Albany Ale and the Upper Hudson Valley’s ale brewing tradition began nearly 400 years ago with the earliest Dutch settlers. By the 1650s, twelve breweries were operating in the village of Beverwijck (present day Albany) and the surrounding region.

Over the next 150 years, commercial ale brewing grew in and around Albany, and the area became known as a brewing hub in colonial and post-Revolutionary War America. With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, and the rise of New York's hops industry in the 1840s and 1850s, ale production in the Upper Hudson Valley exploded. By the 1860s, Albany and Troy alone boasted twenty to thirty breweries. Among them was Albany's John Taylor & Sons, the largest brewery in the country, capable of producing 200,000 barrels of beer a year. Most of the breweries of the Upper Hudson Valley produced Albany Ale—a strong, pale, mild ale—and most of the Albany Ale brewed was made for the export market, being sold in cities like New York, Boston, Charleston, New Orleans, and San Francisco, and across the globe in places like Newfoundland, Hawaii, and Surinam.

The popularity of Albany Ale waned at the end of the nineteenth century. The country's ever-expanding web of railroads diminished the Upper Hudson Valley’s dominance in the distribution of ale, while the taste for light, crisp, German-style lager was also increasing. National Prohibition, begun in 1920, halted all legal brewing for thirteen years. Most of the breweries that re-opened after repeal focused on light lager, but the area’s ale brewing roots were still relevant in the 1980s and 1990s when William S. Newman opened his ale-centered “boutique” brewery on Learned Street in Albany. Today, with the “craft revolution” in full-swing, the Upper Hudson Valley is seeing a resurgence in beer-making, continuing the area’s rich brewing heritage.

 

Magnifying Glass
Albany Ales and Steamed Clams Lamp
Probably made in Schoharie, New York
c. 1870–1880
Tin, glass, paint
Magnifying Glass
R. Dunlop & Son's Albany Ale and Porter Broadside
Printed by Joel Munsell, Albany, New York
c. 1840
Lithograph and letterpress on paper
Albany Institute of History & Art, bequest of Ledyard Cogswell, Jr., 1954.59.10