Is the future marijuana, cannabis and hemp beer?

Marijuana, cannabis and hemp ‘beers’ are seemingly on the increase, but in many cases they’re not even beers.  Whilst they start life as traditional beers, the alcohol is replaced by an extract at the end of the brewing process.  The psychophysiological effects, however, are alleged to be the same, whether the drinker is used to drinking beer or using marijuana / cannabis.

Marijuana and cannabis are essentially the same thing differentiated only be name, yet hemp, as we know, is a more fibrous plant used in the manufacture of rope, textiles and paper.  Scientifically they all belong to the same family — Cannabis Sativa — so for the sake of clarity, therefore, I shall simply refer to them all as cannabis.

The reasons behind this idea are twofold.  Firstly, cannabis users are abandoning beer due to the cost, after-effects and unsubstantiated health claims associated with alcohol, so offering an alternative beverage in a beer-style may potentially lure them to back to beers.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, a headline-grabbing sensation is always good for business.

Then there are the brewers legitimately using cannabis compounds to create the next generation of craft beers.  And why not.  Without the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive element that provides the ‘high’ — cannabis is, essentially, just another natural ingredient with which beer can be infused.  Many brewers across the world are tapping into cannabis as a new source of taste and aroma, albeit many people are already familiar with it from other types of recreational activity.

Let’s be clear: nobody is going to get ‘high’ from these drinks, whether it’s a ‘beer’ with the alcohol replaced by a cannabis-extract, or the THC-free cannabis-infused beer.  Everything is, of course, legal and subject to local, regional or nation regulations.

There are likely to be many arguments for and against ‘cannabis beer’, from both within and outside the world of beer, yet it is clear there is a close, yet distant relationship between hops and cannabis because the chemical and aroma profiles of both are extremely similar.

I have recently encountered three cannabis beers in as many weeks — the most recent being Weesh from Agricola 80 — and as a fan of beer I find the taste, aroma and flavour to be a little strange, not something easily categorised.  There is nothing wrong with these beers, for certain, but to the uninitiated they may take a little getting used to.