WHAT was ALBANY ALE?
Things would change in the years following the Civil War. The development of the railroad, during and after, the war resulted, in a wane in the demand for Albany Ale. Access to rail lines all but eliminated Albany’s monopoly on beer distribution, and while ale in general was still being produced in large quantities in Albany, Albany Ale was becoming less and less common into the 1870s and 1880s.
Beverwyck Brewing Company Tray
D. H. Beach Company, Coshocton, OH
Printed and painted sheet iron
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Ivan C. and Marilynn Karp, 2005.18.6
While Albany Ale may have become less popular, brewing was still going strong in the city—and expanding into other towns. The boomtowns born of the Erie Canal—West Troy, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo—gave many opportunities to the massive influx of German immigrants into New York in the 1890s. With them, these immigrants brought a taste for a new kind of brew. Lager had been in the U.S since the 1840s, but since it needs to be cold-fermented and then chilled for a number of months, it was never a viable endeavor until commercial refrigeration became widely available in the 1880s. Although Ale was still king in Albany, lager breweries like Quandt's in Troy, West End Brewing Co. in Utica, and Rau & Reisky in Rochester began opening with increasing frequency. In New York City, the Bushwick section of Brooklyn was becoming the center of brewing. It was known for its "Bushwick Pilsner"—a relatively bitter, light colored lager that used both barley and corn in its grist. By the turn of the century, lager had become the dominant beer, not only in New York but across the country. By the first decade of the 20th century Amsdell Brewing and Malting Company was the only brewery still making Albany Ale.