Il Vinaio offering Hemp Ale with Hemp Brownies

Il Vinaio, the downtown Mesa wine bar and restaurant that offered a special "Beer & Doughnuts" tasting in March, has come up with another unusual pairing: hemp ale and hemp brownies.

From 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, you can enjoy a pint of Hemp Ale, made by California microbrewer Firestone Walker, and a hemp brownie, baked by Il Vinaio chef Patrick Boll, for $8.

But, you ask, isn't hemp, a.k.a. cannabis, illegal in the United States?

Not to worry. There are different varieties of cannabis. While marijuana may be the best-known, so-called "industrial" strains of hemp - with virtually none of the psychotropic ingredient THC - are grown all over the world for food, fuel and fiber.

Of course, U.S. law doesn't recognize the distinction. Since the early 1900s, it's been illegal to grow any kind of hemp here, but not to possess industrial varieties - making the U.S. the world's biggest importer of hemp.

For the record, Hemp Ale is made with hemp seeds and tastes similar to Newcastle's nutty Brown Ale. The first two dozen people at Saturday's pairing will receive embossed pint glasses from Firestone Walker.

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