RALEIGH — The craft beer revolution can be traced back to one beer.
As part of a Smithsonian exhibition devoted to the cultural phenomenon of craft beer, Raleigh Brewing Co. has brewed a batch of that first ever beer, the New Albion pale ale.
Raleigh drinkers can toast and taste history today as Raleigh Brewing taps a keg of the beer that changed everything.
New Albion was created in 1976 by California brewer Jack McAuliffe. A straightforward pale ale flying in the face of a flood of watery domestic in the American market, New Albion seemed to forecast today's hops-crazed beer culture.
"It's a really pure pale ale," said Krystie Nystedt, who co-owns Raleigh Brewing with her husband, Patrik. "Jack and his company were the founding father of craft beer."
Of New Albion, it's a basic pale ale, with a simple recipe, using Cascade hops, one of the few varietals available in the 1970s, Nystedt said.
"It's a historic beer," Nystedt said. "Jack based it on what he had tasted in Europe, that bitterness and feel. To this day he only drinks his beers warm."
McAuliffe's daughter, Renee Deluca had been contract brewing New Albion at Ohio brewery Platform Beer. She moved to Raleigh last year and visited Raleigh Brewing, Nystedt said, and a friendship turned into an opportunity to brew New Albion.
Earlier this month, Raleigh Brewing's batch of New Albion was poured in Washington, D.C., as part of a kickoff event for the Smithsonian's Brewing Revolution exhibition at the Museum of American History. Nystedt and Raleigh Brewing served beer alongside breweries who have made craft beer what it is today: Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.
"Beer is a thread that runs throughout the fabric of our nation's history and culture," said Theresa McCulla, curator of the Smithsonian's Brewing Revolution exhibition.
Beer is one of civilization's ancient drinks, but craft beer would still be paying off its first mortgage.
Just a few decades ago, the world was divided up by Bud, Miller and Coors. Today craft beer makes up a quarter of the $114 billion American beer industry, according to Brewer's Association statistics. Now it seems there's a brewery on every corner and a different beer style in every glass, a rainbow of goses and stouts, sours and hazy IPAs you could cut with a knife.
Raleigh Brewing started in 2013, Nystedt said, inspired by craft beer's ascendance, particularly in the western part of North Carolina.
"Brewing brings an opportunity for connectiveness," Nystedt said. "There are so many cycling meetups, running meetups. ... There is still a need for the neighborhood brewpub."
Raleigh Brewing's New Albion tapping will be 6 to 8 p.m. today at the brewery, 3709 Neil Street in Raleigh. Nystedt said there will be some bottling of New Albion.