It was 40 years ago today that New Albion Brewing Company became officially established as the first post-Prohibition microbrewery in the U.S. It came from the mind and hands of my father, Jack McAuliffe. After a stint in the Navy overseas, drinking wonderful brews in Europe, he returned home to find that the delicious ales he fell in love with were not to be found. So he did it himself–fashioned a brewery from old farm equipment, found a farmer to sell him some Cascade hops (all that were available), bought a train car of malt (the only quantity he could buy) and made his dream a reality. It all began in Sonoma, California–a land once dubbed “New Albion” by Sir Francis Drake. Jack lived “like a spider,” as he says, above his brewhouse, where he spent all his time brewing up those first ales, porters, stouts and his special barleywine.
Today there are over 4,000 breweries doing business in the good ol’ U.S.A.– many of them are sharing their good beer at the Great American Beer Fest in Denver this week. I’ve been at GABF with Jack, and walking up and down those aisles of the Denver Convention Center with him is a pretty fun thing to behold. Today you can get a catalog and order up some shiny new brewing equipment, some hops, some malt and off you go, like many of those GABF participants. It wasn’t that way back in the ’70s when Jack first fired up the kettle.
I’m proud to continue the tradition as we brew the original New Albion Ale recipe with Platform Beer Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Jack worked with the Platform brewers and says it’s every bit as good as he remembers.
So here’s to Jack, and his dream of better beer for all. Raise a glass of your favorite American made craft beer: CHEERS to Jack, and 40 years of New Albion! It’s one man’s dream come true, and millions of beer lovers made happy.
It has been an exciting journey, getting to know my birthfather Jack, and many of my McAuliffe relatives. I’ve loved learning about my Irish heritage–St. Patrick’s Day is definitely a high holiday to me! If you’ve been following along here on my blog, you may remember that I am a reunited adoptee, and did not grow up with Jack. (Yes, I went so far as to make the shamrock a permanent part of my life with a tattoo!) Recently, to celebrate my daughter’s graduation from Boston College, she and I made a trip to England and Ireland. We had a great time in both places, but I especially loved the Emerald Isle. I felt completely drawn to my homeland. I loved the accents and the topography, the architecture and the Wild Atlantic Way. We didn’t have a lot of time, and just touched on a few towns as we made a Southern circle from Dublin; there is so much more to explore there.
High on my list of places to visit was the little town of Newmarket, in County Cork. This is where the McAuliffe family hails from originally. It’s not a tourist destination, and Ali and I spent a bright sunny morning there, in search of the family herald and traipsing around the cemetery. We were directed by the town butcher to the herald, which is right in front of the tiny town hall. I love the mermaids on the ancient McAuliffe symbol–I have always felt a call to the ocean. Maybe this is one reason why…it’s in my blood! (Like beer!)
We found many McAuliffes in the town cemetery, which was high on a hill overlooking Newmarket. Unfortunately, we missed a July family reunion of McAuliffes from all around the world. Someday Ali and I will have to make it back and visit with these distant relations. Everyone is so warm and friendly. And Jack tells me the phrase “getting corked” comes from those who hail from County Cork… apparently there’s a bit of rowdiness in our roots.
High on our list of favorite stops, Ali and I loved the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher. The narrow roads leading there took us through tiny towns and traffic jams due to sheep crossing. Meanwhile, I had a quite a core workout driving down “Corkscrew Road” from the cliffs as we made our way to County Galway. In Galway, we had a wonderful meal at a traditional thatched roof pub, Powers Tavern. The *best* lamb stew I have ever enjoyed, and a pint of course.
We never made it to Northern Ireland, and my homeland continues to beckon. I know I’ll be back. Sláinte!
Sacramento, California–It was more than my pleasure to see my father recognized recently by the Northern California Brewers Guild at the California State Fair for his contributions to the craft beer movement with the founding of New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma in 1976. He was the recipient of a Founders Award, along with Anchor Steam’s Fritz Maytag and Sierra Nevada’s Ken Grossman. While Ken was on the road with his Beer Camp, Fritz was also at the event, and brewers from the region joined in a standing ovation for both pioneers of beer. The highlight of the event was a toast to Jack with the newly rebooted New Albion Ale, graciously shipped to the beer’s homeland by our brewing partners at Platform Beer Company. It was a big hit, and got a big thumbs up from Jack.
The awards ceremony was followed by a brewfest on the fair grounds–and Jack and my friends Mike and Donna Nedrow (proprietors of Chardon BrewWorks in Geauga County here at home) enjoyed a beery afternoon tasting an array of beers that were award winners at the event. It was a great treat having Mike and Donna at the fest, as they just happened to be traveling in Northern Cali at that time, and gladly accepted my invitation.
We shared a table with beer writer Jay Brooks, who introduced the Founders Award winners with entertaining stories and a bit of history. It was a happy and memorable afternoon, and Jack was pleased to be so honored.
And because a girl cannot live by beer alone, I took advantage of my time in wine country and visited a couple of wineries the next day with a dear friend–had an amazing Montebello–the subject of the movie Bottle Shock, at Ridge Vineyards.