Food and Drink

How Brewers Are Adding Cannabis Terpenes to Craft Beer

With the recent wave of cannabis decriminalisation sweeping the United States, we’ve seen primary cannabis compounds tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) infused into a widening range of products to harness its myriad medicinal and therapeutic properties. Apart from skincare and sport medicine products, one of the most successful crossovers for the cannabis industry has been its foray into the craft beer space. Now, with THC- and CBD-infused beers becoming increasingly commonplace in a crowded market, some brewers are pushing the envelope with the infusion of cannabis terpenes into new and exciting brews.

What Are Cannabis Terpenes, & Why Are They a Good Choice for Infusion Into Craft Beer?

Terpenes are naturally-occurring compounds that impart flavour, aroma and even protective properties to practically all plant life. Medical researchers and independent studies around the world have recently established that these isoprene hydrocarbons each carry impressive health-positive properties; ranging from analgesic to anxiolytic benefits.

Today, various methods of terpene extraction have been perfected, and everyone from product manufacturers to celebrity chefs is experimenting with terpene infusion. Craft beer brewers are no exception, and their rollout of terpene-touched brews are gaining immense popularity among the so-called “canna-curious” set.

In this post, we explore the methods used by breweries to add terpenes to their products, as well as some of the terpenes most commonly used in the process of creating cannabis craft beers.

Terpene Infusion Into Craft Beers: The How & The Why

Typically, breweries purchase wholesale terpenes from companies who either extract them from cannabis or hemp or synthesize them in laboratories to mimic those found in the former. The process begins with testing to find the desired ratio of terpenes to beer; the most commonly used today is a ratio of 0.01-0.02% weight by volume (w/v) of terpenes to beer.

Insoluble terpenes are handled in one of two ways. Breweries willing to use solvents can dissolve their terpenes into 190-proof EverClear or food-grade Ethanol. Brewers unwilling to use solvents commonly add their terpenes directly into the bitter wort before pitching yeast. The latter method does carry the drawback of some terpene loss during the yeast’s oxidation process, but it’s commonly regarded as a worthwhile trade-off for those wishing to avoid solvents.

The terpenes are then added before the beer carbonation process. It’s worth noting that bursts of CO2 are commonly used to aid incorporation of the final product. Here are three examples of the most commonly used terpenes for infusion into beer, and why:

  • Myrcene imparts subtle herbal and resinous notes to the flavour of beer with dank and spicy tones to its aroma. It’s also a proven muscle relaxant which aids mood disorders and inflammatory diseases such as gout.
  • Limonene lends pleasant citrusy fruit flavours to beer, with appreciable zesty overtones to its aroma. It’s also well-established as a viable anti-oxidant with anxiolytic benefits.
  • Pinene imparts stimulating qualities of pine and mint to the flavour of beer, with complex woody undertones to its aroma. It’s most noted for its bronchodilative properties and its ability to relieve chronic pain issues, such as with arthritis.

Blue Skies Ahead for All Cannabis-Infused Craft Beers

Whether you’re a fan of THC-, CBD- or even terpene-infused beers, cannabis craft brews aren’t going away anytime soon. With recreational legalisation being adopted rapidly across an increasing number of states (not to mention Canada, South America and the EU) both the market and consumer base for cannabis products are slated to grow exponentially over the next several years. The cannabis industry is on course to hit $31.4 billion by 2021 with a steady stream of speculators, investors and celebrity entrepreneurs getting into the act and changing the perception around the cannabis plant for good. Terpene research continues on as well, with growing public interest and mass-market adoption to spur it on further.

However, crowded the craft beer market may get in the future, it’s safe to say that cannabis-infused brews — and certainly terpene-infused ones — have definitely found a niche with ample staying power.