MankerBeer Meets: Pre-GABF: Jesse Friedman/Almanac Beer Co.

Damian and Jesse

Damian and Jesse

In this, the second interview from our pre-Great American Beer Festival we move from Ryan Sentz, Funky Buddha and the east coast to the west coast and San Fransisco.

The conflicting opinions and the discussion of what is a brewery and who really is a brewer circulated frequently in Sweden and the Nordic countries some years ago when the term gypsy/ghost/phantom brewer popped up. While several of the Nordic and European brewers who lacked their own brewery went to the states to brew beer it has been more infrequent to see US craft gypsy breweries. Fittingly for us and for our pre-GABF interview series we contacted Jesse Friedman who partnered up with Damian Fagan to found Almanac Beer Company. The attentive eye probably spot that they use the word Beer and not Brewery. Since 2010 the San Fransisco based team collaborate with local farmers to find the best ingredients and then brew most of their beers at Hermitage Brewing Company a few miles south in San Jose. Thus they are gypsy breweries, and happy to be. Their artisan ales with a local touch and seasonal flavors have received great feedback from the beer community and they quickly made themself a name on the beer scene. For us at MankerBeer they were among the first we were eager to talk beer, GABF and US craft beer with, so I am very happy to present Jesse Friedman.

MankerBeer (MB): Almanac Beer Company premiered in 2010, before that both you and Damian were home brewers. What led the two of you to decide it was time to start this project, and what is Almanac Beer Co.?
Jesse Friedman (JF): We met through a local homebrew club. We were both brewing beers using local farmer’s market produce in homebrew experiments. Looking at the local beer scene, it seemed like there was a unmet demand for beers brewed with the same inspiration as the local food culture: using the local farms as inspiration to create beers infused with a sense of Northern California. And Almanac was born!

MB: From where came the inspiration to go all in with the artisanal farmhouse style? Any specific brewery or brewer?
JF: We’ve both beer nerds at heart, so we take inspiration from all sorts of beers. The classic sours and lambics of Belgium are both a huge passion for us. But we also love the local hop drenched beers from Sierra Nevada and Russian River.

MB: It is not as common with gypsy brewers in the US as it seems to be here in Europe, what considerations have been made in the choice of breweries to work with?
JF: It’s all about finding the right partnership. Your host brewery has to want to be in the business. We brew most of our beer at Hermitage in San Jose, that has become and integral partner for us. They’ve grown with us, and let us really stretch as a brewery.

MB: Do you have any intention to open up your own brewery? If not, how will that affect the possibility to expand and increase the production?
JF: We’re open to lots of different growth paths, but also think if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. We’re very happy brewing where we are now. But we’ve also got some more plans up our sleeves for next year.

MB: I love the way you collaborate with local farms and how it gives an extra sense of understanding and history to the ingredients that goes into the beer, how do you find these farms?
JF: At the farmer’s market of course. Turns out that farmer’s love beer as much as local chefs do, and are usually thrilled to work with us. Especially since we always bring back beer for them to share at the farm.

MB: When not drinking your own brews, what other breweries or beers do you prefer?
JF: There is so much great beer to be had in the SF bay area right now. Current favorites include: Sante Adarius, Ale Industries, Headlands Brewing, Heretic, Hen House and of course, Russian River.

MB: When coming up with the idea for a new beer, what steps are taking in considering the style, selecting a partner farm, possible barrelling etc?
JF: Delicious is the only yardstick that matters. We subscribe (especially with our barrel program) to the belief that if you but great ingredients in, you’ll get great beer back. We look for inspiration in food, beer, farms and farmer’s market. No idea is too out there to at least try as a homebrew batch (though lots of ideas get rejected there.)

MB: It is more common to see US breweries focus on farmhouse beers today than a couple of years ago, is it due to a more mature market and beer scene or the brewers, maybe something completely different?
JF: Perhaps. As craft beer grows it makes more and more room for new styles to find an audience. IPA is still king around these parts, but everyone is always willing to try something new. It’s part of what we love so much about craft beer culture is an openness to new (and old!) flavors.

MB: Where in San Fransisco should one go to enjoy some Almanac brews together with some great food?
JF: We’re extremely proud of our restaurant list. Try us at Bar Tartine, Locanda, Contigo, Flour & Water, State Bird Provisions, Foreign Cinema or bring in some takeout to Toronado.

MB: What are you looking forward to with GABF and how important is the festival for breweries and the American beer scene?
JF: We are STOKED to be pouring. It was only a few years ago we were attending as beer fans, and now we get the chance to step around to the other side of the table and share our brews with likeminded beer lovers. Its exciting, overwhelming and humbling to be served alongside such amazing breweries. Plus, I can’t wait to try new beers from breweries i’ve never heard of from across the country.

MB: Are there anything all GABF-debutants reallly shouldn’t miss and/or think about at GABF?
JF: Try something new! Talk to the brewers, drink LOTS of water, and don’t engage in the yelling at dropped glasses shenanigans.

MB: What cool Almanac brews will be poured at the festival?
JF: We’re very excited to pour a 100% barrel aged lineup. On Tap:

Farmer’s Reserve No 3 – Wine Barrel aged Sour with Strawberries and Nectarines
Farmer’s Reserve No 4 – Wine barrel aged Sour with Buddha’s Hand, Meyer Lemons, Cara Cara Oranges
Barrel Noir – 50% Bourbon Barrel aged Dark Ale, 50% American Stout
Heirloom Pumpkin Barleywine – Aged in Brandy Barrels
Dogpatch Sour – Flanders Red ale brewed with cherries

We give our gratitude to Jesse for answering our questions, the Almanac stand will without doubt be one of the first for MankerBeer to visit. If you want to know more about what they are up to you should follow their brewery blog or Jesse’s own blog Beer & Nosh.

Magnus "Manker" Björnstjerna

Grundare och skribent på MankerBeer.com. Från ett fokus på allt vad USA har att erbjuda och med en kärlek till gedigen amerikansk mat, bra bourbon och framförallt all landets fantastiska öl har Manker nu börjat förstå storheten i belgisk öl.

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