Quiz question: What do hops and cannabis have in common?
They are actually related to each other. Botanically, both belong to the hemp family. Basically, beer in this country has always been brewed with parts of a hemp plant (since 1516). Specifically, the female flowers of real hops are processed. Add malt, a little yeast and hand-cured spring water – the classic Pilsner is ready.
In recent years, the beer landscape has not only become more diverse, but also quite confusing. The traditional Pilsner, which is particularly popular in the north, and the Helle, which is preferred south of the Elbe and is more drinkable, have a difficult time. In a sea of IPA, craft creations, cherry porter, mulled beer and other barley juices, the classics have to hold their own. And now this: In a laboratory at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, a researcher is experimenting with hemp and beer. Their goal: to replace hops with hemp without eliminating the usual, slightly bitter hop taste in beer. Wait a minute, some of you may be thinking: Beer infused with hemp has been around for a long time. That's correct. However, in this case, the manufacturers added the hemp flowers to the hops before or during the ripening phase. Which means that the hemp beer leaves a typical hemp note on the tongue or on the palate. That's exactly what the Swiss scientist doesn't want.
The Swiss are experimenting with hemp flowers and beer for two reasons. On the one hand, they import almost all of the country's hop requirements from abroad. But the more exciting reason is different: the hemp plant is more heat-resistant than hops and therefore apparently also more resistant to some of the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, not every type of hemp is suitable for brewing beer. At least not one that tastes like a classic beer. As the online portal "laborpraxis.de" reports, different hemp varieties were analyzed in the laboratory in Zurich for three years and two suitable varieties have now been identified. The test beers brewed in the laboratory are said to have already been tasted. However, it will probably take a while before it is ready for the market. Until then, they want to continue to work on the brewing recipe and look for a brewery that will get into the hemp beer business.
Until then, everyone who wants to consume hemp flavors in beer instead of in the bag will have the option of so-called hemp-beer mixed drinks. These are the beers in question containing hemp flowers, which cannot be called or sold as hemp beer in Germany. Overall, the legal framework surrounding hemp-containing drinks in this country is very vague. There are no uniform regulations regarding production, distribution and compliance with the holy purity law. In other words: Whatever pleases and sells is permitted. The traditional Sternburg brewery from Leipzig has recently added a hemp shandy to its range. Aldi-Nord also has a beer-hemp mix on offer. The well-known Schultenbräu is now also available as a beer mix with hemp extract. Hemp beer, which can also be called that, i.e. barley juice refined with hemp flowers, can currently be found primarily in Austria, where several breweries are trying this experiment. Here, organic hemp flowers are mixed into the beer as it ripens. They are intended to give the beer a mild and slightly sweet note.
Back to Switzerland for a moment: According to laborpraxis.de, the seven test subjects who were able to try the hop-enriched hemp beer in the service of science noticed no difference to a lager beer that was tasted as a comparison drink. Taste and bitterness were rated equally. And the test drinkers didn't taste hemp during the blind tasting.
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