After pushing pale ales to the edge of bearable bitterness, brewers are starting to get hopped up on the new hot thing in the world of beer: cannabis. Craft breweries around the country are experimenting with drinks that look and taste like beer but use tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD), not alcohol, as their intoxicating ingredient.
In January, Flying Dog Brewery and Green Leaf Medical Cannabis, both of Frederick, Maryland, announced plans to release a joint beer called Hop Chronic. To avoid tangling with federal regulators, Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso in February told Reason's Eric Boehm that the brewing and cannabis-infusion processes will be kept separate. He also spoke about the government shutdown's deleterious effect on seasonal beer releases and how excessive regulation of alcohol labels hurts one of America's most robust domestic industries.
Q: Where did the idea for Hop Chronic beer come from?
A: The idea came from getting to know our new neighbors, Green Leaf Medical, a cannabis grower within walking distance of the brewery. We learned from Phil Goldberg, the CEO and founder, and the other people over there about how it's processed and the various routes of delivery for people who want to experience the therapeutic benefits. They began operations after Maryland legalized medical marijuana [in 2017]. Everything is fairly new in this state--it's just been a couple years.
We liked the guys; they liked us. They've been over to the tasting room to try some of our beers and, of course, the conversation led to whether we could make a nonalcoholic beer that they could infuse with marijuana.
Q: How do you make a beer that's nonalcoholic and that mixes well with weed?
A: It's interesting, because we have never brewed, for commercial purposes, a nonalcoholic beer before. But that market seems to be increasing, and cannabis and hops are literally related in terms of their DNA, so we're very confident we can come up with an IPA that blends well with the flavor of cannabis.
Q: Is marijuana part of the brewing process or something that's added after the beer is finished?
A: Because of the law, it is strictly prohibited for us to have cannabis here at the brewery. We do not have that license. I wouldn't say that we literally take it next door, but sort of. We will be brewing the nonalcoholic beer, and then it goes to Green Leaf Medical...