It may not always be the best idea to wake up late on your day off, and then rush over to a brewery to talk about a new brew, and have that deeply dank concoction be the first thing you taste all day.
These things happen, however, and after tasting an advance sample of SWOP Hop IPA at Boxing Bear Firestone, I gotta say it lives up to its billing as one of the first (if not the first) beers in New Mexico made with terpenes extracted from cannabis.
Director of brewing operations Justin Hamilton poured the sample, and he sat down to discuss this unique collaboration between his brewery and Southwest Organic Products.
“Honestly, I’ve had the idea to work with terpenes for a while,” he said. “I’ve seen other breweries do it. It actually came about with Geraldine (Lucero) approaching us, knowing some of the other employees here, and being that she was just in the beer industry previous to joining SWOP. She sent us an email and saying, ‘Hey, you guys want to do a collab?’”
Lucero was previously at Marble before moving over to SWOP, so she definitely knew the industry.
“We chose Boxing Bear because Justin and his crew brew some of the best IPAs I’ve personally ever tasted,” she said.
From there, the collaboration was truly born.
“We got together and talked about it,” Hamilton said. “She had the idea (of using terpenes) as well. Obviously, we can’t work with THC or CBD or any raw materials. Even hemp is a not necessarily FDA approved. Using something like terpenes, which are not even oils, but just the essential aromas and flavors that are getting extracted from the plant, without any of the psychedelics — again, no THC, no CBD — just the flavor and aroma.
“And, as we talk about a lot, the fact that hops and cannabis are cousins to each other, it just kind of made sense for something to have what I see other breweries are doing with hop extracts as well. It’s just adding those oils to the beer to enhance flavor and aroma without the bitterness.”
Because of those similarities to hops, Hamilton and his brewing team were able to add the terpenes in a similar fashion.
“We add that after fermentation, it’s basically like a dry hop for us,” he said.
As for the beer itself, SWOP Hop is not surprisingly of a particular style of IPA.
“Obviously, we wanted to do a West Coast IPA because it fits the bill so well,” Hamilton said. “After kind of going over some hops that we thought would also have that different aromas of different types of cannabis, and that would have that same flavor as well, then we were able to work with them on getting terpenes and actually adding it to the beer. We needed very little and it went a long way. You can still taste it very much and smell it in the beer. It tastes and smells like weed. So far the reaction has been pretty good. We’ve had a few of the employees try it and they’re surprised by how aromatic it is.”
I can personally attest to the fact that, yes, it smells and tastes like cannabis. Yet, it also tastes like an IPA. It’s a rather beautiful blend of the two, as it was meant to be. For those who fear the overly bitter IPAs, that’s not really the case here. However, it is not sweet and overly citrusy or floral.
SWOP Hop IPA will be released in four-packs and on draft this Saturday, which is five days in advance of 4/20, but it made more sense to come out prior than later. There will be a full release party at Firestone starting at 3 p.m., which will give folks plenty of time to then head over to the New Mexico United tailgate, should they be interested in that, too.
The party will feature food trucks (Teo’s Tacos, Tantrum BBQ), a slew of local vendors, music from Vibestrong, Dajerney, and DJs Clout and Shakedown, much more.
“It will be available at all four locations as well,” Hamilton said. “We’re really looking forward to having everybody kick back, get some good industry people involved, and have a mini party, which we’ve been trying to do every year. But, it’s one of those holidays that seems to slip by. Now that we have the crossover, it made perfect sense.”
In the future, there could be even more crossovers between the cannabis and craft beer industries.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Hamilton said. “I think you see a lot of that already happening in places like Denver and San Diego, where you have breweries playing with that other ingredient. They’re always looking for something different. Something that matches so well with beer was fun to play with. I could see more stuff happening with cannabis and beer.
“I see the chances for stuff in the future, depending on how New Mexico law goes, it will be fun to do pairings in the future in the proper environment would be really cool. Stuff like that would be great, but also just playing with ingredients. As things become more legal for us to use, that would be awesome. There’s always going to be red tape, though, so I don’t think there will be straight crossovers anytime soon, at least.”
The ultimate tie between the two industries is not just the creative spirit, but the good people working in both.
“The people that were involved were great to work with,” Hamilton said. “Everyone had a sense of urgency (to get it done before 4/20), but we had fun with it. It was cool.”
A big thanks to Justin and Geraldine. Here’s to the collaborative spirit extending beyond our breweries!