Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Albion Ale Clone by Wood Shoe Brew House

New Albion bubbling on the left
On Basic Brewing Radio, Jack McAuliffe joined James, Steve and Andy to brew up a clone of the original New Albion Ale. It was very interesting to hear a first hand perspective from the originator of New Albion brewing, the first brewpub of the modern era that proved the possibility of craft beer.

One of my initial allures of homebrewing was the chance to brew historical recreations. To date, I've done one previously, a clone of the original 1983 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale recipe from Charlie Papazian's book Microbrewed Adventures. I don't have notes but remember the comparison of the old to the modern standard being enjoyable and enlightening. Following the recipe from Brew Your Own, I've taken on my second historical beer, in part because I didn't have enough sense to pick up a six pack of the Sam Adams version earlier this year.

New Albion Ale by Wooden Shoe Brew House: off white head lingers a bit with a light lace; color is brown to caramel with gold highlights; floral and citrus of the Cascade comes through very lightly over sweet caramel; body is light without being thin, letting the sweet and spice wash over the tongue.

My version of New Albion Ale
Vaguely reminiscent of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Summit EPA. Not as a direct comparison, but more in that New Albion Ale tastes old school: heavy sweet malt with a light, barely-there hop nose and tingle on the tongue. Similar to the above named pale ales that are a part of the origin story of craft beer, it actually felt like drinking a time warp; an American pale ale today generally won't be this malty with a singular in the hop note. Many BA reviews alluded to the ale tasting more like an English bitter than an APA, which makes sense based on the London Ale yeast used in the recipe and the history of Jack McAuliffe's European models that inspired the brewery.

I reviewed the Basic Brewing Video tasting notes that compared the same recipe I brewed to the Sam Adams version. Based on their description and color comparison, I feel pretty confident that my version is close to the intended brew. In spite of my enjoymetn, the overall rating on BA and Ratebeer are relatively low. However it seems to me that many of the beer geeks are disappointed by drinking with a poor paradigm.

Each site lists New Albion Ale as an American Pale Ale, which it rightly falls short of when contrasted with highly hopped APAs that approach or surpass bitterness levels of my first India Pale Ales a decade ago. Just like reading literature, the standards of the time period must be considered to full understand a work. While I was 11 when New Albion opened, I still remember the wasteland of my father's beer drinking world of the 1970s and early 80s. Drinking New Albion Ale with that frame of mind greatly enhances the experience and let's me see how this beer must have been a revelation to early beer geeks. With adjusted expectations, this beer is growing on me as I work my way through my bottles. For me, this has been a very worthy experiment to be able to taste a reincarnation of the birth of craft beer. I recommend brewing up a batch of history to anyone wanting this unique experience.

1 comment:

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