82 / 100
Bottle purchased from Platinum Liquor, shared with peeps for my birthday as a cleanser.
Pours a cloudy pinkish amber colour, with white bubbly head. Trails of lace left behind. Not bad, pretty wild.
Smells tart; berries and tropical fruit and apple cider. Touch of wildness, touch of freshness. Really nicely constructed.
Taste is tart, wild. Big passionfruit character with big pineapple character as well. Notes of funky farmhouse but fresh fruit finishes it off and makes it refreshing and very clean on the back. Citra and wild yeasts work a treat together. Take note citra fans, this is where it works.
Tangy, slightly fizzy from carbs. Beautiful texture. Just a bit bitty, bit of bite, just works perfectly.
Drinks a treat. This is what citra was meant for; stop using it in IPAs I say and use it in sour beers instead. Tangy, tart and refreshing. Beautiful.
375ml brown bottle purchased from BevMo in Menlo Park, CA.
Pours a very hazy peach-coloured golden, with a very insubstantial head that's hard to promote. It forms some fine carbonation, but only really a mesh of head, formed more from the perturbation of the pour. I'm genuinely underwhelmed.
Nose has the pleasant oaky character of Almanac, with a bright, sharp acidity and vinous notes of underripe grapes. Definite hints of white-wine acidity, almost turning to a briney black olive character. Not much in the way of hops.
Taste is also pretty good, in the standard Almanac way. Again, the hops, wherever they are, are not actually anywhere. But the barrel character is nicely created as always, with a slight upkick in acidity towards the back, and a powdery lemon candy character. Feel is surprisingly flat and weak—it does indicate there was a carbonation problem here. It's lacking liveliness with the low carbonation, and a low carbonation would also explain the appearance.
Overall, it's nice enough, and Almanac do do a good line in crafting that consistent barrel sour character. But this feels a little bit as though as though it's only the base, without anything setting it apart on its own. The hops, sadly, are missing in action.
81 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from PCC Natural Markets, Fremont, Seattle.
Pours an extremely pale, almost witbier white-yellow with similar cloudy hazing. Head forms in a fuzzy gauze across the top but quickly disappears to nothing. Body is very light, and the carbonation is minimal. Honestly, it's not a particularly appealing beer from the look.
But that's not what it's about, clearly. The nose is excellent, as you might expect from an Almanac beer. There's a beautiful green acidity to it, giving notes of lime and kiwifruit, but sharpened with spicy lambic-like notes, turning gaudy and plastic in the best possible way.
Flavour is also very good. There's a sharp biting lambic, wild yeast note that's tempered and muted enough to let some of the fruit characters to shine through. Again, this is dominated by the kiwifruit, but the sharper lime and passionfruit make their presence felt as well, although these are artificially elevated by the intrinsic acidity in the beer. But all together, there's a lot of nice flavours, and they're judiciously balanced enough to make the beer seem coherent.
Feel is quite light, but sharp with a touch of acidity and some very fine, very light carbonation.
Overall, it's another fine beer from Almanac, who seem to have the formula down-pat for this kind of beer. From there, it's just a matter of tweaking it in various ways. The Tropical Platypus is, then, a pleasant tweak on the standard.
75 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from BevMo in Sunnyvale, CA. Brewed with citron, blood orange and yuzu.
Pours a perfectly clear, pale golden colour, with a slight ring of white around the edge, after some fast foaming. Carbonation is tight and fine, mostly forming when tilted. Some minor specks of lace. Looks decent.
Nose is ripe with funk, picking up much more barrel and vinous notes than hints from the citrus. Indeed, there's a pronounced woody chardonnay note which takes over most of the aroma, although this is perhaps buttressed slightly by mild candied peel characters—the blood orange and perhaps the yuzu coming through. It's nice.
Taste is very tart, but perhaps a little empty as well. There's good vinous, barrel aromatics around the front of the palate, and a solid bite of really quite pronounced acidity. But the mid palate feels surprisingly empty, and it's a slot where more of the fruit notes would have been quite welcome. Finish is biting from the acid, but soft from some residual oak. All up, it's pretty good.
