Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp

America's leading advocate for hemp

Tag: alcohol

Hemp Craft Beer & The Breweries That Make It

Hemp craft beer is making a name for itself, with the help of a handful of pioneering American breweries. It began with New Belgium’s “The Hemperor,” but now other breweries both large and small are entering the hemp and cannabis market.

Hemp craft beer is making a name for itself, with the help of a handful of pioneering American breweries.

There are many products that utilize hemp; clothing, skincare products, CBD oils & tinctures, and hemp-enhanced edibles, but there remains a noticeable absence of hemp in the alcohol industry. Most notably, the craft beer market, a market that’s notorious for experimentation to produce unique flavors.

Thanks to unmet market needs and the relaxing regulations towards hemp & cannabis products, breweries such as New Belgium have initiated their foray into the hemp craft beer market. Upon their release of “The Hemperor,” the Colorado brewery gained nationwide media attention due to this trailblazing and delicious beverage.

A pint glass of dark beer sits on a rustic bar top in a darkened bar. While hemp makes an enticing beer ingredient, craft hemp beer brewers face legal and regulatory hurdles before they can bring their brews to market.

While hemp makes an enticing beer ingredient, craft hemp beer brewers face legal and regulatory hurdles before they can bring their brews to market.

Previously, we reviewed The Hemperor and interviewed a local maker of hemp wine. The recent growth of hemp craft beer left us eager to look deeper into this enticing topic.

THE CURRENT STATE OF THE HEMP CRAFT BEER MARKET

Other breweries looking to imitate New Belgium’s success must fight a gauntlet of obstacles.

Thanks to the difficulty of state and federal regulations, New Belgium had to experiment with many iterations of The Hemperor. This is because the use of hemp flowers & leaves in products is forbidden by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The use of CBD is also forbidden in alcohol products with national distribution.

Eventually, the brewery landed on hulled hemp seeds as the base for The Hemperor. Hulled hemp seeds, better known as hemp hearts, are an ingredient that can be found in your local supermarket. Hemp hearts are versatile, and can be used in many applications such as making hemp milk. Now, The Hemperor is available in all states except Kansas (party poopers if you ask us).

With the success of New Belgium, major beer companies are looking to get a slice of the pie. Corona & Modelo manufacturer Constellation Brands, Blue Moon founder Keith Villa, and Molson Coors are some of the notable names looking to dip their toes into hemp and cannabis beer. Constellation Brands and Molson Coors partnered with Canadian cannabis producers, while Keith Villa is working with a producer in his home state of Colorado.

BREWERIES THAT MAKE HEMP CRAFT BEER

New Belgium's The Hemperor hemp craft beerNew Belgium Brewing: The Hemperor

New Belgium are experiencing a moment as the most recognized hemp craft beer trailblazer. Released in April of this year, New Belgium have already experienced an instant success with The Hemperor. While they haven’t released a statement with future plans, one can almost be sure that they will release more hemp infused products.

Sweetwater Brewing Company 420 Strain G13 IPA craft hemp beerSweetwater Brewing Company: 420 Strain G13 IPA

This Atlanta based brewery has long been a fan of cannabis culture. Their best seller is the aptly named “420 Extra Pale Ale.” This past June, the brewery finally released their first (of seemingly many to come) hemp-enhanced beers. Their new beverage, “420 Strain G13 IPA,” mimics the famous G13 strain of psychoactive cannabis in terms of smell and taste, without the high. Sweetwater achieves this by infusing the pale ale with hemp, hops, terpenes, and other organic materials.

In a statement in the New York Times, co-founder Freddy Bensch says: “We think the drinker and the cannabis consumer are the same person.”

Bensch means that by releasing their G13 product, the brewery is tapping into a market that’s already connected to their traditional target-market. It’s worth noting that in just a couple of months, the G13 IPA has become their 2nd highest selling product.

