IPA Brewing in 1800s America-Greenway IPA and Frank Jones IPA

One of the many surprising things that my research into historical IPA brewing uncovered was the abundance of American brewers that were brewing IPAs before prohibition. Most of the late 1800s IPA brewing was centered in the Northeast United States, as the Midwest was already becoming the stronghold of many of the German-inspired lager breweries that later dominated the American beer industry for many years.
These IPA brewers in the Northeast took much of their inspiration from the Burton brewing process, which meant that the beer was brewed with only pale malt, and was aged for an extended period in wood. Wood could be in the form of barrels, or large vats-which was the case with Fiegenspan and Ballantine. Hops were typically American Cluster, and Fuggles and whatever the brewers could get from Europe. Beer clarity was very important, I remember seeing old adverstisements for CH Evans IPA that claimed no sediment, no dregs.


Peter Egleston, John Thompson, and Dave Yarrington from Smuttynose Brewing Co. helped point me in several directions for my research into the Frank Jones Brewery of Portsmouth New Hampshire, one of the biggest IPA brewers back in the day, and recently Peter sent me this piece from the Greenway Brewing Co., which I found interesting:



The analyticals for the Greenway IPA. Click on the picture to get a better view.




I wasn’t familar with the Greenway Brewing Co. from Syracuse New York, but a quick internet search shows that the brewery was one of the biggest in New York State. Not sure if it was bigger than CH Evans  of Albany in their prime. Some really interesting things about this sheet on their IPA:

1. The abv is just a hair over 7% by volume (alcohol by weight x 5/4 = alcohol by volume). 7% was kind of the industry standard for IPA in the 1800s.

2. The final gravity, 1.015 is not that dry, a little sweeter than normal for the times. 1.015 Specific gravity equates to 3.75°P, which is about the upper limit of what I’d recommend in an IPA. Some of the English and Scottish versions from the same time period finished as dry as 1.0-1.5 °P.

3. The health claims are not unusual for the times either. In England, IPA was recommended frequently by physicians for those with stomach or sleep ailments. And one can see similar recommendations in the US.

When I was learning about pre-prohibition IPAs brewed in the United States, I focused most of my research on CH Evans from Albany NY, Frank Jones in Portsmouth, Fiegenspan and Ballantine in Newark. But it’s interesting that I was able to find IPA brewing references from many other breweries in that area, though I didn’t have time to research these other breweries as much as I would have liked to.

Regarding the Frank Jones Brewery, the buildings of the old Frank Jones Brewery still stand in Portsmouth NH. Below are some photos I took a couple of years ago in Portsmouth of the old brewery buildings that didn’t make it into the IPA book. It was really great to see these buildings and imagine what it was like back when they were brewing.


Brewery Ln in Portsmouth NH, minutes from downtown. The Frank Jones Brewery was located here.


I believe this was the old brewhouse, but it might have been part of a malthouse. Note the construction date of 1884.



The other side of the building I think contained the brewhouse


So this is what the inside looks like. Looks like it could be a good reconstruction project. Hey-someone should put a brewery in here!


Part of one of the old malthouses is now home to shops


Remnants of Frank Jones’ influence can be seen in many places around Portsmouth. Not only was he a major brewer, but also was a politician and a real bigwig in the town. This building is in the middle of downtown Portsmouth, just a couple of blocks from Portsmouth Brewing Co. The famous Wentworth Hotel was also built by Frank Jones.


An illustration of the Frank Jones Brewery from either the late 1800s or early 1900s. There are malt houses on both the left and the right, and the brewhouse is on the left at the rear. These are the buildings that still stand today.

Portsmouth is a wonderful town, just a great place to visit. I can’t believe I never did the brewery research when I lived in New Hampshire, but was glad to get an opportunity to dive in later.

For further reading, I suggest the book : Brewing in New Hampshire by Glenn A. Knoblock.

And have fun with this:

Frank Jones Brewery Song (c. 1897)

Come all you Jolly Sportsmen and listen to a song,
I will sing to you a verse or two I won’t detain you long,
Concerning Jones’ Brewery, indeed it look so neat,
The like of it you’ll never find in any other state,

Hurrah for Jones’ brewery, may it never fail
Brew us beer and porter and beautiful stock ale,
That’s the stuff for me, my boys, it drives away all pain,
Whenever I can get a glass of it I’ll have it just the same.

It is a splendid building, as we all well know,
The like of it you’ll never find, no matter where you go,
It is so well constructed, kept so neat and clean,
The mash floor and the cellar and the tun room just the same

Brewers they are so clever in brewing this splendid beer,
Jones golden cream ale, called for far and near,
Drank in Philadelphia and in the State of Maine,
In New York and Boston is called for just the same.

If you go cellar, what a splendid sight,
You’ll see a staff of hearty young fellows, full of mirth and glee,
Chiming up the barrels, just like any train,
Racking, or rolling out, or shipping, just the same.

There you’ll see Yankee Denny with his beautiful big nose,
Placing the barrels so neatly into rows,
If you never knew him or heard of his name,
You’ll know him by his bawling and hollering, just the same.

