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Rebuilding a Legend: Ballantine IPA

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Rebuilding a Legend: Ballantine IPA

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Rebuilding a Legend: Ballantine IPA

The contours of history are shaped by retellings, and over time, we begin to believe them. We have repeated the story of American craft brewing so many times it’s almost a mantra: “Fritz Maytag bought ailing Anchor Brewing in 1965 … Jack McAuliffe founded New Albion in 1976 … ”  Beware single-origin histories, though—there’s always a predecessor, however hidden.  In the case of strong, hoppy American ales, it was Ballantine IPA—and modern ales still bear a fair amount of its (largely forgotten) DNA.

It’s weird how completely Ballantine has vanished from the public record. As recently as the mid-1960s, it was one of the largest breweries in the country, and its IPA had been around for decades. There’s no doubt it influenced early craft brewers—indeed, Sierra Nevada’s super-popular “Chico” strain of yeast, used by tons of ale breweries now—is widely believed to be Ballantine’s. Although early craft breweries didn’t make IPAs like Newark’s finest, the similarity to beers like Anchor Foghorn and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot is surely not casual. If craft brewing had come along just a little sooner, Ballantine might well now be considered as the grandfather of craft brewing.

Instead, investors acquired the brewery in 1969 and passed it […]

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