All of a sudden, CBD-infused beer is everywhere. Coalition Brewing, in Oregon, makes Two Flowers IPA, with 5mg of CBD in it. And Lagunitas just came out with Hi-Fi Hops, their first CBD-infused offering (We tried it!). There are plenty more where that came from.
What is it, exactly? Is it actual alcoholic beer with cannabidiol in it? Does the alcohol play a role in the CBD extraction? Or do brewers remove the alcohol first and add CBD in later? It can be all of the above, really. Brewers—or their counterparts in the cannabis industry—can take whatever approach they want. It is very easy to suspend cannabinoids in alcohol, which is essentially what tinctures are, so making CBD-infused beer is no big deal.
But is it legal? While CBD from hemp is being sold nationwide, thanks to a little bit of a legal gray area, it’s not always okay to mix it with booze. Lagunitas, a big brewery that knows regulations, likely chose to make their beer alcohol-free for a reason. Either way, there’s clearly interest in CBD-infused beer, and even other traditionally alcoholic beverages.
How is CBD-Infused Beer Made?
There are a variety of methods for making beer with CBD in it. One is fairly simple: add it in after you’ve made beer. In the case of Lagunitas’ Hi-Fi Hops, this appears to be what they’re doing. First they brew up hoppy sparkling water—near beer, essentially—then they have their partner, Absolute Xtracts, a licensed cannabis company in California, add in THC and CBD.
In this recipe, from Clawhammer Supply, powdered, hemp-derived CBD goes in the wort after the boil, so it’s in there the whole time. And their beer, the “Blueberry Kush” lager, definitely contains alcohol. It is also possible to extract cannabinoids with alcohol, which is what you know as tincture. However, this is usually done with neutral grain spirits, and the tincture probably only ends up in beer as an additive. Long story short, the main way CBD beer is made is by making beer and adding in CBD. Whether that beer has alcohol in it or just cannabinoids depends a lot on where the cannabinoids come from. More on that below, but first, let’s talk about who wants the stuff.
Who’s Drinking It?
Again, this depends on what’s in it. In the case of CBD beers with no alcohol, the target demographic is pretty obvious: people who don’t drink. Many of the THC and CBD-infused drinks available on the legal cannabis market cater to this group. For people who don’t drink alcohol but do consume cannabis—a growing demographic—these beverages are their ticket back into the booze-based social scene.
But for consumers of Two Flowers IPA, and other full-alcohol CBD beers, it’s a bit more of a curiosity. These people clearly enjoy alcohol, and are looking to try something different. They also Combining the effects of alcohol with CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, is also pretty safe. While it might chill you out pretty hard, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We’ve tried it and are fans!
Is it Legal?
Kind of! Hemp is legal now, thanks to the Farm Bill, which means that hemp-derived CBD is too. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) previously said they would not approve any alcohol additives that were Schedule I controlled substances, which CBD is. Legalizing hemp helps with that problem, but the DEA still lists CBD as a Schedule I drug. The FDA has also said it requires approval before any drug can be added to a food or health product. However, they’ve also said they’re open to approving hemp-derived CBD products. So, it’s a little more legal, we guess? The main thing is that the DEA and FDA rarely enforce their rules, and when they do it’s more to make an example than stem the tide. Which is why hemp-derived CBD products are everywhere nowadays!
On the other side of that coin, it is still very illegal to add cannabinoids derived from actual cannabis plants to an alcohol product. Even at the state level, in places where cannabis is legal, growers and brewers are not allowed to mix their craft. This is why Lagunitas made an alcohol-removed, hop-flavored soda water before infusing it with THC and CBD, and why other companies are doing the same in Canada.
Some States Are Still Down
It is very possible to mix the two, but so far, few governments in legal states are very excited about the idea of “cross-faded” consumers. In California, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill specifically prohibiting bars and liquor stores from selling CBD cocktails and beverages. And cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages of any sort are not allowed in Washington State. To be fair, no one has tested that ban with purely hemp-derived CBD yet.
And beer with hemp-derived CBD in it is definitely happening, thanks to the last Farm Bill. That bill legalized hemp production, though CBD is still technically a controlled substance. Regardless, Dad and Dude’s brewery in Colorado, the first and only brewery to get approval from the TTB for a CBD-infused beer, promptly began brewing George Washington’s Secret Stash IPA again. The beer contains 4.2 mg of CBD. Oregon also very clearly allows the combination, as Coalition’s beers are still going strong.
If you can get your hands on some, why not give it a try? While the FDA hasn’t substantiated them yet, CBD has lots of benefits. One of them is that it reportedly reduces hangovers, which kind of makes it perfect for beer!