Keith Villa, former brewmaster and inventor of CoorsBrewing’s craft-like beer Blue Moon, is launching three cannabis-infused drinks this fall. Instead of alcohol the drinks will contain THC, the chemical in cannabis that produces a buzz. Therefore the “beer”, which will be produced by Villa’s Colorado-based firm CERIA Beverages, promises intoxication without the alcoholic headache.
While other brewers experiment or have already launched products with hemp, a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products and usually contains less or hardly any THC, Villa claims to have the first product which actually contains THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis.
“What we found is consumers of cannabis want the real deal,” Villa says. “Giving them a beer with hemp or CBD is almost like giving a craft beer drinker an alcohol-free Russian Imperial Stout and telling them, ‘This is good enough.’”
Federal law prohibits beer to be infused directly with marijuana, which forces brewers to find a work-around. New Belgium Brewing Company from Fort Collins, Colorado, the fourth-largest brewer of craft beer and the eighth-largest brewery in the United States, announced last week to launch on April 2, after three years of development, a new brew called The Hemperor HPA. The new brew uses hemp hearts, part of the plant legalized by the 2014 Farm Bill, and some compounds from other materials that emulate the aromatic terpenes found in hemp.
Other breweries also infuse their beer with hemp extract to give them a marijuana taste but the intoxicating effect still comes from the alcohol, not from THC.
Villa product skirts the ban because it is lacking alcohol and is therefore not a “beer” in the ordinary sense. In the first stage it is brewed like any other beer and then the alcohol is removed and the cannabis extracts are added. This makes it more similar to Marijuana-infused sodas, which are already widely available in cannabis dispensaries. However, users have complained their experiences are inconsistent and the "high" can take too long to kick in.
The extracts used by Keith Villa were developed by Colorado-based research company Ebbu, which intends “to elevate cannabis into the mainstream.” Ebbu claims that its extracts, in contrast to other products, make consumers feel the effect consistently at the same pace as if they were drinking a beer. The company has in in the last years conducted hundreds of double-blind tests on volunteers to help fine-tune their formulas. “We’ve really been able to dial in on those sensations that can deliver a consistent experience for the users,” said Ebbu president Jon Cooper.
Villa, who retired from MillerCoors on Jan. 5 after being 22 years with the company (inside.beer, 6.1.2018) is currently developing three new products, which will hit the shelves in Colorado this fall. He intends to launch a light beer, a wheat beer, and a stronger beer, which still needs to be defined.