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Could CBD-infused beer be the next breakout beverage?
There’s been a change in the force when it comes to the beer market, a charge led mostly by craft brewers. It’s no secret that craft beers have taken the beer market by storm and are changing the game, as younger generations want more variety in their frothy beverages. The boom in the craft brewing industry has led many more brewers around the country to experiment and push boundaries on their hunt for the next great taste. For years now, many forward-thinking brewers have looked to cannabis as the next big thing.
Silently, several brewers already carried out their own underground experiments with cannabis and beer. Cannabis is still banned as a Class B drug, though. Brewers, especially craft brewers, performing these quiet experiments do so at great personal risk. As such, no results of any experiments have ever been publicized.
However, as laws around cannabis relax, new opportunities are opening up in this new industry for brewers. Many are now moving toward what many experts consider a natural stage of the evolution of beer: the infusion of a key compound found in cannabis.
I’m about to blow your mind with this knowledge bomb I’m dropping right now. Hemp, the collective name for two major strains of cannabis plants, and hops are very closely related. Not as closely as the marijuana and hemp plants, but still probably closer than you realize. Biologically, hemp and hops are so similar they are considered “cousins.” Makes sense, because both plants alter your state of mind, right? Not quite. However, this confusion is partly the reason brewers hop through legal hurdles when it comes to creating CBD-infused beer.
Let me backtrack for a second and stop your thoughts in their tracks. Most people naturally associate the word “cannabis” with the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) cannabinoid. This is the part of the Cannabis sativa plant containing psychoactive properties that alter your state of mind. However, when it comes to beer, brewers are less interested in its psychoactive properties and more interested in the cannabidiol (CBD) cannabinoid found in hemp plants.
To be clear, CBD has none of the hallucinogenic or psychoactive properties of THC. It only affects the body, not your state of mind. It cannot make anyone feel “high” or “stoned” because it has absolutely no psychoactive effects. CBD actually inhibits the effects of THC. In fact, the cannabinoid creates such a relaxing effect, it is widely used as a natural remedy for treating anxiety and insomnia.
It’s this super relaxing effect that makes CBD the perfect match for beer, a drink consumed for pleasure and enjoyment. Not only do the effects of CBD complement beer, but the genetic similarities between hops and hemp makes infusing beer with CBD a breeze. Talk about a new world of flavors previously unexplored in the beer industry!
Brewers are now experimenting with fresh new flavors that come from CBD-infused beer. But, how is CBD changing the flavors of the beer? Brewers are using cannabis terpenes, the chemical that gives cannabis its different types of scent, to create new aromas. For example, Coalition Brewing in Portland, OR debuted a new line of CBD-infused beers. In August 2017, Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petulama, CA collaborated with AbsoluteXtracts from Santa Rosa, producing a CBD-based terpene for creating aromas.
Although craft brewers are leading the charge in this arena, commercial brewers are beginning to look into the CBD-infused beers market as CBD use gains popularity and acceptance. Brewers face many legal hurdles since CBD is so closely tied to marijuana, which is still illegal on a federal level.
The biggest challenge brewers face in this up-and-coming CBD industry is legislation. Even in states permitting recreational marijuana use, there are restrictions on CBD-infused beer. In fact, legally speaking at least, many are openly hostile to the idea of CBD beers. For example, in Massachusetts, the law allowing recreational marijuana went into in July 2018. However, shortly before this law went into effect, a brewery was denied a license to sell a CBD-infused beer. Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. It’s also illegal to sell adulterated beer in the state. All a perfect storm to stop brewers from creating CBD beers in a state with legalized recreational marijuana.
As you can tell from the above example, many of the legal restrictions on CBD-infused beer arise from the illegality of cannabis use. Many jurisdictional authorities oppose anything cannabis-related, even though its use is more normalized than ever before. Even though CBD does not contain the same psychoactive properties as THC, many still believe a CBD-infused beer would be able to get a user “high.”
This misconception is HUGE. Even in states where CBD beer is legal, there is a much more rigorous approval process for these types of beers than non-CBD beers. Even after approval, brewers can only sell CBD-infused beers on tap. They cannot bottle the beer or sell it across state lines.
The rigorous approval process for CBD-infused beers complicates matters further. All new beer formulas are approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). In rare cases, if the TTB thinks a new formula could be possibly dangerous, it sends the formula over to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review and approval. However, this happens only in very rare cases; most of the time, a TTB review will suffice for formula approval.
However, automatically, every new CBD-infused beer formula is sent to the FDA for approval. Keep in mind that cannabis is still illegal on a federal level and considered a controlled substance. Sometimes, the FDA then sends the formula to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The many layers of review and approval make the process of selling a CBD beer long, stressful and expensive.
Brewers often jump through extreme hoops to get their CBD-infused masterpieces in customers’ mouths. Ultimately, it’s this restrictive legislation that’s dampening the CBD-infused beer industry. But that won’t deter the naturally adventurous spirit of brewers. It’s only a matter of time, as was the way with medical and recreational marijuana, before laws are changed. CBD-infused beers will be everywhere. CBD is, without a doubt, the future of beer and the future is nearly here!
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