SweetWater’s new 420 Strain G13 IPA is officially described as “a phenomenally tasty IPA with strain specific terpenes and proprietary hemp flavor, creating an olfactory experience that mimics the G13 cannabis strain.”
With its tie-dye merchandise, branding references to the 420 lifestyle, and annual jam band-related 420 Fest, it’s never been difficult to figure out that the Atlanta brewing company has always been marijuana-friendly.
SweetWater founder and “Big Kahuna” Freddy Bensch has roots in California and Colorado, two states where recreational marijuana is legal. And, of course, 420 Extra Pale has long been SweetWater’s flagship beer.
For context, Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing recently created The Hemperor HPA with hemp terpene flavors, hop flavors, and hemp hearts. Described as “extremely dank,” the company claims “it’s a style unto itself, hence HPA.”
SweetWater’s combination of terpene and hemp flavors took months of research to develop, and and the formula and label took an even longer time to be approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
During a recent 420 Strain G13 tasting at the brewery’s lab, Matt Burnstein, an organic chemist who is the quality assurance manager at SweetWater, helped me understand how the hydrocarbons called terpenes make beer smell like pot.
“It’s based on a very simple molecule that all plants produce, and then they mix it into different aromatic oils,” Burnstein said. “For instance, oranges produce the orange scent. Some hops also produce a tiny bit of that terpene, as well.
“So we can use hops that have terpenes that are related to cannabis strains to get close to it, and then we can use a bit of the botanically derived ones to make them a little bit more unique than just hop terpenes.”
SweetWater Director of Communications Tucker Berta Sarkisian explained that 420 Strain G13 IPA is the first beer in a new 420 product line that will be ongoing.
“The only similarity G13 IPA has with 420 Extra Pale is that they have the same birthday,” Berta Sarkisian said. “420 Extra Pale Ale was first brewed on April 20, and G13 was finally nailed on April 20 this year.
“The new styles in the line might range from a stout to a porter or whatever (head brewer) Nick Nock dreams up. But for me, personally, it might be my favorite of our IPAs. I love this IPA. It’s got such a clean finish.”
Beyond the terpenes and hemp flavor, 420 Strain G13 IPA is brewed with 2-Row malt, wheat, and flaked oats, and Columbus and Simcoe hops.
At 6 percent and 48 international bitterness units, the result is a sort of hybrid of New England and West Coast IPA styles. It pours cloudy orange with a full, fluffy white head and a soft mouthfeel. The strong aroma is distinctively pot-like, while the flavor gives way to fruity and earthy notes, with a clean bitterness in the finish.
Right now, 420 Strain G13 is only available on draft at the brewery and a limited number of beer bars around metro Atlanta. There will be an official release party at the SweetWater taproom on July 13. And the IPA will be released in specially designed black bottles in September.