Certain dates have more meaning than others; the Fourth of July is known as the day the United States declared its freedom from the British, December 25th is recognized as the day Christ was born and Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. To a certain people, April 20 is a holiday, too. Known as 420 Day, it’s the unofficial day to celebrate all things cannabis.
As laws criminalizing marijuana are increasingly repealed, cannabis is experiencing a strong surge in popularity. The growing cannabis culture has coincided with the rise of craft beer culture, leading to some interesting results.
In a noteworthy coincidence, cannabis and hops are actually closely related plants. In fact, back in 2002, a group of biologists looked at the characteristics of both plants and concluded that hops, Humulus lupulus, and marijuana, Cannabis sativa, share a common ancestral plant and are therefore part of the same genealogical family, Cannabaceae.
Hops are actually a relatively new addition to beer. The first historical text to mention hops, one of Pliny the Elder’s botanical catalogs, was written in 77 AD. The first written record of humans cultivating the plant does not appear until 736 AD; 82 years later, hops were first referred to being used in beer. But since the early Ninth Century, hops have taken over; today we simply would not consider a drink to be beer absent hops.
Back to the intersection of beer and pot: Because of the popularity of both intoxicating substances, it was inevitable brewers would embrace cannabis culture. Often the connection is conveyed with a wink and a nod through names that reference marijuana or its culture. A prime example: Oskar Blues’ Pinner Throwback IPA. (“Pinner” is stoner slang for a small joint.) Another, not-so-subtle reference comes in the name of SweetWater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale.
The confluence between the two cultures is so strong, Leafly.com, a website that bills itself as “… the world’s largest cannabis information resource,” has a Beer & Cannabis Flavor Pairing Guide. The guide tells how to pair strains of cannabis with particular styles of beer. For example, a descriptively named strain of marijuana, Agent Orange – so named for its orange flavors – might pair well with Belgian-style hefeweizen, because of the frequent addition of orange peel to the brew.
Perhaps the closest mash-up of the two cultures are beers that include parts of the marijuana plant as ingredients. California’s Humboldt Brewing Company brews its Brown Hemp Ale with toasted hemp seeds. Hemp does not have the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so it’s completely legal to produce and drink anywhere. As more and more states legalize weed, you can bet that brewers will find ways to tap into its popularity. Toke on, dudes!
Until pot is legalized in Florida, console yourself with these ganja-inspired brews available in the area.
Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale
Don’t expect it to taste like the grass you smoked in college. Think of it as a strong example of English brown ale that’s light on hops and more malt-forward with an interesting herbal note.
SweetWater 420 Extra Pale Ale
The well-crafted pale ale is as much a part of Atlanta culture as the Braves and The Clermont Lounge. Consistently good – you can’t go wrong popping the top on one of these as you float the Chattahoochee.
Oskar Blues Pinner Throwback IPA
At just 4.9 percent ABV, Pinner is a crushable IPA that packs a wallop of flavor. Throw a few of these back on a hot summer afternoon and chill to some Bob Marley, mon.