The legalization of marijuana throughout many states in the U.S has led to an infiltration of CBD infused products across many different industries.
One of the latest to take this on is the brewery industry, with many attempting to create a CBD beer that highlights its rich taste properties.
At this point in time, few companies have managed to get their recipes approved due to the strict regulations currently in place.
The first thing breweries need to consider is that infusing food and drink with CBD is subject to state law, and being in a state where recreational marijuana use is permitted doesn’t guarantee that their plans to sell CBD beer will not be halted.
Although some companies have tried to combine beer with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, this is illegal is all 50 states as it contains a psychoactive ingredient.
With CBD, the rules are different, however.
For brewers to be allowed to experiment with CBD, they will have to operate from a state where the compound is legal.
Even then, they have to jump through a number of hoops to get their recipes approved. If their recipes are approved, it’s likely breweries will be restricted to serving the drink on tap, and even if they can bottle it, it won’t be able to cross state lines.
Tom Hogue, the congressional liaison for the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), tried to simplify the complex regulations.
He explained, “There are three layers—at least two, but potentially three. [These are…] federal law, state law, and you may have local ordinances.”
Brewers are required to submit all beer formulas to the TTB for approval, but if there’s a question of safety—like in the case of CBD—it has to be vetted by the Food and Drug Administration.
In the case of CBD beers, the TTB also has to reconcile these formulas with the Drug Enforcement Administrations because cannabis is still considered a controlled substance.
If the beer meets the standards of all three bodies, however, the brewery will finally be allowed to sell the drinks in the states where they have been made.
With so much hassle in the approval process that could be better spent on creating several non-CBD infused beers, it’s easy to wonder why breweries even bother—especially when so many are rejected.
One company that is seeing the best results, and can be considered a frontrunner in the CBD-infused beer industry, is Coalition Brewing in Portland, Oregon.
They produced their first CBD-infused beer, Two Flowers IPA, in late 2016, and have since created a lemon-basil sour, which make up their two regular rotation beers. In addition to this, they also have a few CBD-infused seasonal options to choose from.
A lot of other breweries hoping to follow Coalition’s success have failed, however, something which many say is down to the lack of education between CBD and THC. At this moment in time, the two compounds have been grouped together, despite the fact that they are completely opposite.
Educating consumers and politicians about how CBD and THC differ and about the actual effects of CBD beer will be crucial if the CBD beer market is going to flourish in years to come.
While some people are taking CBD seriously, and considering it the next innovative step breweries will take, others view it as a novelty that will disappear in a few years, which could be yet another boundary towards its success.
Thomas Shellhammer, a food science and technology professor at Oregon State University is just one of those people who believe novelty craft beer has become a category unto itself.
It’s true that there are definitely an excessive amount of beer hybrids on the market, used to raise awareness of breweries on social media and challenge their limits, but others would argue that CBD isn’t a passing trend.
With more breweries trying to have their CBD infused beers approved every year, and big investments from big names like Heineken-owned Lagunitas and Wiz Khalifa, it seems like the brewery industry’s investment in CBD beers is just beginning.