With new genetic information coming out about the parent of Chico; namely, Siebel BRY-96 (Tobias Fischborn let the cat out of the bag that Siebel BRY-97 is an isolate of BRY-96 with better flocculation characteristics), we can probably be assured that it is not Ballantine's ale culture, which is held by the NRRL as Y-7408. That being said, I remember what a well-respected member of BURP (the big DC brewing club) who brewed part-time at Old Dominion when it was in Virginia said about the culture back when I first started to brew. She said that it was used by Narragansett to make Ballantine XXX after Falstaff shuttered the doors on the Ballantine brewery in Newark, NJ. Even she assumed that the culture came from Ballantine. However, now that genetic research has ruled out the Ballantine ale yeast culture being the parent of BRY-96, we have to look for a new source. While someone has started brewing under the Narragansett label, Falstaff shuttered the original Narragansett brewery in 1981. If what I was told in the early nineties is true, there is a high probability that somewhere in the Narragansett archives lies the source of BRY-96. We have yet another yeast mystery on our hands.
By the way, it is probably old news to most of us, but the original Ballantine ale culture is available from Al Buck's company as ECY-10 Old Newark Ale. Given his description of ECY-10's origin, Al definitely acquired the culture from the NRRL. He has asserted for years that BRY-96 and Chico by extension are not the same culture as ECY-10. Most people dismissed his claim. However, we now know that his assertion is correct. We know that NRRL Y-7408 was brought to Ballantine from Scotland, but the culture appears to have ceased to be used in the production of beer after it was deposited into the NRRL.