Last July, Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan started brewing what would become time capsules of a summer in Sonoma.
The two founders of the newly-formed Almanac Beer Company added 250 pounds of hand-picked blackberries from Sebastopol Berry Farm into used oak wine barrels containing the Belgian-style golden ale they had contracted to be brewed by Drakes Brewery. The Duvel yeast in the beer discovered that it had additional material to work with and set about converting the sugar in the berries into alcohol. Over the next eleven months of barrel aging, the flavors of the malt, hops, berries, and oak melded and mellowed.
Last February, a prototype of their beer was a sell-out favorite at SF Beer week. In May, the brewing pair did some barrel tests and tastes, blended the aged beer with a fresh batch of their Citra-hopped ale to brighten the character, then primed and bottled the result. On June 30, the beer will have had sufficient time for bottle conditioning and will be ready for drinking. The crisp and complex beer is recommended to be paired with rich dishes like creamy cheeses, roast pork and duck.
While their web site should soon list the area stores and restaurants that will be stocking the ale, their bottle release event is scheduled: City Beer Store on June 30. Jesse and Damian will be on hand to talk about this beer, as well as serving a sour version from the same batch. Hapa Ramen will be doing the food paring. The two brewers may also outline plans for this summer’s beer; stone fruits have been interesting them. Eventually, Almanac plans on releasing four seasonal artisan beers a year, each brewed with locally- sourced fruits that are designed to complement foods prepared from Bay Area ingredients.
Unfortunately for us, they bottled only 309 cases of 750 milliliter bottles of their Summer 2010 Blackberry Ale. Fortunately, at 8% ABV, you can lay a few of those bad boys down till the winter, when you’re feeling nostalgic for a summer afternoon in wine country.