New Belgium Brewing’s The Hemperor HPA & the Movement for Hemp Beer

Chris Beer Styles, Featured Beer Leave a Comment

Happy 420 Day, everyone! While we aren’t out partaking in any 420 Day festivities personally, we thought today seemed like an appropriate day to write about the latest release from New Belgium Brewing Company: The Hemperor HPA. The beer actually hit the market a bit earlier this month, but something about today made it seem extra relevant. Let’s take a look at this new release and the challenges craft breweries face when trying to make a hemp beer. 

Meet The Hemperor HPA

A look at New Belgium Brewing's latest release, The Hemperor HPA.

Credit: New Belgium Brewing Company

The Hemperor HPA is New Belgium’s latest year-round beer release, and it’s being dubbed as offering that will change the way you think about hoppy brews. The Hemperor HPA blends hops with hemp to create flavors and aromas so unique that New Belgium felt it needed a whole new style category. Hence the HPA, or Hemp Pale Ale.

To be clear, this beer does not contain any THC, the psychoactive found in cannabis. In short, it won’t make you high. New Belgium was more interested in the hemp terpene flavors and aroma, not in the side effects. So while you’ll get the aroma of cannabis, any buzz you may feel when drinking The Hemperor HPA will be from the alcohol, not the hemp.

Full disclosure, we have not tried The Hemperor HPA yet, but the adjective we’ve noticed most used to describe this beer is, not surprisingly, dank. The tasting notes for The Hemperor HPA describe the beer as having a big herbal cannabis aroma, with a flavor that’s sweet with a mildly bitter finish. If you like your IPAs dank and earthy, you will probably like this beer.

The Challenge With Hemp-Infused Beer

While The Hemperor HPA doesn’t contain any THC, that doesn’t mean it was easy to get approval. Historically any form of cannabis as a beer ingredient hasn’t gone over well. Aurora’s Dad & Dudes Breweria had previously received federal approval for their cannabis-infused beer, General Washington’s Secret Stash, made with hemp extract. They received approval from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and were preparing for distribution. Then in late 2016, the DEA declared marijuana derivatives, like hemp extract, illegal. That put an end to their brew, at least for now.

Because of the laws against hemp, New Belgium Brewing had to think differently when creating their beer. They knew they wanted the cannabis-like aromas, but they also wanted to get their brew approved. To do this they chose to use a legalized part of the hemp plant, the hemp heart (seeds) for The Hemperor HPA. Even so, the beer still cannot be sold in places where hemp in any form is illegal, like Kansas. Sorry, Kansas.

“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,” said Ross Koenigs, New Belgium’s Research and Development Brewer. “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.”

New Belgium Joins the Movement to Legalize Hemp

With the release of The Hemperor HPA, New Belgium Brewing is joining the cause to legalize hemp, and they’re encouraging their consumers to help. They’ve partnered with Hemp 4 Victory and $1 from each barrel of The Hemperor HPA will go towards their efforts to legalize hemp. On the New Belgium Brewery website you can fill out a form to quickly email your legislators to ask them to support legalization of industrial hemp. To learn more about the benefits of hemp and to join their movement, visit newbelgium.com/thehemperor.

A look at New Belgium Brewing's latest release, The Hemperor HPA, and the challenges brewers face when creating a hemp beer.

Credit: New Belgium Brewing Company

Where to Try The Hemperor HPA

The Hemperor HPA is available on draft now, and 12-ounce bottles will be distributed across the nation beginning May 21. The Hemperor HPA events are happening at many cities nationwide today, April 20. If you miss out on these 420 Day events, you can use the New Belgium Beer Finder to find The Hemperor HPA near you.

For more information on New Belgium Brewing Co, visit www.newbelgium.com/

– CHEERS, Y’ALL –

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