There you’ll see Paddy Holoran, he is just like any bull,
No matter where you’ll find him, he is sure to be full,
If he don’t get it at the cupboard, he cannot be blamed,
He will have it out of Jerry, or the rack tub, just the same.

I went to the hall the other night, there I did behold,
A house full of fine democrats, both noble, stout and bold,
Going to fight the republicans and uphold the country’s fame.
Republicans and democrats will drink it just the same.

It’s there I noticed Mr. Jones among the noble throng,
He is always agitating for the cause of the working man.
As for this coming election, he need not be afraid,
I hope I’ll see him governor of this New Hampshire State.

All these oily druggists boast of their little pills,
And they say they can cure all diseases from the toothache to the “jims.”
What are they to Jones’ ale? I am sure it is quite plain,
When all these pills and drugs do fail, it will cure you just the same.

Now to conclude and finish, I am feeling a little dry,
I sung to you a verse or two all without a lie,
If you take me to the bar I am sure you’ll get no blame,
And give Paddy a schooner of it, he will have it just the same.






6 thoughts on “IPA Brewing in 1800s America-Greenway IPA and Frank Jones IPA

  1. Gary Gillman

    Dear Mitch:

    New commenter here but an old one on numerous of the historical blogs (Ron’s, Martyn’s, Craig’s, etc.). Currently reading your book which is a great resource and is likely to help turn the ship around on many of the older opinions on IPA (although as always we must be cautious and I note from one of your earlier entries that American IPA was around 7% ABV in the 1800’s. This ties in of course to Ballantine IPA, which I drank from the 1970’s on, which was about that ABV in its heyday).

    I have to be honest and tell you that after 30 plus years of tasting American IPA – I mean the modern craft style – I feel it has not topped the best English pale ales, i.e., those made with traditional English cultivars. I do enjoy many of them, and Celebration Ale as an avatar is very good as is SN’s pale ale (it’s all one style really), but to me these just don’t top the finest English productions (Old Hookey, ESB and London Pride at their best, etc.). The American hop taste, as I’ve experienced it to date, has a rougher edge to it than the flowery elegance of English traditional varieties – Liberty Ale, much as I respect it, shows this characteristic IMO. From what I know of it, Cluster did not really offer the big grapefruit taste. It had more the funky passionfruit taste I think that was often called blackcurrant or cat’s litter. And I’d think Bullion and Northern Brewer were broadly similar, especially if Cluster and Fuggles or another overseas variety were combined.

    This leads to a question: why have the craft brewers not sought to recreate the pre-pro American IPA taste? It might be (I think it was and I remember Ballantine IPA) better than the best current IPAs. Even if it wasn’t, and taste varies of course, why not offer it as a nod to history and another set of tastes? That way there would be 3 great schools of IPA: modern English, craft APA, and historical American IPA. That beer called Woodtsock IPA you mention in the book was fantastic, I remember it. Alan Kornhauser brewed it. We need more like it. If Pabst, uncomprehendingly to me, won’t bring back the genuine Ballantine IPA – I’ll take any of the first 80 formulations! – Stone or another craft brewer should make their tribute, I mean as a regular offering. You have all the data and knowledge now to do it, e.g., those stats e.g. in the Frank Jones ads – let er rip!

    Best regards.

    Gary Gillman, Toronto.

    1. mitchsteele Post author

      Hi Gary: I think the reason most brewers haven’t attempted to recreate historical IPAs is because they aren’t really aware of them! We recently did a collaboration with Smuttynose in New Hampshire that we called “Cluster’s Last Stand”, the grain bill was based on Ballantine IPA recipe, and the hopping used Cluster, Tomahawk, and Bullion. It was a fun beer to brew, and was markedly different than the American IPAs that both we and Smuttynose typically brew. We’re going to brew something similar at our Liberty Station 10 bbl brewery sometime soon. At the MBAA Conference I just attended in Austin, I talked with a brewer from Pabst who said they were thinking about doing a recreation of Ballantine-we’ll see!

      1. Gary Gillman

        Hi Mitch and thanks for your reply, good of you to answer.

        It’s great to hear some steps are being taken in the direction of pre-craft American IPA. It is a mine worth exploring. To me it is a sub-set of English pale ale brewing, but it can’t be denied it was not identical: Cluster (any kind), Bullion, Northern Brewer alone would have ensured that.

        I don’t want to sound too hard on APA, and after all it is just my opinion. I do enjoy some of these, e.g. they go great with certain kinds of food. But I do feel brewers would sell more beer if they could expand their range to include pre-New World hop English pale ale and historical U.S. IPA.

        Best wishes and again the book was great.


    2. Thomas

      Gary, I know what you mean about the old world vs. new world hop styles. Recently, I had a pale ale brewed with a single hop, the J-17 from South Africa Breweries experimental hop farm in South Africa. Gone was the nose-singeing aroma and tongue-prickling palate – simply mellow and flowery notes beautifully integrated with malt sweetness.

      Mitch, have you brewed with this hop?

  2. Thomas

    J-17 is entirely different than Galaxy from Australia. J-17 has a culinary herb aroma, such as chervil or anise. No signs of grapefruit or pine. J-17 has an alpha of 12%

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