Feel is also very good. It's quite light on the palate, and without bombastic carbonation.
All up, it's a pretty decent sour, and another good entry from Almanac. It fits squarely in with their other Farmer's Reserve beers, even though it doesn't go above and beyond.
82 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco. My second in the Almanac dry-hopped sour series, and possibly also my second known dry-hopped sour in general.
Pours a very cloudy pale peach yellow colour, with a fine, but slightly bubbly head of white. Some minor specks of lace. Carbonation is fine though, and it forms in pleasant, fine streaks. Looks pretty decent.
Nose is quite pleasant, with a pithy, citrus character mingling with earthier lambic tones. These together give a rise to notes of stonefruit and crushed greenery, which is a pleasant combination. Oddly, it's not quite as intense and astringent as the Simcoe version, but that could be nothing more than batch variations.
Taste is really very good though. The stonefruit again comes through here, more prominently, giving a pleasant sour apricot note from front to back. Slight pithy, bittersweet lemon notes do come through as well, but it's not actively sour, nor is it truly astringent like an aggressive lambic would be. Back is quite soft, with a powdery lightness that prevents excessive acidity. I really like it.
The feel is good as well, as a result of this—it's mild in the finish, without an intense aggressive acidity to pucker the mouth.
Overall, this is extremely good. And yet, it's better than the Simcoe example for reasons that I really didn't expect. Indeed—I think the aroma is much better on the Simcoe version, which really makes no sense if the only difference is the dry-hopping. Here, the palate is subtle, well-integrated and the acidity is constructed in such a way to make it very pleasant and drinkable. Whatever it comes down to, this is certainly a winner.
74 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco.
Pours a very hazy peach-yellow colour, with a voluminous, but ultimately coarse-bubbled crackling head of white that leaves specks of lace. Body is fine and fluid, holding good, powdery carbonation. Looks pretty good.
Nose immediately makes this beer an extremely interesting proposition. To be honest, I was wary of the dry-hopped sour concept, but this just works. Pleasant, pungent acidity permeates the aroma, but is whipped up into new aromatic levels by the hops, which lend their own kind of citrus pithiness. Together, they give some classic gueuze-like notes of crushed tomato plant and rubber. It's fragrant and very unique.
Flavour is also pretty solid, although it has some drawbacks that weren't present in the aroma. Good, pleasant tartness on the front, which gives a little taste of apricot nectar and unripe pineapple juice. This develops into a faintly yeasty character on the back though, which does become slightly chewy, wet and dank in the aftertaste. Hops aren't particularly noticeable here except for the aromatics that stick around in the front-palate, but it's built around a pretty solid sour anyway.
Feel is pleasant. Pithy and light, with a fine carbonation.
This wouldn't work unless you got the elements just right. You couldn't do this with any hops you chose, nor could you do it with particular types of sour beers. Simcoe here is particularly good, especially as it's a very aromatic hop, and it pleasantly accentuates the qualities of a fine sour. Do I see this taking off? Maybe—but I can imagine that other breweries will have a hard time doing it quite like Almanac.
73 / 100
650ml brown bottle purchased from Whole Foods, Los Altos.
Pours a hazed golden colour, with a very full and frothy head of white that settles out to a pocked fine film that leaves excellent, intricate lace. Body is fluid, with a bit of weight to it, and it holds fine streams of static carbonation when tilted. Looks great.
Nose is suitably hop-forward, with big peely citrus notes coming through, tending towards tangerine and grapefruit skin. Under this is a very neutral malt character, almost grainy or floury in its insipidness—this is not necessarily a bad thing, since the beer is all about the hops, but it's actually something of a deviation from what I tend to see in west coast IPAs.
