Hemp beer is not psychoactive, as if it had been made with another byproduct of Cannibis sativa cultivation &emdash; the bud known popularly as marijuana. Hemp's usefulness is well-known worldwide, as it is used for clothing, fuel, ropes, plastic, paper and in many health remedies. After being crushed, hemp seeds can be added during the beer distillation process to provide a cocktail of nutritional benefits. As a maker of hemp beer told Time magazine in 2003, it will not get a person high, but it can get him or her drunk.
This kind of hemp-infused alcohol is made by more than a dozen manufacturers worldwide, many centered around Europe. Hemp seeds are often toasted and then added during fermentation for beers, wine and other types of alcohol like rum, brandy or vodka. One brand, Cannabis Vodka, is sold with the toasted cannabis seeds floating around on the bottom of the bottle &emdash; one-third nutrition, one-third flavoring and one-third marketing. Other companies merely use hemp as a natural filtration membrane.
In the process of making hemp beer, a subtle flavoring can be added by the crushed hemp seeds, especially if the seeds are first toasted. In other beers, especially those that merely employ a hemp filtration system, it may be difficult to even distinguish the ingredient. According to one recipe available from the O'Shea Brewing Company for 420 Hemp Ale, the 1 ounce (30 grams) of crushed seeds is dwarfed by several pounds of typical beer-making ingredients: 6 ounces (170 grams) of malt extract, a pound (453.592 grams) of salt as well as the hops, Irish moss and various ale yeasts that combine to make the liquid a beer.
What makes hemp beer nutritious is its punch of protein and essential Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Many hemp beer makers insist that the blending of these seeds, from the Cannabis sativa plant, with hops, from the species Humulus lupulus, works well because they are closely related. Both belong to the Cannabinaceae family of plants.
The marketing for hemp beer usually leans suggestively toward the hemp connection, even though the ingredient is often just complimentary. Many companies sport names such as Hemp Brou from the Czech Republic, Hemp Ale from California's Humboldt Brewing Company and Millennium Buzz from Alberta, British Columbia. For companies that do not suggest the hemp connection in their name &emdash; like the Turn brand from Germany that uses hemp blossoms for flavoring &emdash; the packaging is generally clear, with the iconic fan of a marijuana leaf displayed prominently on the label.