Beer, football, my dog, great conversations, better company, laughs, and fun. That’s what lies in the valley of my heart’s delight – all things that make me happy. Almanac Beer Company, from the Valley of the Heart’s Delight (AKA Santa Clara-ish, California) would choose to fill theirs with apricots, cherries, loquats, and wine barrels. Those things make me happy too, but they’re much better in a brewer’s hands which is why I’m so excited to crack the top of this brew!
This fruited sour in particular is a little special seeing that this is the first ever batch made by Almanac. I usually don’t tout things like that in my reviews, but in this case, it’s worth mentioning. Almanac still continues to make Valley Of The Heart’s Delight, and by no means is it a one off, however in their most recent batch, some of the flavors of the beer have been eliminated. Gone are the cherries and locquats and all that was left for the 2015 batch were the apricots. How might that impact the beer? Everybody knows what a cherry is… red thing, green stem, pit in the middle, size of a ping pong ball(ish). However, not too many people are familiar with a loquat, which is a type of stone fruit like an apricot, peach, or plum. My research tells me they have a citrusy taste, but can also be quite sour when under-ripe, which would give this particular batch of beer a unique taste compared to later versions. …But enough about the nuances, let’s run them numbers!
Smell: Musty oak, lactic acid, pineapple, slight yeast (on the second pour), lemon, peaches, and plum. I can tell there are stone fruits in here and this is going to pucker, but what I did not get was any hint of the cherries at all.
Taste: Holy sour, upon sour, upon sour. This brew is so sour that it traveled across my palate, to my jaw, to my ear drums and left them quivering in fear. It’s the most puckering beer I’ve had… very close with Lady Of The Woods (coincidental that both of the most sour beers I’ve had have “of the” in the title). This beer is kick ass sour! Ok, now that I’ve got that out of the way, I’m also getting a lot of dry, tart, stone fruit. Peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums shine away, and I’m sure that I’m picking up flavors of loquats – although I never had one, the flavors in here are consistent as to what I’ve read about: lemon, lime, citrus, acidic. After that initial wave of sour and fruit, the beer kind of dies off. The experience I’m getting from this beer is what I’d imagine a nuclear bomb would be like going off in your mouth. A quick sudden jolt of explosive, mind-rattling sour flavors, then it’s over in a flash. There isn’t really a mid-palate or finish to the beer, unless you count twitching cheek muscles as finish… seriously, my mouth feels like it “fell asleep” and is being pricked by millions of tiny needles. I cannot overstate how astonishingly sour this beer is. The only other word, besides stone fruit and sour, I can use to describe this beer is dry. Very, very dry.
To be quite frank, I never even noticed the mouthfeel or alcohol in this beer mainly because the only thing my mind could focus on was the sourness. After really paying attention to it, the mouthfeel is thin and there is zero presence of any alcohol, although it clocks in at a surprising 7% ABV. The carbonation was zesty on this brew adding to the perceived sourness, but this also had 2.5 years to completely ferment out leaving excess CO2 as a byproduct.
Overall: This beer is like smelling salt for your mouth. The flavors are incredibly sharp, sour, assertive, and aggressive. This is NOT for the faint of heart, and certainly not a sour beer to introduce people to. With all of that said, I have to give this beer a very subjective A+ and entry into the hall of fame. I love sour beers; I especially love sour beers that are “too sour.” This fits that definition, but also adds in pleasant stone fruit flavors, even though they left my palate very quickly. An incredibly sour that is forever welcomed in the valley of my heart’s delight.