Taste is also pretty classic. Smooth, rounded, fruity notes on the front, with a little mango-pineapple fruit salad character, blunted a little by the presence of some sweet buttery tones (a flavour I often associate with Simcoe, although I'm not sure if it's used in this). The back has more citrus: tangerine and pithy orange, along with a robust pine-needle bitterness that packs a punch, but doesn't turn harsh, or stick around too much and build up over time.
Feel is smooth and fairly full, which helps cushion the hops, even though there's not a great deal of malt sweetness.
Overall, this is a good, solid West Coast IPA. Does it do anything out of the ordinary? No, not really. Does it need to? No, not really. In fact, it's good to see Almanac, a brewery that thrives on its sours, putting together such a neat package in such a different style—they're clearly not a one-trick pony.
82 / 100
Small glass pour from a 355ml brown bottle at Hashigo Zake in Wellington, New Zealand, where they were having a special event on the beer.
Pours a very clear, but quite deep amber colour, with a fine but noticeable thin ring of off-white. Bubbles are very fine for the most part. Some spotty lace is left on the glass even when swirled. Body is slick and fluid, but quite light, which is certainly surprising.
Nose is awesome. Big, earthy dusky spicy characters, with sweet aromatics from the pumpkin and plenty of body on the back. Cinnamon and nutmeg come through really quite nicely, blending nicely with the sweetness. There is a slightly bright boozy note which gives some additional heft and complexity to it as well. It's lovely.
Taste is slightly cleaner, due to a faint acidity that is characteristic of most if not all of Almanac's beers. There's a nice peppery spice to it as well that creates a pretty clear bright note. It's still very smooth though, because of the extra body, and the sweetness that the malt and body bring. There's a faint booze note, but it's nowhere near offensive or astringent. Finish has a mild warmth and a slight overtone of roast pumpkin. Feel is very smooth and silky. I love it. Really beautifully done.
Overall, this is a cracking beer—so smooth, rich and complex. Almanac have done a wonderful job not only in the spicy beers, the barrel aging, the pumpkin, the body: it's the blend and balance of all of them. The beer ends up being complex, flavoursome, warming but not harsh. It's a beautiful drop.
Pours a golden orange colour, with maybe a hint of pink to it. Head is white, whispy and sparsely bubbled, thin lace trails left behind. Bit flat and listless.
Smells funky, earthy. Some distinct odd notes - rubber and a touch of watermelon. Hint of citrus and spice. Pretty nice, tart drop.
Taste is very tart indeed. Lots of acid from the get-go with lemon, cloudy cider and white wine vinegar. Doesn't get overly tart, to its credit, just crisp and sour with a nice tapering off into slightly funky finish. Mildly savoury and corporeal as well with some barnyard-style funk. Overall very vinegary, but a nice pithy citrus edge. Quite pleasant.
Definite wild yeast pull. Finishes a bit dry, puckering. Don't love it, but body and texture have presence.
Possibly a bit too sour for my liking, could use a touch more malt to balance it all up.
89 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney where I shared it with the Jabberwock Brew crew.
Pours a hazed amber colour, perhaps with just a hint of the red to it suggested by its genesis and the red on the label. Head is a bit wispy, forming a fine ring around the glass, but not a lot more. Carbonation is very fine and fleet. Looks pretty decent all up.
Nose is very tart. Almost vinous with acidity, in fact, and very reminiscent of the great Belgian sours. The oak quality, the sharpness of the acid that almost turns rubbery, or like crushed nettles. It's really quite impressive stuff.
Taste is similar, in fact probably even better. Here there's a depth to the acidity that gives broad fruity tones—berries, currants or sour watermelon. There's a structure to it from the oak barrels and the hint of wine that adds a little sweetness towards the back. I also like the finish—it's still complex, but with a punctuated crispness a little like lime peel. It leaves it a little dry, but still with the crackling aftertones of the acid. Wonderful stuff.
Feel is great as well. Clean and crisp, but with a fine carbonation that matches the acidity very nicely indeed.
