Almanac has been around for quite a while though they only recently opened two large locations you could visit. They were originally known for their barrel-aged sours, which was for a while all that they produced. I remember enjoying both their series of fruited sours with local fruits and dry-hopped sours usually with a single variety of hops. With the opening of two new facilities, they also started brewing other styles of beers. Now they have a variety of options available not just sours.
On a recent visit to the San Francisco Bay Area I checked out the two locations for Almanac brewing and decided to visit the one in Alameda because I was staying with family nearby. I also selected that location because it is a larger tasting room as opposed to the brewpub in San Francisco. Brewpubs tend to get more crowded with the addition of food. The tasting room is in the same old naval yard where Faction opened their brewery. It has a similarly large building that appears to be a re-purposed hangar.
There are numerous picnic tables to sit at inside plus bar seating and more picnic tables in an enclosed outdoor patio. Even with the high ceiling the inside area was noticeably louder than sitting on the patio so we moved outside once seating opened up. During my visit I tried two sours, a hoppy pilsner, and a hazy IPA. I left with cans of the pilsner and cans of an oak-aged vienna lager. They also had a crowler machine for beers to-go.
Of the two sours, I was most satisfied by the Interstellar Apricot. Though it was a saison as a base beer, it had plenty of apricot so that it had a thick creamy mouthfeel. The beer was like apricot puree and went down easy thanks to low acidity. The cherry supernova was a bit more subtle with the fruit despite a name that suggested a similar fruit explosion. It was well-done but I would have preferred more prominent fruit. It was only slightly more fruity than most of the fruited beers from Societe in San Diego, which I find to be too subtle for my tastes.
The pilsner was true to style except for the addition of modern hops. It exploded with citrus and bubblegum hop aroma without much bitterness. I have enjoyed a few cans since visiting the brewery and really enjoy this one. Of course if you want to enjoy the hop explosion, make sure that you get fresh cans. The oak-aged vienna lager I only tried briefly at the brewery but have had a few cans of since leaving. The oak gives it mild butter character to blend nicely with the caramel notes of the base beer. It also has some notes of plum.
I finished my visit with a pint of the Hazy IPA brewed for Ales for ALS. The beer had a nice creamy body and prominent hop aroma with notes of pineapple and mild herbs. The beer was mildly bitter and low in hop acidity making it quite crushable. I have seen their hazy cans outside of the brewery but hadn’t tried them yet because so many breweries label new IPAs as hazy when they are simply imitations. This is the real thing.
With such easy access to Almanac beers throughout California, it isn’t essential to visit them at the source. Though they were selling vintage bottles to go they didn’t have rare bottles for on-site consumption. If you happen to visit family in Oakland or Alameda though, it is worth taking a stop by the Alameda tasting room. You could visit Faction during the same trip.
Almanac is known for fantastic barrel-aged sours and recently branched out to brewing other styles. They had a solid hazy IPA and fantastic hoppy pilsner.
Halo was enjoyable for this visit initially because they had strong air conditioning blasting. We stood for about 15 minutes before some seats opened up. I had two beers that day, a hazy IPA called New Wave, and a tart saison called Day Star.
The New Wave seemed initially to be overly harsh in hop acidity as if it was tapped too soon. Hops came through mostly with flavors of apricot though thankfully as it warmed up a bit the acidity faded and more of the candied fruit flavor I remembered from my visit a year earlier came through. The tart saison was nicely balanced with subtle notes of apricot and funk with some lingering acidity.
Halo’s tasting room is tiny but it is a nice place to spend some time if you are nearby and it is hot outside. They are quite a distance North West in Toronto but once you are up there it is fairly short walk to two other breweries, Burdock and Blood Brothers. Though if it is hot, I suggest doing Burdock next because they have air-conditioning.
We went to Blood Brothers next mostly because it sounded like the IPAs at Burdock were more on the hazy side and we assumed my friend would prefer that style. When we got there, he announced he was done with beer and wouldn’t be having any more there. If it is hot outside and you are doing a tour around the area, try to visit Blood Brothers later in the day because they don’t have air conditioning and it gets quite hot inside. Though clearly the crowds didn’t care how hot it was.
Beer wise, my notes were mostly taken on Untappd because despite the heat the place was packed and there was nowhere for me to put my beers down. I started with the Shumai IPA, a hazy IPA that was creamy and a nice blend of herbal and citrus hop character. The beer was restrained in hop acidity and not too bitter. After tasting a friend’s beer of Paradise Lost Razzle Dazzle, I had to order one for myself. This is a beer with raspberry and vanilla served on nitro. It was super fruity without being overly sweet and was extra creamy on nitro. I would love to see this in nitro cans to enjoy outside of the brewery.
