What Brewers Need To Know About CBD Beer

With legitimate medicinal properties backing it up, CBD beer may be much more than an attention-grabbing trend.

It’s likely you’ve heard that CBD is a chemical extracted from marijuana that doesn’t get you high—unlike its infamous cousin, THC. The medicinal, non-addictive, non-psychoactive properties of CBD is a key factor in its popularity as an alternative medicinal treatment. CBD oil shops are suddenly everywhere because CBD research suggests that it contains many of the benefits of THC minus the mind-altering state. One of the big questions brewers are asking and exploring right now is, is CBD beer a legitimate pursuit or just another outrageous, attention-grabbing-yet-terrible-tasting beer style?

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What Is CBD Anyway?

You’ve probably heard about CBD oil, but just what the heck is it anyway? To better understand the chemical CBD, we must first understand where it comes from.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound extracted from a genus of flowering plant known as CannabisCannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound extracted from a genus of flowering plant known as Cannabis, a member of the larger family of plants known as Cannabaceae. Humulus lupulus—better known as hops—happen to also be a genus of similarly flowering plants in the very same species of Cannabaceae. Yes, hops and marijuana are closely related cousins.

(Are you thinking about CBD IPA yet?)

It is also interesting to note that in both genus’ Humulus and Cannabis, the female flowers (seed cones, strobiles) are the key part of the plants that people cultivate for a wide variety of economic uses, including medical, industrial, recreational, and religious.

Hops are undeniably critical to brewing beer, while the main types of Cannabisindica, sativa, and ruderalis—are most famous for their recreational usage, dating back to prehistoric societies in both Eurasia and Africa.

It wasn’t always portrayed as a dangerous drug. Hemp, an industrial term for Cannabis, has long been an important raw material. The value of industrial hemp manufacturing fiber and oils to make clothing, paper, food products, health and beauty products, and even rope has been a major part of humanities progress.

Most recently, there has been a surge in the serious medical study of Cannabis plants for potential medical uses. While pro-Cannabis advocates have long regarded the plant as an alternative medicine with a wide range of purported treatment uses, scientists in the medical industry have been studying the use of cannabinoids as treatments to diseases or improving symptoms.

Cannabis—specifically the chemical compounds it produces—has been shown to positively treat or reduce nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, improve appetites, especially in those with HIV/AIDS, treating chronic pain, muscle spasms, as well as positively influence psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, and a variety of mood disorders, insomnia, and other sleep issues.

These plants produce a wide variety of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. To date, at least 85 of the 483 identifiable chemical compounds are referred to as cannabinoids; the most famous of which are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Recently, Cannabidiol (CBD) was approved by the FDA in June of 2018 to treat epilepsy. Of course, it was prescription use only at first, but that has now changed…rapidly.

Mixing CBD And Alcohol: What Happens?

It seems pretty obvious to brew with Cannabis then. Right?

Not so fast.

There are still A LOT of legal issues fogging up this topic that will—depending upon where you live and brew—determine if you can even do this legally. We’re not going to belabor this point, but before you start throwing CBD in with your brews, be sure you understand the laws in your state and region very, very well.

Since CBD is so closely related to hops, it would appear to be a rather natural additive to the brewing process. Flavor-wise, it can add a bit of earthiness to a brew and seems an obvious complement to the IPA style. But there’s not a lot known yet about what happens when mixing CBD with alcohol.

Plenty of people have learned the hard way what happens when combining alcohol with CBD’s partying cousin… a result that’s not often fun.

And yet, there appears to be some very promising research that shows CBD works to protect against some of alcohol’s negative side effects. This may include:

  • Prevention of cell damage and disease: CBD may protect against alcohol-related cell damage such as inflammation, pancreatitis, liver disease, and possibly certain types of cancer. More research is definitely needed.
  • Reduce blood alcohol concentration levels: More research is needed, but there may be a correlation between CBD reducing BAC.
  • Act as a therapy for alcohol addiction: This may seem contradictory, but no brewer wants to encourage alcohol abuse. CBD may help to reduce addictive behaviors like smoking and abusive alcohol consumption.
  • Reduce anxiety: CBD can improve your sleep quality while reducing anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant and can also do the same. The combination of these two chemicals together may amplify these effects. Once again, more research is needed.

