While I was traveling this month I missed the release of Almanac Beer Company's new series of California Table Beers, but that doesn't mean you should miss the beers, which are now selling in four-packs at Whole Foods, Bev Mo, and specialty beer shops around the Bay Area.
The Extra Pale Ale (6% abv) is made with California two-row barley and whole dehydrated mandarin oranges from Blossom Bluff Farms—the sweet scent of citrus mingles with Cascade and Columbus hops nicely. When the dry hops and mandarins are added, they also toss in some American oak chips. "This gives us a delicate oak character, but without a lengthy aging process that would sacrifice hop aroma," says Jesse Friedman of Almanac. Bitter hops (and mandarin peels) slice through the malty, delicately oak-tinged base, wiping out the more subtle floral side and finishing totally dry. We'd drink this with Indian food or fried seafood—it's a bit intense on its own.
We preferred the Honey Saison (4.8% abv), a part-wheat beer brewed with honey from Marshall Farms and fresh local ginger root, which blasts forward in the scent but turns out to be a mellow addition to the rich, earthy flavor. The creamy character of this beer is wonderfully malty and wheaty, but it ends up refreshing thanks to a generous dose of Mt. Hood and Saaz hops. All that grain makes this beer especially food-friendly; serve it with Chinese or Thai food; the ginger will latch in nicely.
If you're local to San Francisco, you should check out Almanac's bigger bottles as well. We especially enjoyed their tart Summer 2010, which was brewed with Cherokee, Marion, Ollalie, and Boysenberries.
Sample provided for review consideration.