Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Cally Dupe

A South West farm­ing cou­ple and a brewer will make his­tory on Sun­day when they re­lease West­ern Aus­tralia’s first hemp beer.

It’s been two years since Jin­dong farm­ers Chris and Bron­wyn Blake planted their first 0.5ha com­mer­cial hemp crop to trial its po­ten­tial as a vi­able crop in the South West.

The pair have now teamed up with Rocky Ridge Brew­ing Co to pro­duce Dr Weedy’s Hemp Ale, a creamy brown ale with a nutty taste.

Hemp will be le­gal to con­sume in Aus­tralia from Sun­day and the Blakes plan to re­lease their flag­ship beer at Fre­man­tle Beer Fes­ti­val that same day.

Mr Blake said the cou­ple took a risk when they planted their first crop, with lim­ited mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties and lit­tle idea of how it would grow.

“We took a ma­jor punt in­vest­ing to grow hemp,” he said.

“When we ap­plied for our li­cence we had no idea if or when there would be a mar­ket for our prod­ucts in Aus­tralia.

“Our goal was to har­vest seed for food, and we just kept on farm­ing in hope and prepa­ra­tion that it would soon be le­galised.”

Trad­ing as Vasse Val­ley, the pair ap­proached a Bus­sel­ton-based craft brewer to col­lab­o­rate.

Rocky Ridge Brew­ing Co founder Hamish Coates said he was stunned at how much flavour the hemp in­stilled into the beer.

“I thought long and hard about what type of beer would suit it and de­cided on a hemp seed brown ale,” he said.

“The re­sult is Dr Weedy’s and we can’t wait to share this de­li­cious beer with the WA com­mu­nity.

“Chris and I were both told by var­i­ous mem­bers of the agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity that nei­ther hops nor hemp would grow well here.

“How­ever, both grow like weeds if grown un­der the right con­di­tions.”

Hemp is a strain of the cannabis plant which con­tains low lev­els of tetrahyr­dro­can­abi­noil (THC), the chem­i­cal as­so­ci­ated with psy­choac­tive prop­er­ties in mar­i­juana.

Al­though it is le­gal to grow in­dus­trial hemp in com­mer­cial quan­ti­ties, it must not con­tain more than 0.35 per cent of THC.

Hemp seeds con­tain pro­tein, vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and polyun­sat­u­rated fatty acids, par­tic­u­larly omega-3 fatty acids.

The WA hemp in­dus­try is still in its in­fancy, with only a hand­ful of grow­ers tri­alling the crop. There is cur­rently a ma­jor short­age of seed, both for sow­ing and for food in the State.

The In­dus­trial Hemp As­so­ci­a­tion of WA has about 40 mem­bers, more than half of whom have li­cences to grow hemp.

Mrs Blake said the hype around the hemp in­dus­try could open up op­por­tu­ni­ties for WA farm­ers.

“We are a small prop­erty, just 59 acres, we have only been here for three years and we are start­ing out,” she said.

“We are look­ing at hemp honey, but who knows what else will come out of the hemp be­cause there are so many op­tions.”

The first batch in­cludes 1700 litres in 500ml cans and a fur­ther 3000 litres will be dis­patched this week.

A hand­ful of liquor out­lets will stock Dr Weedy’s, in­clud­ing Carlisle Cel­lar­bra­tions, Scar­bor­ough Cel­lars, Old Bridge Cel­lars, Cop­per and Oak Liquor, Cel­lar­bra­tions Su­per­store Hamil­ton Hill and Cape Cel­lars Bus­sel­ton.

Hamish Coates of Rocky Ridge Brew­ing Co and farmer Chris Blake of Vasse Val­ley cel­e­brate their first brew of Dr Weedy’s Hemp Ale.

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