Farm-to-Barrel: Bourbon Sour Porter (Almanac Brewing)

Style: American Wild Ale/Sour Ale aged in used Bourbon Barrels

6.0% ABV

From: San Francisco, CA

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Brewers Note: “The life of a Kentucky oak barrel is one of giving: first to bourbon, then to dark strong ales, and finally we inoculate it with our Dogpatch Sour culture and fill it with robust porter. This inky black ale blends flavors of coffee, chocolate, dried fruit and Kentucky Bourbon with a pleasant tartness and funk. Pair with hearty winter stews or freshly shucked oysters.”

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About Farm to Barrel: “Our Farm to Barrel beers focus on the eons old tradition of aging beers in oak barrels. This American wild ale was aged in used bourbon barrels. In the barrels we blended a cocktail of wild Belgian and American yeasts, including San Francisco Sourdough starter. The yeasts slowly morph the beer from a traditional ale into something wild, creating a mild acidic bite as well as pulling oak and vanilla flavors from the barrel. After maturing, the barrels are blended back together—creating a vinous, delicate beer that captures a specific moment in time. Farm to Barrel Beers are alive in the bottle, and will continue to mature gracefully for up to 3 years.”

The beer’s label is classy and expressive. I like the tree as the main graphic, and I like the “fanciness” of the overall label. Clutter is a little tight, and I don’t like how the “barrel aged” portion is split by the two corners of the label. The bottom label is also a bit boring and suffers from boring font. The label as a whole is classy, if a bit cluttered. It could be worthy of the shelf, especially for its rarity, but I think it is more worthy of scrapbooking.

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The beer pours a dark, caramelized brown, with a nice, rocky head of medium-sized, dark khaki bubbles that stick around and leave a fat, sheet-like lacing on the sides of the glass. The beer’s body is opaque, with just a hint of caramel light sneaking through at the edges. The beer appears clear and clean of particles as it poured into the glass. All in all, the beer looks like a nice porter, but it smells quite a bit different… On the nose, the beer smells fantastically funky. Cherry fruit leather blends with fruity vinegar, smooth vanilla, and even touches of milk chocolate. Chocolate cherry pie comes to mind when the smell is considered as a whole. Touches of acidic lemon, sweat, and prickly horse blanket can be sensed as the beer warms, along with soft oak. The bourbon on the nose blends beautifully with the beer, providing no alcoholic heat but a bunch of rich vanilla and caramel scents. I like the nose of this beer a lot! On the tongue, the beer tastes a little harsher than the smell. The beer begins with tart acidity, moving more into funky and fruity acidity. The beer develops more of a fruity sweetness soon after the sip which carries into the middle. Rich tannins strike into the mouth in the middle of the sip, putting up an interesting bitter structure on the palate and gliding into the finish where there is a touch of roasted malt bitterness and sugar. In flavor, the beer begins almost like a Flanders red, with tart vinegar and cherry fruit leather moving into an interesting middle of slight caramel malt and rich bourbon oak flavors that fold into bright citrus and bitter oak on the finish, and finally close with just the herbal and oaky bitters remaining on the back of the palate. The flavors are rich and complex and unfold on the tongue as the beer warms. The bourbon character is perfectly light and adds complexity; the oak, while a bit too bitter, adds yet another layer to the beer. In the mouth, the beer feels medium to full in body, with a smooth and silky mouthfeel that still provides a nice grip on the tongue. The mouth is left shockingly clean with just the acidity in the cheeks bringing out some saliva. Overall, this beer is delicious and complex. I like the nose a bit more than the beer; I think they need to ease off of the oak tannin on this beer, as it takes away from some of the other flavors in the beer. This is a delicious beer though, and makes me anxious to try more from Almanac. They seem to be doing things right over there on the West Coast. Cheers to my brother for the bottle!

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4.26/5

(Apologies for the fuzzy photos, my camera crapped out on me and I had to make due…)

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