Microbrew pioneer headed to Winterfest 

click to enlarge Jack McAuliffe in the 1970s, with homemade brewing equipment.
  • Jack McAuliffe in the 1970s, with homemade brewing equipment.

Indy beer fans will get a chance to drink some history at Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest on January 26. Originally brewed by Jack McAuliffe in Sonoma, Calif., New Albion Ale is making its comeback as a brewing partnership between McAuliffe and Boston Brewing Company, a.k.a. Samuel Adams. McAuliffe will be at Winterfest to share and talk about the re-launch of the first offering from New Albion Brewing Company, recognized as the start of the modern-era U.S. craft brewing industry.

New Albion Ale offered a complex taste profile at a time most American were drinking unassuming lagers made by the big breweries. Brewing a line-up of English and Scottish-style ales, porters and stouts, McAuliffe attracted a following in California, and gradually people nationwide who traveled to where New Albion beers were available. But the concept of a craft brewery was new; McAuliffe has said it was like being a Martian trying to convince bankers a microbrewery was worthwhile.

When New Albion closed in November 1982, McAuliffe, a Navy veteran who was an engineer by profession, left Sonoma and pretty much dropped out of the craft brewing scene. But starting in the 1980s, his example inspired others, and one new microbrewery followed another.

McAuliffe developed his taste for good beer while stationed in Scotland. Realizing he wouldn't find these easily when he got home, McAuliffe learned to homebrew and became part of the 1960's-'70s culture of homebrewers who were making styles forgotten in the U.S. since Anheuser-Busch.

Ken Grossman, co-founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing, took McAuliffe out of brewing seclusion to co-brew a dark American barleywine to mark Sierra Nevada's 30th anniversary in 2010. This tribute led to the 2011 invitation from Jim Koch at Boston Brewing to bring back New Albion Ale "for a modern age."

Boston Brewing's equipment is vastly different from the setup New Albion was working with in the '70s. But Koch is reported to have said, "We should do it Jack's way." And "Jack's way" is the sip of history patrons at Winterfest will be sampling.

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