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How Brewing with Cannabis Can Improve Your Beer

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

By: Buz Deliere | The Chronic Magazine


Cannabis and hops are more similar than you might think


The connections between hops and weed go far beyond the physical. Studies done in 2012 show they're genetically related and from the same Cannabaceae family, but more than this, experts have uncovered a shared key ingredient- terpenes -responsible for their similar aromas and flavors. This exciting discovery is giving us new insight into how these two plants may be related in even deeper ways.


From the sugar-sweet floral scent of roses to the distinctive pine aroma of Christmas trees, plants owe their signature smells and tastes to a class of organic compounds known as terpenes. Found predominantly in conifers but also present in many other types of flowers and trees alike, these remarkable molecules provide an amazing array of scents for humans—and even chemical benefits for plants!


Scientists have uncovered the complex genetic makeup of cannabis, uncovering nearly 30 unique terpenes that contribute to its varied aromas — from citrusy and skunky notes to earthy undertones. Limonene, myrcene, and pinene were some of the fragrant molecules identified in this exciting research.

Craft brewery fans know that hoppy double IPAs come with an array of flavorful notes, including the familiar citrusy or skunky aromas. Little do they realize these brews have something in common with marijuana - terpenes like myrcene, beta-pinene, and alpha-humulene are found in both.



A range of hop varieties are known for their flavorful distinction, including Summit, Eureka 007 and Nelson Sauvin. These hops bring a unique combination of pungent green onion aromas and chive-like flavors to the brewing process; with each harvest having slight variations in aroma profile.


Hops and marijuana may seem like two distinct plants, but their close connection lies in terpenes. These compounds create not only shared flavor & aroma notes between the two species of plant, but they also play a major role in determining key differences - hops' alpha acids give beer its bitterness while THC gives cannabis its psychoactive properties.


Why brew beer with cannabis and hops


In the current wave of cannabis legalization and decriminalization in many parts of North America, more people are interested than ever to explore new boundaries with unconventional brewing ingredients. Beer-infused cannabis has become a popular creative outlet for brewers looking for something different.


For the adventurous brewer looking to craft a unique beer, pairing cannabis with hops creates an unbeatable combination. A New England-style Double IPA offers just the right amount of body and aroma to bring out all the flavors in marijuana. Whether you're experimenting or perfecting your technique using dry-hopping processes, this style won't disappoint.


When it comes to crafting the perfect double IPA, cannabis brewers have a secret weapon: high alcohol content. By sticking with higher ABV recipes, homebrew enthusiasts can maximize their THC extraction efforts - resulting in an intensely flavorful and aromatic craft beer. With its unique properties allowing for up to 15 times more efficient than hops alone from homebrew stores, this legal dispensary ingredient is sure to make your next Double IPA one of your very favorites.



What strains are good for brewing cannabis beer


With both hops and cannabis in the game, brewers are able to create unique flavor profiles that bring floral, citrusy, piney or even fruity aromatics. While dry hopping with cannabis may lend an extra grassiness compared to traditional hops varieties – so choose hops that will compliment the cannabis.


If you're looking to enhance your beer drinking experience, cannabis strains with a cheerful and uplifting effect are the way to go, whether it's an Indica or Sativa strain is up to you. Some of my favorite strains to use are Lemon Haze, Sour Diesel, Northern Lights, and Gorilla Glue. Don't Forget to decarboxylate your cannabis also when making cannabis-infused beer at home.


Homebrewers have endless opportunities to explore and experiment with hops to make unique beer flavors. From citrusy notes or earthier tones, you name it- the possibilities are truly limitless!



The Hops


Craft beer connoisseurs looking to step up their brewing game can look no further than the array of hops that pair perfectly with marijuana flavors. To ensure a balanced and smooth final taste, avoid catty, dank or grassy hop options such as Simcoe, CTZ, Crystal, and Fuggle - instead opting for fruity melon types like Citra which do well when dry hopping. Throw in some Lemondrop, Motueka, Ekuanot, and Amarillo Hop varieties too and you have yourself an award-winning brew!


Achieving the perfect beer-buzz balance has never been easier thanks to new cannabis brewing innovations. With 1:1 ratios of up to 28 grams of cannabis blended with 28 grams of hops per 5-gallon batch, you can now enjoy a few beers without reaching for a snack immediately! For even more intense THC levels, brewers are adding tinctures as an additional enhancer.


Amplify the flavors in your home brew with a unique mix of hops and cannabis. Use two separate dry-hop days to mellow grassy/weed notes while getting an ideal extraction from the plant. On day one, just use hops; on day two, blend 1:1 cannabis and additional hops—letting them sit together for four days prior to packaging. With this technique, you'll get that perfect balance between classic hoppy goodness and nuanced herbal tones.


Proper Storage of your home brewed cannabis beer


When it comes to packaging NEIPA or cannabis beer, brewers needn't worry as much about oxidation and loss of flavors as they do with other styles. Potent hop-cannabis aromas are known to stay vibrant even when the bottles have been held onto for long periods (up to a year). For optimal results, good packaging practices should be applied throughout the process - this will keep oxygen exposure at bay which is essential for maintaining freshness in your brews.


Despite marijuana's federal status as an illegal substance, the intersection between cannabis and beer has piqued curiosity among brewers to explore the untapped potential in extraction techniques. Unfortunately, commercial brewing of any product containing both alcohol and THC remains strictly forbidden within the United States.


Homebrewing with cannabis is a newly explored territory, and brewers around the world are venturing into uncharted waters. Although existing techniques produce successful results, homebrewers need to continuously innovate in order to refine their craft over time. Without question, new ways of brewing will continue to appear throughout the next decade as we learn more about brewing with cannabis.





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