Other friends were drinking their delicious tequila aged sour while I was there and it was so good that most of them ordered their own glass after having a sip. It isn’t a beer style that I would have expected to enjoy but worked quite nicely. If I had a cooler with me I might have bought a bottle to bring with me to-go. But it was so hot outside i didn’t want the beers to heat up too much. Hopefully if it cools down during my stay in Toronto, I will make another visit to Blood Brothers before I fly home. [It didn’t]
Burdock was our last stop for the day, a short walk from Blood Brothers. Everyone at the table saw the cherry and other fruits can-conditioned sour called Cherry B and went straight for that one. It was nice and refreshing with powerful cherry and mild mix of other berries while not very acidic. It was especially nice to enjoy as we cooled down from the hot brewery before hand. I also ordered a dry-hopped sour called Te. It was nice and funky with light herbal hops. Burdock impressed me last year with the quality of their sours and again on this visit. They also have a restaurant.
If you want to read about my visit to some of the same breweries in my 2017 trip, you can find the old post here. During the 2017 visit I ended up ordering a bottle of sour to enjoy on site because they had a nice reduced price bottle that day.
I tried six tasters that barbarian brewing based upon recommendations from my friend suggesting that this is the best spot in the city. None of the beers particularly stood out as favorites and the sours were not particularly exciting compared to my top 5 sour producers in the country. For sours from a small brewery they are fairly average and I preferred the sours at Woodland Empire personally.
I started with wheezing the juice, a hazy IPA. It was creamy with strong hop acidity, suggesting that it was quite fresh, with notes of pineapple but otherwise fairly muted hop aroma. The acidity was a bit overpowering the rest of the beer. The Imperial Stout was lightly smoky with notes of cherry though overall not a ton of flavor.
Blackbirds sour was acidic and berry forward with a nice tart finish while not overly sweet with an acidity that lingered at the finish from the berries. This was the better of the sours, although I have had better examples of a similar beer. The Red Sonja, was nicely balanced red sour with light oak and a strong tart finish that balanced nicely with notes of white cake.
Tooth stains, blueberry sour with coffee, was an interesting blend of blueberries and coffee though the coffee overpowered. The beer was quite tart and acidic on the finish although I did not particularly care for the mixture flavors. Pisco sour, an interesting take on the Peruvian mixed drink, had mild oak character and on Nitro at least had a similar mouth feel to the original drink. Overall, it felt a little bit too subdued in flavor for the style and the drink it is meant to imitate.
While I had a couple of sours that I enjoyed here, they were not at the level that I would suggest someone make a trip specifically to visit them. Fans of sours would likely enjoy the blackbird and/or Red Sonja, though they are both fairly average in the sour category. Still a sour fan will likely find one or two sours they enjoy here as long as they aren’t expecting world-class sours.
Blackbirds berry sour
Boise Brewing Company
I tried six tasters at one of the older breweries in Boise on my second day in town. While I was not expecting much, I was quite impressed by the flavor and balance of the various IPAs and Hoppy beers that I tried. I started with the red session, which I expected to be more of a balanced smooth red ale but instead was a take off the session IPA style with a little more malt character. The beer was super dry with an herbal hop bite, mild bitterness, and light caramel malt base that worked in line with the session IPA style.
The Porter was fairly thin with notes of cherry and coffee and mild caramel. It was fairly average and not particularly remarkable. The Irish red was decent, with cherry character from the malts and a dry finish. I would’ve preferred a little bit more roasting malt base or body to the beer. The American pale ale was quite dry with a medium bitterness on the finish and a nice mixture of herbal hop right with tropical fruit on the finish. It was nice because the bitterness did not linger on the tongue and the hops were not particularly overpowering.
The two IPAs, called obstruction and hip check, were both quite excellent with extremely dry finish and fairly mild bitterness. Of the two I preferred obstruction with its hint of tropical fruit character, though neither one of the two was particularly hop aroma forward. Hip check was a bit more malt forward, balancing toasty malts with resin and pine. Though both beers claimed to be 100 IBUs, I did not experienced them to be that bitter. Though none of the beers were particularly hypermodern, or exploding with hop aromas, they were excellently crafted and none of them lingered on the tongue more than they should.