Verdict: It’s near impossible for me to rate these Almanac beers. They’re all good. I would say Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry was my least favorite. I really enjoyed Dogpatch Strawberry and would probably be my favorite in the bunch had it been more sour like it’s Dogpatch Sour brother. Farmer’s Reserve Pluot was really good, but I don’t feel as though I was able to pick up on the pluot character as much as I would have liked. Brandy Barrel Pêche was tasty as well and had it’s own unique quality set apart from the other wine barrel-aged releases. I will say that the Dogpatch Strawberry and Dogpatch Sour imparted the most fruit character in the bunch. I’m just happy I was fortunate enough to try all of these. I hope I can find the other Summer of Sour releases.
If I had to put them in an order in which I would buy a second bottle, I suppose they would go
Dogpatch Strawberry
Brandy Barrel Pêche
Dogpatch Sour
Farmer’s Reserve Pluot
Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry

Verdict: It’s near impossible for me to rate these Almanac beers. They’re all good. I would say Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry was my least favorite. I really enjoyed Dogpatch Strawberry and would probably be my favorite in the bunch had it been more sour like it’s Dogpatch Sour brother. Farmer’s Reserve Pluot was really good, but I don’t feel as though I was able to pick up on the pluot character as much as I would have liked. Brandy Barrel Pêche was tasty as well and had it’s own unique quality set apart from the other wine barrel-aged releases. I will say that the Dogpatch Strawberry and Dogpatch Sour imparted the most fruit character in the bunch. I’m just happy I was fortunate enough to try all of these. I hope I can find the other Summer of Sour releases.

If I had to put them in an order in which I would buy a second bottle, I suppose they would go

  1. Dogpatch Strawberry
  2. Brandy Barrel Pêche
  3. Dogpatch Sour
  4. Farmer’s Reserve Pluot
  5. Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry

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Almanac “Brandy Barrel Pêche” American Wild Ale / Sour Blonde Ale: The last of the Farm To Barrel Summer of Sours I have in my collection. Nuanced aromas of peach, white and red grape, and subtle lemon citrus. Bright orange zestiness. Barrel character lingers beneath the surface. Earthy brett funk with just a whisper of lactobacillus. Mild tartness falls mid to back palate with a slight sweetness falling front and center. Medium body with salivating wetness leading to a dry finish. Little carbonation with a delicate mouthfeel. Highly palatable. The brandy character is subtle, but present enough to have an impact.

Almanac “Brandy Barrel Pêche” American Wild Ale / Sour Blonde Ale: The last of the Farm To Barrel Summer of Sours I have in my collection. Nuanced aromas of peach, white and red grape, and subtle lemon citrus. Bright orange zestiness. Barrel character lingers beneath the surface. Earthy brett funk with just a whisper of lactobacillus. Mild tartness falls mid to back palate with a slight sweetness falling front and center. Medium body with salivating wetness leading to a dry finish. Little carbonation with a delicate mouthfeel. Highly palatable. The brandy character is subtle, but present enough to have an impact.

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Almanac “Dogpatch Strawberry” American Wild Ale / Flanders-Style Red Ale: I really enjoyed Dogpatch Sour and how much the Rainier cherries came through, so I had high hopes for this release brewed with strawberries. The aroma had notes of subtle, sweet strawberries and undertones of barrel character. Kind of a rustic quality that isn’t specifically brettanomyces; would probably be better described as a nondescript earthiness. Echoes of lactic acidity. The palate gives way to more lactic acid and brett funk, but not overtly so (and nowhere near as much as Dogpatch Sour). Slightly sweet on the front end. Medium body with tartness falling mid to back palate and that same simultaneous drying of the front end with dampening salivation I’ve been experiencing with all of these Farm To Barrel Summer of Sour releases. Little to no carbonation with a modest lingering tart finish. Highly palatable, but with a fraction of the sourness expressed in Dogpatch Sour. I wonder if the addition of a different fruit (from cherry to strawberry) had anything to do with that or the difference in character can be ascribed to lack of brewing consistency. To my knowledge, these beers should have the same base beer recipe with only the addition of fruit changing between release.

Almanac “Dogpatch Strawberry” American Wild Ale / Flanders-Style Red Ale: I really enjoyed Dogpatch Sour and how much the Rainier cherries came through, so I had high hopes for this release brewed with strawberries. The aroma had notes of subtle, sweet strawberries and undertones of barrel character. Kind of a rustic quality that isn’t specifically brettanomyces; would probably be better described as a nondescript earthiness. Echoes of lactic acidity. The palate gives way to more lactic acid and brett funk, but not overtly so (and nowhere near as much as Dogpatch Sour). Slightly sweet on the front end. Medium body with tartness falling mid to back palate and that same simultaneous drying of the front end with dampening salivation I’ve been experiencing with all of these Farm To Barrel Summer of Sour releases. Little to no carbonation with a modest lingering tart finish. Highly palatable, but with a fraction of the sourness expressed in Dogpatch Sour. I wonder if the addition of a different fruit (from cherry to strawberry) had anything to do with that or the difference in character can be ascribed to lack of brewing consistency. To my knowledge, these beers should have the same base beer recipe with only the addition of fruit changing between release.

