what: New Belgium Brewing’s The Hemperor
ABV: 7 percent
cost: $13.99 for a six-pack
While this is not the first use of hemp by a craft brewery, it’s the first time a major brewery has brewed with it. Hemp is from cannabis sativa, a plant that is related to the hop plant. (Both are members of the family Cannabinaceae.) It’s also, of course, related to marijuana: Historically, hemp has been used for the production of cloth and rope; however, the same species’ leaves and flower are the basis for the production of marijuana. The psychoactive chemical THC is not present in the hemp hearts used in this beer, so the hemp adds only aroma and flavor.
This beer is brewed to IPA strength, but the light malt character is more like that of a pale ale. The beer has a creamy body, with a somewhat woody aroma. The flavor is dark and woody, reminiscent of the flavor of some beers that rely heavily on the Simcoe hop but without the pleasant citrus notes. This is not a particularly tasty beer and its aftertaste is long, clinging and unpleasant. I doubt it will replace or even compete with hop-forward pale ales or India pale ales that feature lush tropical, citrusy and/or piney hop flavors. I believe New Belgium has wasted time and money on producing a beer for obviously political purposes. Cheers! — Gerald Jowers