Judging by the long lines that snaked away from the Dad & Dudes Breweria booth at the Great American Beer Festival the past two years, just about everywhere in Denver has tried cannabis beer. Last year's version, called George Washington's Secret Stash, was an IPA infused with cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive hemp extract.
The beer made national and international headlines and set the brewery up for a major investment from an outside company that was interested in distributing the beer nationwide.
But the Aurora brewery stopped brewing General Washington's Secret Stash and other CBD-infused brews in December after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration published a rules update that classified hemp extracts as Schedule 1 drugs, just like marijuana. That move has since been challenged in court by the Cannabis Industry Association on behalf of numerous business that sell hemp products nationwide. The case is slowly making its way through the federal courts and is expected to see some movement in November.
The DEA rule also convinced the federal Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which had granted formula approval to Dad & Dudes a year earlier, to rescind its approval. The bureau gave the brewery ten days to surrender its formula, Dad & Dudes owner Mason Hembree said then. He refused and then hired Denver’s Hoban Law Group to help fight the TTB. Hoban, not so coincidentally, is also representing the Hemp Industries Association.
As a result, Dad & Dudes isn't making the beer anymore, and it won't be attending GABF, which hits town October 5 to 7. But Hembree says the lack of his attention-grabbing flagship beer isn't the reason that the brewery isn't returning. Rather, he now feels like the venue doesn't match his goals.
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"As far as using GABF as a platform for launching the beer and educating people about why CBD should be included in alcoholic beverages, I don't think that event is a good place to educate anyone," he says. "When you're running around drinking a lot of alcohol, you're not going to be paying attention to politics and culture, you're not really going to remember it. So I don't think we want to be part of it."
Hembree also feels that the Brewers Association, which runs the festival, wasn't welcoming. "One BA guy just shook his head when he walked by us. He didn't greet us or say anything."
As a result, Hembree says Dad & Dudes has resigned its membership in the BA and is instead focusing on the Cannabis Industry Association, which has welcomed the brewery. "We joined earlier this year, and they have shown an outpouring of support," Hembree says. "We wanted to align ourselves with an organization that better represents our core values and the views of the future that we have."
Hembree says that Dad & Dudes "had a lot of fun with GABF and had a lot of attention the last few years," but that he doesn't plan to return until he senses a change in how cannabis-infused beers are perceived there.