The Return of an American Original (Taking a short break from the rails)

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In 1840, Peter Ballantine, a Scottish immigrant, opened a brewery in Newark, NJ and incorporated it as the Patterson and Ballantine Brewing Company.  His three sons joined the operation, and it is renamed P. Ballantine and Sons, a name it held until the brewery closed in 1972.  In 1878, an IPA is added to the company’s line of products.  It is groundbreaking in the US as it was brewed according to the traditional “Burton” method dating back to the English IPAs of the early 1800s.  It featured a very pale malt, high hopping rates and an extended period of aging in wood casks.

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Ballantine Brewery, Newark, NJ

After the ridiculous period we know as prohibition was over, the brewery is purchased by the Badenhausen brothers and they brought in a new Scottish brewmaster, Archiblad MacKechnie.  The pre-prohibition tradition continued in the production of Ballantine as an American original.

Ballantine sales grew and it became the sponsoring beer of the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees.

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2007-02-14-larsen-medFor a time in the 1950s, it was America’s third largest brewery. Many iconic Americans pitched its products.

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Ernest Hemingway advertisement

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John Steinbeck advertisement.

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Yogi Berra advertisement

Sadly, Ballantine entered the wilderness in the 1960s as other breweries started to capture its market share.  Clever advertising began to trump quality.  Eventually, the brewery was closed (It should have been a national day of mourning really!) and the brands are sold to Falstaff.  Its production was moved to Rhode Island and the recipe was screwed up and outsourced to contract brewers.  An outstanding American beer, Ballantine’s IPA was dead.

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1960’s beer tray

But the story doesn’t end here.  It gets happier.

In 1985, Falstaff merges with Pabst.  Thus beginning a long tortured path back to production and its former greatness.  Thank goodness for Pabst brew master, Greg Deuhs.  Knowing a national treasure had been lost, he began experimenting with recreating the Ballantine’s IPA in his home in Milwaukee.

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Greg Duehs

The original recipe had been lost during all the mergers, etc., but Greg worked hard to recreate the magical brew.  He interviewed people and pieced together the remaining information to guide the re-creation of Ballantine IPA.  I am happy to say, the new Ballantine IPA is now available on the East Coast.  It is an outstanding brew.  It is currently brewed in Cold Spring, Minnesota.  Click here and here for more on the “re-creation” story.  It is pretty fascinating.

This being a “rail-centric” blog site, I wish I could report that railroads were employed to help make or distribute this fine product.  There is a rail line near the brewery, but I cannot see anything that indicates the line is used by the brewery.  Perhaps a load makes it into a container hauled by rail from time to time.

Today, there are many great IPAs prodcued in America.  This site has discussed a number of them.  However, this IPA was being produced for about a century before today’s IPA craze.  There is something about today’s Ballantine IPA that is distinctive even now.  Some say it is the hop oil.  Whatever it is, if you can find it, try it!  Let’s not lose it this time.

Click here for reviews from http://www.beeradvocate.com/

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I love seeing this part of our heritage come back!  Thank you Pabst and Greg Deuhs for making it happen.

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