By Lou Fancher
To celebrate the holidays in the work-from-home era, you can remain in your pajamas all day, drink beer at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and "go" to work all at the same time. But please, at least wear a sweater. Especially if you're drinking Alameda-based Almanac Beer Co.'s 2020 Ugly Sweater LOVE Hazy IPA, or beer surprises pulled from their new, festively presented Christmas and Hanukkah holiday packs. Why not upscale and dress up appropriately in green and red, or blue and white, to enhance the experience? (And for the first time since March, get those malodorous p.j.'s into the laundry. Phew!)
Just in time to lift sagging Covid spirits, founders Damian Fagan and Jesse Friedman introduce the brewery's limited-edition seasonal farm-to-barrel craft beers in clever winter packaging. Love Hazy arrives wrapped in a red-green-silver-and-white classic-knit design. The boxed 12 Christmas 2020 beers, one for each of the 12 days of Christmas, and the Hanukkah 2020 pack that includes eight different beers for the eight nights of Hanukkah, deliver daily surprises as each compartment is opened. Order all fresh beer, all sour beer or add mystery and suspense to the occasion with a combination of the two.
"We thought this advent calendar approach would bring a little bit of fun and discovery to what will inevitably be a weird holiday season," Fagan says in an interview. "Whether you're ordering it for yourself or someone else, you won't know what's behind each door until you open it."
Which is a lot like everyday life in 2020.
11 years spent perfecting beers that showcase California's agriculture and are brewed in Almanac's 30,000-square-foot production and aging facility located in a former airplane hangar on Alameda Island have lent maturity and skill to the brew master's approach.
The good results are proven by the evidence. Love Hazy is a simple Pilsner malt base backed with rolled oats that Fagan says delivers a "pillowy soft mouthfeel." Double dry hopped with tropical Mosaic, Citra and Sabro hops, the notes of mango, cantaloupe and citrus invite a wide range of companion food ideas.
"Love's bright tropical flavors are the perfect complement to fresh fish tacos and ceviche, or a cooling contrast to spicy curries and BBQ," Fagan says. "My personal favorite pairing is with a juicy cheeseburger and fries. And between you and me, it's pretty great with Hot Pockets and pizza rolls."
During the early days of the pandemic, the good folks at Almanac foresaw that the holidays in 2020 might be unpredictable, surreal, dull or dangerous, and clearly, not "Ho-Ho-Ho!" business as usual. The new holiday packages—with the added excitement of not knowing which beer will be the star of the day—paradoxically render the unpredictable, predictable. Will it be a Bunny Hill Hazy IPA, BOOST Coffee Stout, Fruit Cobbler Sour, Plum Sournova or Sunshine & Opportunity? No one knows until the 16-oz. can pops out of the box; but rest assured, it will be delicious.
If you refuse to dress up for the occasion and remain in your pajamas, at least top off your runway outfit with an ugly sweater. Send a gift box to a friend and make the competition about fashion, but don't expect to beat out next year's ugliest sweater. Fagan says Almanac is designing and producing custom sweaters for 2021.
"Just imagine the label brought to life with sparkles and fur. It's going to be amazingly awful," he promises.