Overall, this is another absolutely cracking beer from Almanac, and probably one of my favourites I've had from them. This has all the complexity of the best barrel-aged wild ales, and manages to fold it all into a structured package that maintains its drinkability. Highly recommended.
80 / 100
750ml brown bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney where I shared it with Chris and Sam.
Pours a relatively clear golden colour, with a fine, but minimal head of white. Some streaking sudsy lace, and fairly fine carbonation. Body is very light, as it should be. Pretty standard, but fairly nice.
Nose is very interesting. There's a pronounced mineral character giving a saline twang to everything else, while the acidity presents itself as a clean tartness like citrus and olive brine. Weird overtones of chlorine and artificial raspberry. It's very unique.
Taste is excellent. Very clean, bright acidity blunted by a noticeable mineral salt character—while it doesn't actually taste salty, there's the definite sense that there's a great deal of dissolved ions in it. Finish is clean, but lingering with a slightly metallic character. Feel is bright, but slightly sudsy for some reason.
Overall, this is a really cracking gose. Salt character is soft, but works really pleasantly with the tartness. It's a balance you don't see in any other style, but I think Almanac has nailed the way it's meant to be.
77 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney and shared with Sam.
Pours indeed a deep brown, porter-esque colour, with a fairly fine and solid head of pale brown. Lacing forms in intricate, messy lace, and the head becomes a pocked mass that stays fairly persistently. Body has a lightness to it but it still holds fairly fine carbonation. Looks really very good all up.
Nose is very pleasant. Deep darkness is caressed and perhaps stabbed by a perverse acidity which runs through the centre of the dusky chocolate notes to provide a weird crispness. Slightly vinous overtones, with a definite suggestion of oak. It's really very pleasant.
Taste is really lovely, with the toasty porter characters coming up to fulfill the basis of the beer. At its heart, it is genuinely a porter, with a robust but well-constructed roasted malt presence providing structure to the brew. And then comes the tartness—it has red-wine overtones, a touch of wood-aged balsamic vinegar, and even a depth of vanilla that you get from bourbon barrels. It's really quite lovely stuff.
Feel is a little bit thin. With the acidity, it's not unexpected, but really it could have a bit more to aid the complexity.
Still, overall, this is a really very good beer. It is a very nice structure laced with lovely acidic complexities. It's maybe not up with the pinnacle of the wild styles, but it's a really nicely created and well-balanced example nonetheless.
80 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco. Brought back to Australia and shared with Sam and Rich
Pours a bright candy pink colour, with a very pale pink head of coarse bubbles. Lots of fine specks of lace as it settles, although the body itself is pretty light and weak. Carbonation forms in streams. The colour is very interesting, and overall it looks really very good.
Nose is tart and crisp, with a pronounced berry aroma right from the start. Almost gueuze-like plastic funk comes through, very tart and very astringent. There's also a slight stringy sweetness: like a slightly artificial sugar note running through it.
Taste is very good: strong tart characters throughout, with a lactic note running through them all. There's a darkness to it which is rather unusual—it's probably something from the barrel-aging, I get some vanilla and wood around the back which rounds out the crisp blackberry tartness. Lots of vinous characters and a slight vegetative crispness towards the finish as well. It's really very nice.
Feel is clean, direct and sharp—like a knife along the centre of the palate.
Overall, this is a cracking sour. Genuine acidity and fruit, but with complexity and subtlety. I really like it a lot.
75 / 100
375ml brown bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco.
Pours a fairly bright, but very hazy golden colour, with a very frothy and pretty persistent crackling head of white. Lacing forms in big messy swirls across the outside of the glass. Body is light and fluid, although the carbonation is fine and makes it look thicker than it is.
Nose is incredibly vinous, smelling like very little other than a very dry, very bready champagne. Very sharp, effervescent tartness, dry crispness, with overtones of spice and appleskin. Indeed, as it warms, the apple character becomes more prominent, laced with a cinnamon-sugar character. It's pretty aromatic. I like it.
