Consuming cannabis has massively expanded over the last two years, with new products emerging onto the market every week. And cannabis-infused beverages have made a big impact. Within the cannon of infused beverages, beer specifically is on the rise, with beer drinkers identified as a ripe crossover audience.
A familiarity with herbaceous flavors from hops, an overall inclusive chill vibe, and low-dose servings contribute to the naturally shared audience between spirits and cannabis. Since the change in legislation at the top of 2018, the cannabis-infused beer world has been growing healthily, with high hopes for the future.
Weedmaps News spoke with leaders of the cannabis-infused beer world as well as an Advanced Cicerone® to get the inside scoop on the current state of the weed beer industry, where it is headed, and what it brings to the larger cannabis space.
Weed beer was “definitely inevitable,” according to Kevin Barnes, the Executive Vice President of Brewing Operations and the man behind pioneer brand Two Roots. Barnes has been a professional brewer for 10 years and “has heard about brewers wanting to use cannabis in their beers since day one.”
He notes that “public opinion [of cannabis] is rapidly shifting.” While it's tempting to view cannabis-infused beverages as a trend, Barnes points out that the influx of new products is likely the tip of the iceberg of a profitable emerging category with staying power. In addition to major investment from the world of big alcohol, cannabis-infused beverages as a category is headlining in the world of finance.
What Is Weed Beer?
Before we dig into what “weed beer” is, let's mention what it's not. So-called canna-beers are not typical beers because they don't contain any alcohol. Current laws prohibit the mixing of any cannabis product with alcoholic beverages; the category is made up of beer-like beverages that are designed to taste and be consumed like beer, but swap the alcohol for cannabinoids like CBD and/or THC.
So how do these products that taste like beer, look like beer, and are packaged and marketed like beer come to be? The process is fraught with logistical, legal, and brewing challenges.
Most products that fall under the weed beer umbrella are dealcoholized beers, though there are products like HiFi Hops, which are decidedly not branding themselves as beer, but rather serve as a bridge between the infused water and beer worlds. For most, the first production hurdle is brewing a beer that is suited for dealcoholization: “You can't just make normal beer, you really have to brew differently ” says Barnes, noting the challenge of crafting a beer that retains character without alcohol, which is one of the main carriers of body and flavor.
(Photo courtesy of Lagunitas)
Lagunitas' HiFi Hops are made with hops and …