Joining the ranks of dragon fruit brews, nitro taps, or milkshake IPA, cannabis-infused beer is the latest beer fad with major companies like Budweiser and Corona jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. Here consumers can take advantage of either a THC non-alcoholic brew or CBD (alcoholic) beer. It's important to note that it's still illegal for beverage companies to mix alcohol with THC.
The Rise of CBD Beer
With cannabis and hops both being part of the Cannabaceae family of plants, CBD beer should take advantage of their similarities, says Phil Boyle, co-owner of Coalition Brewing in Portland, Oregon. In 2016, Coalition was the first brewery to feature CBD beer on retail shelves with their flagship brew Two Flowers CBD IPA. A hoppy beer, such as an IPA, for instance, does just that, highlighting and merging the flavors of the Cannabaceae brew.
Water soluble CBD tinctures have also been a major game changer in the craft CBD market. Unlike oil-based tinctures, these products dissolve completely in water and leave no aftertaste. East Fork Cultivars, for example, uses a technique called sonic nano particulation to break down CBD particles and increase bioavailability in order to craft water soluble CBD drops that can fully integrate into liquid beverages — which are now served at dozens of cafes across Oregon, such as Townshend’s Teahouses.
The Effects of CBD and Alcohol
Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD might have a relaxing effect that could mitigate the intensity of a hangover the next morning. Moreover, research suggests that CBD in combination with alcohol might lead to lower blood alcohol content. Other studies on rodents have shown CBD in conjunction with alcohol could protect against alcohol-induced neurodegeneration, and even alcohol-induced oxidative liver damage.
CBD's effect also depends upon the type of product used. Using full-spectrum CBD in a beer, as opposed to an isolate, might offer a more holistic, therapeutic effect. The presence of other plant cannabinoids and terpenes, even in small amounts, will lend to the entourage effect — the synergistic relationship among all the compounds in cannabis.
THC and Beer
THC-infused beer may be alcohol-free, though some companies have nonetheless manufactured a convincing flavor. SōRSE Technology, for example, has designed products like Reeb, an infused barley soda, ideal for those looking for the taste of beer minus the booze. Barley soda is formulated to mimic IPAs and stouts, but hasn't gone through the full brewing cycle to produce alcohol.
While THC-infused beer can only be purchased at a licensed dispensary, CBD beers are popping up at brewpubs, retail stores, and beer festivals with increasing regularity. In 2018, Coalition hosted the first CBD Beer Fest, held on 4/20 of course, in Portland. All over Portland venues, including the Oregon Brewers Festival, the Portland Radler Fest, the Holiday Ale Festival, and an after party for Feast Portland, we've been seeing CBD offerings from different breweries and cideries. Some breweries, such as StormBreaker Brewing have partnered with cannabis companies, like Danodan Hempworks, to provide customers the option of having CBD drops added to their beer.
With greater education and awareness, Boyle predicts CBD beverages geared for the adult market are here to stay. “We’re seeing trends from some very big players, specifically in the beverage sector, with large investments, which does not signal it being a fad," he says. "The current legal landscape has restricted growth and access, but we are seeing this as hopefully changing in the near future, which will open up an even larger market for both consumers and suppliers alike.” Given the sustained interest in craft food, beer, wine, spirits, cider, and cannabis, as the CBD fad dies down, the cream of the craft-CBD crop should remain.