Alcohol and cannabis have been staples of debauchery since before history was scrawled on the first stone tablet. As cannabis legalization rockets toward the mainstream, it was inevitable that we’d get the two to merge into one powerhouse combo: cannabis beer.
You may find that cannabis beer is your favorite new drink. Strictly for medicinal purposes, of course.
Last month, RxLeaf’s social media polls found that 75-84 percent of our readers want THC-infused beer. Regardless of the exact number in favor of it, it’s clear you’re in the majority. And who wouldn’t? Beer, like cannabis, has some health benefits (in small amounts). Hops, one of beer’s primary ingredients, is also a close cousin to cannabis, so the two make a perfect match, really, and not in an Alabaman way.
Before we get all sudsy, I should note most of the cannabis beers discussed here, by law, don’t contain alcohol (or significant amounts of it, anyway). This is because politicians are inherently fascist, and they can’t very well have us doing dangerous things like thinking life can be better than it is now.
Anyway, enough of that anarchy malarkey. Here are the goods.
As hemp products always serve as a culturally palatable prelude to stuff made with cannabis, it’s no different with booze. Out yonder in my home state of Colorado, we’ve got a few selections of weedy beer, but the most well known is The Hemperor by the New Belgium Brewing Company. (Caveat, “New Belgium” is just a name. The brewery is headquartered in Fort Collins, 5,000 miles from actual Belgium.)
The Hemperor, like most hemp beers, is somewhat of a gimmicky product. It’s made from barley with hemp added to the brew for flavoring. Yes, it kind of tastes like weed, which is the point.
Why hemp? Because of the law. As it goes in Canada, U.S. enterprises can’t legally combine THC with alcohol. Beer manufacturers can get around this legal hurdle by adding hemp, which contains negligible amounts of THC. And since hemp beers don’t have THC, they can include alcohol.
But what about beers with THC?
Nevada’s recreational, or “adult-use,” cannabis market has exploded since it went live last year. It’s no surprise then that Sin City would be the first to offer a cannabis beer that contains THC. Enter Two Roots.
Kevin Love is the director of product development at Cannabiniers, the green-tech company that designed Two Roots. He told RxLeaf, by phone, that the idea of Two Roots sprung from a market need. The cannabis edibles market is saturated with saccharine products like candies, gummies and fizzy sodas.
“They’re all children’s treats, so it’s kind of a weird disconnect,” he said, referring to the age requirements to purchase recreational cannabis products. “So we wanted a product that was more socially acceptable for adults.”
Two Roots is currently the only THC-infused beer available in the U.S. Due to federal laws, cannabis products cannot cross state lines, so that means Two Roots, for now, is only available in Nevada. Specifically, at ReLeaf dispensaries.
To provide a well-rounded effect, Two Roots is infused with water-soluble cannabis extracts. Love wouldn’t share all the juicy details as to how these oily extracts are made water-soluble (they’re trade secrets). However, he did state that although THC is the predominant cannabinoid in Two Roots beers, Cannabiniers tried to pack as many terps and phytocannabinoids into each can as they could.
“Full spectrum is what we wanted to achieve,” he said. “That way you’re having more of a relaxed body when you’re out consuming, along with a clear and alert mind.”
Because the THC is water-soluble, it hits the brain more like alcohol than it does, say, a cannabis cookie. Onset time is roughly 10 minutes, and the heady effects last for about 90 minutes. Which is fairly comparable to drinking a conventional brew with alcohol. They’ve got a Two Roots for every type of beer lover, too, including a stout, a blonde ale, a lager and a wheat ale.
And if you’re wondering, yes, Two Roots beers taste like any other beer. The cannabis is barely noticeable, if at all. But if you’re one of those diehard weed warriors who loves the sticky flavor of hash, never fear: later this month, Cannabiniers will unveil a Two Roots “tribute beer” at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado that will taste a little like sucking on raw buds, apparently. (Heads up, I may be one of those aforementioned diehards.)
If you’re lucky enough to snag a pack of Two Roots, feel free to knock ‘em back as you would any other conventional beer. Each can of Two Roots only contains 2.5mg THC per bottle, so you can guzzle about four of them before catching a buzz (individual tolerances pending, of course).
