Beer Guy March April 2019: Beer and Bud

Beer and Bud

by Peter Bailey

“It takes a lot of good weed to make great beer,” said Lagunitas Brewing founder Tony Magee.

This was news to me. Maybe this is why my home brewing attempts back in the nineties never quite worked out. But my home brewing bible, Charlie Papazian’s 1984 classic, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, doesn’t mention weed in all its 399 pages. Trust me, I checked. Or perhaps this is what Papazian means when he says, “Relax. Don’t worry. And have a homebrew.”

The thing is, I’m a beer guy, not a weed guy. Sure, I inhaled back in university. I lived in a fraternity house, in a room previously occupied by two absolute stoners (high-functioning stoners—one became a lawyer, the other an engineer). When I moved in, I pulled out the deep shag carpet that went across the floor and up one wall. A friend suggested I cut the carpet into squares and smoke it, given the amount of pot spilled over the years. Long after moving in, people would clamber up the fire escape, bashing on my door looking for the previous occupants. “Is Dave here?” they’d ask. Re-enacting a Cheech & Chong sketch in real life, I’d reply, “Dave’s not here!”

In 1986 I backpacked around Europe with that same friend with the carpet-smoking advice. At that time, the Netherlands led the world in terms of an enlightened approach to cannabis. Small amounts of marijuana were okay, and one could consume it at comfortable cafés. Consequently, our Amsterdam hostel was full of Americans and Brits on drug holidays, coming to town to get high, all day, every day. Honestly, my pal and I had zero interest in Mary Jane—we only had eyes for all the cool Dutch and Belgian beers around town. And touring the giant Heineken factory.

Which brings us back to Tony Magee. From its start on Magee’s stovetop in 1993, Lagunitas has grown to become one of the biggest craft brewers, and in 2017, it was purchased by Heineken. Magee stayed on as chairman, one presumes, to keep Lagunitas true to its weed-laden heritage. In 1999 Lagunitas began weekly parties that started at 4:20 pm in a taproom ventilated to clear the pot fumes. In 2001 Lagunitas had to change the name of their Kronic beer because of its weed reference. In 2005 federal agents raided one of the weekly parties and Lagunitas was lucky to escape intact.

With legalization, Lagunitas turned it up a notch in 2018 becoming the first brewery to release a cannabis-enhanced beverage. Hi-Fi Hops is a zero-alcohol sparkling water drink, brewed with hops and enhanced with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. It sounds dreadful, frankly, but Magee is convinced this is the future.

Maybe he’s right. After all, hops and cannabis are cousins, from the cannabaceae family. Both share terpenes —essential oils—that give hops and cannabis their characteristic piney, citrusy, skunky, or earthy aromas. And, smoking remains socially unacceptable, so people are looking for another way to consume cannabis. A study by Deloitte found that more than 60 per cent of likely cannabis customers in Canada will choose to consume edible products—and that includes drinkables. Giant beer companies like Constellation Brands and Anheuser-Busch InBev are buying into Canadian cannabis companies to develop no-alcohol cannabis-infused drinks. Toronto’s Province Brands claims they have made the world’s first cannabis beer, brewed from the stalks, stem and roots of the cannabis plant. The initial result, they told The Guardian, was horrible, tasting like rotten broccoli. Not too enticing. But someone will figure it out and make something drinkable.

Meanwhile, Tony Magee has tweaked his message. Scott Kendall, of Edmonton’s Bent Stick Brewing, told me that in Magee’s keynote speech to the Alberta Craft Brewing Convention in 2017, he said “It takes a lot of good people to make great beer.” I think we can all agree on that.

It is unlikely regulators will ever allow adding cannabis to beer. But this hasn’t stopped brewers from experimenting with weed-related beers. Find these six beers at better beer stores in Edmonton and area.

Beer and Bud Six Pack

Click images to zoom

Lagunitas IPA
Lagunitas IPA

Lagunitas IPA, Petaluma, CA
First brewed in 1995, this iconic west coast American IPA has become the best-selling IPA in North America. Doing nothing simply or straight-ahead, Lagunitas claims this IPA is made with 43 different hops and 65 various malts. As it is brewed with 100 per cent Alberta barley from the Chinook Arch Growers cooperative, it almost counts as an Alberta beer.

High Harvest Hemp SPA
High Harvest Hemp SPA

Wild Rose High Harvest Hemp SPA, Calgary
Wild Rose takes a unique approach to making a weedy beer, adding hemp flour to create what they call a strong pale ale, resembling a hazy North East-style IPA. The aroma is musty, weedy and piney, the flavour gently bitter with a touch of fruit and a undercurrent of funk.

Lost Coast Indica IPA, Eureka, CA
The early ‘70s back-to-the-land movement saw hippies move north out of San Francisco to rural places like Humboldt County. Eventually Humboldt became the centre of U.S. marijuana cultivation. Quirky Humboldt was perfect for a pioneer microbrewery founded by two women in 1989. Indica is one of the main types of cannabis, so Indica IPA is a shout-out to Lost Coast’s neighbours.
Oskar Blues Pinner Throwback IPA, Longmont, CO
Cannabis culture is intertwined with Colorado brewery Oskar Blues. Founder Dale Katechis has said that many of their beers are brewed with hops that are meant to give off an aroma of cannabis. This IPA takes it name from a pinner, a small, thin joint low on cannabis content, so apt for a session IPA with lower alcohol content. Piney citrusy aroma with a touch of orange in the taste.
Harvest Moon Hemp Cream Ale
Harvest Moon Hemp Cream Ale

Nelson Harvest Moon Hemp Cream Ale, Nelson, BC
Nelson, British Columbia, could be considered the Humboldt county of Canada, the HQ of Canada’s illegal marijuana business. Harvest Moon is a nod to Nelson’s cannabis culture, a Kolsch-style ale brewed with organic barley malt, organic wheat and organic toasted hemp seeds. The addition of hemp adds a bit of nutty flavour to the beer.

Art Teacher’s Office Dank IPA
Art Teacher’s Office Dank IPA

Bent Stick Art Teacher’s Office Dank IPA, Edmonton
Released on October 17, 2018 to celebrate marijuana legalization in Canada, Bent Stick re-releases this ode to cannabis on 4/20 this year. The IPA contains no cannabis or hemp, instead it uses hops known for their resinous, cannabis-like properties. And to get a true dank character, Bent Stick intentionally skunked a small amount of the beer to add a bit of subtle funk. The name? A Simpsons’ reference.

Peter Bailey knows the difference between THC and CBD but prefers products with ABV and IBUs. He’s on Twitter and Instagram as @Libarbarian