Beer has been a staple of American culture for decades, and brands are getting more innovative and creative with taste than ever before. Today’s market offers beers infused with whale testicles, yeast from Roald Dahl's writing chair, and of course hemp beer.
Hemp beer is made by infusing parts of the hemp plant into the flavoring process. Contrary to popular belief, the beer isn’t brewed directly from hemp. Instead, it uses the plant’s natural terpenes commonly found in cannabis and hemp to manipulate flavor.
As hemp is federally legal in the United States, hemp beer is legal to enjoy in any region. However, states still reserve the right to regulate, approve, or deny certain hemp beer recipes--especially if they contain cannabinoids like THC or CBD.
Hemp terpenes are non-psychoactive, so no need to worry about catching a cross fade while you’re sipping. It does still contain alcohol though, which is psychoactive, and many brands of hemp beer are strong IPAs, so make sure to keep that in mind when consuming.
Outside of the U.S., other countries have tapped into the hemp beer industry as well. South Africa, Spain, the U.K. and Germany all have some form of hemp and/or cannabis beer for consumers to enjoy.
History of Hemp Beer
Like most forms of cannabis, hemp beer has a history that dates back several centuries. In fact, “regular” beer is a lot closer to hemp beer than many of us realize.
Every beer on the market today contains “hops,” a.k.a. the Humulus lupulus plant – a sister plant to cannabis. Since the 9th century, brewers have used hops to enhance the flavor of their beers. Hops are responsible for the fruity, floral, bitter, and/or citrusy flavors and scents that are found in the different flavors of beer.
With the brewing process, hemp and hops are incredibly similar in method. Their purpose is to bring flavor, taste, and substance to the beer. Not all hemp beers are “hopped,” but most of them are.
Top Brands to Try
In today’s largely legal market, there are several hemp beer companies right here in the U.S. that offer a wide variety of flavor and essence. Here are some of the top brands we recommend trying:
#1) New Belgium’s The Hemperor HPA
One of the most popular and widely distributed hemp beers on the market is New Belgium’s “The Hemperor,” which is acclaimed as “The World’s Dankest Ale.” This beer is hemp’s version of an IPA: an HPA. Brewed by incorporating hemp terpenes into the beer along with hemp hearts and hops, the Hemperor has a slightly sweet flavor with a dry finish.
#2) Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops
Lagunitas has their own version of hemp beer: Hi-Fi Hops. However, unlike most widely-distributed hemp beers, Hi-Fi Hops contain no alcohol and a low amount of CBD and/or THC. Because of this, it’s only sold to residents of California or Colorado. But if you’re in the area and looking for a zero-calorie, alcohol-free buzz, this is the hemp beer to try.
Hailing from Rochester, New York, Hemptails is a CBD/THC-free hemp malt beverage that is available nationwide. With 8% ABV, Hemptails come in three flavors: Passionfruit Express, Citrus Gold, and Hemp’d.
Nov 22, 2021 Update: It looks like Hemptails has been discontinued.
#4) SweetWater Brewery’s 420 Strain Series
SweetWater Brewery’s 420 Strain Series is yet another favored hemp beer on the market. With four different terpene-packed flavors reminiscent of favorite cannabis strains, this Atlanta-based brand is incredibly popular in the South. The company typically hosts a 420 festival each spring and is scheduled to take place in April 2021.
#5) Humboldt Brewing Company’s Hemp Ale
Based in Northern California, Humboldt Brewing Company has been producing award-winning brews since 1987. They’ve recently added a new flavor to their arsenal: Hemp Ale, brewed with toasted hemp seeds and American hops. Humboldt’s Hemp Ale is based with a darker malt, so the light flavors of the hemp and hops provide a nice balancing act.
Pairing Hemp Beer with Food
When picking out the perfect beer, you’ll want to take into consideration the meal you’re planning to pair it with, and hemp beer comes as no exception. The added flavor from the hemp terpenes allow for a lot of variety when pairing tastes. Here are some of our recommendations when pairing your favorite hemp beer with dinner:
- Myrcene + Fruity Flavors
Whether you’re aware of it or not, myrcene is likely already familiar to your palate. This terpene is found in both cannabis and hemp plants, and also in hops. Most beers already contain this terpene, but hemp-infused beers bring the overall myrcene content up. This terpene brings a sweet, balsamic flavor to any beverage. It pairs well with fruit or light, sweet-based salads.
- Caryophyllene + Earthy Flavors
Also found in hops, caryophyllene is the terpene responsible for a spicy kick. It’s also found in spices like black pepper or cloves. Much like myrcene, hemp beers usually just add to the caryophyllene content already found in regular beers. This terpene is best paired with heavy, earthy flavors. Think red meats, mushrooms, potatoes, or saucy pastas.
- Pinene + Herb-Rich Dishes
Also found in pine trees and cannabis, pinene is one of hemp’s terpenes that is commonly infused in brews. Pinene promotes alertness and memory retention and has a very fresh, recognizable scent. Hemp beers that contain levels of pinene are best paired with dishes that require you to add fragrant herbs like roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, herb-crusted chicken, or carrot and thyme soup.
- Limonene + Fresh Flavors
Aptly named, limonene is recognized for its citrusy, lemony-fresh scent. This terpene is found in food, cleaning, and skin products alike and is known for relieving stress and boosting mood. When pairing a limonene-heavy flavor with your meals, try and center things around the lemon essence. Pairing it with light meats like fish or chicken will really allow the lemony zing to shine, or maybe a lemon-based dessert like lemon meringue pie or a lemon scone.
- Ocimene + A Spicy Kick
Found in most hemp and cannabis plants, ocimene is known for its sweet, woody, herbal scent. It’s also found in basil, mango, mint, and kumquats. To offset the sweet, honey-like notes in ocimene, pair this terpene with something smoky or spicy like BBQ ribs, jalapeño poppers, or rasta pasta.
Benefits of the Hemp Plant
Other than flavoring your beer, there are many reasons more food companies are turning to hemp for their products. The plant might be one of the greatest superfoods on earth. Here are some of the most important nutritional benefits of the hemp plant – yet another reason to try infusing hemp into your life:
- Hemp seeds are packed with protein. With about 3 grams of protein in each tablespoon, hemp seeds have just about as much protein as a serving of soybeans. Hemp seeds provide all nine essential amino acids, which are essential for absorbing protein, and have an overall positive effect on heart health. This is a great source of protein for anyone who is vegan, vegetarian, or just interested in getting protein from non-meat sources.
- Hemp seeds are high in fiber. If you find yourself struggling to get enough fiber each day, you might be surprised to find out that hemp can help. Hemp seeds are known for their high fiber count, which is essential for healthy digestion and stable blood sugar levels.
- Hemp seeds are rich in minerals and vitamins. Another great benefit of hemp seeds is the high amount of minerals and vitamins they contain. These seeds are especially rich in vitamin E, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and potassium.
- Hemp seeds contain antioxidant properties. Similar to CBD or blueberries, hemp seeds contain rich antioxidant properties. This may have a positive effect on one’s immune system and may even help to improve neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.
- Hemp seeds may soothe symptoms of PMS and menopause. For anyone who experiences menstrual and/or menopausal pain or discomfort, hemp might be able to help provide a little relief. Hemp seeds contain essential fatty acids that seem to be highly effective in soothing these sorts of pains.
- Hemp is good for the heart. As we mentioned above, hemp seeds contain a healthy amount of the nutrient magnesium. Magnesium is known for promoting heart health and appears to help prevent coronary heart disease. Hemp seeds may also help to reduce blood pressure, so adding hemp to your diet may be beneficial to your heart’s health in the long run.
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