While hemp-based beers have been produced in small batches across Washington and Colorado, New Belgium Brewery’s newest hemp beer, the Hemperor HPA, showcases a serious new direction for the world of hoppy beer. Produced by the nation’s fourth-largest craft brewery, the new release will be offered year-round and introduce the marriage of hops and hemp into the mainstream.
“Let’s face it, brewers have been trying to get cannabis-like aromas from hops for years, but it’s always missing a certain something,” Ross Koenigs, New Belgium’s Research and Development Brewer, told CraftBeer.com. “The Hemperor HPA is possibly the first beer to deliver meaningful hemp flavors and aromas.”
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The Hemperor HPA showcases the game-changing union of hops and hemp, plants genetically related that produce similar organic aromatic compounds known as terpenes. This ale is brewed with hemp hearts (the meat of the seed, minus the shell) and dry-hopped with Simcoe and experimental HBC 522 hops to create a dank, pungent hop aroma balanced by a sweet, mildly bitter finish. Federal law prohibits brewers from using hemp leaf and flower, so New Belgium brewers found a creative solution using other natural plant materials that perfectly emulate those hemp terpenes.
The beer has a 7 percent ABV and contains no THC or CBD. It will be sold in six packs and doesn’t intend to be a fad, but a movement. New Belgium is partnering with Willie Nelson’s GCH Inc. to raise awareness and support for industrial hemp. For every barrel of The Hemperor HPA sold, New Belgium will donate a dollar to Hemp 4 Victory.
“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. “Flavor-wise, this is the beer we wanted to make, but 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.”
The Hemperor HPA will debut on tap in select locations in time for the 420 holiday. Bottles and 6-packs of the beer are expected arrive across the country on May 21.