JUNE 16, 2023

Crafting Cannabis-Inspired Beers: The Art and Science Behind the Brew

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The craft beer industry has seen an explosion of creativity and innovation, pushing the boundaries of traditional brewing techniques. One fascinating trend that has emerged is the incorporation of cannabis flavors and aromas into beer production. This intriguing fusion brings together the worlds of cannabis and brewing, resulting in unique and exciting concoctions that tantalize the taste buds and ignite the imagination. In this blog post, we delve into the art and science behind crafting cannabis-inspired beers, exploring the techniques, ingredients, and challenges that brewers encounter on this journey of experimentation. 

A Flavorsome Collaboration


The convergence of cannabis and beer may seem like a recent trend, but the history of cannabis-infused beverages dates back thousands of years. Hops’ similarities to cannabis are no coincidence–the plants are members of the same genus (Cannabaceae) and have strikingly similar molecular structures. Hops contribute bitterness, aroma, and stability to beer, while cannabis provides a range of aromatic compounds. The marriage of cannabis and beer offers a canvas for brewers to explore an array of flavors and aromas. To achieve this, brewers employ various techniques and ingredients that infuse their beers with cannabis-inspired elements.

Hemp Seeds 

One of the most popular ingredients used is hemp seeds, which impart nutty and earthy flavors to the brew. While hemp seeds do not contain significant levels of cannabinoids like THC or CBD, they offer a range of benefits that brewers can harness. Firstly, they are highly nutritious, rich in essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. By incorporating hemp seeds into the brewing process, brewers can enhance the nutritional content of their beer.  

Hemp seeds also impact the texture and mouthfeel of cannabis beer. They lend a slight smoothness and creaminess to the brew, providing a desirable mouthfeel that complements the other ingredients in the beer. Furthermore, hemp seeds are naturally gluten-free, which make them an excellent option for brewers aiming to create gluten-free or gluten-reduced beers. Brewers are thus able to provide an alternative to traditional malted grains and cater to individuals with gluten sensitivities or dietary restrictions. 

Brewers have the flexibility to utilize hemp seeds in different ways during the brewing process. The seeds can either be added directly to the mash, included in the boiling process, or used as a dry ingredient during fermentation. The specific technique chosen will depend on the brewer's desired outcome and the flavors they aim to achieve.


Another approach involves incorporating terpenes. Terpenes are organic compounds found in various plants, including cannabis, hops, citrus fruits, and pine trees. They contribute to the distinct smells and flavors associated with different strains of cannabis and other botanicals. Brewers carefully select specific terpenes to complement the existing flavors of malt, hops, and yeast, resulting in a harmonious fusion of taste sensations. Various techniques are used to introduce terpenes into cannabis beer, allowing for precise control over the final flavor and aroma profiles. The two most common methods include the following:  

Terpene Extracts: Terpenes are extracted from cannabis plants or other natural sources and added directly to the beer during fermentation, or as a post-fermentation addition. This approach offers flexibility in dosage and allows brewers to fine-tune the sensory experience. 

Hop Blending: Brewers select specific hop varieties that naturally contain terpenes with flavors and aromas that complement cannabis profiles. By skillfully blending hops, they can create complex and multidimensional terpene profiles in the beer. 

Brewing Cannabis Beer 

Creating cannabis beer involves a careful blending of brewing techniques and cannabis infusion methods. The specific process may vary depending on legal regulations, desired flavors, and the brewer's preference. Here is a general overview of how cannabis beer is made: 

  1. Selection of Cannabis Strains: Brewers choose cannabis strains based on their desired flavor profiles and terpene compositions. 

  2. Decarboxylation: The cannabis flower or concentrate is typically decarboxylated before use in brewing. This process involves applying gentle heat to activate the cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, making them bioavailable and ensuring the beer's desired effects. 

  3. Cannabis Extraction: To infuse the cannabis flavors into the beer, brewers can employ various extraction methods. One common technique involves creating a cannabis tincture or extract by steeping decarboxylated cannabis in a high-proof alcohol, such as vodka or grain alcohol. This extraction process captures the flavors and cannabinoids of the cannabis for later addition to the beer. 

  4. Wort Production: The brewing process begins by creating the wort, the liquid extracted from malted grains through mashing and boiling. This liquid serves as the foundation for the beer's flavor and alcohol content. 

  5. Hop Addition: Hops, known for their bittering and aromatic properties, are added during the boiling process to balance the sweetness of the malt and add complexity to the beer's flavor profile. Brewers may select hop varieties that complement the desired cannabis flavors. 

  6. Fermentation: After boiling, the wort is cooled and transferred to a fermentation vessel. Yeast is added to ferment the sugars into alcohol and produces carbon dioxide, resulting in the creation of beer. During this stage, cannabis tincture or extract can be added to infuse the desired flavors and aromas. 

  7. Aging and Conditioning: Once fermentation is complete, the beer is typically aged to allow flavors to meld and mellow. This process enhances the overall taste and character of the cannabis beer. 

  8. Packaging: The final step involves packaging the cannabis beer, whether it's in bottles, cans, or kegs. Proper labeling is essential to comply with legal requirements and ensure consumers are aware of the product's content.  

Navigating Legal and Regulatory Frameworks 

The legality of CBD beer can be somewhat complicated. In the United States, due to federal and state regulations, CBD and other cannabis derivatives are not permitted to be mixed in with alcoholic beverages. Thus, until it can be claimed and proved that CBD or THC-infused alcoholic beverages are safe, this combination will remain illegal. However, there is a loophole. Non-alcoholic beers may be exempt from this regulation – which is leading to many brewers experimenting with cannabinoids such as CBD and THC in their non-alcoholic or low-alcohol beers. 

It is vital for brewers venturing into this realm to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. They must navigate licensing requirements, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content restrictions, and labeling guidelines to ensure transparency and consumer safety. The evolving legal landscape surrounding cannabis adds an additional layer of complexity for brewers seeking to explore this realm. 

The Bottom Line 

Crafting cannabis-inspired beers is a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of brewers. It is an art form that combines the precision of brewing science with the desire to explore new flavors and push boundaries. Through the careful incorporation of ingredients like hemp seeds and terpenes, brewers can create beers that captivate the senses and provide a distinct and memorable drinking experience. 

However, the journey of experimentation is not without its challenges. Brewers must navigate legal and regulatory frameworks, control THC levels, and strike a harmonious balance. By embracing these challenges and opportunities, brewers can continue to innovate, push boundaries, and create cannabis-inspired beers that leave a lasting impression on the craft beer landscape.

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