An example of Moonshine Haze from a Colorado dispensary. (Ry Prichard, The Cannabist)

Moonshine Haze (marijuana review)

While the Colorado-bred strain is a nod to prohibition, this uplifting cut definitely wasn't produced in someone's bathtub

Denver’s unique history still shows remnants of the days of alcohol prohibition.

From the city’s 1920s speakeasies to the repeal of prohibition in 1933, the parallels with the current fight to end the war on cannabis are undeniable. According to old Denver Post coverage, Mrs. Stuart P. Dodge, one of Colorado’s delegates at the September 1933 state convention to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment, said:

“First we must face the liquor question honestly and courageously. Second we must work for honest and decent legislation, realizing that whatever we do at the outset must be in the nature of legal experimentation.”

Then and now, Colorado citizens had quickly realized that prohibition did little to improve society and served mainly to fill the coffers of criminals, whether they were a local alcohol-powered organized-crime syndicate like the Smaldone brothers or an international drug cartel in Mexico.

Back in the day, Colorado even had its own variety of illicitly-produced, high-proof prohibition moonshine, known as Sugar Moon, made from our local supply of sugar beets. Most strains and varieties of cannabis that we consume today are essentially botanical moonshine — produced illegally during prohibition without regulation or oversight and often mixed with toxic contaminants (state marijuana enforcement still lags in this area). But the end of this period and beginning of legalization have allowed breeders to begin to brand their genetics. It’s only appropriate that a Colorado-bred strain would claim the name of Moonshine Haze.

Moonshine Haze by the numbers: $9/g $31.50/eighth at Pink House Pearl, 1445 S. Pearl St., Denver

Denver’s historic South Pearl Street (also known as “Old South Pearl”) underwent substantial development after a trolley-car line was extended into the neighborhood in the late 19th century. Today, the light rail brings visitors to the district. The street is lined with a mix of modern and older houses and businesses.

In a quaint, repurposed house, you can find Pink House Pearl. I first discovered the store on January 1, 2014, the history-making first day of Colorado recreational sales. After spending an hour taking in the hoopla at The Clinic Colorado, I decided to make use of my medical card to avoid the lines. I called around and found Pink House Pearl — at the time, a medical-only dispensary. Their short lines and quality product made me a regular patient until a friend who was the manager left to manage another shop. More than a year later, I was in the neighborhood, and decided to see how the now-recreational store was doing.

I had to wait 15 minutes for them to open before I could shop. So, I hung out outside while I finished my coffee and chatted with a group of people who were also waiting to go in. The group was in town from St. Louis and had never purchased pot in a store before, and I could sense their excitement. They wanted to go biking and hiking after and wanted to know what kind to buy, so I recommended some different sativas and hybrids.

We all went in together and stood in line for about five minutes before they let me into the shopping room. The layout had been revamped to add more counter space for rec, but it had the same intimate atmosphere that I remembered. A friendly budtender named Charles greeted me and asked me what kind of product I was seeking. I told him I was looking for a sativa or sativa-dominant flower while I scanned the display case. My eyebrows raised when I saw a jar with the “Moonshine Haze” label, only to drop when I noticed the jar was almost empty. I smelled a few more jars, including some of their signature OG strains, but only wanted a couple of grams. The fragrance of fruity sweetness and chemical pine was enough to convince me to swoop up the last few nugs of Moonshine Haze.

While I paid for my flower, I asked Charles about the origin of the Moonshine Haze. He started looking behind the counter at the jar when the manager (the only employee I recognized) chimed in and confirmed that it was, in fact, the original strain from Rare Dankness. Assertions like this are often false, particularly with regard to older strains of Dutch origin. However, Rare Dankness genetics are very prominent in Colorado, so in this case, I’m inclined to trust the manager’s word.

