August 9, 2021

Marijuana and beer no longer rivals as industries join forces

John Frank, author of Denver

Illustration of cannabis and beer emoji smiling at each other.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Not too long ago, legalized recreational marijuana threatened to crash the beer industry's party.

The former often "inspired" the latter, but a 2016 attempt by a Colorado brewery to bridge the divide with a CBD beer ran into regulatory trouble after its much-hyped debut.

What's new: The two industries are no longer frenemies.

  • Colorado brewers are venturing into cannabis beverages, in part as a diversification strategy.
  • And beer industry icons are joining marijuana companies as consultants, the most recent being Oskar Blues' founder Dale Katechis partnering with Veritas Fine Cannabis.

The most significant shift is visible in a new book published this week by the Boulder-based Brewers Association, the trade group for the craft beer industry.

Cover image of the book "Brewing with Cannabis"
Photo courtesy of the Brewers Association

"Brewing with Cannabis: Using THC and CBD in Beer" offers professional and amateur brewers a how-to guide for activating THC and CBD and making them soluble.

  • Written by brewmaster Keith Villa, the creator of Blue Moon Belgian White, the book includes recipes for Headwiser, a marijuana lager; a THC-infused peanut butter porter; and a cannabis hard seltzer.

Be smart: All cannabis beers are nonalcoholic โ€” and Villa writes at the start that combining THC and ethanol in a beverage "is highly unwise at this time."

What to watch: The cannabis beer market remains small in the U.S. but it's one of the strongest growing categories, says Villa, the co-founder of Ceria Brewing, one of the first marijuana beer companies.

  • "There is such a huge demand for knowledge about cannabis and putting it into beverages โ€ฆ but the knowledge for doing that was really not there," Villa says.

One of the challenges is regulation. A THC product can't cross state lines because it remains illegal at the federal level.

  • For Ceria's coming expansion to California, Villa brews the nonalcoholic beer here and transports it to the destination, where it is infused with THC.

Of note: You can't deny biology. Marijuana and hops are genetically related members of the Cannabinaceae family.

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