The first time I tried Popperings Hommel, a 750ml purchase meant to assuage my disappointment at not being able to try it at Hay Merchant, I didn't really like it. I think my palate must have been sabotaged by jealousy, a bitter soul poisoning my perceptions.
In general, I treat beer tasting with the same rule of thumb I use when introducing my kids to new foods. It can take awhile to acclimate to new flavors; they say to offer a food to a child ten times before giving up. I don't consistently sample a beer ten times before forming what I allow to stand as my opinion, but I generally withhold final judgment until at least the second time, when possible.
With certain beers, I'm confident enough in my assessment from the first sip, especially when that first sip is downright bad, but I generally struggle through at least half a bottle, even when the answer is obvious. You know, for science. I finished that first bottle of Popperings, and while I wasn't blown away, I made a note to give it another try later on. When I recently discovered Popperings available in smaller format, I decided that now was later, and later was now.
Popperings Hommel pours a hazy, slightly orange yellow. "Old Man Piss" comes to mind. It's ridiculously turbulent, with lots of not-so-suspended particulates swirling about in the glass like crumbs in a hot tub. A fluffy, two-finger head of just off-white foam shows significant staying power, its undulating cap refusing to fade through half the glass. Once it finally does, a sticky, lacy etching tells its stratified history.
Upon first sniff, the more "traditional" Belgian end of the beer is right up front. Coriander, grains of paradise, lemon peel and other various spice and light fruit ester nuances present a fresh, vibrant character to match the lively carbonation in the glass. Behind that, a slightly sweet whiff of white-bread butts up against mild phenols, lightly resinous hops and a very mild phenolic funk that oscillates between band-aids and skunk.
The palate is similar, with up-front spices leading to a lot of mid-palate malt, dry and almost savory, balancing out the esters. Slightly oily, green-tasting hops pull on the tongue at the finish, offering a cleansing dose of bitterness. There's a crisp, biting carbonation, as forecasted by the tumult in the glass, but there's a surprisingly lush mouthfeel behind the bubbly bite.
The booze shows more as it warms, reinforcing the spices that lead, yet simultaneously allowing the dry malt and viscous hops to take over prominence. As refreshing as it was at cooler temperatures, the beer turns almost comforting as it warms. I imagine that, if the carbonation lasts long enough to let this approach room temperature, it could turn a bit unpleasantly tart, the way room-temperature club soda has a sort of aggressive carbonic acidity. The fairly apparent alcohol would likely reinforce that, forcing this into something almost cloying. I recommend you not let this one sit too long.
I do, however, recommend you give it a try. Untainted by petty jealousy, I found this to be a lovely, engaging beer. It hasn't yet entered the ranks of my perennial favorites but, much like my kids and various vegetative foods, I'm willing to let it put in a bid.
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