Hello Sour Beer Friends,
Last weekend I had a group of friends over for one of my favorite activities… A night of drinking excellent sour beers! One of these fantastic beers, and a beer I have been very excited to try, was Hommage by Drie Fonteinen. Hommage is a fruit lambic blended by Drie Fonteinen’s Armand DeBelder in commemoration of his late father, Gaston DeBelder. Made by blending 30% raspberries and 5% cherries with base lambic, Hommage has been produced twice. The first of these blends was released in 2007, while the second blend was produced in the summer of 2013. The following spring, the Shelton Brothers of Belchertown, Massachussets imported the beer into the US. With only 5000 bottles being released worldwide, this is one of those sour beers that has been fairly difficult to find from day one.
Hommage poured a deep crimson red and produced significant foam due to its high carbonation, although this head quickly dissipated. We were greeted with sharp aromas of wet wood and cherry pits. There was some serious Brettanomyces derived funk apparent in the aroma and this took the form of “Mousiness” and “Goatiness”. For those unfamiliar with these ultra-funky sour beer descriptors, Mousiness is a musty quality that is reminiscent of a damp basement with some mouse urine odor. Goatiness on the other hand specifically refers to caprylic acid and is an aroma and flavor of wax, animal fat, or tallow. While they sound disgusting, and believe me this was not a beginner’s sour beer, Hommage was quite delicious and these characteristics blended into the mix of fruit, wood, and sour in a way that was actually enticing. One other aroma that added to the sharpness of the profile was a mild touch of acetone (nail polish remover). These sharper and funkier aromas were weaved into a blanket of fruitiness that embodied overripe cherries, crushed raspberries and raspberry seeds, and red grapes. Many fruit lambics, including others produced by Drie Fonteinen, showcase characteristics of fresh fruit, fruit jams, pie fillings, or fruit wines. In this case, the fruit character of Hommage’s aroma profile was more akin to overripe fruit or fruit that has just begun to rot. It doesn’t taste bad, but it walks a fine line between enticing and unsavory.
When we first tasted Hommage we found that it was difficult to appreciate the full bouquet of its flavors due to a very high carbonation level. We decanted our glasses and noticed that doing so really opened up the beer. The souring level was moderate with the sourness being about a 50/50 split of lactic acid from the base lambic and natural fruit acids from the raspberries and cherries. There was no acetic acid (vinegar) presence. The fruit flavors of raspberry juice and cherry pomegranate juice were both present. We all felt that although they were a smaller portion of the blend, the beer actually expressed more distinct cherry character than raspberry. These cherry notes reminded us of cherry cordials and cherry wine. Additionally, when drank colder, the Brettanomyces funk of Hommage really took center stage. However, as the beer warmed up, the fruit character was able to more fully express itself. As in the aroma, Brettanomyces played a big role in the flavor profile. Notes of leather, hay, mustiness, and earthiness were all present. Lastly, a distinct almond character from cherry pits was notable. The beer had a medium body, and a moderate level of carbonation even after decanting. Like all Drie Fonteinen fruit lambics, the finish was dry, with earthy notes and a pleasant tannic sensation left on the tongue.
Overall, the 2013 Hommage was truly an impressive and delicious blend. This is the type of beer that reminds more seasoned sour fans of the wild nature of lambics and how unique some sour beers can be. This is not a beginner’s sour. The fruit flavors are intense and live on the fringe between very ripe and rotting. Some serious Brettanomyces funk backs up the fruit in a way that will define the term “mouse taint” for me from this point forward. All that being said, I loved this beer and will definitely be keeping my eye out for additional bottles to cellar. If you have a chance to try Drie Fonteinen Hommage, don’t pass it up!