|Getting the last few drops of Crossroads’ Outrage IPA from the cask.|
I’ve been to beer tastings, I’ve been to museums, but I’ve never been to a beer tasting AT a museum.
Well, that trend ended yesterday at the “Hudson Valley Hops” event at the Albany Institute of History & Art (AIHA). This was an interesting series of presentations on Albany’s oft-forgotten brewing history as well as the current state of hop farming and brewing regulation reform in New York State. Six local breweries were on hand pouring samples of their beers just as they would at a beer festival. Patrons received a 4oz tasting glass with the “Hudson Valley Hops” logo (I have so many of these types of tasting glasses from so many beer festivals it’s ridiculous).
The brewers’ tables were spread out around two floors at the AIHA. A few of them were actually hard to find because of the building’s, uh, peculiar layout (read: idiot me didn’t pay attention to the signs). I nearly missed getting to try beers from Keegan Ales, Brown’s, Adirondack, and Crossroads which were in the Rice House section of the museum. In fact, I got the last few drops of Crossroads’ cask of their Outrage IPA –>
There were presentations going on in the lecture room on the third floor throughout the event. The brewers (and volunteers) were pouring beer on the second and third floors, and there were platters of cheese, crackers, cookies, brownies, and I think there were some chicken wings too but I missed those. From what I could tell, the majority of the crowd was there for the beer, which would explain the long lines and crowded hallways. I don’t mean that as a criticism, just an observation. In fact, I spoke with Elizabeth Reiss, AIHA’s Director of Development, and she said there were about 300 people in attendance this year, which was a huge jump from the less than 100 patrons they had at last year’s event. These are the kind of statistics that make beer nerds like me smile.
I arrived early and spent a good hour or so mingling with the crowd. I was wearing my Albany Brew Crafters sweatshirt and quite a few people asked me about it. I also finally got to meet Scott Veltman, who is a brewer for Ommegang. We’ve been friends on Facebook for a while but had never met in person until this event. We went to the “after party” at the Lionheart Pub and then grabbed a couple more beers and some food at the Excelsior Pub (insert your “bromance” joke here).
As for the presentations, I thought they were all great. I tried to catch every word from every speaker because I obviously found the topics interesting, if not fascinating. I’ll quickly recap and comment on them, but bear in mind this is a ultra-super-succinct recap of presentations which are essentially ultra-super-succinct recaps of history themselves:
4:30pm – Craig Gravina talked about his research of Albany Ale and its 400-year history. A lot of people don’t know that in the United States’ very early years, Albany was second only to London in global beer production. Craig’s been documenting Albany Ale on both his blog and on his Facebook group. I highly recommend all beer enthusiasts in the Capital District learn about this history and get involved involved in the project itself.
|Craig Gravina speaking on the history of Albany Ale|
Craig told me he has a homebrew recipe which might be a fairly accurate reproduction of the beer, but it hasn’t been brewed yet. I hope someone will brew it soon, in fact I’ll volunteer right now. To learn about history is one thing, but to literally taste the same (or approximate) flavors that our ancestors tasted is as close as we’ll ever get to time travel.
5:15pm – Kathy Quinn is a descendant of Ted Quinn of the Quinn & Nolan Brewery – the biggest brewery in the history of Albany Ale. She spoke about her family’s personal and professional history. What was so interesting is that she actually just learned about all this herself fairly recently as her elders moved out west a long time ago.
6pm – Dietrich Gehring talked about the current state of hop farming in New York. He runs a hop farm and described what it entails. He also talked about the Helderberg Hop, a variety that was pretty much exclusive to New York.
|A lesson on hops by Russ Savoy|
6:20pm – Russell Savoy of Hennessy Homebrew Emporium gave a quick lesson on the history of hop farming in upstate New York. Did you know New York used to be the biggest supplier for hops in the country in the pre-prohibition years?
6:40pm – Sam Filler discussed some of the recent changes to brewing regulation in New York. Mr. Filler is a bureaucrat, so there was, not surprisingly, slurping of the governor’s policies and proposals. Though it all sounded great, I just kind of rolled my eyes at this (we’ll get into beer politics another time).
|Brown's Brewing Co. of Troy|