Almanac Beer Company
Almanac Beer Company is an Alameda, California brewer that makes farm-to-table beers in small batches using fruit, grains and herbs purchased from local family farms. The company has brewed both year-round table beers and special releases, as well as beers set aside from larger batches and aged in oak barrels. Almanac is best known for its oak-aged sours and farmhouse ales.
Almanac was founded in 2010 by Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan. The business partners, who met at a homebrewers club three years before, were influenced by Alice Waters and her emphasis on regional, seasonal ingredients. "If there's one local brewery that has worked to build bridges within the culinary world, it's Almanac Beer Co, which has always had ties with Northern California's sustainable farming community and a focus on beers that pair well with food", wrote Jason Henry on an SF Weekly blog.
In December 2016, Almanac opened a taproom, its first retail outlet, in San Francisco's Mission District with indoor seating and a year-round beer garden. In February 2018, Almanac opened a 30,000 square foot production facility, its first, as well as a second taproom, both housed in a 1940s hanger at the former Naval Air Station Alameda.
Friedman exited the company in August 2018 while remaining on its board.
The company's business strategy suggests that beer can be priced, aged, marketed, released in limited quantities and consumed like wine. Debuting at $20 a bottle in late 2011, Almanac was expensive for a beer, but comparable with the least expensive wines typically found on a restaurant's list. Almanac initially sold its special release beers in 750 milliliter bottles, a size commonly used for wine. Fagen's design for the die-cut labels borrows from both wine and 19th century scotch bottles. Almanac has released some beers that have been aged, like wine, in oak barrels and has promoted the idea that good beer has a place at the dining table by encouraging chefs to pair Almanac beer with their dishes.
Almanac's first beer, "Summer 2010 Blackberry Ale", was a Belgian-style golden ale made from four varieties of Sonoma County blackberries purchased from Sebastopol Berry Farm. The beer was aged in red wine barrels for 11 months before blending, then bottled in May 2011, yielding 309 cases. A critic previewing the beer described it as "dry, crisp and complex", which "should appeal to those who would normally avoid beers made with fruit." The beer premiered after a three-month delay and was launched at venues in San Francisco.
Almanac followed with "Autumn 2011 Farmhouse Pale", a Belgian-style farmhouse ale brewed with 1,000 pounds of organic San Joaquin Valley plums from Twin Girls Farm in Yettem, California and organic wheat from Massa Organics in Glenn County, California. In April 2012, the Fairmont San Francisco hotel's Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar began offering variation of this release on draft, brewed with 200 pounds of honey from the hotel's rooftop apiary. The collaboration was part of a hospitality industry trend in which hotels brew their own beer or work with local brewers. The resulting beer was described by a reporter as having "the light feel of a wheat beer with a tinkling of hop bitterness, plus sour notes from the farmhouse approach and a lingering touch of honeycomb."
Almanac introduced its year-round family of beers, called the California Table Beer Series, in August 2012, beginning with Honey Saison and Extra Pale Ale. The releases sold in four-packs at a suggested retail price of $11. In January 2013, after resolving never to brew an India Pale Ale because of heavy competition, Almanac bowed to customer demand and produced a single origin IPA using hops from Hops-Meister Farm in Clearlake.
In January 2013, the company announced the first three "Farm to Barrel" oak-aged beers. Sold in 375ml bottles, the beers had been aged, some for more than a year, as part of a collection of some 250 barrels. The releases included Barrel Noir, a blend of a Belgian style dark ale, aged for two months in bourbon barrels, and an American style imperial stout. In early 2014, Almanac refocused its output on this category. By 2018 with the opening of its own brewery, Almanac was best known for its oak-aged sours and farmhouse ales, while also brewing IPAs, lagers, and pilsners.
