Style: American Flanders Red Style Ale aged in Wine Barrels with Cherries
From: San Francisco
Brewery’s Note: “This barrel-aged wild ale is named for our San Francisco neighborhood and pays tribute to the Flanders Red style of beer. Aged in wine barrels, this lightly tart ale is brewed with California Rainier cherries using a house blend of wild yeasts, bacteria and SF sourdough yeast. Pair this complex ale with ripe figs & blue cheese or seafood bouillabaisse./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 wine barrels for eight months. In the barrels we blended a classic Belgian-style red ale with local cherries and 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 from our select Northern California Farms. Farm to Barrel Beers are alive in the bottle, and will continue to mature gracefully for up to 3 years.”
The beer pours an orangey brown, like orange marmalade, settling into the glass with a slightly more rougy hue. A head of frothy head of off-white and tanning bubbles form and then fall to a fat ring around the glass, while a torrent of carb waddles through the beer. The beer’s body is opaque and seemingly solid, despite its lighter color. It’s hazy and obscure, yet looks quite nice. On the nose, there is a fat acetic blanket that ties in rich leather and sweet cherries alongside cooling brown bread, faint lemon rind, light sweat, and then unripe plum and oak slats. The vinegar is a little strong, but there is so much folding in the bite that I don’t hate it till later in the grass. On the tongue, the beer tastes tartly sour from the start, puckering in the cheeks and then accenting them with a funky sweetness that touches upon tart cherries and plum flesh. Acidity carries some citric and lactic blasts, but the acetic acid underlies it all in a vinegary wash that might be too much for some, but carries so much nuance that I don’t find myself completely hating it. The finish is stone fruit-forward, with a mineral sweetness that stands beside gentler acetic and citric notes. The aftertaste is like fresh baked and caramelized dried cherry bread along with subtle oak sugars and a little bit of bitter oak tannin. It tastes of caramelized bread, cherries, and plums, all washed in vinegar. It’s dry on the close, tart all the way through, and with just enough fruit character to keep it funky. In the mouth, the beer feels medium bodied, dryer with a slight sparkle, and then a pucker and drying on the sides of the mouth that leaves the tongue slightly taught and slick, yet dry on the roof. Overall, this is a tart, complex, fruited Flemish-style ale. The acetic acid is a little too forward for this beer, and it does eventually start to pry at the tongue and pick off the subtle fruit flesh flavors. The stone fruit character is unique and delicious, the cherry is dry yet fruity, and the barrel is subtle and integrated, but the vinegar is just a little too potent. At the beginning of the drink, it is rich and plays up the other flavors, but it really starts to overpower. This is not a terrible beer by any measure, and I would never turn down a pour, but in the realm of Flemish-style ales, it needs to lessen its acetic bite. This is a good beer from Almanac, but doesn’t reach the top of their portfolio.