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Holy Mackerel Wormwood Imperial Stout: A Beer That Gets You High?

If you cannot find a bag of chronic this 4/20, there is a beer on tap at The Mack House that could at least aid you in your quest to get high.

The beer is Wormwood Imperial Stout. It is brewed with the same plant, or artemisia absinthium, from which the highly alcoholic drink absinthe is distilled and contains the substance thujone, which some allege to have psychedelic properties.

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Wormwood is a perennial herb native to temperate regions of eastern Europe, western Asia and parts of northern Africa. Its characteristic menthol aroma and bitter taste has made it useful in both the therapeutic and culinary worlds for centuries. It has a wide range of uses: from being an insect repellant, to an ingredient used to make dough.

In her book, Food in England, Dorothy Hartley says wormwood was sometimes used in beer since the 18th century, substituting for hops as a bittering agent. Wormwood is also used to make wine, vermouth and pelinkovac. The two bitter substances in wormwood could be attributed to absinthin and anabsinthine.

And that's why Bobby Gordash, founder of Holy Mackerel Beers and creator of the recipe, uses it. "It is my idea of a good imperial stout with a lot of bitterness to balance the big malt and roast body," Gordash said.

Gordash developed the recipe back in 2006. It is brewed on premise at The Mack House. The beer is served in a 12-ounce snifter glass and costs $6.

Drinking the brew, it has a heavy malty upfront taste and subtle sweetness, but with a bitter finish. It's not the most pleasant aftertaste, but bitter is--by definition--not very pleasant. However, the beer should be intriguing enough for you to try it.

Brewing with wormwood has been the subject of many home brew forums across the internet, where several recipes can be found. The ingredient can be found in home brew supply stores across in Florida for cheap.

New Belgium Brewing Company in Colorado (whose highly in-demand beers are slowly making their way to South Florida) brews a beer called Springboard, which contains wormwood. Aside from being used to make a bitter beer, one burning questions remains: does it make you trip balls?

There is much speculation as to whether thujone gets you high. Thujone occurs naturally in several plants other than wormwood such as sage, juniper and oregano. Wormwood was actually found to contain very small amounts of thujone.

The ban on absinthe in the United States was lifted in 2007 after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the same federal agency that issues permits to brewers) clarified the Food and Drug Administration's regulations which say that finished food and beverage products must be thujone-free. To meet the standard, thujone content cannot exceed more than 10 parts per million.

Therefore it is highly unlikely that Holy Mackerel Wormwood Imperial Stout will get you high. But sitting at 9 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV), one thing is certain: after drinking enough of them, you will be intoxicated.

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David Minsky is U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky