Beer and cannabis are a natural pairing. Botanically, the two plants are closely related. Meanwhile, both plants have survived misguided attempts at prohibition. While the hops plant was never actually outlawed, beer certainly was.
Despite this natural affinity, the law stands between these two family members. For now, US federal drug laws prevent using cannabis as an ingredient in beer (or anything else for that matter).
But it’s not just the Feds who are standing in the way of your marijuana-beer nirvana. Even states with permissive cannabis laws have outlawed products that mix THC and alcohol.
Fortunately, craft brewers are a creative lot. Despite these bans, we’re starting to see the emergence of some clever cannabis-inspired beer-like beverages (those qualifiers are important).
Today, I review three brews; each takes a different approach to work around the thicket of legal limitations designed to keep beer and cannabis apart.
Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops
Lagunitas has long been a champion of the craft beer world. If you’re the sort who bothers to read beer labels carefully, it’s evident that the brewers at Lagunitas have a particular affinity for marijuana. Given the history, it’s no surprise that Lagunitas is the first American brewer to enter the market with a THC infused product.
HiFi Hops is actually Lagunitas’s second attempt to brew a cannabis-themed beer. Before HiFi hops, Lagunitas teamed up with the cannabis extraction experts at Absolute Extracts to produce SuperCritical IPA. That limited-run beer contained no THC but did include a healthy dose of cannabis terpenes (the molecule that gives marijuana its distinctive aroma and flavor). As an early experiment, SuperCritical was interesting, but the flavor was odd in reasons that were hard to explain. I tasted a pint at the short-lived Azusa tasting room and, for some reason, it made my mouth itch.
Lagunitas latest cannabis drink is called HiFi Hops, and it offers an entirely different approach to fusing beer and marijuana. Actually, it’s not really a beer. Instead, it’s a hoppy IPA inspired sparkling water. If you’re a fan of West Coast beers, you’ll appreciate the aroma and flavor of HiFi Hops. I actually like the fact that HiFi Hops makes no effort to be a beer; it’s something else entirely.
HiFi Hops is a crisp sparkling drink with a citrusy hops flavor and a relatively low dose of THC. HiFi Hops comes in two varieties — one with 5 mg each of THC and CBD and another with 10 mg of THC and no CBD.
Unlike the other beers in this post, HiFi Hops contains zero carbs, zero calories, and it’s gluten-free. If you’re looking for a healthy, slightly intoxicating, alternative to alcohol, HiFi Hops might be your future drink of choice.
Pop open a bottle of New Belgium’s Hemperor HPA and you just might get a contact high from the overwhelming smell of weed.
Given how strongly this beer announces its intentions, you’ll be surprised to learn that this is not a cannabis beer at all, but rather a “cannabis inspired” beer. Hemperor is brewed with traditional hops, hemp hearts, and a proprietary blend of non-cannabis terpenes. Hemperor contains no THC, which is how this 7% ABV ale manages to comply with state cannabis laws.
It’s the terpene blend that produces the convincing aroma of marijuana. It’s a hoppy ale that just happens to smell like a big bag of pot.
If the lack of cannabinoids disappoints you, consider this: even with that limitation, this beer was banned in Kansas.
I’m a fan of Hemperor’s branding (brilliant logo) and I generally like big hoppy ales, but this beer didn’t click with me. I ordered Hemperor on tap at BeerCo in Manhattan Beach. Surprisingly, I found myself struggling to finish the very weedy pint — an event so strange that my wife commented on it. I came away feeling like this was more of a novelty beer.
If I try Hemperor again, it will definitely be in a microdose.
Two Roots – Enough Said Lager
Two Roots Brewing calls this brew a CannaBier™. Get it? It’s a can of beer. Ha!
Unfortunately, that’s as entertaining as it gets with this generic lager.
Two Roots has taken the most conventional approach in making a cannabis beer. Despite efforts to package this as a THC infused craft beer, this is really just a standard-issue non-alcoholic beer with a dose of THC added. No special terpenes. No special hops. No craft beer flavor.
As a beer, this is unremarkable. As a THC infused beverage, it wouldn’t be my first choice.