Cannabis, Hops, & Weird Beers

Cannabis, hops, and weird beers may seem like a strange topic to dive into. But, it is actually pretty on brand for me and I promise that this gets really interesting.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend. Somehow, that spontaneous conversation led me down a rabbit hole that made me ask “can you make beer from cannabis?”

I personally don’t partake in cannabis, but I am definitely an aspiring amateur herbalist.

(A quick note before moving forward. You will notice that I opt to use the word “cannabis” as opposed to “marijuana.” This is intentional. I have recently learned that marijuana is a word with strong racist and xenophobic roots; primarily targeting black and hispanic groups. Marijuana’ has come to be associated with the idea that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive intoxicant, not a holistic, herbal medicine.)

Plus, plants are weird. So here is a quick dive into the making of beer, some fun info about hops and cannabis beer, and a smattering of other weird beer ingredients.

How Is Beer Made explains that beer production is a multi-step process. “Beer production involves malting, milling, mashing, extract separation, hop addition and boiling, removal of hops and precipitates, cooling and aeration, fermentation, separation of yeast from young beer, aging, maturing, and packaging. The object of the entire process is to convert grain starches to sugar, extract the sugar with water, and then ferment it with yeast to produce the alcoholic, lightly carbonated beverage.”

Beer is an ancient beverage, dating back to before 6000 BCE! With the Industrial Revolution the production process improved and helped to create the drink that we are most familiar with today.

Hopped Up On Hops

Do all beers contain hops, since there are variations in the ingredients that can be used?

Allagash Brewing Company, on their blog, confirms that every beer made includes hops. Without hops, it is no longer beer, although the beverage is similar.

Hops are a unique plant with surprising connections. Hint: cannabis is part of the family. Hops also have wonderful health properties.

In the great debate about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding you may have heard someone say to “drink beer to help your milk supply.” Although it sounds like a witchy old wives tale, there is actually some truth to this.

Hops is a purported galactagogue (which can help milk production). There are also some animal studies that suggest that hops can increase the levels of prolactin (our milk making hormone). (LactMed) We still need more evidence on these claims, but it’s a good excuse to treat yourself to a beer.

What Are Hops?

“Hops are the flowers, or cones, of a plant called Humulus lupulus. Hops help to keep beer fresher, longer; help beer retain its head of foam—a key component of a beer’s aroma and flavor; and, of course, add “hoppy” aroma, flavor, and bitterness.” (Allagash Brewing Company)

“Hops belong to the Cannabinaceae family, which also happens to include Cannabis (hemp and marijuana). Hops are hardy plants and are grown the world over. Here in America, the largest hop producers can be found in the Pacific Northwest throughout Washington’s Yakima Valley.” (Allagash Brewing Company) lists the following atttributes of hops:

Using the dried, flower part of the plant, hops can be used to treat anxiety, inability to sleep (insomnia) and other sleep disorders. It can help with restlessness, tension, excitability, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used to improve appetite, increase urine flow, start the flow of breast milk, as a bitter tonic, and for indigestion. Other possible uses include some forms of cancer, high cholesterol, intestinal cramps, and nerve pain. (disclaimer: the benefits of hops on these illnesses still needs more study and evidence.)

Now, hops in beer may not be in the form to meet the above criteria, but talk about an incredible plant!

Cannabis Beer

To answer the overarching question, yes, you can make beer with cannabis. Knowing what we have learned about hops, this is actually not that surprising, since hops is a member of the same plant family. It would make sense that there are similarities in uses and properties.

At this time, there is not a consistent market for Cannabis beer in the United States, due its complicated legal use. (Although the product does exist in parts of Europe.) In an article by Forbes, “Is Cannabis Beer the Next Big Trend in the US?”, they talk about a company, AB InBev that is experimenting with cannabis infused beers, primarily in Canada. If legalization of cannabis occurs on a larger scale in the near future, we may see these beers on our market shelves.

Of course, everyone is wondering at this point, can cannabis beer get you high?

Paradise Seeds states that “The ingredients for commercially available brands tend to come from the hemp plant, which has limited THC and CBD levels, so the ‘cannabis’ in the brew influences little more than the consumer’s taste.” 

Cannabrew, an UK based brewing company, elaborates on this. They confirm that beer infused with CBD will not get you high because of how it has been processed. In their beer specifically, there is 0% THC. So, while you won’t get stoned, you will still have a nice relaxing effect.

Just When You Thought Beer Couldn’t Get Weirder

I wasn’t sure what I would find when I went down this rabbit hole, but I was not disappointed by the results. Here are a few of the stranger beer ingredients that I came across. Are any of you brave enough to try these? I am definitely left with some questions.

Meteorite Beer: The Celeste Jewel Beer by Dogfish Head is made with crushed lunar meteorites.

Oysters: Oyster Stout by the Porterhouse Brewing Co.

Money: The Big Ass Money Stout by Evil Twin uses real Norwegian Banknotes

Waste Water: Full Circle IPA by Stone Brewing uses treated recycled waste water.

Beard: Beard Beer by Rouge Ales is made with yeast from the creator’s beard that gives it a pineapple flavor.

Sheep Dung and Whale Testicle: An Icelandic beer that uses, well, sheep dung and whale testicle.

At this point I have to stop. The results are more bizarre than I could have imagined. Cannabis beer definitely seems like the most normal thing after this internet deep dive.

What are your thoughts?

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