Jeff Sessions’ hatred for the drug aside, it’s beginning to seem inevitable that the federal government will legalize the recreational use of marijuana sooner rather than later. However, a few beer companies are not waiting for the feds to lift the prohibition on the popular drug and are beginning to add marijuana to their beer.
An article in World Magazine explains that the marriage of pot and beer is the result of beer companies watching their share of the market fall in places where medicinal marijuana was legalized. The article reports, “By 2015, U.S. alcohol sales had dropped 15 percent in states (most of the country) that had legalized marijuana for medical use.”
At first, as market shares began sliding, the beer industry opposed efforts to legalize marijuana across the country. But as state after state began lifting the prohibition of marijuana, beer companies began deciding that if they can’t beat them, they may as well join them.
One of the first large beer companies to begin experimenting brewing with marijuana was Heineken International. World writes:
Heineken International purchased a 50 percent stake in the Lagunitas Brewing Co., located in Petaluma, Calif., and known for its marijuana references in marketing and even accounting (ending its inventory numbers with “420,” a common pot reference to getting high at 4:20 p.m.).
Heineken last year bought the other half of Lagunitas, a company reportedly worth $1 billion. That summer, Lagunitas rolled out its first beer infused with marijuana—but without THC, the particular chemical that leads to highs—in an India pale ale beer named “Supercritical.”
Taking the experimentation a step further, “On July 30 Lagunitas debuted ‘Hi-Fi Hops,’ a THC- and hops-infused ‘IPA-inspired’ sparkling water. So: first a ‘beer’ without THC, but with marijuana; now a ‘water’ with THC and hops, but not a ‘beer.'”
Among several other breweries combining beer and marijuana, Keith Villa, the creator of the popular Blue Moon brand, has started a new brewery called Ceria that is planning on rolling out a series of drinks containing marijuana that promises a high without the hangover that often accompanies alcohol. Ceria is hoping to have the beverages available this fall, but only in Colorado.
Villa said the plan is to offer three strengths of cannabis-infused beverages — light, regular and full-bodied — to consumers 21 and older. According to Villa, the light beer, which will be for novice users, will offer about one to six milligrams of THC per 12 oz. bottle. Regular beers will be in the 10 milligram range, while the full-bodied offerings will be in the 15 milligram range.
The products will have a labeling system similar to ski slopes, Villa said. Instead of diamonds, the labels will feature a green leaf for beginners, a blue leaf for intermediate users, a black leaf for experienced users and two black leaves for “the ultimate experience”
Many beer lovers may be curious about the brewing process that Villa has developed. Spilling his “secret,” Brewbound explains:
Ceria will brew a batch of beer at a yet-to-be-named Colorado contract brewing facility. Villa will then use equipment to remove the alcohol from the beer, which will then be transported to a licensed marijuana dispensary and infused with ebbu’s extracts that contain THC as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes. The finished liquid will be bottled or canned, and sold cold in licensed dispensaries throughout Colorado.
Constellation Brands, the company that sells Corona and Modelo, is also making plans to move into the marijuana-beer market. Late last year, the company purchased almost ten percent of Canopy Growth Corporation. Based in Canada, Canopy is the world’s largest publicly-traded cannabis company. Constellation’s purchase was because the company is reportedly “planning to work with the grower to develop, market and sell cannabis-infused beverages,” according to CNBC.
Unless the federal government intervenes, the trend of brewing “beer” with marijuana is only going to spread.