Infusing conventional beers with cannabis is an amazing development. But what about making beer from cannabis itself? That’s what Province Brands in Toronto has done, and it took two years of grueling trial-and-error to pull it off.
“It’s not infused at all,” said Dooma Wendschuh, the founder and CEO of Province Brands. “Instead of being made of barley or grains, our beer is actually brewed from the stalks, stems, and roots of the marijuana plant itself.”
The process, though it took two trips around the sun to achieve, is straightforward. Instead of mashing grains, Province mashes cannabis. The mash is mixed with yeast, and the yeast converts the mash’s sugars to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. The brew’s alcohol is then removed, leaving behind pure, unfettered weed beer.
Wendschuh describes the flavor of Province’s beer as “nutty” and “dry,” resembling a pilsner. It’s not on the market yet, but when it hits the shelves sometime shortly after Canada goes legal, expect each can to pack about 6.5mg THC.
What About This is Medicinal, Though?
The removal of alcohol from any beer can be a good thing. Alcohol in small amounts may have some health benefits, but generally it wreaks havoc on the body.
Both Love and Wendschuh wouldn’t discuss the medicinal properties of cannabis, but they both stated that non-alcoholic cannabis beer could be a healthier alternative to alcoholic drinks.
“The benefit is you can drink [cannabis] instead of alcohol,” said Wendschuh, “and don’t poison yourself in the process.”
Why is alcohol so bad? For starters, alcohol puts strain on the liver, our body’s primary filter. Like a water filter, the liver can get overloaded if it’s filtering out too much crap. Alcohol, quite frankly, is crap on ‘roids – and I write this as someone who swills Grey Goose rather liberally.
With the liver overloaded, it can’t filter out other toxins, like the pesticides that end up in most commercial brews, or all that McDonald’s you’ve shoveled into your face to maintain some semblance of post-bar-hopping sanity. Those toxins end up elsewhere in the body, causing fatigue, soreness, nausea, and cellular damage. Alcohol also dehydrates the body. Couple dehydration with a compromised liver, and you can see where this is going. (Hint: it’s made of porcelain.)
Furthermore, alcohol is a simple hydrocarbon chain composed of two carbons, an oxygen atom, and some protons (known colloquially as hydrogens). If you’re familiar with fatty-acid chemistry, alcohol – otherwise known as ethanol – is also one of the most basic building blocks for our fat cells. You can sort of think of fat as just a big ol’ chain of ethanol molecules. This is why chugging any kind of alcohol, even relatively pure variants like vodka or everclear (the masochist’s brand of choice), will cause you to gain weight.
Obesity plus liver toxicity equals: cirrhosis. Yuck. Cirrhosis occurs when scars build up in the liver tissue, causing irreversible damage to one of our most important organs. Cirrhosis often triggers weight loss, too, so there’s that, I guess.
On the flip side, the science behind combining cannabis with alcohol seems promising. But not in the way you may think. A body of research suggests cannabis can protect from and even reverse the effects of heavy drinking on the liver. (If you click on just one link in this entire post, click that last one.) De-alcoholized cannabis beer may be one way alcoholics can kick the habit while repairing their bodies.
Economics to the Rescue
One of the biggest lobbies opposing cannabis has been the alcohol lobby. The lobby’s argument goes that since consumers have limited budgets, they’re forced to choose between cannabis or alcohol. As more people spend their hard-earned cash on weed, they have less to spend on booze, which may explain why alcohol sales dip in states where cannabis is regulated. According to one study, the alcohol industry stands to lose $2 billion in sales each year if cannabis is fully legalized.
Is that financial loss a bad thing, though? In the U.S., alcohol is directly responsible for 88,000 deaths per year. We’re still gathering data on cannabis-related deaths, but our folk knowledge insists cannabis kills, well, no one. If there are deaths caused by cannabis due to accidents, we don’t have any solid numbers. Yet.
Regardless, cannabis beer could be an innovative way to keep the alcohol industry alive while easing any trade wars between them and cannabis cultivators. With Canopy Growth’s recent blockbuster merger with Constellation Brands (the makers of Corona beer), that reality is tumbling toward us faster than frat boy falling from a keg stand.