Strange Brews

It’s been a couple of years since SweetWater Brewing Company dropped the original G13 IPA. That was the first in a series of 420 Strain beers, which smell and taste like cannabis with none of the stuff in the mix. It made a big splash, almost instantly, and can now be found in cans, bottles and pint glasses at countless retailers throughout Northeast Florida. Well, you could count the places that have it, but it would be much easier to count the places that don’t—and that number decreases every week.

The Atlanta-based craft brew crew has since released three more 420 Strain variants: the Mango Kush Wheat Ale, the Trainwreck Double IPA and the Chocolope Stout. They’re all delightful, in their own special way. (My favorite is the Mango Kush, which comes off the tap smelling more like weed than many actual strains of weed.) The folks at SweetWater have been kind enough to keep me updated on the latest developments, and the UPS man recently dropped off a box containing the newest member of the 420 Strain family: the Insane OG, a Mexican-style craft lager that may be the brewery’s most ambitious effort to date.

Made with Saaz, Crystal and El Dorado hops and five different malts (including Carapils and Midnight Wheat), this stuff turns up at a commendable 5.6 percent ABV. As for the taste, it’s got that stiff edge one finds in a stronger Mexican beer, while the hempy flavor comes in on the back end. Insane OG represents a collaboration between SweetWater and the legendary Louis Freese, a.k.a. Dr. Greenthumb, best known as B-Real, the leader of the iconic California rap group Cypress Hill. In that capacity, he was one of the first musicians to really bring the subject of cannabis into mainstream view. Cypress Hill dropped its first album in August 1991, almost a year before Snoop Dogg debuted on the brilliant Deep Cover soundtrack.

Cypress Hill’s ninth album, Elephants on Acid, was released in 2018. Freese has also put out about a dozen EPs, mixtapes and collaboration projects on his own. The most interesting is probably 2017’s Prophets of Rage, a radically hyperpolitical record created by a supergroup starring Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave, as well as Chuck D and longtime local favorite DJ Lord from Public Enemy. Michael Moore directed the group’s first video (whose title can’t be repeated here), and the album received generally good reviews as it made the critical rounds.

Music aside, Freese has created his own sort of cottage industry, and the Insane OG is just one of many projects he’s been working on. He’s helping SweetWater put on its annual Sweetwater 420 Fest, which is scheduled for April 24-26 in Atlanta. And next month, he headlines Sweetwater’s 23rd Anniversary Party alongside Arrested Development and Dumpstaphunk. The company’s entire output will be on tap, in addition to a special anniversary brew that debuts the day of the event. Road trip? Heck, yeah! Holla if you hear me!