The Boom of Cannabis Beer

Loosening laws and attitudes have allowed brewers to experiment infusing beers with cannabis.
From left: Grainwave Belgian-Style White Ale, The Hemperor HPA, The Waldos’ Special Ale, George Washington’s Secret Stash and 420 Series G13 IPA / Photo by Meg Baggott

Cannabis and hops (the flowering cones that lend aromas, flavors and bitterness to beer) are cousins in the Cannabaceae plant family. They have similar fragrances but a notable difference: Cannabis contains THC, the psychoactive component that creates the sensation of being high.

Thus, hops and cannabis have stayed in their separate government-mandated lanes, one legal, the other not. Combining alcohol and THC is also illegal. As recreational cannabis is allowed in more states, however, brewers have started to merge the plants.

“It’s kind of the birth and the start of this whole area,” says Keith Villa, founder of Blue Moon Brewing Co. “It’s a situation that comes around once in a lifetime.”

Last year, Villa retired as brewmaster from Miller Coors and launched Ceria Beverages with his wife, Jodi. The brand produces nonalcoholic beers that deliver doses of THC, which take effect as fast as alcohol.

Beyond Villa’s efforts, breweries have taken multiple approaches to cannabis-inspired beer. Some have infused IPAs with non-intoxicating CBD, the plant derivative popular in healthcare products. Others evoke cannabis with hemp extracts, highly pungent hop varietals or organic compounds called terpenes, which give plants their characteristic aromas.

Explore the Inventive Flavors of Herb Beers

420 Series G13 IPA

SweetWater Brewing Co., GA

A blend of odorous organic compounds,  a k a terpenes, plus pine-like Simcoe and Columbus hops give this golden IPA its super-weedy aroma. No high included.

George Washington’s Secret Stash

Dad & Dude’s Breweria, CO

Each 12-ounce can of this resinous, English-inspired IPA has 4.2 milligrams of hemp-derived CBD. America’s first president would likely approve: Washington farmed hemp in Virginia.

Grainwave Belgian-Style White Ale

Ceria Brewing Co., CO

Sold at Colorado marijuana dispensaries, this is an alcohol-free witbier, or wheat beer, steeped with blood orange peel, coriander and 5 milligrams of THC per 10-ounce bottle.

The Hemperor HPA

New Belgium Brewing, CO

Government-approved hemp hearts (seeds) and intensely aromatic hop varietals are used to create this dank IPA with a stickily sweet, lightly bitter finish.

The Waldos’ Special Ale Lagunitas

Brewing Co., CA

The Waldos were 1970s California high school students who coined the phrase “420,” code for smoking pot. They’re immortalized in this sweetly potent triple IPA that delivers a deeply earthy dankness. Lagunitas also produces Hi-Fi Hops, a THC-infused hoppy sparkling water that’s sold in California dispensaries.

Published on March 4, 2019
Topics: Beer


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