Historical Tidbits: Cannabis Beer, 1998

In the 1990s, as now, beermakers of all sizes scrambled to figure out how to woo an increasingly fragmented consumer audience. Novelty (read: weird) beer styles flowed freely: ice beer, clear beer, flavored beers.

The Frederick Brewing Company of Frederick, Maryland put its own spin on anything-goes: Hempen Ale, which it brewed using seeds of the cannabis plant. The company’s brewmaster hastened to assure the concerned that the brewery used sterilized seeds that would not reproduce and so could not be used to grow pot.

The seeds, explained the company’s CEO, added protein and produced a beer with “an earthy slightly spicy flavor” and a “frothy meringue-like head.” 

Head retention, he added, was “incredible.” [High on head?]

The New York Times reporter who visited the brewery agreed. The beer’s “creamy froth lasted thirty minutes,” she told readers.

As for the beer itself? A “nicely bitter brown ale, clean and crisp with a gentle aroma and hoppy aftertaste.” Price? In Manhattan a bottle ranged from 99 cents on the Upper West Side, to $1.75 on the Upper East Side, and $1.59 in chic SoHo. (That’s roughly $1.25 to $2.25 in today’s dollars.)


Source: “Cannabis Beer? Not What You Think,” New York Times, April 15, 1998, p. F7.

One thought on “Historical Tidbits: Cannabis Beer, 1998

  1. The same thing was done with Hemp Ale at Humboldt Brewing Company, though they are continuing to make it while Frederick no longer is.


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