You can’t tell the history of Albany without beer. Not just because drinking it will let loose better stories (though, of course, it will), but because beer has been integral to the city from its very beginning. Henry Hudson himself had brewskis on board the Half Moon. Just 20 years later, Killian van Rensselaer, the first Patroon, “makes no bones about the fact that he has every intention of establishing a brewery in the area and making beer for New Netherlands,” says writer Craig Gravina, co-author of the new book Upper Hudson Valley Beer, a history of the region’s 400-year brewing tradition.
“People of a certain age still remember Hedrick beer,” Gravina says. “Not because it was really well liked — it wasn’t very good beer — but because it was owned by [Democratic Party boss] Dan O’Connell, and it was understood that if you didn’t serve his beer it was really hard to operate a bar. He made licensing a headache.” But beer plays no political favorites. The Republican Party did the same thing when they controlled the city in the 19th century, because that mayor owned Beverwyck beer.
Much of the source material for the book came from the Albany Institute of History and Art, and the museum is hosting a launch party with Gravina and co-author Alan McLeod this Thursday, September 11. “The Albany Institute has a great collection of beer-related materials, from historic recipe books and advertisements to photographs of workers and regional maps with breweries listed,” says museum spokesperson Aine Leader-Nagy. “Craig and Alan used our collection for their research and have included some images of those pieces in their book.”
Published by the History Press of Charleston, South Carolina, the book covers the major old-school brewing centers of Albany, Troy, and Hudson; downriver to Poughkeepsie and Matthew Vassar’s brewing empire; and makes excursions into central New York. It moves chronologically to today’s beer-making revival. Remarkable Liquids, a craft-focused beer distributor, will be offering samples of some of these new local brews.
“We’re excited to help share this history with the public,” Leader-Nagy says, “and what better way than hosting the launch and sampling some current regional beers?”
If you go:
What: Upper Hudson Valley Beer Book Launch Party and Beer Tasting
Where: Albany Institute of History and Art, 125 Washington Ave., Albany
When: Thursday, September 11, 6-8 p.m.
Cost: $30 per person, $50 per couple (includes a copy of the book and beer samples)
Details: For more information and to purchase tickets, call Andrew Alliger at 518-463-4478, ext. 412; www.albanyinstitute.org