Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Almanac Beer Co.

I have never been as excited for a beer release as I have been for Almanac Beer Co.'s Summer 2010 Vintage. Don't get me wrong, there are beers that I look forward to every year - Anchor's Our Special Ale holds a very unique place in my heart and I rush out to buy two magnums as soon as it's released. Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout is stunning. Abyss, Bourbon Barrel Quad, Parabola - look. I buy bottles, I drink one, I cellar another, I get all tingly a year or two later when I get to open it. I follow all my favorite beer vendors on Twitter so I know exactly when I'll be able to run over and greedily snatch up my share.

This, though? This is different. I'm (mostly) proud to call Jesse Friedman a friend. (Ego-checking Jesse throughout this post is about to become really important.) When I first moved to the city, his blog was one of my favorite sources to learn about new breweries in the area and hear about exciting beer events that I should attend. I've watched him go from beer lover to homebrewer to "guy who just might be opening a brewery" to "guy who opened a brewery" to "guy who might quit his job" to "holy shit, guy who just quit his job". I hope that transition is as dizzying to him as it is to me.

I've been anticipating this beer since the first time he poured me a barrel sample. And let's be clear: that barrel sample was poured out of a previously-emptied water bottle. It was flat and it wasn't ready. It was also magnificent, and made it very clear that we were going to be seeing an excellent product. He and Damian debuted a version at SF Beer Week this year, and I was privileged enough to try the spoils of one barrel at The Summit. The beer had a little while longer to go, though, through a little more aging, some serious blending (check out the differences in color from the different barrels at their blog), down to the bottle and the kegs that you see now. I've had this beer in five variations - original barrel, SFBW-friendly barrel, bottled, kegged, and sour kegged - and while it's different from version to version, I'd have a rough time choosing favorites.

Their bottle release event at City Beer Store was highly anticipated in a way I don't think any of us were really prepared for. My friend Jeff and I showed up early - early, early, as in "tapping the keg at 6, so we'll be there at 4:30" early - and got the last seats. We posted up against the front wall, grabbed ourselves a non-Almanac, and waited it out. The place became one in, one out before 5:30 even hit. Special tickets were being handed out to designate how many bottles you could buy as the line grew larger and larger outside. Most of my friends, like the angry little snowflake pictured below, had to stand outside and paw at the window while we tried to consume all the sour beer we could get our hands on.

It's an awful picture, but it makes me laugh so much that it gets included here.

It's a great beer. As much as I'd like to bust Jesse and Damian's balls and make some joke about how I'm disappointed after all that wait, I just don't have it in me. It's an incredible beer. They were also kind enough to make a super limited run sour version, made with Rodenbach's sour strain, which won't be bottled but is available in very limited kegs. And my god, it's good. It's a perfect example of how very different a beer can be when you make some very small changes. Just look at the difference in color between these two (the rosy one on the left is the sour):

And just look at how happy this beer makes people.

Bottles are available at the usual suspects - City Beer, Healthy Spirits, Whole Foods (Potrero) and Beer Revolution, just to name a few, but a full list is available on their website as well. They've thrown a couple of parties so far, but if you're looking for your last chance to try the sour version, you'll just have to show up to Shotwell's tomorrow night. We're throwing a great big party for them complete with treats from Wise Sons Deli, Kitchen Side Car, and Nosh This. They'll have both versions of this beer available for you to try, and there's a rumor that your favorite redheaded occasional bartender might end up behind the bar to ration out all of the goodness for you.

The fun kicks off tomorrow at 6, but if you can't make it, do yourself a favor and stop by one of the many locations around town to snatch up a bottle or five. I'm so proud of these dudes, I could just burst. But don't tell them that - I've got a quasi-surly reputation to try and uphold.

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