Yeah, that kind of describes this weekend. Well, Saturday at least.
Six months of planning, meeting, brewing and announcing culminated in what I think was one of the best beer events I've had the pleasure of being involved with—the 1901 Albany Ale cask tap at the Albany Institute of History & Art.
Two plus hours of beer and history, I was the proverbial pig in shit.
|Ryan (the brewer), a jackass, and Alan (the Canadian).|
Our host and partner, the Albany Institute and their curator of History and Material Culture, Dr. W. Douglas McCombs, set the tone for the evening by displaying not just a few old coasters and and beer bottles, but by developing a full exhibition in the Rice House. Doug brought out everything from an 1840s Joel Munsell print of Robert Dunlop's brewery, to the original 1901 Amsdell brewing log (with the original recipe for this 1901 recreation) to an 1980s sign from Bill Newman's brewery—the first craft brewery on the East Coast. Their artifacts panned a a huge swath of time in the history of Albany Ale. Aside from the good Dr. McCombs, The Institute's Director Tammis Groft and especially the Institute's Director of Development Elizabeth Reiss—and her amazing staff—kept the wheels from falling off as the beer flowed.
Alan—my partner-in-crime in this whole Albany Ale shebang—arrived from the Great White North around 4pm and I picked them up shortly thereafter—and it was a good thing we got there when we did, because the event ramped up promptly at five. By 5:15—after a countdown from five—C.H. Evans' brewer Ryan Demler had tapped the first cask of Albany Ale made in more than 100 years, with nary a drop spilt, I might add. The crowd of nearly 170 people ebbed in front of the table on which the little cask was perched. Ryan and I frantically poured pints of the amber liquid placing them in the outstretch hands of folks eager to taste a bit of history.
I'm sure your all asking at this point—what about the beer? It seems to have been quite the hit.
Courtesy of Geoff Huth
So much so that Ryan needed to make a beer run at around 6pm. By that point, we had already gone through a firkin and a half-barrel, but the break in the action also gave Al and I the chance to pimp the Project a bit. In any case, the beer was generally what I expected—sweet and mild. What I wasn't expecting was the rich, toffee and citrus, almost orange like notes in it. At 5.2%ABV, this version of Albany Ale seems to have been quite an easy drinker, too. A far cry from its mid-19th century Grandpa—the Albany Ale of the 1860s—which most likely ticked in closer to 8 or 8-1/2%.
By 7pm, things wound down at the Institute. Alan and I said our goodbyes to the Institute and Evans folks, with handshakes and congratulations around, on a job well done by all parties. We topped off the evening with a dinner of Mexican at the venerable El Mariachi. Then off to the Lionheart to meet up with a few more cask-tap attendees—Chad Fust (who helped out with the Vassar brewing logs last September), his lovely girlfriend Rei; and Ethan and the boys from Community Beer Works in Buffalo—for more Albany Ale (and some CBW brews, too.)
As cool as it was to be involved with the brewing and unveiling of this beer, what I think is more important than just "the beer" is the partnerships we formed. The collaboration between a research project, a local museum and a brewery seems to have been a win-win for everyone.
The Institute brought in 170 people on a Saturday night in November—160 people who on most every other Saturday night, probably wouldn't have been in a museum, let alone seeing pieces of Albany's past—beery or otherwise. Ryan and C.H. Evans Brewing Company now have a bunch of kegs at a bunch of bars and pubs across the Capital Region, they've also indelibly tied themselves to the brewing history of this city.
But what about the Project—what did the Project get out of all this? We got 160 people to know just a little bit more about the Albany Ale Project and their own beery history—and that's all we've ever asked. Hopefully, recreating this beer will spark someone to look in that old trunk in the attic, or open that dusty book in the basement. Maybe—just maybe—someone out there has a piece of the Albany Ale puzzle, stashed away, someplace they haven't yet thought to look. That's what the Project got
That, and I got a derby and a sweet handlebar mustache out of the deal, too.
Thank's to everyone who came out, and we'll see you at the cask tap of the next Albany Ale recreation—whichever one that might be!
You'll just have to wait and see...
For Alan's take on his trip to Albany and the cask tap event, check out his post here.