Dank On Draft
In today’s fast-changing culture of marijuana, legalization seems to be sweeping the nation, and American craft brewers are getting in on the action. It should come as no surprise that Colorado brewers are leading the charge and making their already “dank” hoppy beers even dankier with the infusion of hemp products.
While the descriptor “dank” has generally been used to refer to marijuana products, its use has spread to craft beer in recent years as brewers have begun to inject their beers with the common aromas and flavors shared by hops and cannabis. Hops, which are a cousin of cannabis, impart floral, earthy, and indeed, dank, characteristics into beer. As one might imagine, the more hops a brewer uses, the more dank their beer becomes. With craft brewers continuing to innovate to get the most out of these flavors and ingredients, hemp is certainly making waves in the industry.
Here in Fort Collins, craft beer giant New Belgium just released its latest hemp-infused creation, The Hemperor. This new style, dubbed HPA (Hemp Pale Ale), owes its lineage to traditional hoppy IPAs (India Pale Ales). Complexity and aroma is added with the use of hemp seeds and the result is “the world’s dankest ale.” New Belgium elaborates: “Without getting too nerdy, we found a unique way to recreate hemp terpene flavors in a beer, which complement the inclusion of hop flavors and hemp hearts (seeds) in a brand new, delicious way.”
While I’m no expert on cannabis or hemp (I’m just a beer guy), I know that terpenes are organic compounds found in a variety of plants, and contribute to their flavor, aroma and color. Through the use of hemp seeds, brewers are able to build layers of flavor to complement their regular use of hops and create unique, and, you guessed it, dank attributes.
Another hemp-infused beer comes from Denver’s Sleeping Giant Brewing Company. They’ve teamed up with Colorado Springs hemp supplier Major Hemp to produce Major Hemp Brown Ale, a beer infused with a proprietary water-soluble hemp powder. According to the beer’s description, “This infusion provides a smooth, refreshing taste while enhancing the beer with the numerous healthy attributes that hemp is so highly recognized for.” These benefits include fighting bacteria, fungus and environmental stress.
It’s worth noting, even to the well-informed and cannabis-savvy population of Colorado, that hemp products do not contain THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. Or at least not in quantities high enough to have any psychoactive effects on consumers, and are therefore legal to use in U.S.-made products.
Yet another hemp infused beer made in Colorado comes from Aurora’s Dads & Dudes Breweria. They produce General Washington’s Secret Stash and state on their website that they are “the first brewery to introduce industrial hemp containing cannabinoids into beer.” This beer contains cannabidiol oil, or CBD, which is classified by the the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a controlled substance in the same class as heroin. This classification is being fought by the Hemp Industries Association. Many companies that manufacture CBD products are continuing to operate while the legal battle is taking place.
As cannabis-related products continue to evolve, you can be sure that craft beer won’t be far behind. The two industries share common ethos and a culture that emphasizes creativity, ingenuity and just good ol’ fashioned fun. And with Colorado at the heart of it all, it’s time to head out and get some dank — beer that is.
Justin Crossley is the founder of The Brewing Network, a podcast network for brewers and beer lovers, and co-owner of The Hop Grenade Taproom Fort Collins.