The crossover between beer and buds has been subject of many flirtations and dalliances since the legalization movement picked up steam. However, outside of some boutique products and a lot of home-brewers, hopheads have been left holding their breath. Today, New Belgium Brewing released The Hemperor IPA, a hemp pale ale distributed in 49 states. (It’s prohibited in Kansas.)
To be clear, there is absolutely zero THC or CBD in the beer. The suds simply carry the taste of cannabis (terpenes to those in the know) and utilize parts of the hemp plant in production.
The lack of the good stuff is an issue of law. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has the final say over any boozy beverage’s sale. Unfortunately, the TTB abides by the rules set out by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic. In other words, some states may be okay with weed, but the Feds are not down with herb—or herb beer.
If there was any doubt about D.C.’s position on the matter, consider the case of Dad & Dude’s Breweria in Aurora, CO. Back in 2006, the brewery filed an application with the TTB to release Washington’s Secret Stash, a CBD heavy beer. The app was quickly denied and the matter has been included in various lawsuits over the last dozen years. As recently, as February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments on the matter (and remains undecided).
Still, New Belgium found a loophole. The 2014 Farm Bill (federally) legalized use of some parts of the hemp plant including “hemp hearts” which are the meat of the seed, but no the shell.The brewery utilizes these hearts along with compounds from some other produce to infuse the Hemperor with taste of cannabis’ distinct terpenes.
The brewery explained, “That recipe is the secret sauce, so without getting too specific, we can tell you that we looked at things like orange peel, grapefruit and pine sap as examples. We feel our brewers nailed it, as you can tell by what’s in the glass in front of you.”
Of course, you don’t have a glass in front of you. So, you’ll have to settle for some tasting notes. The golden colored ale touts a 7% ABV and 55 IBU’s. The herb is evident in the bouquet and the hoppy taste. New Belgium described the flavor as consistently sweet with a hint of bitterness on the finish.
But, you’ll have to try it for yourself. The Hemperor is currently available on tap nationally and will be rolled out in six-packs over the next couple of weeks.
If you just can’t wait, check out the video below.