The global hop shortage has grabbed a lot of attention in the past few months, with no likelihood of the situation getting better anytime soon. At least one craft brewer with enough stock has offered to share his stash. Others are suggesting alternative beers made with spices, peppers or thistles. But the most natural solution might just be hemp beer, known as Hanfbier in German.
While hemp blossoms are unlikely to replace legendary hops like Hallertau, Spalt and Goldings in desirability, there are several similarities between the plants. Both are members of the cannabaceae family, as is marijuana. Many times I’ve noted grassy, pot-like scents while tasting beers with great aroma hops, and once in a hop yard in Žatec, aka Saaz, I was almost overcome by what I thought was the smell of hydroponic sativa. A couple of years ago I caught the same skunky scent while driving past a hemp farm in Southern Moravia. If hemp smells like marijuana and marijuana smells like hops, as long as there are no hops to be had, why not make hemp beer?
Several brewers in Europe — including at least two in the Czech Republic — already do.