For lunch we decant to the brewery’s pub, which is on the first floor.
A very attractive, old-fashioned sort of place it is, with dark wooden panelling and an impressive carved bar. The brewery has laid on a buffet of local Italian-ishy food like Utica greens. Craig is well impressed.
“This is real local Utica food. Something else I can annoy Alan with.” Craig says somewhat spitefully.
Fred Matt, the family member currently in charge, joins us for lunch. He’s a friendly, enthusiastic man who is clearly in love with the brewery. You can’t blame him. I’m becoming smitten myself.
Naturally, there’s beer to go with the food. There’s a good selection of Matt’s beer on tap, mostly under the Saranac brand, but there’s also the old favourite Utica Club Pilsener. I go for something IPA-ey. As often is the case when I’m in the US. Unless there’s Mild on offer, obviously. Not that that’s often the case.
After we’ve stuffed our holes, they bring out the old documents that they’ve found. It’s not a huge amount and there are no brewing records. But an inventory record does give away a little about what they were brewing during Prohibition. It lists the stock of various labels during 1931. These are the beers: Pilsener, Wuerzburger, Bock, Brown Stout, India Pale and Export Brew. Wuerzburger, in case you’re wondering, was a sort of Dark Lager. Several breweries seem to have made one.
We venture up into the attic to look at the piles of stuff heaped up there. Furniture, old advertising material, wrecked barrels. All sorts of stuff.
The barrels are particularly interesting. The ones that are falling apart reveal their innards and the function of two enigmatic holes in the head. These lead to a metal coil inside the barrel. Blow me. It’s a sort of in-barrel attemperator. Who would have guessed that?
When we’ve had our fill of the attic, it’s back to look at the remainder of the brewery. We see yet more tanks and more weird old bits of equipment. And the fermenters.
No conicals here, but horizontal oblong fermenters. They used to be open but are now enclosed with stainless steel tops. The danger of CO2 was the main reason for enclosing them. Which is fair enough. CO2 is the biggest killer in a brewery. The historical records are full of sad cases of brewery workers succumbing to suffocation by CO2.
We climb up onto the roof, giving us a wonderful view of the brewery and the town around it. A few years back there was a disastrous fire that destroyed two floors of one of the buildings. They’ve since been removed, leaving the structure two storeys shorter. Fortunately the brewery was able to rise from the ashes.
It’s quite late by the time we finally say our farewells. We’ve spent pretty much the whole day at the brewery. I feel knacked. Must be all that walking up and down stairs.
Back in Albany, we drop off Craig at home then Reed drives me to the Olde English Pub for a meal and a pint. I’m so tired that I knock half of my fried fish onto the floor. Bum.
Reed wants to know what the caramel flavour is at the back of his Fullers ESB.
“It’s the boiled sweet flavour you get when you pasteurise British beer.”
He seems a little disappointed at my explanation.
No need for a Laphroaig eye-closer tonight. I can barely keep them open as I stumble into my room. Exhausted but happy.
Tomorrow I’ve a day in the museum. New York State Museum, where Craig works. Will the fun never end?
The Olde English Pub and Pantry
Albany, NY 12204
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