The short version of the long history of local beer

albany institute beverwyck beer trayInteresting: Over at DrinkDrank, Craig distills the centuries-long history of beer brewing in Albany to a quick-read 1,500 words. A clip:

[John] Taylor -- initially partnered with his brother-in-law -- opened his first brewery in the early 1820s. A savvy businessman, Taylor saw the opportunity to exploit New York's new water highway [the Erie Canal]. He could import grain and hops from the western part of the state and use the same waterway to export beer west and south down the Hudson. By the 1850s Taylor had built a new brewery in Albany--the largest in the country and was producing a flagship double strength of 'XX' ale, that he dubbed "Imperial Albany XX Ale". Albany's access to the Hudson River and position at the terminus of the Erie Canal afforded it a monopoly on the distribution on beer. Albany Ale could be exported west on the Canal to Buffalo and be in Chicago in ten days later. From there it could be in New Orleans within a week or California shortly there after. It could also be sent south down the Hudson to the port of New York and be anywhere in the world within a matter of weeks.

There's lot packed into this history -- the Dutch, the British army, hops, the Erie Canal, the emergence of lager, Prohibition, craft brewing. It's worth a read if you're interested in local history or beer (or, you know, both).

Elsewhere: Akum recalled when Albany Ale ruled the nation.

image: "Beverwyck Brewing Company Serving Tray" from the collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art

Comments

John Taylor was accused by temperance advocate and hotel owner Edward Delavan of using contaminated water in his brewery. He sued Delavan for libel in 1840.

Testimony in the case described how water for the malt-houses was collected from ponds which received run-off from slaughter-houses and a glue factory, as well as the receiving vault and pauper's section of the old State Street Burying Grounds (which included the fresh graves of cholera victims).

Taylor lost...and became Mayor a few years later.

Hey thanks for the mention!

Taylor didn't actually lose, but the verdict was over-turned at appeal. The Taylor case is significant because it was the first high profile anti-drink legal case in the nation's history. It sparked the modern age of prohibitionism. More importantly, it sling-shotted Albany Ale into the public eye, because Taylor and his beer was mentioned in just about every newspaper in the country!

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