The truth about “weed beer”, the new drink that could upend the alcohol industry
Weed beer is a hot topic lately, especially with 4/20 around the corner and summer soon after. But can a true weed beer ever legally exist? We take a look at some of the recent weed beer announcements, hemp-infused IPA releases, and legal status of combining the two, to see if weed beer is fact or fiction.
Blue Moon’s Founder Is Making Weed Beer
Weed beer made headlines recently when Keith Villa, creator of Blue Moon, announced he was teaming up with the cannabis brand ebbu to make a THC-infused beer, Ceria Beverages. Villa’s plan is to brew three types of beer, something light, like a Belgian-style wit, a “medium” brew, and a dark beer that would be reminiscent of a Russian Imperial Stout. But, he will remove all alcohol from the beer before adding a cannabinoid extract, provided by ebbu.
Teaming up with ebbu is interesting because they’ve been developing specific combinations of cannabinoids to produce desired effects in users, known as their “Feelings” line. Therefore, Villa’s different types of beer will also provide users with specific “experiences.” Their plan is for their alcohol-free, weed beer to have the same lifespan as a regular beer, which is possible due to its sublingual absorption.
“If they want to watch the Super Bowl and drink a six-pack and not get totally stoned they can just enjoy themselves with our light beer,” Villa told Forbes, explaining the beers’ effects. “That way they know they’ll be about as buzzed as they would have been if they’d drunk the equivalent in (alcoholic) beer with an ABV (alcohol by volume) between 4-4.5%.”
Ceria beverages is planning on launching this fall in Colorado and then expanding to states where adult use cannabis is legal. The beers will be sold chilled at dispensaries.
Rival Weed Beers
Weed beer seems to be something the original founders of ebbu are very passionate about, because ex-co-Founder, Michael “Dooma” Wendschuh, is also developing an alcohol-free weed beer. Dooma’s rival weed beer is being produced outside of Toronto, even though Canada isn’t planning on making cannabis edibles legally available until 2019.
However, Dooma’s beer, Province, does sound like it’s going to be made differently. According to Vice, Province will be brewed like traditional beer, but instead of using barley, they’ll be using marijuana. One of Province’s investors, Lanny Lipson, described the beverage in the same article: “It tastes like beer, it has the right carbonation, and it’s just really pleasant to drink.”
Province brands filed for a patent in Canada for their brewing technique and are marketing their product as “the alcohol killer.” Because their brew isn’t made using grains, it will also be gluten-free and lower in calories than a traditional beer.
The makers of Corona, Constellation Brands, also recently announced they’re developing a weed beer, also alcohol-free but with THC. Read the full story here.
Ceria, Province, and Constellation Brands may be racing to produce the first alcohol-free weed beer on the market, but many well-known craft breweries have started releasing hemp beers. Without THC, these brews are typically hoppy IPAs infused with hemp-derived CBD, cannabis (or cannabis “adjacent”) terpenes, or hemp hearts for weed flavor without the high.
Very recently, New Belgium, makers of Flat Tire and other popular craft beers, announced the release of “The Hemperor” a self-proclaimed “HPA,” because it’s an IPA made with Hemp. The Hemperor will smell and taste like weed, but won’t have any THC or CBD. However, this beer packs a punch with 7% ABV.
Last year, Lagunitas announced the launch of their “Supercritical Ale,” a hoppy IPA that also smells and tastes like cannabis. This weed beer is brewed with terpenes from cannabis, hops, and related plants that resemble weed. It also doesn’t have any THC but it does have 6.6% ABV.
Can Cannabis Disrupt the Alcohol Industry?
Province certainly hopes so with its website claiming, “This changes everything,” and they may not be too far off. Survey data by the Cannabiz Consumer Group found 27 percent of beer drinkers in the U.S. would “switch to legal marijuana” if they had the option. Plus, if their option is so similar to a product they already know and love, like Province and Ceria are planning to be, other brewers could be in trouble.
These cannabis drinks could be successful if they really do provide a fast-acting high that doesn’t last more than an hour or two. Unlike traditional cannabis edibles that aren’t absorbed until they hit the liver, cannabis “drinkables,” like weed beer, begin absorbing in the mouth in a process known as “sublingual absorption.” It allows cannabis to kick in a lot faster because cannabinoids are absorbed directly into the blood from under the tongue, rather than after digestion.
Why Can’t We Have Both Alcohol and THC?
If you’re like me, you’re thinking this all sounds kind of cool, but since I love weed and beer so much, I don’t want an alcohol-less beer that gets me high, or a weed-less beer that gets me drunk. I want both, at once. But even in states where cannabis is legal for adults, it is illegal to sell products that contain both alcohol and weed. Weed wine, weed beer, or weed vodka can only contain weed terpenes or CBD if it has alcohol because the government doesn’t want you mixing psychoactive THC with alcohol.
Weed vs alcohol is a classic debate, but in a perfect world, we’d be able to buy a weed beer with both alcohol and THC—in moderation, of course. Because cannabis and hops are so closely related, it would be interesting to see more brewers experimenting with creating a real weed beer, which uses cannabis and grains. Until it becomes legal, though, this type of beer will likely remain the product of home experimentation.