There isn’t a taproom or even a brewing system at Horus Aged Ales’ facility in Oceanside, Calif. Instead, rows and rows of oak barrels that once contained something else, like bourbon, rum, port, or Pinot Noir, are now filled with some of the most coveted imperial stouts, barleywines, and sour beers in the country.
That’s because Horus founder Kyle Harrop likes the freedom of working nomadically and uses outside facilities to start making his highly regarded beers, all produced in painfully small quantities.
With a full-time career in aerospace and a young family at home, “I didn’t want to commit to something as costly as a brewhouse and everything that comes with it,” he says. “It’s just easier to brew elsewhere.” Crucial to his uncommon process is his deep network of friendships throughout the industry, formed as a homebrewer and having an active presence at beer festivals for over a decade. “My friends in this great industry have played a huge role in getting me to where I am today through advice, collaborations, and inclusivity,” he says.
In 2017, before Harrop sold a single ounce of beer, he tapped these relationships to build his name on a large, public scale by participating in an astounding 55 collaborations, clocking over 15,000 travel miles to partner with acclaimed brewers like Great Notion in Portland, Ore., and J. Wakefield in Miami. “I did every day for a week straight on some trips, a different brew each day,” he says.
For Horus’s first bottle release, in early 2018, he blended and aged 11 of those collaborations, mostly stouts and barleywines, in an elusive Pappy Van Winkle barrel. The result, an ale called Oceanside’s Eleven, proved people were hyped for the nascent brewery. All 480 bottles sold online in just two seconds, with the sale page receiving 51,000 hits. “I was blown away by the response,” he says.
It was a combination of encouragement from his wife and a health scare not long after his daughter was born that pushed him to pursue his love of brewing professionally. “My doctor felt a lump in my neck during a routine physical and scheduled me for a CT scan the following day,” he recalls. “They found a significant growth that required me to have surgery, and during the surgery they ended up finding several others.” Fortunately, all were benign. But the experience was life-altering.
“Our time is so short, and I realized I wanted to do the thing I was so passionate about. I then went full speed ahead,” he says.
In our latest installment of Lucky Sevens, Harrop shares the IPA that would be a perfect accompaniment to surfing off a desert island, his bourbon preferences, and why, to him, barleywine is life.
1. What’s your desert-island beer?
If it’s a desert island, I’m going to assume the weather would be hot and tropical, so my beer of choice would be Alvarado Street’s Mai Tai P.A. It’s crushable at 6.5 percent ABV, with big tropical flavors of pineapple, passion fruit, and mango, while still being on the drier, more West-Coast-IPA side of the hop spectrum. It highlights my favorite hop in IPAs, Mosaic, by making up 100 percent of the recipe.
I still remember trying it for the first time at the pub in Monterey a few years ago and it was essentially a perfect summer beer. It remains that way for me and I try to keep a steady supply in the fridge at all times. The can artwork with the flamingoes is also one of my favorite labels. Now, to plan a surf trip to Fiji or Indonesia and find out a way to get some Mai Tai P.A. shipped over…
2. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
I get asked this a lot and I struggle with pinpointing that one beer. My answer changes from time to time, but I really think Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter is where the love was sparked. It was one of the only craft beers I could find on draft in my hometown of El Segundo in 2005. I also associate it with hanging out with my family and shooting pool when I was back home visiting from college, so there is a nostalgia aspect to it now. I loved dark beer from the beginning and Gonzo has such a cool chocolate and roast profile. It was pretty strong but I could drink a few pints of it no problem. I always found myself going back for that beer. It influenced my early homebrewing endeavors into the porter and stout realm. I still grab a 4-pack when I see it once in a while. It takes me back nearly 15 years to the now-defunct Bad Dog Ale House.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour.
If it’s O.K., I chose my own styles here.
F: Lambic. I would drink lambic everyday — if my esophagus and stomach could handle it. I love the acidity and funk in these traditional Belgian beers. There is a magic to the spontaneous fermentation that takes place in Senne Valley. The time and energy that goes into making this style is unparalleled and it shows.
M: English barleywine. Most people love or hate this style. It’s my absolute favorite. The malt forwardness and deep complexity has always drawn me in. I love the caramel, dark fruit, and toffee characteristics. It intrigues me and always keeps me on my toes. When done well, there is no better beverage out there. Anchorage, Fremont, Kuhnhenn, and Side Project are among those making my favorite interpretations of the style. #BIL, Barleywine is Life.
K: German Rauchbier. I’ve never been able to drink more than a few ounces of these and the same goes for peated whiskey. I’m super sensitive to the smoke aroma and flavor. They taste like what I would envision liquefied beef jerky being.
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper beer?
Midnight Sun’s M, a Belgian-style barleywine, in its prime. I’ve had it three different times and came away thinking it was the best beer I’ve ever had in each instance. It’s certainly the most adventurous and thought-provoking. From the yeast to the barrel character to the base beer, it’s incredibly complex. It’s a palate roller coaster from start to finish. Brown sugar, chocolate, coconut, crystal malt, dates, dulce de leche, figs, hazelnut, oak, oatmeal, roast, and vanilla, and whiskey. I remember getting something different from every sniff and sip.
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
This is a hard question because taking my health into consideration, drinking barleywine forever wouldn’t exactly be the best move. If I could only drink one particular beer for the rest of my life, realistically, it would be Suarez Family Brewery’s Palatine Pils. It’s great on its own, with food, and in any climate. It’s flavorful, easy to drink, and crisp. It’s an American-made version of the German pilsner style that is done masterfully. It’s unfiltered, has an ideal mouthfeel, and has a perfect, pillowy head.
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
The best right now is Sante Adairius’s Another Alliteration. It’s my last bottle from 2015 and I’m waiting to crack it once I have time to cook some ribs on the smoker. I really enjoy the raspberry character and the softness. It drinks like it’s half of its actual alcohol strength. It’s one of my favorite dark sours ever, with its musty funk and intense fruit profile.
The worst right now is a Golden Road Mango Michelada my sister brought over for my wife to try.
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
Other than beer, bourbon. I like it neat and also in an Old Fashioned. Bourbon, a little bit of Demerara syrup, Angostura bitters, orange bitters, an orange peel, and a huge ice cube, to be exact. My go-to affordable bourbon is Four Roses Single Barrel. If I’m splurging, I really enjoy the Booker’s series. Some of the best bourbons I’ve ever had were Colonel E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving, Heaven Hill Parker’s Heritage 2nd Edition, and Willett Wheated Patriot. My favorite place to buy whiskey is El Cerrito Liquor in Corona, Calif.