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Weed-inspired beer takes off

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One of the best weekends I had in 2018 was a road trip that began with a drive to Atlanta, SweetWater Brewing Company’s HQ. Folio Weekly publisher/wheelman Sam Taylor thought it might be worth looking into, and the boss was right—as usual. The craft beer producer was due to debut its hazy, hempy IPA, the 420 Strain G13, and the day (July 13) coincided with a Lake Street Dive concert at Little Five Points’ Variety Playhouse. Now, a few beers before a show always hit the spot, especially when said beers are fresh from the tap after an hour in that brutal ATL traffic.

The wild success of the G13 has spurred further flights of innovation by the SweetWater crew. The most recent reefer-inspired result is Mango Kush Wheat Ale, made with almost the same process that yielded the original G13. The last one simulated the smell and taste of cannabis with Columbus and Simcoe hops. The Mango Kush features a different hop blend: El Dorado and Nuggetzilla (both of which certainly sound like strains of weed, but I assure you that they are not). The new flavors obviate the ostentatiousness of an IPA’s mouth-feel, but at slightly lower ABV (5 percent) than the original (6 percent). The same company made the original 420 Pale Ale, and briefly offered a premium Hop Hash Imperial IPA.

There are several brewers around the country dabbling in dank drinks, but any beverage that goes beyond simulating active ingredients is illegal for purchase here in Florida. The Blue Moon Brewing Company offers three varieties infused with real weed (because you can do that in Colorado). Blue Moon’s neighbors at CERIA Brewing make a beer loaded with THC, but no alcohol. High Style in California does the same. I don’t know what to make of that. There are others in the market, with many, many, many more on the way. Notably, both Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors have announced plans to buy in.

SweetWater got in early, and it appears to be dominating the market so far. The company moved upwards of 10,000 cases of the original G13 in just that first week, and the new version has racked up similar numbers this year. I live in Riverside, so of course it’s easy to find around here, but much like medical marijuana, the product quickly became ubiquitous all over Northeast Florida. Establishments like Mellow Mushroom, The Justice Pub, European Street Café, Moon River Pizza, Beer 30 and Carmines Pie House carry the stuff on draft. (Tell them I sent you, and they will probably wonder what the hell you’re talking about, but do it anyway, because some of them are advertisers, and one hand washes the other.)

You can find bottles at major outlets like Harveys Supermarket, WalMart, Wawa, Winn-Dixie and Publix, where shopping is now even more of a pleasure than it already was. You can find the spot closest to you by plugging your ZIP code in at sweetwaterbrew.com. You’re welcome!

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