Remember that scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Dr. E. R. Bloomquist, the “narcotics expert,” is addressing the national district attorneys’ convention? His jargon is hopelessly outdated and his assumptions are all wrong. As a beer guy trying to write a column about cannabis, I’m feeling a bit like Dr. Bloomquist right now. I can talk about Mosaic and Citra hops all day, but please don’t ask me to discuss the relative merits of OG Kush and Sour Diesel.
I called a lot of folks before writing this, so for brevity’s sake, let’s imagine us all together around the bong fire at Funky Bow Brewing in Lyman.
MAJOR: Hey, Bruce, I heard that Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead and Sea Dog’s Blue Paw have been released as THC-infused beverages. How’s that working out?
BRUCE FORSLEY, President of Shipyard: I’m going to direct you to Matt Hawes at Novel Beverage. They are the producer and he is an expert on all things cannabis.
MAJOR: Expert, huh? So, Matt, how does a kid growing up in Brewer, Maine become an expert on all things cannabis?
HAWES: I lived in California from 2000 to 2012, working in legal cannabis. It was an experience similar to going away to college. I was able to learn about the supply chain and market evolution in a fairly well organized and regulated market environment.
MAJOR: So what’s the process? You folks take beer from Shipyard and…
HAWES: No, we make the product from scratch in our facility. This product is not beer. … We do use some of the same ingredients and even stage processes that are common in making beer, but we deactivate the yeast and never ferment — so no alcohol. In fact, I don’t consider the product to be a malt beverage, even though we do use a bit of malted grains in the process.
MAJOR: OK, so you make the beverage, but they have the brand name. Who actually owns the finished product?
HAWES: As far as who owns it, that would be Novel Beverage. Because of state licensing regulations, only companies with adult-use marijuana licenses can possess the products commercially. … We have a licensing agreement with Innovative Liquid Solutions, which has the rights to market the brands in the legal THC space.
MAJOR: Shipyard owns the brands, Innovative Liquid Solutions markets the brands in the THC space, and you make the beverage. Who proposed this collaboration?
HAWES: We actually reached out to management at Shipyard directly and suggested that they had some products which would be excellent for developing into THC beverages.
MAJOR: Hey, Craig, you and I talked about THC-infused beer awhile ago. You tried to brew a batch as a homebrewer, right? Before you opened Foulmouthed?
CRAIG DILGER, co-owner of Foulmouthed Brewing: A friend and I tried dry weeding [like dry hopping, but with cannabis].
MAJOR: Did you get a THC beer?
DILGER: It doesn’t work. I knew that going in. THC is not water-soluble, but it is alcohol- and fat-soluble. To get a psychotropic effect from dry weeding, you would need a very high-alcohol beer, and the THC would still be so minimal that you would be drunk long before you were high.
MAJOR: So if you knew this going in…
DILGER: A homebrewing friend and I were trying to see if we could capture the flavor. Hops and cannabis behave similarly. It tasted like extra dank hops.
MAJOR: Alcohol soluble, huh? So you could make weed schnapps or something, right?
DILGER: I really don’t think it is ever a good idea to have the two drugs combined in a single source. You can easily overdo one or the other.
MAJOR: I suppose you’re right. Novel Beverage knows how to get 5mg per 12oz. Who knows what the concentration of a home infusion would be? Matt, are you planning any other products soon?
HAWES: We are planning to launch three flavors of Keef Cola in early April, with additional THC-infused beverages to follow. We are currently planning a few THC-infused mocktails and expect to see additional varieties of beverage follow over the coming months.
MAJOR: Hey, Paul. Will we see an infused version of Funky Bow’s High On A Hill Pale Ale or Panama Red Ale?
PAUL LORRAIN, co-founder, Funky Bow Brewery and Beer Company: All I can say at this time is we are in discussion.