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What I'm Drinking: New Albion Ale

By Will Smith

Earlier this year, one of the earliest craft beers made in North America was revived by its originator and the founder of Boston Beers, Jim Koch. You should get some and try it.

The Russian River Brewing Company, in Santa Rosa, California is one of my all time favorite bars. The folks at Russian River make some of my favorite craft beers in the country. Unfortunately, Russian River is an hour or two away from my home, so I don't get up there often enough. But when I'm in the neighborhood, I usually make an excuse to grab a beer and a couple of chicken wings. It's a good place to drink a beer, especially on a weekday afternoon when it isn't too crowded.

Beer and food aside, my favorite thing about Russian River is that they've had a New Albion Brewery sign on the wall as long as I've been going there. If you know the story of craft brewing in the United States, you know about New Albion. If you don't, it's simple: When Jack McAuliffe started New Albion in 1976, there was no craft beer industry. As a result, Jack had to be a maker--he built his small brewery out of coke premix barrels and other equipment he was able to scrounge up. While New Albion's beer was tasty by all reports, the company had problems scaling beyond a few barrels a week and it folded after a few short years.

Despite New Albion's failure, the craft beer movement was on a roll. Every Sierra Nevada and pint at your local brewpub you've ever drunk exists because a few pioneers like Jack started making beer in small batches 35 years ago. If you're planning on drinking anything other than an American-style lager this weekend--Budweiser, Coors, Miller, or even PBR--you have New Albion and Jack McAuliffe to thank for it.

Why is this relevant today? Earlier this year, Jack worked with Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer, to brew the first new batch of New Albion's original American pale ale in 30 years. As soon as I found out about it, I ran to the nearest store with stock so I could try some myself. I'll tell you up front that it's a delicious golden ale, with crisp, hoppy notes that's perfect for drinking in the summer sun. But you should really try some for yourself.