This long-awaited hemp beer is legal in every state but one

Jelisa Castrodale

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Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma are the four states that border Kansas, which is important for anyone in, say, Topeka who’d like to pick up a few bottles of New Belgium Brewing Company’s latest release. The beer, called The Hemperor, is a “Hemp Pale Ale,” and because it contains both hemp and hops, it has been banned in Kansas, where all-things-hemp are against the law.


Getting The Hemperor approved for sale in any states was a complicated process. According to The Cannabist, using hemp flowers or leaves is forbidden by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the DEA, which made developing this beer tricky for New Belgium. (Although marijuana and hemp are different plants, they’re both considered to be Schedule 1 drugs, even though the latter contains no THC and won’t make you hungry enough to eat an entire IHOP). New Belgium’s first attempt at brewing hemp beer involved the hemp flower, and it was quickly condemned by both agencies. Undaunted, the company kept trying.

“The federal government said we could still use hemp hearts, which are the meat of the hemp seed minus its shell,” New Belgium explains on its website. “We needed to find a workaround if we wanted those floral hemp terpenes, the key flavor attributes of the hemp plant that deliver the citrus, piney and dank flavors.”

New Belgium and a couple of plant genetics researchers spent three years developing a proprietary process for brewing those hemp hearts (which are legal, thanks to a 2014 Farm Bill) with Simcoe hops and HBC 522 hops. That carefully selected combination doesn’t use any illegal substances, but gives the beer the unmistakable scent of a parking lot before a Phish concert. (A reviewer for The Growler described the beer’s aroma as “DANK A** WEED”).

“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,” Ross Koenigs, New Belgium’s research and development brewer, said in a statement. “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 long-awaited beer started appearing on tap earlier this week, and will be available in bottles next month...unless you’re in Kansas.

“Because the beer had a trace of hemp in it, it is not allowed in Kansas, and the registration request was denied pursuant to an opinion issued by the Kansas Attorney General,” Rachel Whitten, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Revenue, told The Cannabist.

It’s OK, Kansans. Colorado’s pretty nice this time of year.


Jelisa Castrodale

About Jelisa Castrodale

Read more about Jelisa Castrodale here.


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