What is hemp beer: legal cannabis meets hops

With the advent of CBD everywhere in France and beyond, we keep seeing new products derived from cannabidiol coming out. What they all have in common is that they can make us enjoy the many benefits of the molecule but in different forms. Today, there are a multitude of CBD-based consumable products and then, it's beer's turn to get interested in this trend. Several craft beer producers wanted to try the experiment of replacing hop flower with cannabis flower. A rather logical project when you know that beer is the second most consumed alcohol in France! Although the idea sounds appealing, let's see if such a product has a real interest, especially in terms of benefits. How is hemp beer made and what are its characteristics? We also reveal a simple recipe to make your own legal cannabis flower beer.

Should we talk about hemp beer or flavored beer?

First of all, it is important to know that beer is a designation regulated by the law of each country. This means that what is a beer here, may not be a beer elsewhere.

In France, an alcoholic beverage made from malt - a germinated cereal prepared by the brewer that will provide the sugar essential to all fermented products - of barley most of the time but it can also be wheat, rye etc., is considered "beer". Beer is naturally flavoured with hops and sometimes other fruits (whole fruit, whole plant or juice) or herbs. It is when other flavours or extracts are added, that it is called flavoured beer. So a beer made from light cannabis is by definition a hemp beer, whereas a traditional beer to which CBD isolate has been added is a hemp flavoured beer. But not for everyone...

As you know, Germany is the land of brewing par excellence. In fact, it is from there that the very famous "Reinheitsgebot" originated. The Beer Purity Law established in 1516 in Bavaria, dictates to us that a beer is composed only of water, barley malt and hops. Clear, right? For them, a hemp beer would therefore not be a beer. The primary role of this decree is basically to protect the health of the population by avoiding adulterated beers, as beer is an integral part of the diet of a large majority of Germans.

The rules have since been relaxed somewhat as yeast has been added to the list of official ingredients. In fact, yeast has always been present because it is the yeast that enables the fermentation process, but everyone was unaware of this. Nowadays, hemp-flavoured drinks are of course allowed in Germany, without being considered as beers.

How is hemp beer made?

Very similar to the cannabis plant, hops also belong to the cannabaceae family. You might as well say that there are no huge differences between making hemp beer and the recipe for traditional, craft beer with hop flowers. Also,the aroma of cannabis is very similar to that of hops, when used for beer fermentation.

That's all it took for the majority of brewers to jump on board! Each one went for their own little recipe, either exclusively based on CBD flowers, or with a mixture of hop flowers and CBD. You can even add cannabidiol oil, if you wish, during the fermentation process. This is the time to try all sorts of different flavour combinations.

CBD beer: what properties and benefits?

Since hemp comes to replace hops in beer, its role is the same as the ingredient it replaces. It is there to give bitterness, flavour and character to the brew. Made from the flowers of cannabis varieties with THC levels below 0.2%, hemp beer will not generate any psychotropic effects. The flowers used are therefore not psychoactive but rather highly concentrated in cannabidiol.

However, the CBD molecule is a fat-soluble and hydrophobic substance, which means that it does not mix with water and needs a fatty substance to be absorbed by the body. This is why many people like to mix it with vegetable butters or oil. As such, drinking hemp beer is not the best way to enjoy the benefits of CBD. It can be consumed for pleasure and for taste, as the plant brings a very particular flavour to the final preparation, making it a fresh and original drink, which takes on the characteristics of your favourite variety.

Make your own CBD beer: recipe

You will need the following ingredients and materials:

  • 1.8kg of brewing sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1.6 kg malt extract
  • 28 grams of hops/14 grams of light cannabis buds
  • 14 grams of hops/227 grams of ground legal cannabis leaves
  • Warm water
  • 2 large pots
  • 1 cheesecloth
  • 1 25 litre plastic bucket with lid
  • 1 thermometer
  • Bottles to hold the freshly brewed beer.

Instructions for the brewing process:

  • Fill the two large pots with 2.4 litres of water each and bring to the boil. As soon as the water boils, you can start the fermentation process. To do this, wrap the cannabis herbs alone or your hop/cannabis mixture in the muslin.
  • Then mix the yeast with four pints of lukewarm water, between 21 and 32 degrees maximum, which gives us about 2 litres of water in total and set it aside.
  • Put the brewing sugar (glucose) in one of the two pans filled with boiling water. After the sugar has completely dissolved, place the muslin containing the cannabis flowers (and hops if present) in this same pot and add the mal extract as well as the ginger to the second pot.
  • Simmer this for 40 minutes then remove from the heat.
  • Take out the muslin packet and plunge into a pan of cold water to cool. Avoid putting in too much water as this will dilute the cannabis-infused liquid. Immediately afterwards, pour the contents of both pans into the bucket and squeeze all the liquid out of the muslin, as if to wring it out.
  • Then add enough water to reach a temperature of 26.6°C.
  • Finally, add the yeast.
  • Store the bucket in a warm place, preferably with a temperature of around 21°C. This process will take between two and four weeks. Some experienced brewers still wrap the brewing bucket with cloths and blankets, to make sure the heat stays constant.
  • Once fermentation is complete, it's time for bottling. You can get a bottling kit easily found in shops or on the internet. Just make sure you've washed and sterilised the bottles well before filling them with your homemade beer as well as sealing them tightly.
  • Patience for at least another two to four weeks before tasting them.

There you go, you know how to make hemp beer! Be careful, however, not to abuse it...

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