Tasting Notes takes a bit of an unconventional turn this week as we sit down to examine a tall pour of Torikumi Wasabi Infused Blonde Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company (Atlanta, Georgia) and Telluride Brewing Co. (Telluride, Colorado).
Torikumi, which translates to mean a “sumo bout”, comes to us as a special collaboration beer crafted by SweetWater Brewing’s Nick Nock and Brewmaster Chris Fish from Telluride Brewing Co. After an excursion to Atlanta’s Buford Highway, a culinary playground of international cuisine, the two brewers returned to SweetWater Brewing Co. with inspiration to fill the Dank Tank with what would eventually be known as Torikumi Wasabi Infused Blonde Ale. Dosed with some “serious heat” from the added wasabi, this 7.5% ABV American Blonde Ale can be enjoyed as a pairing for a wide variety of dishes or – for those more daring heat seekers – on its own. Torikumi is nearing the end of its availability, but it can still be found in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans and on draft at select beer establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and throughout the rest of SweetWater Brewing Company’s distribution area.
Now that the background information has been handled, it’s time to face the wasabi and get to some Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes for Torikumi Wasabi Infused Blonde Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company & Telluride Brewing Co.
Appearance: Torikumi presents itself as a deep golden colored brew with burnt orange hues radiating within and a bright white finger of foam resting on top. When held to direct light, the color steadfastly holds but the yellows and oranges do gain a bit more vibrancy. The beer is a touch on the cloudy side, but you can still spot a steady carbonation presence swirling about some particulate within. Head retention is good, but it eventually falls to a half finger of thick, creamy foam that coats the glass with wide lace patterns.
Aroma: With citrus and juniper leading the way, the first impression of this beer is an interesting and memorable mix of fruit and earthy spice. The beer then shifts into that recognizable, nose-tingling presence of wasabi before settling into a solid malt presence of rye and wheat.
Taste: Citrus – orange and lemon zest – and wasabi rush the palate just before a lovely, gin-like juniper works its way in. That earthiness is further supported by some spicy rye and some wheat breadiness that rounds everything off. Wonderfully unique, surprisingly pleasant, and incredibly balanced here.
Mouthfeel: Torikumi is medium in body with an effervescent carbonation level. It moves across the palate with expert-level balance, giving off a good mix of bitterness, sweetness, and wasabi heat. It is actually a bit shocking that this brew clocks in at 7.5% ABV because there is not even a hint of a trace of alcohol heat . . . or it just might be hiding cleverly behind that subtle sting of wasabi. The aftertaste is a nice combo of earthy rye, sweet orange and wasabi.
Final Thoughts: Going into this experience, I must admit that I was not expecting to use the word “balance” too often. Well, here we are and I can emphatically declare that Torikumi – wasabi and all – is an incredibly balanced brew. The planning behind this recipe was damn near genius because the wasabi comes across with a beautiful grace as it mingles with the earthy grains, citrusy hops, and distinct juniper berries. Oh, those juniper berries . . . their addition was a great call because they make the rye and wasabi really pop while still somehow taming them at the same time. This allows the beer to retain some bite, but not nearly as much heat as the brewery’s description leads you to believe. It honestly creates a flavor experience that is similar to a lightly sweetened gin cocktail that has been laced with just a bit of heat. Torikumi has balance and drinkability, and it just might be the most unique beer I have tried all year. If you have been avoiding this one simply because the can reads “Wasabi Infused”, believe me when I say this is a must try brew. Get beyond those apprehensions and give Torikumi a try before it disappears forever. Prost!