Using hemp as a beer ingredient isn’t a new idea, but New Belgium‘s latest year-round release, The Hemperor HPA, might have mastered the process and invented a new category, as New Belgium’s Research and Development Brewer Ross Koenigs argues.
“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,” Koenigs said. “The Hemperor HPA is possibly the first beer to deliver meaningful hemp flavors and aromas.”
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 Hemperor HPA contains no THC or CBD.
“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 of the beer that is currently banned in Kansas. “Flavor-wise, this 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 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.
Beyond the beer
The restrictive regulatory process around brewing The Hemperor HPA gives New Belgium the opportunity and platform to raise awareness around the social, environmental and economic benefits of industrial hemp. Beer drinkers will be encouraged to learn more and take action here. New Belgium is also partnering with GCH Inc., the company founded by Willie Nelson and family to build brands inspired by his journey as an artist and advocate, in supporting the national campaign, Hemp 4 Victory. 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 House and Senate.
“Hemp has such a diverse set of benefits to the environment, to industry and to American farmers,” said singer-songwriter Micah Nelson. “This campaign will bring attention to the spectrum of products and businesses that will improve when industrial hemp is free to thrive in the U.S.” Micah Nelson, Willie Nelson’s youngest son, serves on the advisory board for the Hemp 4 Victory campaign and has served on the board of directors for the National Hemp Association.
“We’re incredibly excited to be working with New Belgium and GCH Inc. — Willie Nelson’s family of brands — to raise awareness around this wrongfully marginalized and highly sustainable crop,” said Hemp 4 Victory Advisor and former Bernie Sanders’ Deputy Campaign Manager, Rania Batrice. “We’ll be asking legislators to work toward hemp modernization throughout the year. Staying engaged and taking action is the best way people can help the cause.”
The Hemperor HPA is available on draft beginning April 2 with 12-oz bottles arriving across the nation on May 21.
Malts: Pale, White Wheat and Midnight Wheat
Hops: Nugget, Cascade, HBC 522 and Simcoe
Color: Light golden
Aroma: Herbal cannabis in a big way
ABV: 7 percent
Special ingredients: Hemp hearts and natural flavor
Facts about hemp
Hemp is a sustainable and beneficial crop for many reasons:
- Hemp is a low-impact food and fiber crop, requiring less acreage and fewer herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers than most commercial crops.
- Uses 1/5 the water of cotton.
- Repairs contaminated soils while producing a revenue-generating harvest
- Generates higher revenue per acre for farmers. Farmers can sell various parts of single crop (stalk, flowers, and seeds) to multiple customers.
- If hemp laws are modernized, the U.S. will realize an estimated multi-billion dollar industry.
Hemp played a major role in American history:
- Federal government called on American farmers to grow hemp for World War II supplies with the Hemp for Victory campaign.
- The First American flag was made from hemp
- Early paper money in the US was made from hemp
- Wagon trains heading west were covered by hemp canvas
- Hemp sails carried our first Navy ships through sea
- George Washington grew hemp
- Henry Ford’s first Model-T was designed to run on hemp fuel.
- Henry Ford created a vehicle prototype that used bioplastics (including hemp and other fiber crops like wheat, cotton, soy, and corn). It was deemed successful, but shortly after WWII ended and steel moved back in.
Hemp has many uses, some of which are restricted by outdated laws
Fabric — clothing, canvas, rope
Food — Omega 3 oils replace fish oils & reduce overfishing, flour, milk, seeds, protein powder, animal feed
Beer — as a compliment and alternative to hops for unique flavor
Soil health — extracts contaminants from the soils, adds nitrogen
Health and beauty — cosmetics, etc.
Other — plastic, hempcrete alternative to sheet rock, lubricants, erosion control alternative to coconut matting