Lagunitas Hi Fi Hops Cannabis Craft BeerLagunitas Brewing: Hi-Fi Hops

With the recreational use of psychoactive cannabis becoming legal, California-based Lagunitas Brewery pounced on the new market. Releasing their “Hi-Fi Hops” product line, in collaboration with CannaCraft (a cannabis-extract manufacturer), they offer cannabis-infused sparkling water drinks. Hi-Fi Hops products can only be found in medical marijuana dispensaries in California. While a little more left-field, the introduction of a cannabis-infused sparkling water opens the conversation up from merely a beer product, into a whole slew of hemp, CBD & THC-infused beverages.

Lagunitas is at the forefront of the fusion of cannabis into traditional drinks.

WHERE HEMP CRAFT BEER FITS INTO CRAFT BEER CULTURE

So where does hemp craft beer stand within existing craft beer culture?

Craft beer culture is already at the forefront of counterculture. Craft beers began with mad-scientist brewers looking for new flavors in unconventional ingredients. Long synonymous with bearded, beanie-wearing hipsters, craft beer culture is comfortable standing out. In fact, being different is the greatest asset of a craft beer. One needs only to look at the ingredients and artwork on their bottles to recognize this.

A photo showing three different beers of different colors in pint glasses. The success of New Belgium is bringing a host of new hemp craft beer to market, as well as entries from some larger brewers too.

The success of New Belgium is bringing a host of new hemp craft beer to market, as well as entries from some larger brewers too.

Cannabis and hemp belong to the same family of plants as hops. Breweries such as New Belgium and Sweetwater are using the green & herbal notes of the hemp plant to enhance their IPAs, which already tout flavors of bitterness, freshness and hoppiness.

So, we think that hemp craft beers will fit right in! In fact, we believe it’ll do more than fit in, we think they will thrive. The same hipster beanie-wearing dudes who drink IPAs are probably already using hemp in their breakfasts or daily supplements; so why not have hemp with their beer?

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The Hemperor Beer Review: New Belgium Adds Hemp Flavor & Aroma To Hops

The Hemperor is a unique new offering from New Belgium. While this “HPA” or Hemp Pale Ale has the strong flavor of hops, the hemp flavor balances out the bitterness. And the hempy smell of The Hemperor has to be experienced to be believed.

Our Hemperor beer review in a nut (hemp?) shell: Delicious!

New Belgium Brewing recently invited our Editor in Chief to a special Austin, Texas tasting of their new hemp beer, The Hemperor HPA.

The Hemperor is a unique new offering. This is the first hemp beer from a brewery as ubiquitous as New Belgium. While this “HPA” or Hemp Pale Ale has the strong flavor of hops, the hemp flavor balances out the bitterness. The smell of The Hemperor has to be experienced to be believed. The private downtown bar where the tasting took place smelled like a hemp field at harvest, just from the open bottles and glasses of beer.

New Belgium are also believers in hemp legalization. One dollar from every bottle sold goes to groups like Hemp 4 Victory.

“It’s a crop that has a lot of stigma in this country and I think this beer could be a catalyst for change,” declared Steve Navas, brand activation manager at New Belgium.

New Belgium is also encouraging beer fans to contact their elected representatives and demand total hemp legalization.

HEMP AND HOPS COME TOGETHER IN THE HEMPEROR

Hemp and hops have a long history of human cultivation but they’ve rarely been combined in a modern beer. Since New Belgium is from Colorado, the heart of modern hemp growing in the U.S. it might be inevitable that they’d decide to mix the two.

“Our brewers met some farmers, got to brewing, and figured out it tastes great in a beer,” Navas said.

Regulations are one issue that may have kept hemp beers from reaching a national market before. As the creators of hemp wine discovered, the government bodies which oversee alcohol licensing and distribution in the U.S. are resistant to ingredients like hemp. Now for sale in 49 states, The Hemperor is still unavailable in Kansas, which has extremely strict laws on hemp products.

Steve Navas of New Belgium poses with a glass of The Hemperor at the Austin, Texas tasting. (Ministry of Hemp)

New Belgium is lobbying to change those regulations. “Hopefully in the next few months we’ll be able to sell this in that state as well,” Navas said.

Other than that small amount of resistance, he said people greet The Hemperor with excitement.

“People are overall ecstatic about it,” Navas said.

“The beer speaks for itself and it smells for itself,” he added, taking a whiff of the beer’s distinctive aroma in his glass.

OFFICIAL HEMPEROR BEER REVIEW

Official Hemperor Beer Review

  • Highlights: New Belgium’s The Hemperor HPA has an incredibly rich, herbal hempy aroma but contains absolutely no THC. It has a light golden amber color. The taste of hemp balances out the bitterness of the hops. A portion of the profits from every bottle sold go to hemp legalization causes.
  • Price: $18.83 for a six-pack (Amazon)
  • Strength: 7% alcohol by volume
  • Taste & Aroma: Wow! Powerful green hemp aroma from this pale ale. The hemp adds a nutty, smooth flavor that balances out the hops, especially in comparison to most IPAs. This beer is sweet with a very mild bitter aftertaste.
  • Ingredients: Water, ale yeast, wheat (Pale, White Wheat and Midnight Wheat), Hops (Nugget, Cascade, HBC 522 and Simcoe), Hemp hearts and natural flavor

The Hemperor is sourced from Colorado-grown hemp plants. Despite the smell, The Hemperor contains does not contain any THC, the ingredient in marijuana that makes people feel high. It’s also not a source of CBD or any of the other cannabinoids or terpenes found in the cannabis plant, just delicious hemp flavor. Sign up at Hemp 4 Victory to join the efforts of New Belgium and their allies to spread the word about hemp legalization.

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Texas Winery Offers Unique Hemp Oil-Infused Wines | Texas Hemp Wine

It’s a product years in the making, but Americans in 37 states can now try hemp-infused wine, the creation of Texas-based TVM Wines. For the wine’s creators, the product is about more than just capitalizing on an increasingly “hip” ingredient.

You can wear hemp fashion, put hemp seeds on your oatmeal, even write on hemp paper, so why not sip some hemp wine?

It’s a product years in the making, but Americans in 37 states can now try hemp-infused wine, the creation of Texas-based TVM Wines.

TVM’s new hemp wines are actually wine cocktails, infused with flavors like “rum and Coke” and “Texas tea,” and graced with playful names like “Forbidden,” “Covert” and “Taboo” that invite drinkers to take part in something secretive and daring. However, for the wine’s creators, the product is about more than just capitalizing on an increasingly “hip” ingredient: they’re believers in the benefits of hemp too.

“We really truly want to help people,” declared Elease Hill, vice president of sales and marketing at TVM Wines.

Each glass of hemp wine contains a full serving of hemp oil, and while Hill stops short of making any health claims about drinking the wine, there’s ample scientific evidence that hemp oil itself can provide real benefits to consumers. If Hill had her way, the wines would also include CBD oil, an extract of hemp that can offer relief to symptoms of numerous conditions from arthritis to chronic pain. However, her efforts to develop CBD-infused wine, which has already become a best-selling product in Europe were thwarted by government regulations and the ongoing war on drugs, and it took months of struggle and negotiation to even bring her hemp wines to market.

two bottles of TVM hemp wine posed outdoors

Two bottles of TVM Hemp Wines, in “Fantasy” and “Covert” flavors, are artfully posed outdoors. TVM’s Elease Hill spent months negotiating with the government in order to successfully bring hemp wine to market.

“Until the government gets off their high horse and leaves hemp alone we can’t do anything with CBD,” Hill said, with obvious frustration in her voice, when we spoke to her by phone last month.

