"No, it's not going to do what people are worried about," says Young Henrys co-founder, Oscar McMahon. He's talking about their latest beer, a hemp IPA. Similar to other pale ales, it's a light, fruity, easy-drinking beer – and it won't get you high.
The Young Henrys and Afends Hemp IPA came about after 12 months of smelling, testing and tasting the beer every day – the longest period of time the Young Henrys team has ever spent working on a beer. The consumption of hemp was legalised in Australia last November after it was shown to contain minimal to no THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the drug's psychological effects. Since then, the eco-friendly crop has gained a super-food reputation, known for its rich nutty flavour and a bounty of essential fatty acids and protein.
But why add it to beer?
"Hemp and hops have got similar essential oils and properties so we started thinking that there could definitely be a relationship of the two in beer," says McMahon. "Being such a hardy, fast-growing, low water-need crop, if there was a way of using hemp in beer, we thought that could be a really cool thing."
The Young Henrys team tried a number of ways to incorporate the crop into an IPA (including feeding yeast with hemp protein), but nothing quite gave the punchy result they were after. Eventually they settled on hemp seed oil, which is added in the final stage of brewing after fermentation.
So, what does hemp beer taste like? "You're getting some tropical fruit – passionfruit and pineapple – on the nose, a really nice long bitterness with a grassy finish and a nice big fruit punch in the mouth," says McMahon.
Though he doesn't think you could ever completely replace hops with hemp in beer-making, he does think that we'll see the use of hemp rise within the beer industry.
"With climate change and droughts happening around the country, and with a focus on Australian hops from overseas brewers, I think it's a natural progression."
Young Henrys Hemp IPA will be available from select retailers nationwide from October 24, younghenrys.com