A group of Gisborne entreprenuers have produced the region’s — and potentially the country’s — first hemp beer, coinciding with a law change tomorrow on the sale of hemp seed products.
The ale, named Pre-Hemptive Strike, was developed by Sunshine Brewery’s head brewer Chris Scott with hemp seeds provided by Tai Pukenga Ltd, which has a small hemp plot on family land in Manutuke.
While hemp comes from the same plant family as marijuana, cannabis sativa, it has such low levels of the psychoactive component THC that it is impossible to get “high” from it.
Mr Scott says aside from a higher protein content, courtesy of the hemp seeds, the beer contains no “other” health benefits.
“It is just novel and we are rapt to have the opportunity to do something new. We are really happy with how it has turned out,” he says.
The beer has a slightly spicy flavour provided by the hemp seeds brewed through the process.
It has good “head quality”, meaning it retains the foam at the top of the beer as it goes down the glass, due to the high protein.
The beer will be available on tap at Sunshine Brewery from 3pm tomorrow, coinciding with the Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation approving foods and beverages produced from hemp seeds (low THC) for human consumption.
At present, hemp seeds and hemp seed products, which are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as omega-3), are illegal to be consumed as food by humans (they can be fed to animals) in New Zealand.
Only hemp seed oil can be produced for human consumption.
Seeds and oil
Hemp seeds and oil are used in other countries, including in Europe, Canada and the United States of America, in a range of foods.
Industrial hemp must contain less than 0.35 percent THC, the psychoactive component that produces a “high”.
Marijuana typically contains between three and 20 percent THC.
Although it is impossible to get high from industrial hemp, it is strictly regulated by the Government.
Tai Pukenga Limited grew the hemp on family land in Manutuke.
Company director Laurie Te Nahu said they were confident the legislation would be approved.
The legislation change to allow the sale of hemp seed food products was important, as the current regulations were a bit of a “hamstring to the industry”.
“We think the legislation change will be absolutely brilliant,” said Mr Te Nahu.
“As a result there will be more research and development into the industry, meaning potentially new crops, industry and jobs.
“We are really excited.”
Last summer was the second season they had grown hemp on a 100 square metre plot at Manutuke for research and development.
Mr Te Nahu’s wife came up with the idea of producing a beer, so they approached Sunshine Brewery.
It was about six months of trial and error before they came to the final product.
Mr Scott says there was not a lot of information about brewing with hemp so it had been a process of trial and error over the past six months.
The 50-litre pilot batch is designed to give people in the community a sample.
Depending on how popular it is, they will continue to refine it, with the ultimate aim of having a regular hemp beer in their range.
“We will see how it sells.”