Brewing With Cannabis: Using THC and CBD in Beer

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CBD is legal in many states in the US, although it’s still not yet regulated as a dietary supplement by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). You will, however, find CBD in muscle balms and creams for athletes. Even energy drink companies are starting to market sports drinks infused with CBD. It’s no wonder the beer industry has hopped on this bandwagon. They are now mixing alcohol with CBD or THC to enhance their beer. 

For the recreational user, the cannabis-infused beer is a unique opportunity that’s too good to ignore. And for craft breweries, it’s a new goldmine waiting to be tapped. In this article, we look at the nitty-gritty of infusing beer with cannabis and the associated effects. Let’s dive in.

The Relationship Between Cannabis and Hops 

Hops are mainly used as a flavouring, bittering, and stability agent in beer. They are closely related to cannabis—both flowers are derived from the Cannabaceae plant family. Therefore, it isn’t a surprise that some hops give off a rich, chilly, or rancid smell resembling cannabis.

The reason behind this resemblance in smell is that terpenes such as myrcene, alpha-humulene, and beta-pinene, which are usually present in hops, are also available in marijuana. Terpenes are aromatic oils that determine the smell and flavour of weed strains. 

3 Main Cannabis Compounds

Cannabis-infused beer comes in various types. What remains constant are the three main compounds that weed users are interested in. These include:

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)

This is the chief psychotropic ingredient in marijuana. While adding it to beer is possible, the practice is barred in most jurisdictions because of regulatory concerns. It may, however, be legally infused in non-alcoholic beers in some areas.

CBD (Cannabidiol)

This is the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. It is responsible for the myriad health benefits linked to marijuana use and can be combined with beer. 

Terpenes

As we mentioned, these are chemical compounds that give weed its unique scent and intense flavour. They produce no psychoactive effects. Instead, they create that instantly recognizable taste of marijuana.

For a cannabis-infused beer to attain regulatory compliance, it must use professionally extracted CBD. Just adding dried flower buds into the brewing process won’t cut it. Plus, the beer won’t taste good, either. So, craft breweries thinking of entering the marijuana industry have to focus on controlling the precise proportions of CBD, THC, and terpenes.

Tools for CBD Extraction

As craft brewers will attest, proper extraction is an essential step in infusing beer with CBD flavouring. The brewing process is delicate and requires a high-quality concentrate. Brewers must acquire or partner with manufacturers who have the ideal cannabis extraction systems to obtain high-quality CBD oil. This is the winning strategy typically adopted by major brewers out there to create their own CBD-infused beverages. 

Several ways exist through which you can convert cannabis bud into a high-quality CBD concentrate for beer concoction. Here are two common options:

  • Butane hash oil (BHO) extraction
  • C02 extraction

The critical difference between the above-mentioned extraction methods lies in the type of solvent used to break up dried flower buds and produce THC or CBD in the resulting mixture. Another pertinent distinction is that BHO extraction needs a closed-loop extractor. 

The advantage of using a closed-loop system is that every stage of the CBD extraction process occurs in a closed vessel that is not affected by the immediate environment. On the other hand, open-loop systems are vulnerable to contamination and computability problems between extraction stages.

How to Create THC- and CBD-infused Beer

Pick Cannabis Strains for Brewing

Both cannabis and hops have terpenes that are responsible for the resulting aroma of the beer. Therefore, it is prudent to avoid hops that may add to the grassiness.

Weed strains that produce more positive, stirring, and euphoric psychotropic effects are better suited for use in beers than those that produce calming effects. There are several sources out there that can advise you on picking the best cannabis strain for brewing beer. 

Here are a couple of weed strains that usually produce good results when it comes to cannabis-infused beers:

  • Northern Lights (Indica)
  • Lemon Cake (Sativa)
  • Sour Kush (Hybrid)
  • Bruce Banner (Hybrid)
  • Granddaddy Purple (Indica)

As with hops, everything boils down to experimenting to find out what creates the effects you wish to experience from the weed beer.

The brewing of CBD beer starts with the formation of a non-alcoholic flavour base. This will satisfy the taste buds of consumers who are used to the taste of beer. As with liquid hop extraction, cannabinoids like CBD feature a greasy, sticky texture following their extraction from the weed plant. Generally, these oils don’t readily blend with any water-based beverages. Thus, the brewer must work out a way to infuse the oily cannabinoids into beer successfully. 

Decarboxylation Process

This is the heating or aging of your strains to activate THC. Without decarboxylation, cannabis won’t have any psychoactive effects. It involves the following steps:

  • Wash your bud thoroughly to get rid of contaminants that might end up in your beer.
  • Put the buds in a French press and pour in distilled water. Change the water at two- to three-day intervals until it runs clear.
  • Put the buds in a hop bag and then immerse the bag in boiling water for one to two minutes. After that, you should put the bag in an ice bag for another minute.
  • Break up the buds into small chunks and spread them in an oven, then heat the oven depending on the THC potency levels that you want. The lower the temperature, the lower the percentage of THC you’ll extract and vice versa.

Select Hops

You want to select hops that will bring out the best taste in your beer. So, you should steer clear of the grassy, catty, and dank types, such as Simcoe, Fuggle, and Crystal. 

Motueka, Lemondrop, and Ekuanot tend to complement the flavours of cannabis. Consider picking any of those. It’s advisable to use plain hops in your first dry hop and blend cannabis and hops in your second dry hop. The first dry hop should be done during fermentation, and the second one a few days before packaging.

Cannabis Nano Emulsification

This is the process used to infuse weed in beer successfully. In layman’s language, emulsification is the forced mixture of two solvents that typically don’t mix up—for example, oil and water. 

For instance, when a chef prepares a vinaigrette dressing, they usually put it in an emulsifier so that the oil component does not detach from the water-based vinegar ingredient. Thus, the chef will turn to honey or egg yolk to act as an emulsifier and mix the two immiscible components. The outcome is a well-blended salad dressing that pours easily. 

Cannabis extracts can undergo similar emulsification. Through nanotechnology, CBD oil concentrates are mixed with an emulsifying agent, like vegetable gum. This is done faster, sometimes via ultrasonic waves, to break down huge oil droplets into microscopic, emulsified droplets. The end result is a stable solution that can combine with beer and other aqueous solutions. Plus, it boosts CBD’s bioavailability, making it easier for the body to absorb it.

Packaging

Follow the standard packaging procedures to maintain the freshness of your beer for a long time. Minimize oxygen in the process to get the best results.

Effects of Weed Beer

Weed-infused beer may sound intimidating to some. However, it is surprisingly non-alcoholic. Marijuana-infused beer is brewed with about 10 mg of CBD/THC and little or zero alcohol. They are also gluten-free because dried weed buds are used instead of barley. This makes combining alcohol with cannabis safer. 

The effects after drinking the beer are entirely associated with the weed strain used. For example, if your beer was infused with some potent THC oil, chances are you’re going to experience more substantial high effects compared to a beer that was infused purely with CBD or a ratio of 1:1 THC to CBD content. 

Weed beer typically delivers the intoxicating effects associated with alcohol but with a relaxing undertone from marijuana. 

While there’s little to zero THC in cannabis-infused beer, consumers can experience the effects of CBD, which tends to lower blood alcohol levels more than beer that’s cannabis-free. The mutual effects of cannabis and alcohol can lead to a night of more sound sleep, not the passed-out version associated with heavy drinking. It’s a win-win if you wake up with no hangover after a night of cannabis beer drinking. 

Benefits of Cannabis Beer

Reduce Stress and Anxiety

According to an annual Global Emotions report by Gallup, Americans are among the most stressed-out people globally. One of the popular stress remedies is the responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages. Drinking cannabis beer with your friends or colleagues can replace anxiety and stress with happiness.

Weight Loss Remedy

Obese persons are predisposed to developing severe conditions such as high blood pressure, heart complications, and diabetes. Luckily, THC-infused beers come in handy for those in search of an alternative to alcoholic beverages. For the record, alcohol has about seven calories per gram. But the alcohol component is nonexistent in THC beers, and that’s why they are becoming popular among weight loss and healthy living enthusiasts.

Alleviates Insomnia

About 25% of the American population develops acute insomnia each year. This is characterized by trouble sleeping or staying asleep for at least three nights per week. Of course, many things can cause poor sleep, including stress, medications, illness, and so on. Insomnia leads to irritability, short tempers, and poor concentration.

Evidence suggests that cannabidiol can help treat insomnia. In a study looking at CBD’s effects on patients experiencing both anxiety and sleep problems, it was discovered that the patients reported improved sleep and reduced anxiety after the intake of CBD every day for a month. The study may be the reason why CBD-infused beer is a popular alternative to sleeping pills and other insomnia medications. 

No Hangovers

Hangovers occur when blood alcohol plunges drastically. This explains why it is usually felt in the morning following a night of binge drinking. Symptoms of a hangover include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to sound and light
  • Loss in concentration
  • Mood changes like irritability, depression, and anxiety
  • Rapid heartbeat

In the end, these physical changes may lead to low productivity at your place of work or even accidents at home or on the road. The ideal solution to hangovers is drinking non-alcoholic beers. Luckily, marijuana-infused beers are brewed by substituting alcohol with THC or CBD. 

Treats Alcohol Addiction

Research shows that marijuana intake can help people fight alcohol addiction. It can also help in dealing with withdrawal symptoms from the addiction. This is because CBD curbs the desire or urge to consume alcohol. The binding action of cannabidiol on the brain and neurotransmitters is crucial to controlling sensations and cravings towards items a person is addicted to. A key cause of addiction lies in the inconsistencies of the endocannabinoid system. So, when the CBD molecule binds and takes effect, it can control the endocannabinoid system and thus impact alcohol addiction.

List of CBD-infused Beers

You now have learned the essential details about cannabis beer. Below are ten weed beers to enjoy for a healthier living:

  • The Emperor
  • General Washington’s Secret Stash 
  • Humboldt Brown
  • Two Flowers IPA
  • Ceria Brewing Co.
  • Outbound Brewing
  • Hop Chronic
  • Hi-Fi Hops
  • Two Roots Brewing Co.
  • Green Times Brewing

The Bottom Line

The availability of hemp beers is an eye-catching development in the rapidly growing industry. These kinds of beers will go a long way in fighting against the long-established stigmas against cannabis, making marijuana more acceptable to ordinary folks. 

When mixed in beer, the benefits of cannabis are passed on to the users. You can now stay alcohol-free while still enjoying your preferred carbonated flavour. As such, you can steer clear of alcohol addiction and not worry about withdrawal symptoms. 

If you decide to drink weed beer, limit yourself at the beginning to moderate amounts. The important aspect is awareness. Given that the cannabis market is growing, including weed beers and other beverages, we can expect continued research to reveal more health benefits of cannabis beers.


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