In 2011, Almanac Beer Company co-founders Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan released their first beer: a Belgian-style golden ale made with blackberries from the Sebastopol Berry Farm, then barrel aged for 11 months before bottling. This Summer 2010 Vintage was quickly snapped up by beer lovers, as have the many other “farm to bottle” beers Almanac brewed since.
This Wednesday, to celebrate the third anniversary of that famous blackberry ale, Friedman and Fagan will be hosting a tap takeover at the Toronado and pouring just about every beer they’ve ever released.
We chatted with Friedman about the event, how Almanac has evolved, and where they're headed next.
A few of the beers for this event are now nearly three-years-old. Given that hoppy beers tend to mellow when they age and sour beers can get more sour, how are these doing?
We won’t be pouring any three-year-old hoppy beers. We’re excited to see how the sours have evolved. All of our barrel aged sours are alive in the bottle. Overtime, as the beer ages, the sourness can actually break down, and more malty flavors will come forward. Beer is a living thing - it’s exciting to see how it changes.
Any favorites you plan to make again?
We’ve had a few favorites we’ve returned to. We just finished blending this year’s Heirloom Pumpkin, a 12% ABV barley wine brewed with pumpkins from Bodega Bay and aged in brandy and rye barrels. It was a beer that people really responded to last year, so we tried not to mess with it much - the only real change is the addition of rye barrels to the mix (and more of it!)
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you and Damian started Almanac?
We could fill a book with what we’ve learned. Neither Damian nor I had any brewery experience when we started, so we’ve learned on the job as Almanac has grown. My advice to my younger self would be to stick true to the core concept of Almanac, and trust our gut that barrel aged sours highlighting great local fruit isn’t just what we want to drink: it what others want to drink too.
How’s the “Summer of Sour” (a new barrel-aged beer released each month) going?
It’s been spectacular, and really demonstrated how much craft beer has grown. We were thrilled to see it expand beyond just Almanac. Sour beer is growing (slowly, cause it takes a long time to make) and it’s really exciting to know that as we grow and make sour beers, the craft beer community is there with us.
What’s next for Almanac?
We’re just focusing on making more, better beer right now, and really supporting our local beer community. Look for more beer dinners, events, and beers from us this fall. We’re also working on opening up some new territories, very slowly dipping our toes into sending beer farther away.
We’re also expanding our fresh beer lineup with new 22 oz bombers. We’re bottling our Golden Gate Gose and new Almanac IPA (a West-coast tropical hop bomb with Simcoe, Mosaic, and El Dorado hops) and just released the first batch of Saison Dolores - a dry hopped saison inspired by the Mission District.
During Wednesday’s anniversary event, you not only have the usual option to pick up a sausage at the Rosamunde next door, but Three Babes Bakeshop will have slices of their amazing seasonal fruit pie for sale as well.
Almanac 3rd Anniversary Tap Takeover: Wednesday, Aug 13, 6 pm, Toronado Pub, 547 Haight Street