Up until 1972, this was brewed by P. Ballantime in Newark, N. J. using vats that had come from Gen. John N. Cummings’ ale brewery, which was opened in 1805. Ballantine was primarily an ale brewer; they began making lager in response to demand sometime after World War II, and eventually marketed Ballantine Light Beer in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
When I first tasted it in 1970 at Manuel’s Tavern on North Highland Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia (still there and still in family hands), it was aged in wood for 9 months and had approximately 67 International Bitterness Units (I. B. U.’s). (This can be compared with Keystone Light, which has 4.) It was a magnificent beverage.
P. Ballantine closed in 1972. Brewing was transferred to the Narragansett Brewery in Cranston, Rhode Island. In 1979, I enjoyed a bottle of Ballantine I. P. A. that was virtually as good as I had enjoyed from 1970 until 1972.
When the Cranston plant closed, brewing went to Fort Wayne, Indiana. This Falstaff plant lacked the requisite wood vats to age the beer, and the taste, although still – ahem – intense, suffered.
The last time I saw the product was in Lexington, Kentucky in 1999. Upon tasting it, it had slipped still farther into Mainstream America (a shame considering how many microbrewery drinkers would relish it if it were to be brewed once again to its old 1972 standards!!), but was still quite drinkable. It is now produced in San Antonio, Texas.
Thank you for a wonderful memory. We’ll have to have a pint of something comparable sometime, somewhere. I can highly recommend Bell’s Two Hearted Ale from Kalamazoo, Michigan and Dogfish Head 90 Minute I. P. A., both of which are weightier yet, but along the same lines.
Now I’m going to sloogy off to the Blind Pig Saloon to have a pint of Terrapin Rye Pale Ale and open a shipment of records I just received.
Gracious, I’m glad I stopped by this website and caught this thread on my way out the door!
Thirstily Submitted, Ort. Carlton in Amazing Autumnal Athens, Georgia.