San Antonio resident Jack McAuliffe was recognized with a standing ovation by craft brewers gathered in San Francisco on Saturday for his role in pioneering the movement before its time.
McAuliffe discussed his experiences along with his daughter Renee DeLuca (an Ohio-based beer blogger) and historian Maureen Ogle on a panel at the Brewers Association 2011 Craft Brewers Conference. McAuliffe is credited with launching the nation’s first microbrewery in 1976 in Sonoma, Calif., and branding New Albion Brewery beer into the consciousness of the next generation of brew entrepreneurs including Ken Grossman of the famed Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
“I had a little apartment over the brewery and I lived up there like a spider,” McAuliffe said. He worked seven days a week at least 10 hours a day for which he paid himself $40 a week. Unpaid interns and the occasional volunteer rounded out the staff.
The brewery focused on classic ales, including porters and a Guinness-like stout influenced by his time stationed in Scotland while in the U.S. Navy. Ultimately the brewery folded, even though people were drinking the beer, because there was no money available to expand, he said.
Ogle, author of the book Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer, observed that New Albion was the most significant brewery failure of the craft beer movement.
Before he was done, McAuliffe teamed up with pioneer Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing Co. to get the state laws changed to allow him to sell draft beer directly to customers at the brewery, forming the nation’s first brewpubs in 1983.
There are now numerous small- to medium-sized microbreweries, brewpubs, and combinations of the two — especially in California, where it is more common to find truly great beers in restaurants and dive bars throughout the state because of the diversity of taste the movement created.
McAuliffe, who now homebrews in San Antonio as part of the beer group San Antonio Cerveceros, is a living testimony to how an entrepreneurial spirit and minor changes in outdated laws, like the pending HB 660 and 602 in the Texas Legislature, can change the face of how people live.
As many of you know, the first San Antonio Beer Week is fast approaching, with a launch date of May 15. Now the organizing group is inviting all bars, restaurants, stores, and distributors with a focus on craft beer to learn more about how they can participate in the celebration of San Antonio’s beer culture.
A 2 p.m. meeting on April 4 will lay out the details. If you are an interested party from one of these establishments, contact me at the e-mail below for additional information.
Travis E. Poling writes about beer weekly for the Current and is author of Beer Across Texas: A Guide to Brews and Brewmasters of the Lone Star State. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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