The Amsdell Brewery via The Albany Institute of History and Art.
As you begin the journey into beer history you quickly learn that beer has been around forever. Dating back to around 10,000 BCE when the glaciers from the last of the ice age retreat, the Neolithic people from the area of what is now Kurdistan began growing and perfecting grains like wheat and barley and ultimately started brewing their own form of beer. The Babylonians and the Egyptians brewed beer. All throughout history beer has been a favored beverage for many civilizations and nationalities. This tale however is not about the complete history of beer, those interested can pursue other avenues for that, but about Albany NY in the late 1800’s.
There was a brewery which opened in Albany NY in 1854 called the Amsdell Brewing and Malting Company. Their fame and service area grew rapidly and they became one of the more prevalent ale breweries on the East coast throughout the 1860’s and into the turn of the century. Amsdell’s XX ale was a very popular brew of theirs and was still being produced in 1901. This is where this story begins.
Two fellow beer bloggers got together after discovering an advertisement for this beer in an old newspaper from the 1900’s. They made the decision to find out what this XX ale made by Amsdell was all about. Here was the start of “The Albany Ale Project”. Alan McLoed and Craig Gravina launched a research project which led them to the discover of a 1901 recipe for this beer in an old log book from the brewery which was held in the collections of the Albany Institute of History and Art. Once the recipe had been found the decision was made to do a re-creation of this beverage.
It was here that they enlisted the help of Ryan Demler the brewer at C. H. Evans Brewery located at the Pump Station in Albany NY. Together, Ryan, Craig and Alan worked to re-create the 1901 Amsdell’s Albany XX Ale. This is where the story gets really interesting because I was able to secure a ticket for the unveiling at the Albany Institute of History and Art. On Saturday November 2, 2013 at 5:00 a very gracious affair ensued. We were ushered into a private area of the museum which was adorned with old beer and brewery memorabilia from the Museums collection. On a table at the front of the room sat a keg of the ale.
Gathered together were the founding bloggers of the Albany Ale Project Craig and Alan, Ryan the brewer, other bloggers like myself, news people, beer enthusiasts and descendants of the Albany Schaffer brewery as well as an enthusiastic museum staff. It was a festive occasion indeed while we all awaited the tapping of the keg. After a few brief words Ryan tapped the keg and we all had the pleasure of tasting the first “Amsdell Albany XX Ale” produced in over 100 years.
The beer was actually quite tasty. It proved to be a nice amber color, had a decent head, and was a slightly sweet mild ale. There was a nice finish with little hop bitterness. The beer was brewed using 100% New York grown 6 row pale and black malt, as well as corn grits. The brewery also produced its own dark invert and corn sugar similar to the original 1901 recipe. It was hopped with New York grown Heritage hops. I would have to say that this collaboration was a success.
According to the Albany Ale Project website there are more beers to come. Lets hope these guys continue to find old recipes well into the future as this was a very enjoyable, different sort of beer event which I would repeat again. My hat is off to Ryan, Craig and Alan. A great job and a good time. Cheers!