The following is a partial list of Almanac beers past and present:
|Series||Beer||Date||Ingredients||Source (all locations are in California)|
|California Table Beers|
|Extra Pale Ale||Aug 2012||mandarin oranges||Blossom Bluff Farms (Reedley)|
|Honey Saison||honey||Marshall Farms (American Canyon)|
|Biere de Chocolat||Jan 2013||Madagascar and Río Caribe cacao beans; Ivanhoe hops||Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco)|
|Farm to Barrel|
|Barrel Noir||Jan 2013|
|Farmer's Reserve No. 1 wild ale||Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat, and Concord grapes; plums||Alfieri Farms; Hamada Farms; Twin Girls Farm|
|Farmer's Reserve No. 2||heirloom pumpkins; Fuyu persimmons; ginger||La Tercera Farms (Bodega Bay); Hamada Farms (Kingsburg); Santa Clara Valley|
|Farmer's Reserve No 3||May 2013||strawberries; Crimson Baby nectarines||Swanton Berry Farm; Blossom Bluff Farms|
|Farmer's Reserve No. 4||Cara Cara oranges, Meyer lemons, Buddha’s Hand citrons||Hamada Farms (Kingsburg)|
|Dogpatch Sour||July 2013||Rainier cherries, sourdough starter|
|Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine||heirloom pumpkins||La Tercera Farms (Bodega Bay)|
|Oak-age beers (mostly sours)||2014- (released ~30 days)|
|Summer 2010 Belgian-style Golden Ale||blackberries||Sebastopol Berry Farm|
|Autumn 2011 Farmhouse Pale||San Joaquin Valley plums; organic wheat||Twin Girls Farm (Yettem); Massa Organics (Glenn County)|
|Winter 2012 Winter Wit||San Joaquin Valley oranges; ginger root||Hamada Farm (Kingsburg); Mellow’s Nursery (Morgan Hill)|
|Spring 2012 Bière de Mars (French-style farmhouse ale)||organic baby fennel||Heirloom Organic Gardens (Hollister)|
|Fairmont Hotel Honey Saison||April 2012||honey||Fairmont San Francisco hotel's rooftop apiary|
|California Fresh Hop Ale (draft only)||Sept 2012||crystal malt||Grown by biology graduate student Graham Anderson on the Stanford University campus|
|Single Origin Chinook IPA||Jan 2013||Chinook hops||Hops-Meister (Clearlake)|
|Single Origin Cluster IPA||Cluster hops|
|Single Origin Cascasde IPA||Cascasde hops|
|Flowering Gose||Aug 2013||green coriander berries and flowers||Mariquita Farms (Watsonville)|
- Maiser, Jennifer (June 17, 2011). "Almanac Beer Company: Local brewers, local ingredients". KQED: Bay Area Bites. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- MacKay, Jordon (December 2011). "Brew brothers: a fledgling beer company takes Bay Area bounty to frothy new heights". Sunset. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- Henry, Jason (March 28, 2012). "Trends in Beer: The House Brew Comes to Bar Tartine, Public House, and More". SF Weekly. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
- "Best of the Bay 2012 Editors Picks: Food and Drink". San Francisco Bay Guardan. July 24, 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- Staten, Christopher (November–December 2013). "The top 25 beers of the year: 2013". Draft Magazine.
- Dalton, Andrew (December 30, 2016). "Almanac San Francisco Taproom to open New Year's Eve". Eater San Francisco. Retrieved 2017-01-02.
- Mobley, Esther (December 29, 2016). "Almanac San Francisco Taproom to open New Year's Eve". SFGATE. Retrieved 2017-01-02.
- Pereira, Alyssa (June 29, 2017). "Almanac Beer Co. to open taproom, production facility in Alameda". SFGATE.
- Bitker, Janelle (February 2, 2018). "At Almanac Beer Co. in Alameda, Barrel-Aged Sours Remain the Focus". East Bay Express. Retrieved 2018-02-03.
- Pershan, Caleb (January 31, 2018). "Almanac Beer Co. Kicks Off New Brewery and Taproom This Week". Eater SF. Retrieved 2018-02-03.
- Mobley, Esther (2018-08-08). "Co-founder Jesse Friedman steps down from Almanac Beer Co". SFChronicle.com. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
- Stechschulte, Brian (June 15, 2011). "Almanac Aims to Elevate the Status of Beer". Bay Area Craft Beer. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- "Autumn 2011 Farmhouse Pale". Almanac Beer Company blog. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- "Summer 2010 | Sebastopol Berry Farm". Almanac Beer Company blog. Retrieved 14 January 2012.
- Henry, Jason (June 27, 2011). "Almanac Beer Debuts Bottles, Parties Hard". SF Weekly: SFoodie blog. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
- "The Fairmont San Francisco Rooftop Honey Saison". Facebook. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Trejos, Nancy (June 23, 2012). "Hotels use craft beers, tastings to attract business". USA Today. Retrieved 23 June 2012.
- Skjong, Alex (January 29, 2013). "Five Hotels For Beer Lovers". Forbes. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Savarino, Maggie (June 1, 2012). "Fine-tuning beer just for the restaurant table". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- Henry, Jason (August 29, 2012). "Beers of the Week: Almanac California Table Beers (Release Party Tonight!)". SF Weekly. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
- Friedman, Jesse (January 28, 2013). "How I stopped worrying and learned to love making IPA". SFGate: Inside Scoop. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Kauffman, Jonathan (August 25, 2014). "Local Brewers make harvest beer with Local Hops". San Francisco Chronicle.
- Friedman, Jesse. "Farm to Barrel". blog. Almanac Beer Company. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- Bricker, Hannah (February 2, 2013). "Jesse Friedman, Almanac Beer Co.'s Co-Founder And CBO, On Beer Week And Farm-To-Bottle Brewing". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- Friedman, Jesse. "What's next for Almanac". blog. Almanac.
- "Our Beer". Almanac Beer Company. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- Fromson, Daniel (August 27, 2013). "Beer: Sour German ales find a new homeland in America". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 September 2013.