Almanac Beer Co. Bottles the Season into Sours
How the local brewery turns to absurdly fresh produce from our farms to brew the best beers for spring.
Welcome to Scratchpad, an ever-growing glossary of I-don’t-have-time-for-this-interview interviews with the badass producers, teammates, and customers that make up the Good Eggs community.
Today: On the heels of the opening of their new brewery and taproom in Alameda, we chatted with the brewers behind Almanac Beer Co. — one of the first breweries we brought on when we launched our beer and wine section — about crafting fruit-forward sours, new brews in the works, and how they’re bringing sustainable sourcing to the beer industry.
There are plenty of well-curated wine lists, citing the location, grape variety, and winemaker; plenty of salads listing where every leaf came from; but when it comes to the conversation around sustainable production, beer is often an afterthought. At least, to according to Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan, owners and founders of Almanac Brewing Co. By sourcing thousands of pounds of fresh fruit from local farmers, and embracing the flavors of the Northern California, Almanac Brewing hopes to bring the same thoughtful sourcing that defines the local food movement into the world of beer.
There’s really no doubt: Almanac sour beers taste like San Francisco — they taste like the Bay Area because, just like wine, they’re imbued with a sense of terroir from the fruits used to flavor them. “We both really embraced the farm-to-table ethos of the San Francisco food community,” Friedman says, so they founded Almanac to showcase those flavors in an avenue not quite fully explored: beer. In an interview last year, one of our friends and producers Jolie Devoto from Golden State Cider spoke of the unique flavors and intensity that fruits up and down the west coast develop.
Beer is usually the opposite, according to Jesse, and relies more heavily on consistency across time and location. But Almanac lets the crops decide what brews get made and what they taste like year in, year out: “There’s change in what we offer year-to-year because we’re trying to capture that sense of terroir.” Friedman and Fagan call this approach “farm-to-barrel.” The singular flavors of local fruit determine the character of every Almanac beer.
Last summer, Almanac partnered with Blossom Bluff Orchards, growers of some of our favorite stone fruits, to brew a line of fruit-fermented beers like Farmer’s Reserve Pluot sour (one of Jesse’s favorites). He asked for a “cross section of an entire summer harvest” Blossom Bluff had to offer to make this unique magical brew that incorporates the tart, sour punch of the early season fruit mixes with the honey-sweet, juicy comfort of late-season fruit.
“Working with farmers is a really cool way for us to be inspired by the agricultural heritage of California.” Almanac beers are tied to California, tied to seasonality, tied to the weather here, and, by extension, the place. Almanac took in over 85,000 pounds of fresh fruit from local California farms like Blossom Bluff for making barrel aged sours — lavender from Eatwell Farm, citrus from Hamada, and the list goes on.
The majority of their farm partners are ours as well — the same citrus and berries our customers snack on are used to brew Almanac sours. Like us, the brewing company votes with their dollar to champion local farmers and producers while brewing straight up delicious, unique beers. Their Lavender Honey Sour is out of this world, and I’ve peeped a new brew, Peach Galaxy, made with 6,000 pounds of Blossom Bluff’s summer peach harvest. Because these sour beers are barrel aged, peak-season fruit is almost preserved in the beer “just like jam-making.” We get to taste the best of the peak summer harvest in the dead of winter, and wax-nostalgic about peach juice running down our wrists, all with a few sips from a bottle.
With the opening of their new brewing facility in Alameda, Almanac will be able to focus more on quality of the product as they grow. It’s where they’ll brew the very first IPAs to come out of the new facility, as well as the apricot and cherry heavy Valley of the Heart’s Delight, a reference to Silicon Valley’s history of apricot growing. Next up is Blueberry Jack, a berry sour that’s dry-hopped after the barrel aging process — it’s citrusy and grassy, wheaty, dank, and fruity. And coming in just a couple weeks is this year’s Summer in the City, a blonde sour base brewed with Buddha’s hand (!), pomelos, grapefruits, and Meyer lemons from Hamada Farms, and dry-hopped to bring out the aromatic qualities of the citrus.
We’ll be bringing these new brews into our Marketplace over the next few months for easy drinking come warmer days, but in the meantime, sip a few sours at Almanac’s original outpost in the Mission, or their new taproom in Alameda.
Shop beers from Almanac Beer Co. and a roster of other local breweries for delivery to your door on goodeggs.com.