Taste is undeniably weird. Very weird indeed, and the dynamics of it are not only unexpected, they almost feel wrong. Crisp, apple-like opening, bone dry and dessicated like champagne-yeast, that somehow becomes sweeter and thicker as it goes along. Lemon character comes out towards the back, with perhaps a bit more funk to broaden the palate. The feel is weird: it feels backwards in that it starts so pointedly and broadens out to a mellow richness. It's almost unnerving.
I really didn't know what to expect from a lemon-infused beer brewed with sourdough yeast, and I can't help but feel that I still don't know what to expect from the next one I have. But this one, weird though it was, certainly is an entertaining experience.
72 / 100
12oz brown bottle purchased from Ales Unlimited in San Francisco. Cost me $0 because they only had the 6-pack price in the system, so they chucked it in for free. Nice.
Pours a dark, oily brown with some ruby tinges to it. Head forms frothily at the start, but settles out to very little, just some messes of off-white around the edge of the glass. Looks decent, but without anything that really impresses.
Nose is very pleasant. Broad sweet chocolate aromas rise up early, with some structure to the malt behind it. Early, when it's a bit cooler, there's a light peppery note to it as well which creates some interest. As it warms, it's chocolate all the way.
Taste is also good, but without a big sweetness in richness on the back to really carry the chocolate illusion. Cocoa comes through early, dusty and dry with a true cacao bitterness that comes through pleasantly towards the back. This dries it out, preventing the beer from getting cloying—but to be honest, I wouldn't mind a bit of cloy on this beer.
Feel is rich, despite the dry finish in the flavour. It's like it's set up for a better flavour profile, as though they're future proofing it against tweaks they may do—it makes me believe that this beer could be even better in the future.
It's still a really great beer—for a brewery that prides itself on its sours, I'm impressed at how smooth and sweet they make this beer. It's really very drinkable and enjoyable, even though you probably feel like it's more of a gimmick than a sophisticated brew.
70 / 100
Pours a pale orange colour, bit of cloud. Head is white, decent lace but just a ring. Alright.
Smells Bretty and funky. Good vinegary tartness with rich apple, currant and balsamic notes. Yeah, redcurrant, tart, some wild funk. Very pleasant.
Taste more funky and more tart as well. Lots of barnyard with wet lucerne, some touch of balsamic, strawberry, champagne on the back. Quite a pleasant, European funk note to it. Not overly polarising, but a good deal to make you sit up and take notice.
Full mouthfeel, lots of little bits in my mouth. Pull on the back.
Funky, not overly refreshing. But if this beer were a person, I would let it look after my kids. It's alright. I trust it.
78 / 100
12oz bottle purchased from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco. Shared with Sam and Rich back in Sydney.
Pours a pale golden colour that was quite clear until some of the voluminous sediment made its way into the glass, leaving a slight hazing. Head is fine and white, as is the carbonation, which is powdery when tilted. Lacing is specked and not particularly persistent. Otherwise, though, it looks pretty good.
Nose is full of wild yeast characters giving a direct sharp acidity and slight fruity overtones. Some nectarine comes through, but I certainly don't get much strawberry, and the fruit is coupled with a plasticky overtone from the yeasts and bugs. Vegetative notes become more dominant as it warms. It's still quite pleasant though.
The taste is much crisper and probably the better for it: clean, sharp acidity through the centre of the palate giving a vinous, slightly oaky and slightly tannic bite. The strawberries definitely come through here, leaving an unusual aromatic sweetness on the back that almost seems completely discoupled from the acidity. Sherbet and green apple acidity on the finish. Feel is crisp and almost burning from the acidity.
Overall, I liked it a good deal. The acidity is very well realised and the fruit characters add their elements without really changing the case line of the beer itself—it's just going to keep doing what it wants to do, and that's what I want it to do as well.
76 / 100
Short bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Brought back to Sydney and shared with Rich and Sam.
Pours a clean clear cloudy orange, with a persistent head of white that leaves streaks of sudsy lace. Body is quite fine and thin. Carbonation is decently held. Looks pretty good.
