Craft beer currently makes up around 12% of beer sales. While large corporations like Budweiser and Coors rely on brand-name recognition and predictable flavor profiles to keep their loyal customers, craft beer companies are known for innovation, change and experimentation. Some are even starting to add hemp seeds to their brews.
The last place you might expect to find hemp beer is in staid Utah—the state did not legalize bars until 2009—but for Jeremy Worrell, field-marketing manager at Uinta Brewing in Salt Lake City (1722 Fremont Dr.), that’s exactly the point.
“We joke around that our founder, Will Hamill, moved to the least beer-drinking state to open a brewery just to prove he could,” Worrell tells Freedom Leaf. “Bucking the stereotypes of Utah and showing the world that we not only know how to brew beer, but brew creative and world-class beer, has b-come part of the culture at Uinta.”
Their hemp beer, Dubhe (pronounced “doobie”), is not the pun you expect. Utah designated Dubhe (a.k.a. Alpha Ursae Majoris, the brightest star in the Big Dipper) as the official star of the state centennial in 1996. “So it makes sense on a variety of levels,” Worrell explains.
Uinta purchases hemp from the San Francisco Herb Company and adds it to the boil along with hops, creating what Worrell calls an “extremely dark, yet extremely drinkable and dangerously delicious IPA.”For Zach Weakland and his parents—owners of High Hops Brewery and The Windsor Gardener in Windsor, Co. (both at 6461 Colorado Route 392)—brewing is a family affair. Zach is the chief brewer and production manager; his mother, Amanda, runs the greenhouse; and his father, Pat, takes care of construction.
In 2000, when the Weaklands opened their garden store, they began experimenting with home brewing. Zach, in high school at the time, was inspired by the real-life applications for brewing in his chemistry class, and a (hemp) seed was planted.
For their Honey Hemp Red Ale, Zach adds hemp leaves and seed to ground-up flour at the end of the brewing process, believing at that stage the flavor and aroma of hemp will remain intact. “Get the flavors, get the aroma and everything that hemp is in the beer,” he exclaims. When people try it out, he hopes they will react like “Hey, that’s cool! What else can be made with hemp?”
At Fitger Brewing Company in Duluth, Minn. (600 E. Superior Dr.), brewmaster Ted Briggs oversees a crew of eight and boasts a catalog of more than a 100 brews. Before he began his professional career at one of the first breweries in Philadelphia, Briggs says, “My homebrewing friends were tired of how uptight I was about my brewing and said I should go pro.”
The organic hemp seeds added to the ale are purchased from a food co-op in Duluth. Briggs places the raw seeds in both the mash and kettle boil, which provides its distinctive taste. “It’s well-hopped and has a strong 6.5% alcohol volume,” he explains. “Some say they can taste a nuttiness in the beer.”
For now, Homegrown Hempen Ale is a seasonal offering that’s only available each May at the annual Homegrown Music Festival in the Duluth/Superior area. “It’s one of the seasonals everyone looks forward to every year,” Briggs notes, adding that current Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and the previous ones have been fans. “During the opening ceremony, the mayor toasts the crowd with the first pint!”
Toronto’s Cool Beer Brewing Company has a hemp-based amber lager called Millennium Buzz. They get their hemp seeds from a local farmer and add the hempseed meal to the mash, which, marketing manager Andrew Costa says, “extracts all the hemp goodness. Infusing a beer with hemp brings a flavorful healthy mix of pure wholesome ingredients.”
Hemp seeds contain protein, numerous vitamins and minerals, and omega-3 alphalinolenic acid and omega-6 linoleic acid, which are good for keeping your heart healthy.
Craft brewers are known for creativity, using ingredients like chocolate, fruit, chilies, oats and spices in their brews. “The question is,” Worrell asks, “why not hemp?”
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