The Hudson Valley's history of brewing is a story of ale.
From the mid 17th century to the first two decades of the twentieth century, it was ale that was being brewed by an industry that spanned the length of the Hudson River—from Poughkeepsie in the south, to Troy in the North. Albany however, was the epicenter.
For much of its history, Albany has thrived as a center of the North American beer industry. First as part of New Netherlands, then as the New York Colony under English Rule, and continuing after independence. By the 19th century the emergence of "Albany Ale" earned the city’s breweries international recognition and a reputation that would extend into the 20th century. Although Albany Ale no longer exists, research being done by the Albany Ale Project is increasing interest in the oft-forgotten history of Albany’s brewing past – and the Ale that accompanied it.
As settlements began expanding west from the Hudson River in the early 1700s, a new form of "local" brewing emerged. While most the larger breweries were found in New York City or Albany, under British law, tavern owners could brew their own beer, so small, beer-making inns and taverns began appearing in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys, and the need for locally grown, raw materials for these taverns, helped to establish grain-growing farms in this area. By the mid-18th century, New York's ability to grow wheat became fully realized. Wheat grown in New York was often shipped to the British colonies of the Caribbean in exchange for sugar. By the American Revolution, Central New York was known as the ‘bread-basket of the colonies’—so much so that during the war, the British Army burned fields and raided farms in that area to deplete the Continental Army's wheat supply. The recovery from the war was a slow process and an infestation of the Hessian Fly devastated New York's wheat crop, forcing a move to barley as the primary grain used in brewing.