This is the one every beer geek wants back, if only to give New Albion founder Jack McAuliffe some much deserved credit for starting the American microbrew movement known today as "craft beer."
When he brewed his first pale ale back in 1976 in Sonoma, Calif., McAuliffe was a retired Navy veteran who was just trying to replicate the beers he'd tried in Europe. His New Albion Brewing Co., which took its name from explorer Sir Francis Drake's "Nova Albion" moniker for Northern California, would last another only six years before McAuliffe had to shut it down in 1982 when he couldn't secure funding, but the spark was already lit.
Inspired by McAuliffe's brewing techniques and Fritz Maytag's revitalization of San Francisco's Anchor Brewery after purchasing it in 1965, a young brewing equipment salesman named Ken Grossman started making his own pale ale under the Sierra Nevada name in 1979. Grossman's brewery in Chico, Calif., now produces nearly a million barrels and has an East Coast facility under construction in Asheville, N.C.
While there were fewer than 50 breweries when McAuliffe and Grossman were getting started in the late '70s -- with Budweiser, Coors, Falstaff, Schlitz and Pabst accounting for a whole lot of it -- there are more than 2,300 breweries in operation today. Not that McAuliffe reaped any of the reward for it. He stopped brewing immediately after New Albion filed for bankruptcy and spent the next 30 year designing industrial control systems for sewage treatment facilities and factories that produced aluminum car wheels.Bloomberg Businessweek ran and interview with McAuliffe in March that made it apparent that he didn't look back on his days at New Albion fondly. He was angry about the brewery's demise, he was angry that brewers who cited him as inspiration went on to make millions and he was disappointed that beer couldn't provide for him when he was most in need. Yet McAuliffe had more support than he realized, including a huge booster in Boston Beer founder Jim Koch. Three years ago, one of Koch's Sam Adams sales reps stumbled across McAuliffe and put Koch in touch with him. After some prodding, Koch convinced McAuliffe to get the New Albion yeast being preserved by the University of California at Davis' fermentation science program and revive the New Albion recipe. Last July, Koch and McAuliffe brewed up the first batch of New Albion in 30 years. Koch then handed the proceeds from the sale and the New Albion trademark back to McAuliffe on the condition that he not sell New Albion to a big brewer such as Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) or MolsonCoors (TAP - Get Report). McAuliffe has no interest in brewing again, but handed off his citrusy, hoppy recipe to his daughter, Renee DeLuca. She's been keeping fans updated through her blog, The Brewer's Daughter, and promoting the brand as its run with Boston Beer continues. While New Albion's return in 2013 has been wondrous for everyone involved, a sign from DeLuca that it's here to stay would complete the comeback.