Now in coolers in 23 states: Hempen Ale, America's first hemp-flavored beer.
After two years of talks, Frederick Brewing Co., the largest brewer in Maryland, got the thumbs up from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Administration to sell Hempen.
Although botanically related to marijuana plants, hemp has only trace amounts of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp is so common that the average bird feeder contains hemp seed. Hempen Ale is THC-free, but the hemp seeds with which it is brewed give it an herbal flavor.
The company is selectively marketing Hempen in states that, says President Marjorie McGinnis, have "free spirits." Arizona and California, which approved the medicinal use of marijuana in November, are among the picks, as are Oregon and Washington, hot spots of the hemp movement.
In fact, the brewer sees the beer as a quasi-political statement. "We support those who are attempting to awaken policy makers to the vast potential of a renewed American hemp industry," said brewery CEO Kevin Brannon in a written statement. "And we're doing our part–one beer at a time."
The beer is also available in Texas, which could prove a problem. Although Hempen has been OK'd by the feds, individual states have the authority to regulate products as well. Several years ago, Lone Star regulators resisted distributing Dixie Brewing Co.'s Blackened Voodoo ale because of its "Satanic" labeling.