Almanac Beer Company has evolved a lot in the nearly three years we’ve existed. What started as a dream cooked up over batches of homebrew has become a business, a livelihood, and an active contributor to the craft beer community. Starting with the core idea of brewing beers inspired by the agriculture of Northern California, we’ve experimented with recipes, formats, branding and business models to evolve into the brewery we are today. To that end, we’re excited to share some news about the direction of the brewery moving forward.
From our very first release—a Belgian-style golden ale aged in wine barrels with Sonoma blackberries—we’ve been passionate about barrel-aging. Ever since that launch, we’ve been stashing beer away in oak barrels. A little here, a little there—where time, finances and cooperage would allow for it. After many months of aging, we’d package and sell the beer and then reinvest a little more. Building a barrel program takes time and we’ve always made it a priority. As Almanac grew, so did our barrel collection. We now have over 800 wine and spirits barrels and two 1,000-gallon oak vats called foedres (pronounced “fooders”). The overwhelming response to our early barrel efforts made something clear—our oak-aged beers were the most exciting and in-demand projects coming out of Almanac.
That brings us to today. We want Almanac to be synonymous with seasonal specialty beers that reflect our passions, creative spirits and focus on using local and sustainable agriculture. We have the experience, resources and barrel capacity to focus on the brewing projects that excite us the most.
So, we’re making it official: Oak-aged beer will be the heart of the brewery and sour fruit beers will remain the foundation of this program. We will release a new barrel-aged beer every month in 2014 and beyond.
Every thirty days, give or take, we’ll be releasing a new barrel-aged beer (primarily sour beers) in 375ml bottles and limited draft. We kicked off 2014 with three releases already; Valley of the Heart’s Delight, a 100% foraged fruit sour; Brandy Barrel Peche, a sour blonde aged with peaches in brandy barrels; and Sourdough Wild Ale, a farmhouse ale fermented with brett and sourdough yeasts and dry hopped with Mosaic hops.
In early March we’ll be releasing Batch Two of our Dogpatch Sour, a Flanders Red-style ale aged with Rainier cherries. In April we’ll release Farmer’s Reserve Pluot, which represents an entire summer of stone fruit harvested by the Loewen family of Blossom Bluff Orchards in Reedly, California. Those two beers are just the start of what we’ve been calling, “the summer of sour”, around the brewery. It’s an incredibly exciting time for Almanac and barrel-aged beer enthusiasts.
With our primary focus being oak-aged beers, what can you expect to change? Our Honey Saison, Extra Pale Ale and Biere de Chocolat will be morphing over this coming year into seasonal specialties. Some will also be integrated into exciting barrel-aging projects (looking at you, Biere de Chocolat), and others will be available in new formats and in a more seasonal rotation. We’ll have more news to share regarding these beers later this spring.
This committed focus on barrel-aging will allow Almanac to do what we love most—brewing, aging and sharing seasonal sour and barrel-aged beers with adventurous beer drinkers. We think the effort is worth the end result and we can’t wait to show you what we’ve got coming. Stay tuned and as always, thanks for the love and support.
Jesse & Damian
Beer Talks celebrates the thinking, design, process and community behind the world’s greatest beverage: Beer. Inspired by TED talks, Almanac invited some of our favorite brewers and friends to give a series of short presentations on beery topics. Below is the full audio from Beer Talks 2014. Enjoy at home paired with a great local beer.
Want to download to your computer or phone? Direct download links for the Beer Talks audio can be found here.
A huge thanks to the Fairmont San Francisco for sponsoring Beer Talks 2014!
We can’t wait for SF Beer Week 2014 to get here! We’re incredibly excited to share three very special barrel-aged releases that represent what Almanac is all about: boldly flavorful beers that draw inspiration and ingredients from our rich Northern California agricultural bounty.
We’ve got an incredible lineup of events including epic beer dinners, beer education and sipping sessions. Come out and join us in celebrating all things beer and try some of our latest and favorite offerings yet!
Sourdough Wild Ale
Brewed with a mash of raw and malted barley, oats, rye, spelt and lemon, this beer is fermented in used wine barrels with a blend of Brettanomyces wild yeasts and Marla Bakery’s San Francisco Sourdough yeast. The finished beer is dry-hopped with tropical Mosaic hops. This unfiltered ale is alive in the bottle: drink fresh for a bright, passionfruit aroma or age to develop the wild yeast funk.
Valley of the Heart’s Delight
This sour ale is inspired by the agricultural history of the Santa Clara Valley. Long before it became Silicon Valley, it was known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight, a fertile basin overflowing with fruit orchards. Brewed with foraged apricots, loquats and cherries handpicked by the Garden To Table non-profit, this collaborative beer celebrates and supports their mission to promote urban farming in San Jose.
Brandy Barrel Pêche
Historically, fruit-infused sour beers were a way of preserving the summer harvest. In that tradition, this blonde ale was added to brandy barrels with high-summer peaches, hand-picked by the Loewen family at Blossom Bluff Orchards in Reedley, California. We aged this liquid gold for six months until we needed a reminder that summer will come again. Pair with Prosciutto, crusty bread and fruit preserves.
We are thrilled to be featured in the Art of Barrel Aging episode of Brew Age. We took them behind the scenes for a peek at our barrel blending process, visited our friends at Sutton Cellars, and mostly stood around in dramatic light while they filmed us. So crack open a barrel aged beer, put the video on in full screen mode and enjoy the show!
Brewdogs is a great new show on the Esquire Network featuring James Watt and Martin Dickie of Scotland’s Brewdog traveling around the US, making crazy beers and highlighting the local beer scene. Last week they visited San Francisco, made a beer out of fog with Anchor, and enjoyed some Almanac Biere de Chocolat in a fortune cookie factory. Check out the clip above, or watch a hi-res version here.