Cannabis seeds ensure new brew’s no rehash

Dude, take a hit of some strange brew.

It’s hemp beer, man. Made with the same seeds used to grow marijuana, it’s nonetheless legal and available in sixpacks (not blunts) at your corner deli. The brew, called Hempen Ale, is a brown ale from Maryland’s Frederick Brewing, the maker of Blue Ridge beers.

And, no, it won’t get you high. These cannabis seeds contain no THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana), and they’ve been fully rinsed to remove any possible traces of the illegal stuff.

Before my first sip, I guessed the beer was most likely a slick marketing scheme from an aggressive craft brewer looking for a little notoriety. Its press releases trumpet Hempen Ale as part of the growing industrial hemp movement that is finding new uses for the fiber, from sneakers to tofu.

But, hey, it’s not bad beer – it’s nicely bitter, smooth and as mellow as sensimilla bud. It’s better than bong water, I suppose.

The brewer says the seeds give the ale a creamy head and some spice flavor that’s a nice balance for the Cascades hops.

“When we formulated the beer, our No. 1 priority was to make a good beer,” said Frederick Brewing president Marjorie McGinnis. “It’s not a gimmick beer.”

Still – hemp seeds in beer? Why not pine cones or coffee grounds? In fact, I’ve had decent ales spiced with both those ingredients.

Coors commercials take great delight in mocking flavored beers, but strange brews have been around since medieval wizards first cooked up cauldrons of stout with eye of newt. It’s part of the fun of brewing: experimenting with different ingredients for a one-of-a-kind taste that may knock your socks off . . . or have you retching over the kitchen sink.

Hey, I even recall Schmidt’s experimenting with juniper berries in its brews back in the mid-’80s.

Blue Ridge isn’t the first brewer to dabble with doobie beer. Writer Greg Kitsock of the Barleycorn brewspaper notes a couple of Austrian and Swiss beers produce something called “hanf,” which is German for “hemp.” And earlier this week, I came across a large bottle of Olde 4-20 Hempinstead Ale from Creston, Calif., that uses hemp fibers for filtering.

Want to try a strange brew? Here are a couple other tastes you might enjoy:

Left Hand Brewing Juju Ginger, Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, North Country Maple Amber (with maple syrup), Cave Creek Chili Beer (with a jalapeno pepper at the bottom of the bottle) and Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale.

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These are sad days for our GIs in Korea. Until recently, one of the benefits of serving on the world’s most heavily armed border was a generous ration of 30 cases of beer a month at the base PX. That was enough suds to either keep our soldiers permanently blitzed or (more likely) slightly flush in black-market cash. At $12 a case, the duty-free beer (mostly Bud) brought hefty (and illegal) profits on the Korean market.

Last month, the Army cut the ration to a mere eight cases a month – a restriction that brought howls from GIs and brewers.

There’s something un-American about this cutback. Why are our GIs defending us if not to protect our inalienable right to drink a case a day? If you agree, write your congressman and demand that our soldiers get their fair share of beer. Nothing less than fate of the free world is at stake.

Beer Radar

Independence Brewing’s Blonde Bock picked up a silver medal in the Maibock/Lager category at the World Beer Championships. If you want to taste it, though, you’ll have to find it on tap; bock bottling won’t commence till next year . . . John Harvard’s Brew House has opened a second spot in the ‘burbs, at 1001 Baltimore Pike, Springfield, Delaware County. Head brewer is Todd Marcus, formerly of Sunday River Brewing Co. in Maine . . . The Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest beer-drinking event (not counting the Vet parking lot before Eagles games) will be held Oct. 2-4 in Denver. More than 1,700 beers from 400 breweries will compete in 50 different categories. Last year, Stoudt’s, Independence and Valley Forge Brewing won medals.

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