Almanac Beer Company is a new brewery out of San Francisco that takes influences from the Bay Area’s rich food culture and creates fantastic artisanal ales that are barrel-aged and brewed in collaboration with select Northern California sustainable farms.
Their first release, the Summer 2010 Blackberry Ale, is a Belgian-style Golden Ale that’s brewed with four varieties of Sonoma County Blackberries from the Sebastopol Berry Farm, then aged in oak red wine barrels for 11 months.
According to Almanac:
Our golden ale reflects a dueling love of classic Belgian ales and American hops. We balance two row barley, pilsner malt and wheat with a touch of Magnum bittering hops added at the beginning of the boil, and a California-sized addition of Citra hops added at the end of the boil. This late hop addition adds a delicate grapefruit-peel aroma. We then age the beer in used oak wine barrels from California wineries with two hundred pounds of fresh Cherokee Blackberries, and another fifty pounds of Marion, Ollalie and Boysen Berries. All of our berries were hand picked at the family owned and operated Sebastopol Berry Farm.
After eleven months of barrel aging with the fruit, we blended the barrels back together with freshly brewed “base-beer” to reinvigorate the citrusy, hoppy aroma. Blended beer is re-fermented in the bottle to provide a final layer of complexity. Bottle conditioning provides a natural carbonation of superfine bubbles, similar to classic sparkling wines. The finished bottle is alive, and will continue to evolve and change over time, gaining nuance and character for years.
I was lucky enough to attend one of the Summer 2010 release parties, and can thankfully say that the brew lived up to its hype. It was delicious and complex without being overly fruity, and if you have the opportunity to do so, I suggest you snag a bottle (or two).
For more information about Almanac, including interviews with brewers Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan, check out this video from Turnstyle Video called Farm to Barrel: