Beer & Wine

Cannabis Beer Brewed by Homebrewers in Colorado and Washington

With passage of Amendment 64, which legalizes cannabis for recreational use in Colorado comes the possibility of a new market for cannabis beer.

Washington state legalized recreational cannabis too. Even though cannabis beer has been made by home brewers for years, commercial breweries probably won't be following suit, considering that cannabis is illegal federally and in most states.

Last month a Tacoma, Washington dispensary was busted for selling bottles of "cannabis enriched honey beer" to minors and apparently without a liquor license.

Despite the legality and commercial viability of a cannabis beer, two questions remain: how can you brew beer with cannabis and will it get you high?

Cannabis and hops are related, sort of. The family Cannabaceae includes both hops and weed, although they are grouped separately. "Hops are meant as a flavoring bitter agent and the marijuana buds, I have been told by people, that it won't work for some reason," home brewer Sean Nook told the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive chemical in cannabis and is not water soluble, but it is alcohol soluble. How cannabis would work as an effective beer ingredient or how it would be included in the brewing process is a darn good question. Beer does not contain alcohol during the initial stages of brewing.

"The two biggest challenges are off flavors and contamination," says Miami home brewer Matt Weintraub. "If the marijuana is added during the initial wort boil, its water-soluable tars and chlorophyll will be extracted, giving the beer a plant-like flavor. Added after the boil, it can introduce bacteria and sour the beer."

The Internet is filled with discussions and recipes for brewing with cannabis. Here is an excerpt on cannabis beer from the "Ask Ed" column from the February 1991 issue of High Times:

"MJ can be added to the beer at the same time hops are added. THC is oil/alcohol soluble and some of it in the brew will dissolve as it ferments. Before being used for brew, the MJ should be thoroughly dried until it is crispy. This activates all of the THC by removing water molecules from the THC molecules. Next the MJ should be gently washed by soaking it in cold water for several hours. This removes some of the water soluble tars and chlorophyll associated with the 'grassy" taste of MJ injestibles. One easy way to handle the MJ is by using a giant nylon net 'tea bag'. These are often sold in brewing stores. It is hard to say how much MJ goes in the brew since different people are sensitive to different amounts, and the quality of the MJ varies greatly. Years ago, the Unknown Brewer used to add one ounce shade leaves per gallon of brew. This comes to about 1/10 ounce per bottle. Of course, less high quality grass would be needed."
If weed beer doesn't sound hardcore enough for you, then there is always "Potka", or cannabis vodka, and weed mixed with Everclear.

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky