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Albany, New York

America’s Forgotten Beer City.

When you think about great American brewing cities, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Denver, and Portland, Ore., might jump to mind, but Albany, N.Y.? In fact, American beer might not be what it is today had it not been for Albany.

As the state capital, Albany is usually associated with politics, but the Upper Hudson River Valley was once one of North America’s most productive brewing centers. During the 19th century, “Albany Ale” was brewed and exported all along the Hudson between Poughkeepsie and Troy, with Albany as the epicenter.

The earliest Dutch fur traders brought their love of beer to North America in the 1600s, and it was the most popular beverage of the New Netherland colony. Brewing started in New York City, or New Amsterdam as it was known, but by the mid-17th century, the village of Beverwijck (which became Albany under British rule), and the surrounding patroonship of Rennselearswijck, had between eight and 20 breweries at any given time. One prominent early Dutch family, the Gansevoorts, operated their Albany brewery for nearly 150 years, before closing in 1805.

As New York City grew in the late 1700s, so too did the microbial dangers lurking within its waters. With the city’s water fouled, Hudson Valley brewers filled the void and began supplying beer downriver.

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#130 (November 2017)