Weekly beer tasting notes: Almanac Summer 2010 (Blackberry Ale)

Weekly beer tasting sessions will help you navigate the world of great beer. Photo: B.Kolesar/TheBrewLounge.com

PHILADELPHIA, October 23, 2011 — After Hours spotlights a beer every Sunday. As the world of craft beer continues to explode, the number of breweries and beers seems to grow exponentially making the process of selecting your next beer infinitely more difficult. These tasting notes will aim to make the process a bit less challenging.

This week we take a look at one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s newest brewing ventures. Two friends, Jesse Friedman and Damian Fagan, have a vision and high hopes for showcasing the intersection of food and beverage indigenous to northern California.

Is there a beer that you feel should be spotlighted here in the future? Drop the columnist, Bryan Kolesar, a note to make it happen.

Name: Summer 2010 (Blackberry Ale)

Brewer: Almanac Beer Company in partnership with Drakes Brewing Company [Website], established 2010.

Location: San Leandro, Calif.

Style: Belgian-Style Golden Ale

Vintage tasted: 2010

Recipe Notes: Citra-hopped and brewed with four varieties of blackberries — Cherokee, Marion, Ollalie, and Boysenberry. Aged in red wine oak barrels.

Stats: 8.00% ABV, 29 IBU

Price Range: $17-$20 per 750ml bottle

Availability: Almanac’s beers are brewed with the seasons of the year and are accordingly available in limited release at better beer bottle shops around the San Francisco Bay Area. The next release, Autumn 2011, is due to hit retail shelves in early November.

Aroma: Hints of fruitiness. Slightly boozy, but not in a distracting way.

Taste: Subtle sweet berry fruit as an undercurrent to the toasted malt-forward beer. Barrel-aging adds a dry wood character as well.

Overall: This beer shines in its attempt to layer toasted grains, fruit sweetness, and wood character into a 8% ABV beer. It comes across somewhat like a Belgian Tripel and goes down deliciously on its own or paired with a variety of foods from sweet to savory.

Suggested Food Pairings: Soft goat cheese, Ribeye steak with caramelized onions and bleu cheese,  Bread Pudding with apples, assorted berries, and crème anglaise

Tidbits: Friedman and Fagan began their brewing venture in 2010 and self-distribute the small-batch beer that they produce.

Less than 5,000 bottles of Summer 2010 were produced and released in July 2011.

Their trademarked slogan is Farm to Barrel, which serves to emphasize their local brewing and sourcing of indigenous ingredients.

The berries used in Summer 2010 were sourced by family-owned Sebastopol Berrry Farm in Sonoma County.

The next beer release from Alamanac, Autumn 2011, is soon to hit the market and incorporates 1,000 pounds of organic San Joaquin Valley plums from Twin Girls Farm in Yettem, Calif., and 100 pounds of organic wheat from Massa Organics in Glenn County, Calif.

Quotable:

“Newcomers Damien and Jesse’s inaugural farm-to-bottle beer is berry berry good.” — Pete Slosberg, founder of Pete’s Wicked Ales and Cocoa Pete’s

“Almanac’s got this semi-radical notion that good beer actually belongs in good restaurants. 2010 vintage is really three beers in one: It’s an amazing “table beer” for slow contemplation with food; a Belgian-inspired fruit ale with loads of hops for beer fiends; and an oaked, barrel-aged blackberry beer that’ll similarly arouse the passions of the homebrewer.” — Jay Hinman, Bay Area author of Beer Samizdat website.

“I’ve seen a few new breweries start up in the Bay Area and Almanac is the only one in recent memory that came with something right out of the gate that just blew me away. First and more importantly, the beer is delicious. Second, the brewers are serious about using local ingredients and making their beer very food friendly, which has been key for them in the Bay Area with our foodie obsessions. And, third, the Almanac design is so excellent, the bottles just ooze quality before you even open them. The beer is excellent, that’s what really matters. I’ve cellared six bottles of the Summer 2010 brew to see how it develops.” — Chris Cohen, Esq., and Bay Area beer cognoscente

“Jesse Friedman is such a revered figure….created the highly influential Beer & Nosh, full of gorgeous photography, clever yet economical prose, and plenty of hip culinary insight before becoming an honest to goodness professional brewer by founding Alamanac Beer with Damian Fagen. I expected this either to be something really good, or turn into some horribly over done monstrosity. The layers of subtle flavors really work together to produce something unique and intriguing. Trust me on this one. Their first act is a tough one to follow. Whether or not they can meet or exceed the high standards they’ve set for themselves, it seems every one’s curiosity is peaked just to watch them try.” — Derrick Peterman, author of Ramblings of a Beer Runner and contributing writer to California’s Adventure Sports Journal

Read more of Bryan’s work at After Hours in the Communities at the Washington Times.


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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar

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