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Thursday December 24, 2020

By Paul Barach

420 Culture

You’re on your regular trip to your local dispensary and your eye catches something new in the refrigerator display case. Your head whips around to behold this recently released, bottled product. “Could it be?” You ask. “Can it finally be real? Is Cannabeer finally available for purchase?”

You ask your friendly and noble budtender for a closer look. They pass you the bottle over the counter and you turn it in your hands. You can almost hear angels singing. Then you turn to the ingredients. Zero percent alcohol. Your dreams of a chill, hoppy cross-fade in a bottle foiled again! You hand the bottle back to the budtender and go on with your regular purchase, asking yourself one of the big questions in cannabis: “Will there ever be a true cannabis-infused, alcoholic beer?”

PotGuide is here with an answer, but first off we should distinguish between a couple of different kinds of beverages calling themselves “Cannabeer” which are being brewed in states that have legalized recreational marijuana.

What is Cannabeer?

“Cannabis Beers” are beers that are brewed using the stalks and roots of the marijuana plant instead of barley. This gives the alcoholic beers a weedy taste that some consumers like. Since cannabis and hops are closely related plants with some shared terpenes, they compliment each other well in the right combinations. However, cannabis beers contain no THC. 

“CBD-Infused Beers” are beers that are infused with CBD oil but no THC. They have no psychoactive effects beyond the alcohol.

A couple of brewers have been experimenting with CBD-infused beer since the cannabinoid became federally legalized and these beverages generally contain around 3mg of CBD and 5-6% alcohol.

Green Times Brewing CBD Beer
CBD-infused beers can already be found on the market. photo credit

“Cannabis-Infused Beers” are traditionally brewed, non-alcoholic beers that are infused with the same THC concentrates used in other marijuana beverages. These are the “cannabeers” we’ll be referring to for the rest of the article.

The Cannabeer Market

As the cannabis market still is wide open at this point, more and more brewers - and some cannabis companies - are dipping their toes into the cannabeer game in the hopes of creating the next breakthrough product. Craft breweries like Maryland’s Flying Dog are creating hop forward, cannabis-infused IPAs like their Hop Chronic, which will contain around 5% THC and no alcohol. On the opposite coast, California’s High Style brewing has created a citrusy Blood Orange Haze cannabeer with less than .05% alcohol and 10mg of THC that’s already for sale all across the state. 

So far the feedback from consumers has been mixed. The taste of cannabeer is being constantly improved as brewers and cannabis companies collaborate to find just the right mix of terpenes for a smooth flavor. A beer lover looking to enjoy a different kind of intoxication will not be lacking for choice in the coming years. However, many are finding that it’s not enough of one thing or the other to enjoy. 

A group of people sitting at a table drinking beer
While there are some alcohol-free cannabeers on the market, their success has been limited. photo credit

For cannabis consumers, there are plenty of THC-infused sodas, juices, and other beverages that produce the same effects as cannabeer with a much lighter flavor. Some of these products have multiple servings per container so they can last for days rather than having to be finished once they’re opened. This makes them a much better bang for a consumer’s buck than a bottle or can of beer that’ll go flat if left open in the fridge.  

For beer lovers, the effects of consumed cannabis don’t really match up to the traditional buzz of a beer or two. Plus, one of the many joys of beer is that you can have more than a couple cold ones throughout your day off or at the bar with friends. Unless your weed tolerance is high, you’ll probably stop at one or two cannabeers for the day and at that point you may be too high to want to get any more drunk. Plus, you may be waiting up to an hour to feel any effect from those cannabeers, whereas beer’s buzz comes on much quicker. 

Cannabeer Will Require New Laws

However, there is still the dream of an alcoholic cannabeer. Bottling the chill vibe that a pull off of a joint after a couple beers in the middle of a summer barbeque would be a hit with consumers. (It’s important to note here that mixing alcohol and marijuana in even small amounts can also lead to drowsiness and impairment. As with everything, use both in moderation.) 

The dream of a true cannabeer will probably be deferred for the near term, as most legalized state’s cannabis laws are either still in their beginning phases or are being improved at a snail’s pace.

The long hangover of our country’s conservative views when it comes to non-prescription drugs --whether it was alcohol or marijuana prohibition--means that most states are incredibly wary of passing lenient drug policies. Legalizing an alcoholic product infused with THC thus becomes a stretch for any state liquor and cannabis control board. Laws would have to be changed to either allow the sale of cannabis in bars, liquor stores and grocery stores, or the sale of alcohol at dispensaries.   

Alcoholic THC Drinks Seem Inevitable

So, what is the future of Cannabis-infused beer? Will there ever be a literal “‘Bud’ Light?” Will you be able to stroll the beer aisle of your dispensary and choose between a malty Mad Dog 4/20 or a crisp High-P-A? Will there ever be a Corona Extract that lives up to the hype?

Two glasses of beer next to weeed nugs
Although the desire for a THC-infused, alcoholic beer to enter the market is strong, we can expect to have to wait years before this dream becomes reality. photo credit

As usual, in the end it will all come down to market forces. Legalization is only gaining more support throughout the country, and medical marijuana laws are already gaining toeholds in the South. As any state legalizes, companies spring up looking to fill any remaining demands in the cannabis product market. Once the demand is high enough, one state is sure to allow THC-infused, alcoholic beer at some point down the road. It’s probably going to be Nevada. Or Oregon.   

Given the cross-marketing potential, this seems like an inevitability no matter how long it may take for local or federal laws to allow it. For a couple that hangs together as much as weed and beer, it’s going to be hard to keep them apart forever. Of course, when cannabeer is finally available for purchase on dispensary shelves (or your local bar), consume responsibly.  

What are your hopes for cannabis hops? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Credit: Paloma A. (license)


Paul Barach Paul Barach

Paul Barach is a Seattle-based freelance writer, editor, and author with experience creating well-researched, edited web articles covering cannabis news, culture, history and science. Paul is a regular contributor to PotGuide and has also contributed to publications such as, SlabMechanix, Litro, and The Trek. He prefers to spend his free time outdoors and most recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. So far he has only fallen into the La Brea Tarpits once. You can follow him on Instagram @BarachOutdoors and stay up to date professionally through his LinkedIn page.

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