New Belgium’s the Hemperor HPA might be the first be to tout successfully capturing “hemp terpene flavors in a beer,” which means it’s unabashedly dank. Whereas other weed-inspired beers, such as Lagunitas Waldo’s Special Ale, might offer a more subtle botanical fusion, Hemperor is punishingly potent from the get go.
To be up front, this isn’t a beer for me. It’s a startling transition from your typical IPA. Channeling the smell and taste of marijuana via hemp seeds, this beer hits its goal of being “The World’s Dankest Ale” in more ways than one without a trace of THC. For those clamoring for a weed-and-beer mashup, Hemperor delivers.
At first sniff and sip, I didn’t care for Hemperor. It is an unassuming crystal-clear pale yellow at arm’s length. But, as you bring your glass closer, its bitterness infiltrates your olfactory senses instantly and overwhelmingly. Even the people at my table had little trouble guessing what the folks at New Belgium set out to accomplish when creating the Hemperor.
If you’re not used to dankiness, the aroma definitely takes some getting used to with each sip.”
Drinking a Hemperor definitely was an adjustment. The first few sips were musty, stale and bitter, evoking a beer I hadn’t had in some time but couldn’t initially recall. Halfway through, as my senses played catch-up, the dank aroma wasn’t as overpowering and notes of lemon and grass emerged. Then, it hit me: I was transported back to days of drinking Corona, which was an upgrade price-wise from old standbys like High Life, but had a skunkiness to it that took some getting used to. The trick, at least for me, was getting past the first Corona, before finding a sensory comfort zone. The same is true for the Hemperor, which has the added bonus of being stickier, hoppier and more complex. If you’re not used to dankiness, the aroma definitely takes some getting used to with each sip.
Once I arrived in that comfort zone, I could fully appreciate what the Hemperor offered. I admired its ability to deliver on its hemp-filled promise. Is it possible to enjoy something even if you had an unsatisfactory experience overall? The Hemperor might not be up my alley, but for a certain consumer base, it’s a long-awaited pairing brought together.