Sonoma's Best Brings New Albion Ale Back in Time for Super Bowl

The ale's original producer 'Jack' McAuliffe, began his operation on Eighth Street in Sonoma in 1976. He's considered the father of the U.S. craft beer movement.

Tom Jenkins, owner of Sonoma's Best cafe, store and deli, is proud to be offering 6-packs of local history this week.

One of his coolers is filled with New Albion Ale, brewed for the first time in 30 years by Samuel Adams.

"You know, the manufacturer of the original ale, John 'Jack' McAuliffe, gave birth to the U.S. craft beer movement right here on Eighth Street in Sonoma," Jenkins told Patch, looking out his window down that street.

McAuliffe was the founder of The New Albion Brewing Company, named after the appellation Sir Francis Drake was reported to have given San Francisco —New Albion.

"He started in 1976. Unfortunately he went out of business in 1982 because he couldn't get the funding he needed," Jenkins said. "Everyone who lived around here at that time still remembers him."

McAuliffe, a former Navy engineer, no longer lives in California. He has settled in Arkansas.

Jenkins said he was able to get 20 6-packs from a distributor recently. The ale is being offered nationwide, beginning this month. Jenkins said he likes how the bottles feature the original label.

"McAuliffe used to make his craft brews in a former agriculture shed. He sold everything he made but he couldn't get the financing to expand," Jenkins said.

McAuliffe is known for building his one-barrel style microbrewery from scratch, by scouring the area for scrap metal and equipment, according to this Mercury News article.

Jenkins said he's limiting his sales of the ale to one 6-pack per customer, "so that at least 20 Sonoma residents can enjoy a sip of the past."

"The funds are going to McAuliffe because he was in a bad traffic accident," he said.

McAuliffe lost the use of an arm in the accident and now lives with his sister.

McAuliffe was born in Venezuela, the son of an FBI agent stationed at the embassy in World War II, Jenkins said.

The craft brew pioneer made an appearance at Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa in 2011, as seen in this You Tube video. His original brewery sign is on display there. McAuliffe climbed a ladder to sign it during that appearance, as shown in the video.

TELL US: Do you remember Jack? We'd love to hear your recollections of those days. Let us know in the comments section below.

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Cathy McAuliffe January 29, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Actually, Jack lives in northwest Arkansas with his other sister - that would be me. And Jack was indeed in a very serious accident in 2009, and he lost the use of his left arm, but the arm is still there! And the reason Boston Beer is brewing New Albion Ale and passing the proceeds along to Jack really has nothing to do with the accident -- Jim Koch simply explained that he (and a lot of other craft brewers) owe so much to Jack for what he got started back in the '70s, and he says giving back to Jack is just the right thing to do. I visited Jack when he had the brewery going -- and while I love the ale that's on the market now, I want to see the porter and the stout make a comeback, too!
Brent Ainsworth January 29, 2013 at 04:39 PM
Great job with this, Julie, and thank you for chiming in, Cathy. I believe craft beer geeks outnumber wine snobs in the Bay Area — maybe not in the wine country, but overall. Jack ranks right up there with former Anchor Brewing owner Fritz Maytag and Bert Grant (first brewpub in America) as the foremost historic figures in that industry. SF Beer Week ( www.sfbeerweek.org/ ) starts Feb. 8!
Julie Pendray January 29, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Cathy, I'm so glad you read the article and corrected those things for me. Tom said he'd heard two different reports of where Jack was living. I went with the news report. And of course his arm in a sling is shown in the video but I neglected to correct that when writing last night. I'll do that now!
Julie Pendray January 29, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Please tell Jack "Hi" from the people of Sonoma!
Sal Guardino February 03, 2013 at 04:15 AM
Hi Cathy, I met Jack before he started New Albion Brewery. He asked me to do the Art Work in exchange for beer. We had the "Summer Soltice" pig roast at our house on Thornsberry Road. After the brewery closed we worked together doing building and remodeling projects. Sorry to hear about Jack's accident. Say hello to him for me. Thank you, Sal Guardino


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