There’s a new chef in the kitchen at the 24th Street bar and restaurant from the popular SF brewer Almanac: That’s Justin Wright, previously of Mason Pacific, which closed this summer. At Almanac Taproom, opened last year, Wright is making the switch from a wine pairing focus to a beer pairing one, and his new food menu is designed to complement the “farm to barrel” brewery’s impressive array of sour beers and its growing cadre of IPAs.
Wright, a recent transplant to the Bay Area, moved from Vermont, where he lived and worked for years after attending the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier. “This is a little more of the style of food I want to be doing at at this point,” Wright tells Eater of the new Almanac menu, referencing “fresh, casual, and seasonal [food], with lots of great meats.”
The standard meat and beer kinship aside, Wright would also like “to surprise people with nicely composed vegetable dishes and thoughtful vegetarian sandwiches,” he says.
With so many sour beers on draft at Almanac — a relative rarity — Wright has geared his menu to match. “When you’re dealing with sours, I think to go at it with fat, and go at it with texture,” he suggests. Try “something like the ribs, which we started a few weeks ago.” The kitchen confits those in pork lard.
Here, Almanac head brewer Jesse Friedman adds that an increasing number of menu items are cooked with Almanac’s beer: The ribs, for example, don’t just pair well with sour beer — they’re made with it, glazed with mustard, maple syrup, and Almanac’s bourbon barrel peche.
A new pairing that Friedman is partial to is IPA and birthday cake, a year-round dessert that the restaurant serves by the slice with a candle, birthday or not. “It’s always your birthday when you get birthday cake and that’s silly, but people have this great emotional response to it,” says Friedman.
After years as a champion of barrel-aged and sour beers, Friedman wants drinkers to know that Almanac has expanded into hoppy beer territory. “We’re known for our sours, but we love IPAs,” he says. One of the brewery’s new offerings in that category is “Hazy Voyage,” brewed with local craft malt from Admiral Maltings.
That could be the first of many Friedman brews with Admiral, a new craft malthouse on Alameda: Almanac is busy building out its brewing facility under the same roof. Stay tuned for more as that comes together.