What we learned from Craig Gravina on the history of Albany’s beer industry

Posted by sunrise255 on October 29th, 2018

On Wednesday, October 25th Craig Gravina shed some more light on the history of Albany’s beer industry when he spoke at the Albany County Hall of Records. The archival records on display contained artifacts from the breweries at what is now @HudsonPark: Dobler and Hinckel breweries. Here are some facts we learned about the history of Albany and beer:

  • The first Patroon, Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, authorized the opening of the first colonial brewery in this area in the early 1640s
  • Our city has had a brewing industry for almost 400 years.
  • In the 17th and 18th century, most beer was either small beer, table beer, or strong beer.
  • The beer was predominately wheat based when the industry started.
  • 1790-1805, Albany breweries started to switch to barley based beer.
  • By the mid 19th century there were 40 to 50 breweries making Albany Ale in the Upper Hudson Valley.
  • Albany Ale was strong. In the 1830s a doctor analyzed Albany Ale and compared it to others and found that Albany Ale in barrels was 9% alcohol by volume. In bottles, it was over 13%.
  • At the height of Albany Ale’s popularity in the 1850s, you could find it as far away as Hawaii.
  • By the end of 19th century, going into the 20th, there were about 11 breweries in Albany.
  • Prohibition led to a 75% closure in Albany breweries, and by 1972, there were no operating breweries in the city of Albany.
  • The rebirth of the Albany brewing industry started with William Newman who opened a tiny brewery on Thacher Street in Albany during the early 1980s. This was the first craft brewery on the east coast.
  • To make ends meet, Newman taught people how to make breweries a viable business plan. One of those he taught was Jim Cook from Boston who then opened the Boston Beer Company and created Sam Adams.

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