Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Uncommon Brewers poppy seed ale in conflict with the feds? Not true, brewer says

By William Brand
Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 at 12:08 pm in Uncategorized.

Here’s a note I got from Alec Stefansky, proprietor of Uncommon Brewers in Santa Cruz. They make Golden State Ale,  a wonderful Belgian-style golden ale, spiced with poppy seeds. A poster noted in a comment on the story earlier this week about a Santa Cruz homebrewer being busted for making “morphine beer” that Uncommon Brewers had trouble with the feds on their label application because the beer contained poppy seeds. Poppies, of course, are the source of morphine.

Never happened; no trouble with the feds, Alec says:

William: Fortunately it’s not correct that we’ve ever had any licensing or formula problems with the Golden State Ale.

I’m really not sure what the Santa Cruz police are up to there. There are no federal restrictions that I’ve come across on the use of whole poppy seeds in beer. I have a TTB-approved formula for the Golden State Ale. I’m that El Toro does for their Poppy Jasper Ale, too. There were never any regulatory issues with the Golden State Ale. It is a fully legal beer brewed with poppy seeds.

In reading the article it seems as if they may have been making a poppy seed extract. This could have somehow produced narcotic opiates in illegal levels? I really doubt it. The levels of opiates in the seeds themselves are vanishingly small. That’s why commercial opium producers aren’t out there harvesting the seeds; and why you can buy bagels over the counter. The opiates are mainly present in the plant’s sap, as a deterrent to predators, or an encouragement for certain humans to cultivate them.

The note about police tearing out poppy plants is odd, too. You can of course buy poppy seeds in any garden shop. As far as I know there’s nothing illegal about owning poppies, other than three specific varietals used in Afghanistan and SE Asia for opium production. I’d be awfully surprised if the young home brewer being charged in the case happened to be growing Afghan poppies.

This looks to me like the local police getting very excited about something that they didn’t fully understand.

Thanks for getting in touch with me about this. I’m happy to try and keep the facts straight.

Uncommon Brewers

Photo: Field or Corn Poppy from Wikipedia.

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  • danny

    wow. can you get any word from the police? and please keep up the reporting on this, very interesting to see how they deal with my fellow homebrewers.

    and maybe the AHA can say something about it?

  • erik_flannestad

    Oh! Now I know why Poppy Jasper is so addictively tasty!


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