DEA, TTB, AND THE STRUGGLE TO BRING HEMP WINE TO MARKET

Friends of the family-owned winery first suggested the idea of a hemp wine “about two years ago,” according to Hill, but her father, TVM’s chairman Ron Mittelstedt, was initially resistant due to hemp’s uncertain legal nature and lingering stigma.

The idea lingered, and soon after Hill’s sister Beth began to research hemp’s benefits. Hill herself also discovered that CBD could treat her Attention Deficit Disorder more effectively than pharmaceutical drugs. Armed with both first-hand experience and knowledge of Spain’s “Cannavine,” they were able to change their father’s opinion and began the long process of developing a new product — only to discover that there were seemingly miles of red tape in their way.

Hemp was once a staple American cash crop, and in regular use for its medicinal benefits, until it was made illegal alongside its close cousin, marijuana, in the early 20th-century. The 2014 Farm Bill legalized hemp growing in the U.S. again for “research purposes” (including market research), allowing each state to set rules around the growth of low-THC industrial hemp. Legal experts believe the farm bill, along with other legislation and legal precedents, mean that hemp-based products are fully legal in the United States.

However, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to insist that CBD is fully illegal, and other government agencies have followed their lead.

Obama signs 2014 Farm Bill

Pres. Barack Obama signs the 2014 Farm Bill, which relegalized hemp growing in the U.S. Despite this and other legal precedents, government agencies continue to resist the sale of legal hemp products like CBD-infused hemp wine.

“When the DEA came out and said CBD is a Schedule I drug, the TTB, the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Board, they were not going to approve any alcohol products that contain CBD unless it was in trace amounts,” Hill explained.

Without TTB approval, TVM’s products wouldn’t be assigned a “COLA number,” a crucial designation required for national distribution of alcoholic products. She soon discovered that the agency had an absurd definition of what constitutes a trace amount. At one point, the TTB rejected an earlier formula because they claimed it contained 700 parts per million of CBD, a miniscule measurement far below what could cause any effect.

Even after after agreeing to use hemp oil, rather than CBD oil, Hill still had to push for final approval. One additional challenging factor? Hemp-infused products are rare: most similar products are merely flavored with it rather than containing substantial amounts of actual hemp. One exception, which helped Hill make her case to the TTB, is Colorado High Vodka, which is actually distilled from hemp plants.

After almost two years of work, the TTB agreed to grant TVM Hemp Wines a cola number late last year. “We finally got approval actually one day before my birthday on the formulas, which is December 1st.”

The agency approved the labels later that month, and the first hemp wines went on sale in Texas stores in January.

REDUCING THE STIGMA AROUND CANNABIS, ONE GLASS OF HEMP WINE AT A TIME

The names of the hemp wines, from “Forbidden” to “Fantasy,” hint at the way cannabis has faced misunderstandings, mistrust, and persecution under the war on drugs. Hill’s struggle to receive government approval for the products, shows that the stigma around this plant is still alive even as legal barriers theoretically fall away. The early response to her wines, on the other hand, is a sign that everyday people are excited about hemp, rather than afraid of it.

sock monkey with TVM hemp wine

A red sock monkey (don’t worry, he’s over 21!) enjoys the sweet taste of TVM’s “Forbidden” hemp wine cocktail. Consumers’ excitement over hemp wine shows the stigma around cannabis is disappearing.

“It wasn’t even on the shelves for 20 minutes and someone bought two bottles,” Hill said.

TVM’s hemp wines are already for sale — and selling fast — in several stores in Texas, with more coming soon. For the rest of us, curious hemp enthusiasts in 37 states can order the products from TVM’s page on Vinoshipper.com.

Hill isn’t done making hemp products, but she’s hoping Congress will clear up the legal confusion around hemp first. Efforts like the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would have fully legalized hemp and hemp products from coast to coast, have stalled in Congress so far, but advocates are hopeful that support for total legalization is growing rapidly.

“I need these bills to pass through so we can create a traditional, dry red wine with the CBD infused.”

We can’t wait to try it!

 

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