Craft Beer of the Week

Mike Hess Brewing Co.: In Cervisia Veritas

Welcome, class, to today's Latin lesson. Now, you may be thinking there's no reason to learn a language that's been out of use for hundreds of years -- but you would be, as we say in Latin, in errare. If you knew Latin, for instance, you'd know that the phrase in this article's title means in beer, truth -- a wise mantra to live by. You'd also be more prepared to enjoy Mike Hess Brewing Co. and their Latin-themed brews.

See also: Nebraska Brewing Co.'s Barrel Aged Reserve Series

Hess (not to be confused with Huss) makes its way to Arizona shelves from San Diego, where the brewery was founded four years ago. According to Greg Hess, Mike's brother, the decision to distribute to our state was driven by Mike's wife, who grew up in the state and wanted to be able to bring her beer back where she was born. The brewery just began packaging its beers in cans in late February, but the brews below (and several more) are available on draft now. You'll need to learn them, so please take out your pencils and repeat after me:

Jucundus (jə KÜN dəs) adjective pleasant, delightful. Origin: The name given to a light, summery wheat ale brewed with one kilogram per barrel of orange blossom honey and California orange peel. This 5.3 percent ABV ale is colored like a dandelion, bright gold and capped with a dense, white layer of the flower's fluff. A floral aroma -- orange blossom, orange peel, wheat bread and peach -- leads to a flavor that begins with hoppy, almost pale ale-like citrus, but quickly fades to a smooth, honeysuckle and marzipan finish. Effervescent, lively -- a fantastic warm weather drinker.

Habitus (HA bət əs) noun disposition, temperament, character. Origin: Named for a sharp, intensely bitter imperial IPA. Shiny copper in appearance, with perfect translucence and a thin head of sandy tan bubbles, this beverage is brewed with rye and dry-hopped with a pound per barrel of Sterling and Chinook hops. The aroma is at once inviting and biting, fruity and resinous; a blend of mango, papaya, fresh-cut grass and grapefruit pith. The flavor leans more toward the aggressively bitter, pithy side in the front, but the swallow, interestingly, is smoother and more balanced -- this is where the fruitier notes hit, but the sides of the tongue are assuredly gripped with both hoppy and rye spice. The overall flavor strikes a nice balance at the swallow, but the bitterness that then settles into the tongue is downright mean, and the 8 percentage points of alcohol are warming on their way down.

Magna Cucurbita (MAG nə kuk ər BIT ta) noun great pumpkin. Origin: Inspired by a seasonal specialty brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg and 10 pounds of roasted pumpkin per barrel. At 7.6 percent ABV, this brew is inky black and capped with a fuzzy, oak-hued head. A chocolatey nose, backed up by allspice, also delivers notes of sweet roasted pumpkin and toast. In the flavor, we get fresh squash folding over into more roasty, caramelized tones astride toast, chocolate and cinnamon in a slightly thin, fizzy body.

Umbrix (ÜM brix) noun extreme shadow Origin: From an imposing brew that's as black as the Atlantic in the middle of the night. Brewed with seven different malts, including rye, as well as Apollo and Cascade hops, this 10.2 percent ABV imperial stout has a biting aroma, replete with toast, bitter dark chocolate, high percentage cacao, anise and black pepper. A tidal wave of flavor arrives at the swallow -- cocoa, sharp rye, vanilla, black licorice, burnt bread, floral bitterness and a very slight hint of dark fruits, perhaps plum.

Solis Occasus (SŌ les Ō KȮS əs) noun sunset Origin: From a shapeshifting brew whose recipe is constantly changing. Two things about this brew remain constant: the ABV (7.5 percent) and the style (IPA). After that, brewers are free to get creative -- in the past, they've brewed up batches brewed with wheat, experimental hop varieties, and other odd ingredients and processes.

Dryadilis (drī AD ə ləs) adjective elven, of the woods Origin: A name given to a strange, 8 percent ABV brew crafted with both Belgian yeast and American Pacific Northwestern hops. Beneath a frothy layer of pure white bubbles, this cloudy, peach-colored beer gives off an intensely fruity aroma packed with peach and pear in large doses, plus some white grape. The flavor begins sweet as well, then slowly gives way to impressive bitterness. Altogether, it's as if you bit into an orange peel and found peach and pineapple slices inside.

See? It's not a dead language at all.

Zach Fowle is a Certified Cicerone. He works at World of Beer in Tempe.

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Zach Fowle
Contact: Zach Fowle