Though many cannabis smokers and beer drinkers might not know it, their favorite recreational substances are botanically related. Hops, one of the main ingredients in beer, is a member of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes—you guessed it—cannabis.
While many individuals consume the two substances together, it is possible to combine them. Homebrewers can craft beers that retain THC and produce a high akin to those provided by other edibles. On the commercial side, there are now a few breweries making cannabis beers by infusing their brews with cannabis terpenes. The cannabis terpenes impart unique flavors and aromas, but they don’t add THC to the beers. Currently, there are no beers on the market that will get you high from their cannabis content, but the CBD in some of these brews may provide some medicinal benefits.
(Interested in learning how to make your own edibles? Baking A Fool Of Myself: Three Steps to Making Edibles.)
Commerical Market For Cannabis Beer
As more places ease restrictions on recreational cannabis, consumers are supporting the movement by spending more of their discretionary vice dollars. The Cannabiz Consumer Group, a cannabis business consulting group, recently reported that 27 percent of self-identified beer drinkers are either purchasing marijuana instead of beer in states where it is legal to do so or would consider doing so if cannabis was legal where they lived. This represents up to $2 billion in retail sales. The group further reports that craft breweries have recently seen sales decrease by seven to nine percent, which could be due to the rise in sales of legal cannabis. Brewery executives see the writing on the wall and, as a result, they have rolled out some new cannabis beer products to lure in new customers and retain old ones. A former Anheuser-Busch executive was quoted as saying that any brewery that ignores this demographic does so at its own peril.
However, as of early 2018, there are still only a handful of breweries in the cannabis or hemp beer game, and none of the large, commercial breweries currently sell cannabis beer across the country. Also, those small breweries that do produce infused beers aren’t continuously producing these products; most released their respective brews for limited times and in limited markets. They’re likely still assessing feedback, reviewing sales numbers, and carefully watching the news to decide their next moves. Some breweries print cannabis leaves on their labels or give their beers gimmicky names using cannabis slang but don’t brew with the real stuff.
DIY Cannabis and Beer
There are almost as many ways to add cannabis to your homebrew as there are brewers and beer recipes. One of the easiest ways is just to include cannabis in the brewing process (there are recipes online). Depending on the quality of your stash and personal tastes, you’ll need approximately 21 grams of marijuana to brew about two cases worth of bottled beer. Cannahoney, honey that has been infused with cannabis buds or pollinated with cannabis pollen, can be used as well. Substitute it in any craft beer recipe that calls for honey, such as a honey brown lager. You can also add a tincture to your brew. To make the tincture, soak the strain of your choice in clear alcohol that is at least 90 proof (vodka and Everclear are popular choices). Keep in a dark area, shaking it every so often. After a couple weeks to a couple months, strain the soaked buds out of the liquid infusion, which can then be added to your batch.
Remember, however, homebrewed beers that contain THC should be consumed with care. As the effects take longer to arrive, inexperienced consumers can drink more than they should. So, it’s a good idea to first try a DIY cannabis brew with trusted friends, just in case.
(Looking for a gluten-free way to get high? Check out Baking a Fool of Myself: Gluten-free Edibles.)
The Future of Cannabis Beer
With the political climate in the United States, it is unclear whether the cannabis beer market is experiencing a false start, is a flash in the pan, or is just in its infancy and other brewers will jump on board. Conversely, Canada’s likely future legalization of recreational cannabis could mean creative Canadian entrepreneurs have the opportunity to develop the cannabis beer market themselves. What is clear, however, is that if this is a viable product and market, then someone’s got to be the leader.