Monday, September 10, 2012

Hess Brewing Company - Torulus (Blended)

Never heard of Hess Brewing Company? Don't worry, you're not alone- you probably just don't live in San Diego. Opened 2 years ago in a space smaller than many one bedroom apartments, Hess Brewing Company is San Diego's first nano-brewery. To give you an idea of how small Hess is, think about this: Ballast Point (one of the largest breweries in San Diego, but still a microbrewery) just added two 200 barrel tanks to their production facility (each barrel is just over 30 gallons). Hess makes all of their beer on a 1.6 barrel system.

Here's something else you should know about Hess: Their beer is really, really good. From the robust Brunus Induresco (a porter that they "dry-bean" with whole coffee beans, creating the most coffee flavor I think I've ever tasted in a beer), to Amplus Acerba (a "San Diego Pale Ale" that is an absolute toad at over 11% ABV while remaining drinkable) to Venator (their fantastic new Imperial Red Ale), Hess' lineup is one of the best in San Diego. While all of the beers I just mentioned are really, really tasty, my favorite has to be Ex Umbris, a Rye Imperial Stout that's sex in a glass (or growler). It's that good. Recently Hess decided to give Ex Umbris the bourbon barrel treatment. After the aging was done, they blended a portion of the contents to make 600 bottles of Torulus (Blended). The rest of the beer was left to age a bit longer and was turned into 48 bottles of Torulus (Straight). I was able to nab a bottle of each and just tried the blended version.

Similar to Ex Umbris, Torulus is intimidating just to look at. It pours an oily black color with a thin, foamy tan head that barely conceals the beast beneath. The aroma is full of roasted malt with a lot of dark chocolate and molasses. I've smelled toasted coconut in a lot of the barrel aged beers I've tried recently and this beer was no different, hiding just a touch of coconut and bourbon behind all the roasted malt.

After tons of roast and bitterness in the smell, the last thing I expected was sweetness in the flavor, but the first thing I tasted was milk chocolate. However, order was soon restored as huge waves of roasted malt, rye, powdery dark chocolate and char came marching across the palate, annihilating any sweetness. The bourbon is noticeably restrained, but adds a nice dimension on the finish. This may not be as bourbon-y as some might be used to, but this beer has tremendous depth without resorting to using the bourbon to supply all of the flavor.

As far as trying this beer, your chances probably aren't good. But all is not lost. As far as I know, this release was a success so I can only imagine that they will be barrel aging Ex Umbris again soon. Hess is also planning on moving into a new facility in North Park in the very near future and they've purchased a canning line- hopefully a sign that they're going to start producing more beer in the very near future.  So if you still haven't heard of Hess, fear not. You will soon.

Final Grade: A

Top 100 Beers Tasted: 39

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