Craft beer is booming, but that’s nothing new. Competition is fierce and many new brewers just can’t seem to break into the market. The beer can be great but that no longer seems to be enough. Many craft brewers today religiously follow the German Purity Law of beer-making which allows for the use of only water, barley, hops, and yeast in beer production. As the craft beer industry booms, however, infusing beer with alternative ingredients is becoming more common, as breweries attempt to stand out. One of the most ground-breaking beer infusions was announced recently, helmed by Keith Villa, founder of Blue Moon Brewing.
In recent months several cannabis-inspired beers have entered the market. Amidst strict regulations, these typically don’t include THC, one of the cannabis compounds that makes users feel euphoric. The close relationship between hemp and hops has given birth to several beers utilizing the two, like New Belgium’s recent Hemperor IPA and SuperCritical by Lagunitas. These THC-free beers are brewed with hemp hearts and cannabis terpenes, and only affect the beer’s flavour profile.
The cannabis beer scene, however, is about to change with beer that does, in fact, contain THC. Keith Villa, the man behind the world-renowned Blue Moon beer, recently announced his retirement after a long 32 years with MolsonCoors. During his announcement, he provided hints concerning a few new, exciting projects. The first is now coming to life. Colorado-based CERIA Beverages will see Villa taking on the role of brewmaster while his wife, Jodi, acts as CEO. CERIA will be brewing cannabis-infused beers, very different to the ones that have entered the market so far. Their expressions will be infused with THC concoctions.
‘I’m ready to introduce another high-impact brand to the industry again, this time with a new line of custom cannabis-infused craft beers,’ Villa states on CERIA. ‘Today, the opportunity and the demand are here, inviting Americans to enjoy a more social way of consuming cannabis – by drinking rather than by smoking it or through ingestion of edibles.’
Working closely with ebbu, a leading cannabinoid research company, CERIA’s beers will be created using cannabis formulations. These include TCH and other cannabinoids, which induce the known euphoric sensations brought on by cannabis use. Expected to launch in late 2018, the products will be offered in three strengths, light, regular, and full-bodied. In terms of flavour, the beer will be brewed to be a ‘top-quality craft beer’. Before the cannabis is added, the alcohol will be removed. After all, mixing TCH and alcohol together doesn’t sound like the best idea.
The innovative project by CERIA is just one of many seeking to create unique expressions by infusing unusual ingredients into beer. Strange Days Brewing in Kansas was recently under the spotlight, with their culinary infused brews. Expressions are brewed with rice, ginger, coffee, or honey, all to provide drinkers with new and exciting experiences. Across the pond, Swedish brewing company, Omnipollo, enjoys a huge, fanatic fan base which lines-up for hours to taste the team’s latest brew. Their unique approach to brewing, with limited releases encompassing a large variety of ingredients, has quickly made them one of the most popular small brewers in Europe. Caramel sauce, chocolate, ice-cream, peanut butter. Their beers often sound like options from a dessert menu. Mad Science Brewing in Maryland takes a more natural approach, offering infused versions of their beers using fresh fruit, vegetables, and hops from the brewery farm.
The art of infusing is also being taken directly to drinkers. World-renowned Scottish brewing company, BrewDog, previously introduced the Hopinator to BrewDog bars across the world. Fruits, spices, and other ingredients are added into the long, clear container before it’s filled with beer and left to marinate with the ingredients. The bar teams mix up the infusions weekly and while some aren’t the best, others are spectacular. Along with the Randal 3.0 by DogFish Head Brewing, these projects are pushing the innovation of infused beer to the public, allowing drinkers to experience the huge array of flavours that can be achieved.
Keith Villa was responsible for making Blue Moon one the best-selling beers in US history. Will CERIA beer reach the same success? If so, infused beer may grow alongside it and, perhaps, become a much larger part of the global craft beer scene. Purists argue that the traditions of beer-making are being lost through the use of too many additives and ingredients. Others counter, stating that the final flavour is the most important part.
One thing’s for sure – infused beer is growing.