Beer To Match My Disposition: Almanac Farm to Barrel Beers

I have a problem when I visit a city. Regardless of where I go, why I go or when I go, I have to find the nearest bottle shop and spend money. Am I going to Binghamton for work? I’m almost definitely stopping at Sam The Beer Man. Vacation in Rehoboth Beach? Yeah, I’m hitting Atlantic Liquors before I leave town. Long weekend in New York? We’re going to Katz’s for lunch anyhow, so why not go around the corner to New Beer Distributors on Chrystie.  Rochester? The Hess station in Bushnell’s Basin. Ithaca? Ithaca Coffee Company in the old Triphammer Mall. Hell, The In-Laws can’t even go to Myrtle Beach on vacation without a visit to Byrd’s Beer.

In Syracuse? Sadly, we don’t have a true bottle shop. We have some nice stores, don’t get me wrong. Brilbeck’s, Party Source, and the Byrne Dairy in Galeville all do a nice enough job. Wegmans has even boosted its stock over the years to compete. But, while Syracuse has stores that stock hundreds of labels, none cross the four-digit threshold. 

My Wednesday trip to Albany led to a stop at Westmere Beverage on Western Avenue in Guilderland. Westmere is the smaller sister store of Oliver’s out on Colvin Avenue. Both stores stock into the thousands of beers from, well, everywhere. Oliver’s has more stock but is a little more claustrophobic, while Westmere is more spread out. Both stores have the feel of an industrial warehouse, but we were not there for aesthetics.

We were there for beer.


I’ve developed a like for sour beers, dating back to the Anderson Valley goses from last fall. I read about Almanac Beer Company and its farm to barrel sours on Reddit or some other beer site. The Sister picked up the pluot-flavored Farmer’s Reserve for me on Long Island and I grabbed the Dogpatch Sour during my stop at Westmere. I was happy to find that they are very different beers in flavor and bitterness. What they do share are a common aging method — red wine barrels — and a bitter character created by the a series of yeasts, including a sourdough yeast (a nod to the brewery’s San Francisco roots).


The Farmer’s Reserve Pluot is a wild ale by definition. The fruit, a cross before a plum and apricot, is added to a sour blonde ale and aged, resulting in a powerfully acidic beer. It pours pretty flat and lifeless with little carbonation, but the body and flavor are full. There is a ton of fruit and vinegar in this beer, which is where 60 percent of drinkers would turn up their nose. The vinegar is present in the nose, on the palate and the finish. I liked it, though not as much as the Dogpatch Sour.


Brewed with cherries and aged in wine barrels, this has the same sort of sour character as the Pluot. This beer came from Batch No. 4, so I’m sure there are variations in the flavors. This one packed a lot of tartness with only a hint of that fruit flavor. The flavor felt more winelike than the pluot, but this was smoother.


Almanac says that these beers remain alive in the bottle and will mature over the course of three years. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Pluot stands up down the road.

20150706165104Brewer: Almanac Beer Company
Beer: Farmer’s Reserve Pluot
Style: Sour/Wild Ale
ABV: 7.0%   IBU: n/a
Container: 375 mL bottle
Price: $11.89    Point of Purchase:  Syosset Beverage, Syosset, N.Y.
To The Eye: Yellow to slight orange in color. Hazy and not a lot of carbonation.
To The Nose: Acidic. Vinegary and acidic with a fruit undertone.
To The Palate: Starts like you were drinking a fruit vinegar. Very sour with fruity notes. Plums are not my favorite fruit, but the pluot is nice here.
Aftertaste: Acidic and bitter.
Boozy Factor: Present and accounted for.
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 8.25


20150709172530Brewer:Almanac Beer Company
Beer: Dogpatch Sour (Batch No. 4)
Style: Sour Ale
ABV: 7.0%   IBU: n/a
Container: 375 mL bottle
Price: $11.99   Point of Purchase: Westmere Beverage, Guilderland, N.Y.
To The Eye: Orange and hazy. Foam from a hard pour goes away fast. Nearly no bubbles.
To The Nose: A little bit of cherry, but it smelled more like a full-bodied red with different fruit scents and some of the oak.
To The Palate: Bitter but with fruit flavors. It has a lot of that funkiness you expect from a sour. Tart, but not as acidic as the Farmer’s Reserve.
Aftertaste: Dry and bitter, not unlike myself.
Boozy Factor: Also very present.
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 8.25

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