primary fermentation was in four open drums; which was kept in an air conditioned room. After five to seven days, the beer was racked into 55 gallon drums on their sides with little fermentation locks.
After the beer had settled (typically another week or two), Jack would hand-pump the beer into a ‘bottling tank’ where it sat before bottle filling and cap crowning, which as you guessed it, was done by hand. For the six years Jack was brewing, he remained close to his passion by creating a loft above the brewery floor for eating and sleeping.
As for the name New Albion, you have look back to the late 1500’s of British history for an answer. While exploring the west coast of North America on his ship (the Golden Hinde), Sir Francis Drake landed on what is believed to now be northern California. Drake claimed the land for England and named it Nova Albion. As Jack recalls the time in history, almost 300 years after Drake landed, an Englishman established the Albion Brewery in San Francisco (better known today as Bayview-Hunters Point) because of a strong water source found on-site. So when you look at your New Albion bottle or 6-pack carrier, you’ll notice the label (the original design to what Jack used) displays the Golden Hinde departing the now San Francisco Bay area.
Unfortunately like many start-ups in the late 70’s/early 80’s, Jack was forced to close New Albion in 1982 because he could not obtain the additional financing needed to expand his operation. The U.S. was in an economic downfall and the idea of lending money to a craft beer brewer (the first of his kind at that) was unspeakable. As Jack recalls it, banks just didn’t understand what he was doing… they couldn’t wrap their head around the idea of a small brewery. (My, how the times have changed…)
But this month marks the return of New Albion Ale and we’re excited to share this historic brew with you. We used the same malt, hop, and even the same yeast strain (thanks to University of California – Davis, who preserved Jack’s yeast strain profile) to recreate this brew to its original form. We hope you enjoy it (be sure to check out our Find a Sam page to help you find some near you), and when you’re enjoying remember that you are truly tasting a piece of craft beer history! Cheers!
Style: American pale ale
Malt Varieties: Two-row pale malt blend
Hop Variety: American Cascade
Color: Deep golden / 9 SRM
Alcohol: 6.0% ABV
Yeast: New Albion ale yeast
First Brewed: 1976; rebrewed for the first time in 2012
Availability: Limited Release starting January 2013. Find New Albion Ale near you by visiting our Find a Sam page.
Appearance: Deep gold
Aroma: Subtle malt character with the pleasant citrus-floral notes from Cascade hops
Flavor: Upfront cereal and malt notes with a spicy, fruity, and light pine character; clean but moderate bitterness
Mouth feel: Medium-bodied
Finish: Finishes with a little sweetness from the malt and a lingering citrus-orange, floral, and spicy hop flavor