It has been 30 years since the last bottle of New Albion beer was sold, marking an end to the first, short-lived modern microbrewery. But Jack McAuliffe's brewery, which lasted from 1977 to 1983, inspired a movement. Today, there are more than 2,290 craft breweries, and another 1,381 are in the planning stages. And New Albion's pale ale has been resurrected at last.

I've written about McAuliffe before and shared the tale of what happened after New Albion closed its doors, the brewmaster's return to his engineering career and his disappearance from the brewing scene. But the newest chapter hails from Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch, whose admiration for McAuliffe was so great that when he discovered the trademark to New Albion had expired, he registered it himself to protect the brand from being exploited.

Jack McAuliffe, of the long-shuttered, iconic New Albion brewery,celebrates with Boston Beer’s Jim Koch at the Great American BeerFestival, where
Jack McAuliffe, of the long-shuttered, iconic New Albion brewery, celebrates with Boston Beer's Jim Koch at the Great American Beer Festival, where they launched their new New Albion pale ale. Photo by Jay R. Brooks. ( Jay R. Brooks )

When Koch started making Samuel Adams in 1984, there were very few new breweries. New Albion was like a "mythic unicorn, with tales told about it," he says. The pioneers in the craft brewing movement faced many challenges, including a dearth of small-scale brewing equipment and a lack of interest on the part of distributors and retailers.

"You had to make your own way," he says. "If you have to do that, you really appreciate and understand what it is to be a pioneer."

In the spring of 2007 -- thanks largely to Koch's efforts -- McAuliffe received a recognition award from the Brewers Association at the annual Craft Brewers Conference. But in the years since New Albion closed, McAuliffe had become increasingly reclusive and could not be persuaded to accept the award in person. Instead, his old assistant brewer, Don Barkley, who went on to start Mendocino Brewing and currently brews at Napa Smith Brewery, accepted it on his behalf.


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Two years later, McAuliffe was in a serious car accident and moved to San Antonio to live with his sister. There, he joined a local home-brew club, where he crossed paths with a Samuel Adams employee -- and word soon reached Koch.

Gradually, McAuliffe began reimmersing himself in the brewing community. He collaborated with Sierra Nevada brewmaster Ken Grossman on a special, anniversary beer, Jack & Ken's Ale. McAuliffe spoke at the 2011 Craft Brewers Conference, held in San Francisco, and visited Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, where the original New Albion sign hangs on the wall behind the bar. At the Great American Beer Festival that year, he sat down with Koch for the first time to talk about a new New Albion.

In July, McAuliffe flew to Boston to brew a pale ale, one of the original New Albion beers, with Koch. They spent the day tweaking the old recipe from memory. In the fall, the draft beer made its debut when McAuliffe served it at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. He finally seemed pleased and at ease with the notion of what he had helped start, and he voiced his amazement at just how big small beer has become.

On Thursday, bottles of New Albion Ale will be available for the first time in three decades. McAuliffe and Koch will celebrate the launch at Russian River Brewing from 6 to 8 p.m. with Russian River Brewing co-founder Vinnie Cilurzo, who calls McAuliffe "one of the true pioneers in the craft beer industry, right up there with Fritz Maytag and Ken Grossman. We are thrilled to host Jack and the Boston Beer Co. and the rerelease of New Albion Ale."

Don't worry if you can't make it to Santa Rosa. Bottles are being released nationwide, so you should be able to find some anywhere Samuel Adams is sold -- and New Albion Ale proceeds go directly to the now-retired McAuliffe.

"I would like it to be significant enough to be meaningful to him," Koch says. "Jack started all this. We all have very good lives on account of what he went through on our behalf."

Join me in drinking a toast to the return of New Albion Ale.

Contact Jay R. Brooks at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com. Read more by Brooks at www.ibabuzz.com/bottomsup.