Schenectady’s Frog Alley brewing re-creation of circa-1905 Albany beer

Craig Gravina of the Albany Ale Project (wearing period garb) and Frog Alley master brewer Rich Michaels are shown at Frog Alley in Schenectady on Friday

Craig Gravina of the Albany Ale Project (wearing period garb) and Frog Alley master brewer Rich Michaels are shown at Frog Alley in Schenectady on Friday

SCHENECTADY — The newest brew at Frog Alley isn’t new at all.

The staff at the Schenectady brewery on Friday started a batch of India Pale Ale based on a circa-1905 recipe from the old Amsdell brewery in Albany, a producer of some of the premodern regional beers collectively known as Albany Ale.

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The new old brew will be ready in time for a regional conference on creative placemaking later this month that will be centered in Proctors, farther up State Street.

Craig Gravina of the Albany Ale Project said he and Maeve McEneny of Discover Albany have been working to bring together breweries, bars, historical societies, museums and cultural institutions to cross-promote themselves and the area. This has included neighborhood beer tours and promotions of local businesses with beer history.

They were invited to talk about their efforts at the Northeast & Mid-Atlantic Creative Placemaking Summit, which is virtual and in-person at Proctors from April 18-22. 

“Obviously a lot of what we do is related to beer history, so I was like, why don’t we see if we can do our portion at Frog Alley?” Gravina said.

How about we make a brew for the occasion? Frog Alley Master Brew Rich Michaels countered. 

And Gravina happened to have a recipe of appropriate age and lineage.

“The recipe had some ambiguity to it, as far as multiple hops,” Michaels said. “So we used some hops that were grown in New York historically at the time. It’s probably more of what we today would call a West Coast IPA, not as big and fruity an aroma as a New England IPA.”

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Historic references to IPAs in this region start around the 1850s, Gravina said, but those beers likely had a different profile from many modern IPAs.

“The recipes and the lab data I’ve seen from those earlier brews would tend to be a maltier, full-bodied beer,” Michaels said.

So for the re-creation, the mash was done at a higher temperature to give the beer that fuller body, he said. Malts that will leave non-fermentable sugars were added.

Other ingredients include bitter orange and corn.

“The corn smell when we were first bringing it to a boil and even in the mash was very prominent, it smelled almost like grits,” Gravina said, “but it was not uncommon for beers back then to have corn in them. Even British beers before World War I had a good amount of corn.”

The beer Michaels started Friday will fill eight kegs.

On April 21, when Gravina and McEneny wrap up their talk on beers past and present as a way to promote tourism and a sense of place, the kegs will be tapped.

Past and present will meet, one pint at a time.

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