Nose is fresh and bright: slightly fruity, with a rounded acidity that reminds me of berry gelato. Almost a pleasant gueuze-like character to it, but with a savoury grain character that pulls it back into true ale territory.
Taste has a very pleasant acidity through it that provides the core and basis of the beer. Some sweet fruity characters come through around the edges: a little stone fruit skin and more of those fresh berry characters. And there's also a decent grainy malt character still permeating it: it grounds it in some sense, but also provides a counterpoint to the acidity.
Feel is clean and light. In fact, a little more body might help the beer veer away slightly from the acidity—but how it is, it just emphasises that the acidity is the core.
Overall, this is very good stuff: bright, fresh and clean with decent balance and plenty of interest. Almanac continue to have a very good run with me, providing exceptionally clean and integrated wild ales.
77 / 100
12oz stubby bottle purchased from K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, CA. Shared with Rich in Sydney.
Pours a surprisingly light cloudy brown, certainly still stout-worthy, but perhaps less than Impy-level. Head forms a big, burgeoning froth when first poured, settling to a mocha crater of large bubbles. Body is surprisingly light, although the carbonation that forms is still quite fine. Overall it looks good, but with a few quirks to it.
Nose is wonderful. Big American oak flavours balanced with a rich sweetness from the beer itself. Plenty of toasted coconut, vanilla and mild milky chocolate. It's balanced or perhaps shot through with a slight acidity which adds a point of difference from other bourbon barrel aged Imperial stouts. But mostly, it's just sweet, rich and gorgeous. Lovely stuff.
Taste has that slight acidity on the front, but it's quickly packed away by the sweetness giving chocolate and vanilla smoothness. The acidity however maintains a lightness to the palate throughout, making it feel slightly frothy and ephemeral from start to finish. There's a slightly metallic note on the back as well which again countermands the big, sweet vanillin oak characters. On the finish lingers a dry, sweet character of toasted coconut.
Feel is very different to the usual imperial stout: it's light, slightly rounded and a little bit ephemeral. It's an unusual experience, but not an unpleasant one by any means.
Overall, this is very good stuff. Sure, I love imperial stouts, and a big, heavy, boozy, rich example would have suited me fine. But I love that Almanac have done something very different with the same basic construct here. It's a new twist on a big bourbony stout, and that's something that's extremely welcome.
74 / 100
375ml bottle purchased from Whole Foods, Los Altos, CA. Brewed with "heirloom pumpkins, fuyu persimmons and fresh ginger" and aged in white wine barrels. Yep, this sounds interesting.
Pours a relatively bright, slightly hazed golden yellow colour with a white fizzy head that foams up and out, leaving very little. Body is quite light, but it holds some moderate fine carbonation when tilted. Had I not already had a sneaky sniff of it, I'd not be feeling particularly enthusiastic right now.
But I had had a sneaky sniff, and it smells wonderful. Funky, spicy and acidic, this actually smells a little more like a well-crafted wild than I was expecting. Indeed, the pumpkin only provides a little colour to the aroma, and doesn't dominate, or even stand out particularly much. Instead, the main characters are plasticky lambic-tones, earthy funk, and old oak. The pumpkin and fruit comes through subtly, providing a richness underneath, coming through more broadly as it warms. It's a very pleasant aroma.
Taste is clean and light, but surprisingly thin—although that could also be part of the cleanness. Tart, acidic entry, very gueuze-like, before some carbonic tones stretch on the back. Peppery notes sprinkle the back, along with a zesty aspirin bitterness. A little organic greenery finishes it off—again very clean, but also lacking a little complexity. It's all very good, but it's less interesting than I'd hoped.
Feel is clean and light, but it feels like part of the problem in the lack of complexity.
This is a good beer, and well-crafted. To get that nice funk and acidity just right is no mean feat. It just feels slightly one-dimensional though, and for a beer with so many ingredients, that's something of a disappointment.