Almanac Beer Company and the Only Pumpkin Beer Worth Drinking?

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New Yorkers have more than enough reason to sit around complaining about the many big-deal craft breweries that aren’t distributed here: Deschutes, Boulevard, Great Lakes, New Belgium… the list goes on and on. But in recent years, there’s been an influx of smaller, even more renowned breweries to the city, softening the considerable blow of not being able to get, say, a Black Butte Porter or even something as simple as a Fat Tire. Most recent among them is San Francisco’s Almanac Beer Company, whose lineup of high-end specialty bottles started showing up in the city a couple weeks ago.

Almanac was founded in 2010 by Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan, home-brewers who set out to make challenging, unusual beers with a near obsessive focus on local ingredients. The malt, hops, yeast (and water, of course) are all sourced from Northern California, as are the fruits they incorporate into their outstanding Farm to Barrel Series. Each beer in the series starts out humbly enough—traditional styles like blonde ales, flanders reds, porters, and barley wines are all represented—but are then hit with wild yeast and a hearty dose of additional flavoring through things like strawberries, cherries, and pluots, before spending some time in oak barrels of varying origins.

Here are the beers that were included in the initial shipment to New York…

Heirloom Pumpkin
I’ve not had this one yet, but it sounds ridiculous: a 12% ABV English-style barleywine brewed with tons of organic pumpkins and then aged for a full year in rye and brandy barrels. One can probably expect some major caramel sweetness and a lot of spicy, earthy notes from the pumpkin and the rye.

Dark Sour Pumpkin
I’m not really into pumpkin beers, but this is one I’d happily go back to if I had the chance. It’s a porter-like ale that hits hard with sourness right up front, which gives way to this really pleasant and brief wave of pumpkin, fall spices, and roasted notes, before being washed away by a second, lingering blast of sour. So good.

Cerise Sour Blonde
Of all the beers currently available here, this one seems likely to appeal to the widest range of people. It’s a standard sour ale made with Almanac’s proprietary “Dogpatch” yeast strain and then aged in wine barrels along with locally grown cherries, which add a different and altogether pleasing dimension of tartness.

Farmer’s Reserve Citrus
Another fairly straightforward beer, this is a sour blonde ale that’s brightened up with the addition of the citrons and oranges. It’s sour, yes, but there’s also a good amount of sweetness and an unexpectedly creamy  mouthfeel.

Dogpatch Strawberry
A new take on their Dogpatch Sour Ale, a Flanders Red brewed with cherries, this version gets a dose of strawberries and is aged for an additional year in wine barrels.

Now, these beers aren’t cheap. They come in 375ml (12.7oz) bottles that’ll set you back right around $15 each. But as I’ve said before, you’d spend that much on a couple way shittier drinks at whatever way shitty bar your friends drag you to, so quit complaining. Have some friends over, buy some cheese (these beers pair insanely well with all sorts of food), and enjoy. And if you’re looking for a less pricey (and less intense) bottle, consider their Golden Gate Gose, a fairly understated take on salty, sour style that’s been so popular lately. A 22oz bottle of this one can be had for a more reasonable $10-12.

As always, be sure to check BeerMenus to see where you can find ’em.

Follow Mike Conklin on Twitter @MikeConklin

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