Beer Man

Cannabis-Beer Kickstarter Fails, But Brewing Project Moves Forward

If publicity was money, the owners of Dad & Dude's Breweria in Aurora would be millionaires: the brewery has been the recipient of intense national media coverage since it received federal approval in September to make a beer infused with cannabidiol, an extract of hemp. Publications and websites from Men's Journal and U.S. News & World Report to Fortune, Paste and Men's Fitness have covered the story.

But the attention didn't work in the brewery's favor when it came to a $50,000 Kickstarter campaign that would have helped it fund the rollout, packaging and national distribution of the beer, General Washington's Secret Stash. The campaign, which ended today, raised a meager $4,612.

"There was so much content on the Kickstarter page and in our video that I think the idea was lost. I didn't voice it very well," says Dude's co-owner Mason Hembree, adding that most people may not have realized that the Kickstarter page even existed. "Most of the press was on the existence of the beer itself and the ingredients. I don't think people realized the opportunity existed to fund the Kickstarter."

As a result, Hembree says he will try again in 2017. In the meantime, though, he plans to move forward with the beer release — in Colorado only, to start — as soon as the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which approves beer labels, gives him the okay. "Right now, we;re working with breweries to contract with who have the capacity to fill the orders we have. We have a beautiful package, and we have a lot of distributors who want to work with us. We're being picky."

The beer itself contains cannabidiol, taken from the seed and stalk on non-THC hemp plants (meaning it can't get you stoned) and imported into the United States — the only legal way the brewery could use cannabis. There are a few other beers that use cannabis seeds in the U.S., but none that had used CBD oils. The process of getting it approved by the TTB took about a year, Hembree says, and multiple sets of testing.

Dad & Dude's first created a buzz in 2015 at the Great American Beer Festival when it introduced Sativa IPA, the first commercial beer made with cannabis oil. Although the hemp extract isn’t the psychoactive kind, people still lined up to try an ounce or two. This year, the brewery brought several cannabis-infused beers to the festival under a new name and with a new look. The name, General Washington's Secret Stash, is a nod to George Washington, who was said to have grown cannabis for textile manufacturing.

The attention was overwhelming but expected, Hembree says. "I know this is what the population wants, it's what the people want." A few years ago, he got his hands on some market research about the overlap between beer and cannabis consumers and discovered that they had a lot in common. "They have similar mindsets about society, culture, localism. They endorse each other."

If all goes well with the label approval, Hembree hopes to begin brewing in November, packaging in December and distributing in January.
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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes