Hess Brewing is all growed up now. When I first encountered Hess, it was a very small operation working out of a single bay in an industrial park. Their brewery doubled as a tasting room. There was a large refrigerator housing the kegs and bottles, a tap setup mounted onto the fridge, a bar akin to what you’d find in a college kid’s basement, and that’s pretty much it. They’d wheel the brewing equipment out of the way, roll the door up, and pour suds for the society types. And by society types I mean dudes wearing zip-up hoodies and shorts with ratty beards. But much as you should follow rats on a sinking ship because they know the way out, thus should you follow dudes wearing zip-up hoodies with ratty beards because they know where to go for good beer.
As I’m sure most people do, I took Hess up on their tasting offer which entailed, if memory serves me correctly, five tasters and a pint. I was somewhat shocked that I enjoyed everything I drank. As much as I like beer, I’m still very much the spoiled midwestern kid who grew up on steak, potatoes, and pepperoni pizza because everything else was “gross.” And chocolate pudding. I liked chocolate pudding. Everybody should like chocolate pudding, and if you don’t, you’re a terrorist. Steak, potatoes, pepperoni pizza, and chocolate pudding translate approximately to beer taste buds that enjoy Belgian ales, pilsners, hefeweizens, and bocks. So I was as surprised as my taste buds when I gulped down my huge taster of Ex Umbris (Rye Imperial Stout) and thought “I could drink a whole pint of this. Or four.” The Grazias (Vienna Cream Ale) and Claritas (Kolsch) were no surprise as these are in my wheelhouse, but I was also taken aback by how good the Amplus Acerba (San Diego Pale Ale) was. I generally hate IPAs (did you just hear all of Southern California gasp?). The dirt hug aftertaste of an over-hopped beer on my tongue ranks right up there with Adolf Hitler and the music of Chumbawumba in my book. But Hess puts the craft back in craft beer and it shows. Where other breweries have dirt hugs, Hess has delicately balanced little ballerina hops on tip-toes that waft off of your tongue.
And that’s a common theme with Hess; well-thought and well-executed. I haven’t yet ventured to their new, shiny, show-piece brewery in North Park. It looks beautiful and I’ve heard nothing but good things. I’ll eventually get down there to see it, but I still prefer my dumpy little industrial bay. Because sometimes well-thought means a surprisingly delicious beer in your glass, even if you’re standing next to a CNC shop.
I told you the new one is shiny