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Launching of Ale Street News

By Tony Forder

An excerpt from an upcoming book about my journey in beer and the origins of craft beer through the eyes of Ale Street News which was launched by myself and brother-in-law Jack Babin in 1992.

Having secured a commitment from Steve Hindy and Tom Potter at Brooklyn Brewery to distribute our brewspaper in the 5 boroughs of NYC, Jack and I went looking for advertisers.

Our next research mission was to be the first annual Boston Brewers Festival in May. We prepared a press kit of sorts – basically a 4-page spreadsheet, a prototype of our proposed tabloid brewspaper. I wrote some copy and took some photos. I went to Liberty State Park with a few microbrews and lined them up against a backdrop of NYC and the World Trade Center towers. 

I printed the copy at my newspaper job and we pasted it up in my attic in Garfield. In the days of newspaper paste-up, the copy was usually run through a waxing machine that coats the back of the paper with a type of sticky melted wax (kind of like a glue stick). We didn’t even have a handheld waxer. We melted the wax in a pan and applied it with a paintbrush on that prototype. The printer we used at my day job ran off a couple of hundred sheets of newsprint for us. 

We had kicked around a few names. We liked the Ale Street Journal, but eventually chickened out for fear of a lawsuit from the Wall Street guys. 

Armed with our newsprint promo, we proudly strutted around the Boston Brewers Festival, asking brewers (34 had booths) what they thought of our idea and would they support it. The feedback was enormous and our vision was enhanced. We met a lot of people. Organizer Jonathan Tremblay introduced us to a journalist – Peter Terhune who leaped on board as our New England reporter. Jim Koch, President of Boston Beer Co., pouring Samuel Adams, pledged his support.

In June, it was Stoudts’ first fest in Adamstown, PA. It was great to meet some of the local brewers and Ed and Carol Stoudt were wonderful hosts. We were on a high, running full tilt into our first production run. Even the discovery that there was another brewspaper, Barleycorn, based in Washington, DC didn’t slow us down

Also in June, Charlie Papazian was passing through town. Charlie was already a celebrity. Author of The Joy of Homebrewing and founder of the American Hombrewers Association, his umbrella organization, Association of Brewers, had grown to include commercial brewers under the Institute of Brewing Studies banner as well as the Great American Beer Festival. The cover of our first issue featured a picture of him and Zip City brewer Jeff Stillman. I remember him saying as I approached with my camera, “This guy looks looks like he knows what he’s doing!”

Blast Off

By the time we were ready for production, we realized we had a lot of content – true that I wrote much of it...but we also had ads! 28 different advertisers for our 24-page first issue. Five of them took full pages. Brooklyn of course had the back page. Pete’s Wicked Ale from CA, which was just launching in New York had the honor of being our first color ad, Company B’s; Jimmy Armstrong’s, an eclectic New York bar on the upper west side that had befriended us, and our Worthog (homebrew club) buddies Bill and Alby with their homebrew supply store, The Home Brewery, which they had just opened.

Some of our contacts from the BBF were true to their word – Sam Adams, Long Trail, Catamount and Vermont Pub and Brewery. Tom Potter at Brooklyn Brewery gave a gentle armtwist to some of their suppliers – Yuengling, Phoenix Imports, and Warsteiner; NYC bar pioneers like Waterfront Alehouse and Riverrun and in New Jersey the Old Bay in New Brunswick stepped up to the plate. Our old buddy Vinny DiCosmo at the Front Porch blessed our launch with a small ad. Zip City was in, well, they did get a nice story (even if owner Kirby Shyer wasn’t too happy about his brewer being on the cover instead of himself); same for Sal Pennachio at New York Harbor Ale. We had enough revenue to pay for the first printing. We had launched a business from scratch...with no scratch...literally no investment save for our time and our sweat.

And lest I make it sound too easy, it was a lot of sweat...and time. We put that first issue together in the evenings of one week and a full weekend in Jack’s basement. Jack’s in-laws, Tom and Delia Casamassina volunteered to help with paste-up; and a graphics guy, Kevin O’Neill, we had met over a beer was designing ads for us, the ones that didn’t come in ready to go. We didn’t get a lot of sleep that weekend, and as we closed it down, I remember Jack just repeating over and over in our zombiefied state....”lotta work, lotta work”. I grabbed what sleep was left and drove our boards to the printer before going to work on Monday morning. When the paper was ready the following day, I rented a U-Haul truck after work and picked up the freshly printed paper. We unloaded half the 20,000 copies into Jack’s garage. I was on a high, from sleeplessness, adrenalin and pure joy – and a couple of beers. Jack encouraged me to go home and rest. 

The next morning Jack and I, having made our excuses at work, drove the truck into Brooklyn for our first delivery to the boys at the brewery. I don’t really remember being that nervous, we were pretty confident we were on the right track, but the positive reactions from Tom and Steve were very validating. 

1 Comment

Jeannine Marois
Jeannine Marois
Feb 27

Great story !

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