Hail to The Hemperor, Lordly Mascot of New Belgium’s ‘Dankest Ale in the World’

Erich & Kallman gets trippy to roll out the first HPA

The Hemperor may seem baked, but his beer has no psychoactive effects beyond the usual of a 7 percent beer. - Credit by New Belgium Brewing
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

The Hemperor is a totally chill, regal-looking dude with a leafy crown, a statement necklace and a bushy mustache. He’s the very definition of a benevolent ruler, presiding over a magical kingdom filled with fluffy woodland creatures, a talking sun and the dankest beer ever made.

Book the first flight to this trippy place, you say? What better way to use all that banked vacation time?

For now, you’ll have to settle for the self-titled product he’s hawking, a year-round craft beer from New Belgium Brewing that packs such a “powerful olfactory” punch that its aroma can fill a room, says Shaun Belongie, the brand’s vp of marketing.

It’s made of hops and hemp and classified as a “hemp pale ale,” intended by its brewmasters to smell like “a loud bag of weed.”

“Don’t open it around the corporate chieftains,” Belongie advises.


Though it has no psychoactive properties (any resulting buzz may come instead from its 7 percent alcohol content), its recipe inspired its advertising, which deliberately borrows from stoner culture, Belongie says, “to capture the spirit of that world in a way that people will find fun.”

The animated ads, from agency Erich & Kallman, have a purposely DIY feel, with shades of Monty Python and Teletubbies (the sun comes to life!), “a quirky charm” and plenty of Easter eggs, Belongie said.

Viewers learn a few things about The Hemperor from the campaign: He definitely inhales, loves his wildlife, nurtures his creativity and carries a torch for his ex. (He’s still into you, Jennifer.)


The San Francisco-based agency, which recently hired an actual Belgian to shill for the brand’s Fat Tire Belgian White, created the character and his illustration, which in turn named the product that’s been two years in the making.

“We feel like we have a unique, one-of-a-kind beer on our hands that provides a full sensory experience,” he said, noting that the campaign aims to keep it from “getting lost in a sea of 10,000 India Pale Ales. Within a second or two, it needs to grab people and have them asking, ‘What is this? I need to find out more.’”

For a capsule review, Men’s Journal says, “the taste isn’t nearly as pungent as the smell,” and that it “makes for easy spring drinking.”


New Belgium, the nation’s fourth-largest craft brewery, had to run a legal gauntlet to brew and market The Hemperor. Federal guidelines restrict certain parts of the cannabis plant from being used as a beer ingredient. (As a work-around, it uses only hemp hearts, which are legal).

As a result of its long road to production, the brand has become an advocate for industrial hemp, partnering with Willie Nelson’s company GCH Inc. to support and donate to the hemp lobby.

The 30-second ads debut next week on digital and social platforms as the beer becomes available nationally, but there’s no TV buy because of restrictions on hemp advertising. Speaking of which, you won’t find the beer on shelves in Kansas, where it’s verboten because hemp is classified as a Schedule I narcotic.

Full-page ads are running in Rolling Stone, where there will also be a takeover of the magazine’s new digital Cannabis Channel. The brand’s in-house creative team produced a mini-documentary about bringing the beer to fruition and billboards with the tagline, “Dank AF. The dankest ale in the world. Legally brewed with Colorado hemp.”





CREDITS:

Client – New Belgium Brewing
VP Marketing – Shaun Belongie

Agency – Erich & Kallman
Creative Director – Eric Kallman
Art Director – Jason Goldberg
Copy Writer – Mike Cardamone
Producer – Marco Vidalis
Account Director – Julie Pfleger

Production – 1st Avenue Machine
Director – Will Samuel
Executive Producer – Isabella Parish
Producer – Mike Capon

Mix/Sound – Barking Owl
Audio Engineer – Patrick Navarre
EP – Damian Bayett
CD – Kelly Bayett
Producer – Ashley Benton

Music – Butter
EP- Anick Mayer
Producer – Stone Irr


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@TLStanleyLA tlstanley8@yahoo.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.
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