The Short History and Uncertain Future of CBD Beer
“So, does it get you high?”
This was one of my first questions when I met with brewer Elan Walsky, the co-owner of Coalition Brewing in Portland, Oregon. Coalition makes a line of beers infused with CBD, one of many compounds found in marijuana and hemp (two strains of cannabis) that make the plants unique. Walsky grinned and told me no. I knew this would be the answer, but it’s an obligatory question while drinking a CBD IPA. I was visiting Coalition not only to partake in its CBD beers, but also to understand why they’re so difficult to make, whether I’ll ever be able to legally buy one on store shelves — and most importantly, why brewers so badly want to make them.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is not a hallucinogen; it’s the part of weed that gives you, in colloquial terms, a body high. CBD can reduce pain, and relieve both anxiety and insomnia. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive part of cannabis that affects the brain instead of the body. Brewers are largely uninterested in THC (the legal difficulties in combining alcohol and hallucinogens are too many), but the interest in CBD is a natural progression from the introduction of hops. Hemp and hops, I was told time and time again while talking to brewers, are “cousins.” Biologically, the two are incredibly similar, and CBD has familiar yet exciting new effects when infused in beer. “They’re the most closely related plants in the family cannabaceae, genetically speaking,” says Walsky. “So from a practical standpoint it means they’re producing a lot of the same terpenes, or flavor and aromatic compounds.”
That seemingly simple explanation has done little to convince state and federal regulators that combining CBD and alcohol won’t result in some kind of super-dosed booze. (Perhaps they’re having Four Loko