You may have tried their new Dogpatch Sour, or perhaps their seasonal Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine. Or maybe you've been lucky enough to try their newly released three single hop IPAs.
Just how well regarded is Almanac? Well, if you are at all familiar with beer trading, and you live in the Bay Area, you know your best trading chip is Pliny the Elder, or other Russian River beers. Other than those RR beers, though, the only other beers I've seen requested from this area are from Almanac.
I had the opportunity to speak to Almanac co-founder Jesse Friedman about their sours, seasonals, farm fresh ingredients, and this weekend's Notoberfest.
Talk to me about your recent focus on sour beers.
"We love sours, and always have. We think they are some of the most interesting, flavorful, food friendly beers out there. Plus, they are a natural fit for our farm to barrel ethos. We've been investing heavily in our barrel program since day one at Almanac, but because they are so slow to mature, they taken until now to really show the results of our work. We're really excited to continue to explore the combination of sour beer and local fruits."
You've always done seasonals, and continue to do them now. Will your seasonals remain one offs, or do you plan to bring any of them back?
"Both. Part of working with real fruit is that we're tied to seasons, and are reliant on harvest schedules for production. In some ways, it ensures that the beer has to change from year to year, as the fruit changes. That said, we're a business, and if we have customer demand for more of a particular style (say, a strawberry sour) we'll do our best to supply it. It just takes time to wait for the beer to be ready."
How do you find the local farms for your ingredients?
"Mostly through local farmer's markets. We use the same farms that local chefs do - creating a Terroir-like overlap between our beers and local farm to table restaurants. As we've matured as a brewery, we've found a few farms that we like to work with over and over again. I can't say enough nice things about Blossom Bluff Orchards, the Loewen family the runs it, and how delicious their stone fruit is."
You've just released the Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine, tell me what you were going for when you created it.
"A Pumpkin beer is such a natural fit for us. We also think that the closer we work directly with a farm, the more that ingredient shows through. Here's the problem: the best pumpkins aren't ready until it's really cold out - which means December and January. And we want the best. So barrel aging the beer in brandy barrels solved two problems with one barrel: it allowed us to brew the beer in season, and then hold it until it was early fall. It also gave us a way to put our own spin in the style, and create a pumpkin beer that really speaks to cold winter nights."
You've also announced "NotOberfest" where breweries will pour pumpkin or fresh hop ales. You'll also have festive foods from 4505 Meats and Humphry Slocombe. Talk to me about the festival. Why is it in September, not October?
"The answer is pretty mundane: Scheduling. We've got a busy october with GABF. NotOberfest is built on the spirit of breaking German Purity laws, so ignoring the German calendar seemed fitting. Plus, it made it the perfect timing for Fresh Hops."
Will all the beers be pumpkin or fresh hop?
Not quite all, but I'd expect a LOT of the beers to fit into the theme. I certainly think it'll be the largest collection of pumpkin beers in the area. We're expecting a few Oktoberfest Lagers too."
Can you tell us about any beers that are upcoming?
"We've got our three Fresh Hop beers coming to market right now. They're brewed with the help of Hopsmeister Farm in Clearlake CA, and each highlight a different hop varietal. There are Cascade, Chinook and Cluster variations. We brewed each beer with the exact same hop schedule, so you'll see bitterness variations between them, based on the strength of the hops for each varietal. We've also got a brand new IPA on deck that we can't wait to share soon."
Almanac is quickly making a name for themselves in the crowded craft beer market. Do yourselves a favor and check them out at NotOberfest this Friday. The event runs from 6:30pm to 9:30pm in Portrero Hill, and you can buy tickets here.
All proceeds benefit The Food Pantry whose mission is to increase access to food for hungry people, and empower them to help each other.
Jesse's beer of the moment: Linden Street's Biere de Garde with Apricots (Bar Tartine)