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Sierra Nevada “All Systems Gose”, “Beer Camp Earl’s IPA” IPA brewed with Earl Gray tea, “Audition: Salted Caramel Scotch Ale”, “O’Brother Where Aldo” Bieré de Garde, “Raincheck” Spiced Stout and “A Trip in the Woods” Scotch Ale Blend: Made another trip out to the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room yesterday. I have the weekend off and my lady is spending the weekend in SF with girlfriends for one last hurrah before school starts back up. I checked out their tap list online and thought I’d treat myself to some tasty beverages. I tasted everything in the order pictured above except for Audition: Salted Caramel and O’Brother Where Aldo. Those two were switched.

All Systems Gose: I’m a big fan of this German beer style. The aroma was beautifully hoppy with echoes of saltiness. Citrusy with orange zest and lemon with hints of tropical fruit and caramel undertones. The palate showed nuances of salt and hop bitterness. Medium minus body with moderate carbonation. Though the salt was further expressed on the palate, that still wasn’t saying much for the style. This was also completely void of tartness / sourness. I found the beer to be highly palatable, but lacked resemblance to the Gose style.

Beer Camp Earl’s IPA: This IPA was brewed with Earl Gray tea. Not sure how this beer is linked to the Beer Camp series; I believe this was a pilot batch that became something else later. If you know me, than you know I enjoy a good cupper. The aroma led way to tons of bright Bergamot citrusy character. Ample bitterness and resin from the tea. Medium body with a lively mouthfeel and lingering finish. Though the beer is only rated at 44 IBUs, the addition of the tea introduced further bitterness. The general consensus is this beer has the sensation of 55-65 IBUs. I enjoyed it so much I purchased a growler and had it filled with it. I couldn’t resist its Fruity Pebble charm, a characteristic often ascribed to the tea’s flavor.

O’Brother Where Aldo: I complicated style, the dossier lists this as a Belgian IPA, but I heard everything from Bieré de Garde, Weizenbock, Belgian-Style Amber and Belgian-Style Brown. The aroma gave way to a beautiful bouquet of Vienna and Munich malt character with a citrusy orange hop presence. Not overly caramel-like, but it did have a distinct German-style maltiness to it. Belgian yeast undertones with echoes of fruity esters. Medium body with moderate bitterness and a dry finish. Fairly palatable.

Audition: Salted Caramel: Can’t say I’ve ever had salted caramel, but I wanted to try this beer all the same. The aroma was expressive of caramel malt character, but lacked an overt saltiness I was anticipating. Undertones of toasted / burnt sugar and raisiny, prune-like dark fruit notes. Light, biscuity amber malt backbone; perhaps even Munich. Medium body on the palate with moderate carbonation, subtle bitterness countered with caramel sweetness and a lingering finish. Palatable, but not what I was hoping for.

Raincheck: I was expecting a glass of Narwhal upon my arrival at the Torpedo Room. Instead, I was greeted by Raincheck, the debut beer of the new Mills River brewery inspired by the Dark and Stormy cocktail. Ample spiced aroma with notes of cocoa, ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon and molasses. The cocoa was expressed more as baker’s chocolate on the palate with bitter, spiciness and subtle roasted malt character. Slightly acidic. Medium body with mild carbonation and a lingering, dry finish. Highly palatable. I’m excited I was able to try this one. I didn’t think it would make its way out here.

A Trip in the Woods: I’ve already had the pleasure of enjoying this beer, but I couldn’t leave without revisiting it.

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Almanac “Dogpatch Sour” American Wild Ale / Flanders-Style Red Ale (Batch 2; 2014 Vintage): If I’m not mistaken, this beer was the debut (the 2013 Batch 1 vintage) of Almanac’s house yeast, Dogpatch, a “blend of wild yeasts, bacteria and SF sourdough yeast”. The aroma is bold with Rainier cherry sweetness backed by sour bacteria reminiscent of lactobacillus. Subtle earthy funk; echoes of brettanomyces. Resinous wood character. Grains of paradise? The mouthfeel leads to a lingering tartness mid to back palate with residual sugar sweetness, like sucking down a cherry-flavored sour power belt from the ice cream truck. Medium body with simultaneous drying of the palate and salivating wetness. Little to no carbonation. Highly palatable.

Almanac “Dogpatch Sour” American Wild Ale / Flanders-Style Red Ale (Batch 2; 2014 Vintage): If I’m not mistaken, this beer was the debut (the 2013 Batch 1 vintage) of Almanac’s house yeast, Dogpatch, a “blend of wild yeasts, bacteria and SF sourdough yeast”. The aroma is bold with Rainier cherry sweetness backed by sour bacteria reminiscent of lactobacillus. Subtle earthy funk; echoes of brettanomyces. Resinous wood character. Grains of paradise? The mouthfeel leads to a lingering tartness mid to back palate with residual sugar sweetness, like sucking down a cherry-flavored sour power belt from the ice cream truck. Medium body with simultaneous drying of the palate and salivating wetness. Little to no carbonation. Highly palatable.

