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BLOG: I Smoked Hops, and not as in a Rauchbier


A core memory of mine: sitting in a friend’s basement, about to drink a beer. I was studying the green glass bottle. I had never had this beer before. I wasn’t a huge beer drinker back then. What I drank was whatever my friends had on the porch (or in this case, basement).

The beer wasn’t as cold as I would have liked it to be. After all, it had spent a couple years collecting cobwebs. But I dusted it off, popped the cap, took a sip and said—“this beer tastes like weed.” Interestingly enough, one other friend agreed with me, but the vast majority called me crazy. They said it was just the hops. Honestly, I don’t even remember what the beer was.

Then, years later, I learned I wasn’t crazy. Carson Daley of the Today Show himself said the same thing about Against the Grain’s Citra Ass Down IPA—that it tasted like marijuana, and I rejoiced that I wasn’t the only person to take a sip of a beer and declare it tasted like weed: https://link.theplatform.com/s/rksNhC/8XH6k_sX6X1R?formats=M3U&format=redirect&manifest=m3u&format=redirect&Tracking=true&Embedded=true&formats=MPEG4

Turns out, hops and marijuana have a lot in common. I didn’t pay a lot of attention in biology class, but cannabis and hops come from the same family: Cannabaceae.  

Just like there’s many different kinds o’ bud out there, there are roughly 147 varieties of hops in the world.  Hops provide a variety of aromatics to beer. Some of the most recognizable may be citrus, pine, mango, or melon. (For example, our Citra Ass Down Double IPA is known for being a citrus-heavy beer, yet we don’t add any citrus fruits to the beer. It’s just the hops!)

Another example is our Loo-A-Vuhl pale ale, which we describe as having notes of grapefruit and tropical fruits. But just like the Citra, there’s no fruit added—just hops. Brewers carefully select the hops used in beer to create variety and uniqueness. Here’s a guide about a couple of our favorite hoppy beers, and (some of) the hops added to create their distinct flavors.

Anyway. To the fun part. There’s all sorts of information out there on which hops taste citrussy, or mango-y, or piney. But which ones taste…marijuana-y? All those beer magazines collecting ash dust on my coffee table were informative to this blog, but too…professional. Too stiff. None of those writers were amped up on three cups of coffee and hyper-fixated on that core memory of drinking a beer at 20 and thinking it tasted like weed. Nobody in those magazines ground, rolled, and smoked some citra hops to see if they smoke like weed does. So I did!

Why Did Carson Daly Say Citra Ass Down Tastes like Marijuana?

Good question! We already went over the basics of how hops and marijuana are similar. We also learned about how hops can add fruit flavors to beer, without adding actual fruit! Can hops add the taste of marijuana? And is it because marijuana taste like hops, or hops taste like marijuana? Let’s do science!

First, the hops. Here are just a few of the hops in Citra Ass Down:

  • Centennial
  • Cascade
  • Citra

(Citra is the hop that gives our double IPA those iconic floral, CITRUS, and tropical notes.)

I pinched some samples of these three hops from our head brewer, Brian, and explained it was a marketing expense and he shouldn’t worry.

I gave them all a little sniffy sniff, like a true scientist. Each hop smelled earthy. Cascade was the “earthiest”, and reminded me a bit of dirt and wet grass (?). As for Citra, the predominant aroma was bright citrus and florals. I didn’t think any of the three hops smelled like weed, but had to choose one to proceed in my experiment. I chose citra, solely because it’s the most iconic of these hops, and perhaps what Mr. Daly compared to marijuana.

Next step was to ask my boss Sam permission to roll the hops into a joint and smoke them. He said no, so I had to proceed with caution. I knew as soon as he saw this blog post he would understand. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. I tiptoed out of the office quietly, telling him I had to run a quick errand. The smoke shop was only a few blocks away. I picked up rolling papers, and returned to the office.

I then ground up the hop NUGGET with my bare hands. That’s right, no grinder required. The hop was stickier than bud itself, but easier to grind up! Yum! The impulsive thoughts won and I even licked it a bit. Tasted bitter.

Please note it’s been a while since I rolled a joint, but the hops rolled easier that I expected. Maybe the sticky factor?

FINALLY, the last step, to step outside and smoke the hop joint that I rolled. That’s right, I lit it, smoked it, and INHALED just to make sure I was giving you guys the full report.

It tasted like shit. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Maybe the same comparison that Carson made about our Citra Ass Down to marijuana, but in reverse. Like, “oh, these hops taste like weed.” Nope. It tasted like licking the bottom of a bong that was sitting in a musty closet for years. It tasted like I poured some beer in a puddle, let it sit through a drought, then scraped up and ate the beer resign. How could such fresh fruity, bright, and lively hops burn so horribly? I suppose hops are meant to be drank, not smoked.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, I did run outside to dry-heave on the sidewalk. DON’T SMOKE HOPS, unless you mean in the context of creating a raunchier. Yummmm. The moral of the story is, I have no idea why Carson Daly said our Citra Ass Down tastes like Marijuana. I think there’s certainly some similarities between the two plants, but weed is meant to be smoked! (Or eaten, science has come so far) Meanwhile, let’s leave hops to brewing.

Citra Ass Down is a delicious beer. I taste citrus, florals, and slight grapefruit notes. Not marijuana, unfortunately.