Just like me, Moonshine Haze is a Colorado-born strain. Bred by Rare Dankness, it is a haze-heavy cross between Amnesia Haze and Nevil’s Wreck. The award-winning Amnesia Haze mother used by RD was a product of a 2005-09 series by Soma Seeds (Soma’s Sacred Seeds). The strain’s legendary and eccentric breeder, Soma, will tell you about the interesting hybrid genetics and source of its name. The Nevil’s Wreck, on the other hand, was never available publicly, but was used as the father plant in just about every sativa strain sold by Rare Dankness, and is the child of phenotypes of Trainwreck and Neville’s Haze.

As I left, I marveled about the prohibition-era reference in the strain name and its relevance in today’s quasi-legal marijuana industry — an industry where, more often than not, black market experience is more of a résumé builder than a career killer. Perhaps we embrace the parallel from now and 1933, given the number of industry meetings and happy hours that I’ve been to at the speakeasy-themed Prohibition on East Colfax. It makes me proud to be a Coloradan.

***

I tried out the Moonshine Haze before an evening of beer and pool with an old friend. I had a fresh piece for the occasion. The Pyptek Prometheus Nano is a straight glass chillum encased in body armor to protect from accidental drops. I opened the childproof container to a clump of 1/4-inch nugs stuck together, and pulled out one of them for further inspection.

Normally I wouldn’t be thrilled with so many small nugs, but I knew what I was getting into with the bottom of the jar. It was well-trimmed with clear attention to the contour of the nug and no loitering leaves. At the slightest pinch, it stuck to my thumb as it decompressed with the urgency of a blood pressure pump in the hand of an especially aggressive nurse. The trichome coverage gave the Heineken-label green leaves a neon glow, accentuated by clumps of dark orange hairs. In preparation for my bowl, I broke it up, at which point I paused to take in a more full scent profile. It was similar to the initial jar smell, except that the piney scent was substantially closer to turpentine than an actual pine tree.

After the first hit, my tongue was overwhelmed by a tropical sweetness, followed by an abundance of harsh spiciness — likely the result of the trichome coverage. I was left with a piney, chemical taste on my tongue and lips after the exhale. I smoked a half-packed bowl out of my new chillum and was immediately greeted by an increased heart rate and a subtle, but noticeable, surge in energy.

When I arrived at my local watering hole, I was greeted by two of the bartenders, one of whom had my Coors Banquet poured before I found a spot at the bar and sat down. Within 10 minutes, the tension in my lower back had subsided. I felt relaxed but hyper-focused on the Broncos game. Even though I love the Broncos, it was uncharacteristic given that it was the fourth quarter of the last preseason game — and I don’t get much enjoyment from watching our third-team offense and defense trade places every three downs, only to lose on a field-goal attempt that has implications of the same special-teams issues by which we were plagued last season. Suddenly, my eyes felt very dry and I felt myself craving the eye drops I so adamantly refuse to use.

My friend was working late, so I decided to get started on a game of pool. I felt a little clumsy as I racked up the balls, dropping the triangle. This sense of clumsiness, along with the fact that I hadn’t played in months, made me slightly paranoid about whether I was about to embarrass myself.

Most of the first game was surprisingly better than I expected — until only the eight ball was remaining. That’s when my fear of embarrassment was realized. I racked it up again, and this time I was on. I breezed through and put down the last of my quarters. By the third game, each shot was precise and accurate. I hit two solids off the break. Stripes mounted a comeback, but solids pulled it off in the end.

I reclaimed my spot at the bar to finish my beer in a nice combination of mental stimulation and relaxation. I didn’t even notice that some asshole played “Bad Company” on the jukebox three times in a row; I just jammed along. The girl next to me started a conversation. She told me about the fight she was in with her boyfriend. I’m not the most astute observer of women’s interest, but I’m pretty sure she was hitting on me. We chatted for another 30 minutes before it was my bedtime, at which point I went home and slept like a baby.

This Moonshine Haze was better for a night out than its similarly-named alcoholic counterpart. This cut had me second-guessing my change in choice of shops last year. If Pink House keeps it on the shelf, I will definitely be back to make sure my stash of Moonshine is stocked for my next trip to the bowling alley, bar or golf course.