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Almanac “Farmer’s Reserve Pluot” American Wild Ale / Sour Blonde Ale: Another Almanac Farmer’s Reserve release, this time brewed with pluots. I recently enjoyed a pluot from the local farmer’s market, having never tried one before. I definitely pick up on the pluot notes in the aroma coupled with an intense lactobacillus tartness and brettanomyces funk. It’s worth mentioning that, like Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry, this beer is also brewed with their house yeast, ‘Dogpatch’ sour culture. I definitely feel this release, compared to FR Blackberry, has more vinous and barrel notes with less Belgian yeast character. The mouthfeel isn’t as sour as the nose would lead me to believe, with moderate-plus tartness mid to back palate. Not totally astringent. Similar simultaneous drying and wetting-salivation as FR Blackberry. Medium body with a moderately-lively mouthfeel. Overall, I felt this release imparted more fruit character than its Blackberry brother. Maybe it’s because I’m more partial to pluots than blackberries, but I found this one to be more palatable.

Almanac “Farmer’s Reserve Pluot” American Wild Ale / Sour Blonde Ale: Another Almanac Farmer’s Reserve release, this time brewed with pluots. I recently enjoyed a pluot from the local farmer’s market, having never tried one before. I definitely pick up on the pluot notes in the aroma coupled with an intense lactobacillus tartness and brettanomyces funk. It’s worth mentioning that, like Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry, this beer is also brewed with their house yeast, ‘Dogpatch’ sour culture. I definitely feel this release, compared to FR Blackberry, has more vinous and barrel notes with less Belgian yeast character. The mouthfeel isn’t as sour as the nose would lead me to believe, with moderate-plus tartness mid to back palate. Not totally astringent. Similar simultaneous drying and wetting-salivation as FR Blackberry. Medium body with a moderately-lively mouthfeel. Overall, I felt this release imparted more fruit character than its Blackberry brother. Maybe it’s because I’m more partial to pluots than blackberries, but I found this one to be more palatable.

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It should absolutely be about quality over quantity. If it’s good it’s good.” - stormyskiesahead

Good beer is good beer, but Widmer is not good beer.” - no-lie

It should just be about ‘good beer’. Quality over quantity usually wins the fight.” - 80proofbloodstream

I’m glad to see there’s some like-minded people around who share my opinion on the matter. I do have a couple issues regarding the craft vs crafty debate, mainly the big two’s deceitful marketing and their packaging.

I’m very frustrated by AB-InBev and MillerCoors attempts to conceal their brands; marketing beer as being artisanally made when in fact it’s manufactured by corporate giants. Take Third Shift for example. No where on their website does it mention that it’s manufactured / owned by MillerCoors. There’s actually zero information about the product other than where to find it and that its copyright is owned by “Band of Brewers Co.” based out of Fort Worth, TX. I have to go to the MillerCoors website to find a little more information about the product.

I’m also frustrated by their packaging, selling a single brand of beer in so many varieties of bottle and can sizes in varying quantities so there’s no room for the little guy and / or competition. I can literally go to the grocery store right now and find Budweiser in 24oz tall cans, 24oz bottles, 12oz cans in a 12, 18, 24, and 30 racks, 12oz bottles in a 6, 12, 18 and 24 racks, and 8oz cans in 12 packs. I can also find it in regular cans, bowtie-shaped cans, glass bottles and aluminum bottles. And that’s just one brand; Budweiser. I can also find similar packaging for Bud Light, Select, Select 55, Black Crown, and any of the other brands they own like Michelob, Rolling Rock, Natty Ice, Beck’s, Kirin, Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Johnny Appleseed, Kokanee, Wild Blue, King Cobra, and Landshark. The same goes for MillerCoors and their arsenal of brands including Coors Banquet and Light, Hamm’s, Keystone, Micky’s, Miller High Life, High Life Light, Fortune, Genuine Draft, Lite, 64, Milwaukee’s Best, Batch 19, Third Shift, George Killian’s, Henry Weinhard, Leinenkugel, Fosters, Molson Canada, Redd’s, Smith and Forge, Crispen, Fox Barrel, Grolsch, Pilsner Urquell, and Peroni.

But when it comes down to it, you’re all right; Good beer is good beer and you like what you like. I just wish they were more upfront about their brands. I’d actually have more respect for them if they advertised they were manufacturing craft-style beers such as Shocktop and Blue Moon. There’s nothing wrong with adapting to a changing market.

I hope I don’t come off as pretentious or didactic. I could really care less what people drink with regards to this argument. People’s palates vary and I’m not that much of a snob to turn my nose up at others who enjoy beer I don’t happen to find all that appealing.

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