After an eighteen-month hiatus, Dad & Dude's Breweria, which is still the only brewery in the nation that has federal formula approval for a beer made with non-psychoactive cannabidiol, is at it again. The Aurora company quietly began brewing George Washington's Secret Stash a few months ago, on the Fourth of July.
"We are announcing this now because we believe the dam is breaking for antiquated cannabis laws," says Mason Hembree, who founded Dad & Dude's with his father in 2010 and has since become an outspoken cannabis activist. "The 2018 US Farm Bill...contains hemp provisions that would make it easier for any beverage producer to make this product. As the excitement for the future of cannabis continues to be realized, we want to make sure we maintain our status as the pioneers of this concept."
The beer, an IPA, is infused with 4.2 milligrams of CBD per pint and is available on tap and in canned six-packs at the brewery. Dad & Dude’s infuses the beer with CBD via a patent-pending process called "Method for Brewing a Malt Beverage Infused with Cannabinoids"; Hembree hopes the patent will be finalized in December.
"We didn't just make a beer," Hembree adds. "We fought hard to make sure the will of the people was followed and that this beer would become a reality."
Hembree's fight has, indeed, taken many twists and turns.
In September 2016, Dad & Dude's became the first — and only — brewery in the country to gain approval from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) for a CBD-infused beer. (Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a hemp extract that doesn't get you high.) The bureaucratic process took about a year, because the TTB required a thorough analysis of the beer's ingredients and its recipe before it would grant formula approval.
The beer made quite an impression, drawing long lines the next month at the Great American Beer Festival, and Hembree announced plans to distribute it in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and other states. The beer was named for Washington because the first president had grown hemp for its textile uses; Hembree calls him our nation's "most famous cannabis-growing rebel leader."
But in December 2014, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration surprised the cannabis industry by declaring that it still considered cannabidiol and hemp extract — even if non-psychoactive — to be Schedule 1 substances, just like marijuana. As a result, the TTB asked Dad & Dude's to surrender its formula. Hembree refused and hired the same law firm that has been representing the Hemp Industries Association in an ongoing federal lawsuit against the DEA that came about as a result of the agency's December decision.
If Congress is able to pass the 2018 Farm Bill in the next few days, the CBD issue may become a moot point, since the bill includes several provisions involving hemp. Hembree has asked the Brewers Association to lend its support to the bill — although the Boulder-based trade group has only spoken out about a provision that would help hop growers fight plant diseases.
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Still, the BA is currently considering a change to its definition of craft beer that would acknowledge the interest that hundreds of breweries have in making CBD-infused beers.
Over the past year, several small breweries across the country have brewed CBD-infused beers without formula approval from the TTB — and received letters telling them to stop. But Hembree says he has been "quite impressed with how educated the department has become on CBD and cannabis since 2015.
"After all, they will likely be the department in charge for national legalization," he adds. "While the department wishes for surrender, they have also learned that the U.S has created quite a convoluted understanding of what constitutes hemp versus marijuana."
Several mega-breweries have also expressed an interest in the market, both for CBD- and THC-infused beverages in the U.S. and other countries, which is why Hembree says his patent is important. "If granted in entirety, the patent would protect our economical method of production for malt beverages infused with cannabinoids from the entire potential market."