There are a variety of other diseases and ailments that CBD has shown mostly positive results, including epilepsy, heart and circulatory health through reducing blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, and may even help to prevent Alzheimer’s neurodegeneration.

So, while CBD is largely considered safe, it’s important for brewers to be aware of any potential side effects. However, one could also argue that if a person is taking medication in which CBD might interfere, it’s likely they shouldn’t be drinking alcohol either.

Brewing CBD Beer

Hops add flavor, bitterness, increase the ABV, and assist in preserving beer for longer periods of time.We already know that hops won’t get anyone high—but brewing with hops is mandatory. Hops add flavor, bitterness, increase the ABV, and assist in preserving beer for longer periods of time. Logically, shouldn’t Cannabis do the same?

We mentioned earlier that there are around 483 identified chemicals (cannabinoids) found in Cannabis. Humulus lupulus (hops), a close relative of Cannabis and member of the Cannabaceae family, produce many similar cannabinoids.

In fact, Terpenes are a class of cannabinoids that give both hops and cannabis their strikingly similar aromatics and taste. Because of these similar terpene chemical structures, certain cannabis strains both smell and taste nearly identical to a flavorful, hoppy bitter IPA.

Among the shared terpenes are myrcene, pinene, and humulene. While myrcene is found in abundance in both hops and Cannabis, it’s humulene, that provides the “hoppy” taste in beer.

Currently, there are already a variety of CBD beers on the market, but as expected, the only way to try these beers is to already live in a region where CBD has been legal long enough for brewers to have figured out the beer. Otherwise, you’re going to have to hit the road and travel to where CBD beer is sold.

You can find and read tasting notes on what other brewers have discovered thus far, but we’re willing to bet that, as a brewer, you want to experiment for yourself.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even though CBD is mostly legal, both the DEA and state governments have different opinions. CBD may be legal in your state, but federal DEA agents may not agree—the result of which can be financially devastating to a business or bring potential legal charges.

On a positive note, government policies are changing regarding the laws and regulations surrounding Cannabis. But until the Cannabis prohibition is repealed, brewing with CBD can be a bit risky.

So, what’s it like brewing with CBD?

Once again, that depends upon where you brew your beer. But you can definitely count on the fact that before you start brewing for public consumption, brewers are required to submit ALL beer formulas to the TTB for approval. You may also be required to submit your CBD beer recipe to the FDA as well. After getting through the federal level, there are still state laws and possibly local ordinances to consider.

It’s a lot of red tape. But for many, it’s worth it for many reasons. It’s a pretty fantastic complement to beer—especially hop-forward beers like pale ales and IPAs.


Is CBD Beer Just A Fad Or Here To Stay?

One may wonder if this is all just a fad. For a long time, craft beer had a reputation of being snobby. But with the seemingly endless new “craft beer flavor innovations” that have been appearing like flashes in a pan, craft beer has been in kind of a weird place.

Craft brewers aren’t the only brewers interested in brewing CBD beer. Major brands like Molson Coors are exploring this new frontier of brewing, while Constellation Brands (from the creator of Corona) was the very first to establish themselves in the THC beer sector.

There is definitely a drive with craft brewers to innovate and do something different, but this isn’t always a good thing. It’s important to never forget one of the golden rules of brewing: brew good beer.

Even with the range of gimmicky and fad beer styles out there right now, and the public’s general opinion on Cannabis, major beer and alcohol brands are already investigating and investing in the Cannabis industry, so it’s likely something worth betting on.

It also tastes good. CBD is related to hops on a genetic level. Of course, they work well together!

So, should you brew CBD beer? If you’re looking to stay ahead of the curve and invest in what is likely to become a booming industry, well… we won’t make any promises. But it’s definitely worth taking a good, long look into. Especially if your state and local laws allow for it.

As always, do your research, know the laws and get brewing your own CBD beer!

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