Hemp beers are nothing new. Craft breweries — especially west of the Mississippi — have been making hemp beers for years. However, these brews are not typically found beyond each brewery’s market, leaving the rest of the country searching for beers that have qualities similar to that of cannabis. Now, though, Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing is working to change that with its new release: The Hemperor HPA, an ale made with hemp that will be distributed nationwide by summer 2018.
As we said, plenty of craft breweries have done hemp beers before, but not many made it into wide distribution (Humboldt Brewing’s Hemp Ale being one of the few). For a company with international marketing such as New Belgium, the push to make Hemperor was to showcase cannabis-like flavors and aromas as much as it was to bring awareness to a crop that is underappreciated and underutilized thanks to government regulations, according to Ross Koenigs, New Belgium’s research and development brewer.
“This beer has been over two years in the making, most of the time spent learning and reacting to laws that really suppress this crop’s usage,” Koenigs said. “Due to misinformed laws governing the use of industrial hemp, we had to take a creative and long-winding road to get to this point. We’re happy with where we landed, and we’ll be working to change federal regulation so that one day we can brew The Hemperor HPA with hemp flowers and leaves as we originally envisioned.”
Fun fact: Hemp generates higher revenue per acre than other crops thanks to farmers’ ability to use multiple parts of the plant. It has also been an integral part of U.S. history. Not only was Henry Ford’s Model T designed to run on hemp fuel, but the first American flag and early paper money were both made from hemp. But enough about the government — back to the beer.
An ale that weighs in at 7 percent ABV, Hemperor HPA is brewed using Pale, White Wheat, and Midnight Wheat malts and hemp hearts (the meat of the hemp seed, sans shell). The beer is then dry-hopped with Simcoe and experimental HBC 522 hops to create a dank-as-f*ck aroma balanced by a sweet, mildly bitter finish.
Hemp leaves and flowers are restricted from use, hence why New Belgium resorted to using other parts of the plant that would create that distinctive aroma (caused by compounds called terpenes). Because the leaves and flowers are not used, there is no t etrahydrocannabinolor (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) in the beer.
The Hemperor HPA will be available on draft starting April 2 and will be out in 12-ounce bottles nationwide starting in late May.
If you want to learn more about hemp (or the regulatory process that governs hemp and hemp products), you can visit The Hemperor HPA’s website. In addition, New Belgium has partnered with GCH Inc. (which was founded by Willie Nelson) to raise awareness for the Hemp 4 Victory campaign. One dollar from every barrel of The Hemperor HPA sold will be donated to Hemp 4 Victory in support of its mission to raise awareness and promote pro-hemp bills in the U.S House of Representatives and Senate.