The world of beer and weed is increasingly merging across the country. The founder of Blue Moon is selling THC-infused beer in Colorado. Craft brewers in San Francisco are brewing beer with cannabis terpenes. And some of the biggest beer companies in the world are investing in Canada’s pot market. Now, Washington has it’s own attempt at weed beer.
A pale ale infused with THC is now for sale in Washington’s legal weed stores. While it technically isn’t a beer—there’s no alcohol in the drink—when I tried a sample of Tarukino’s new Reeb “Bitter Barley Soda” I was convinced that it tasted just like a beer. The barley soda is made with malted grains and boiled with hops, but not fermented, according to Scott Riefler, a vice president with Seattle-based Tarukino.
“It starts as a grain-based product brewed in the traditional beer sense then stopped short of fermentation, so… we never ferment it so it doesn’t have alcohol in it,” Riefler said.
Tarukino’s first “barley soda” is based on an American pale ale recipe but the company plans to launch three more versions that mimic the flavor of a pilsner, stout, and amber. The sodas are infused with 5, 10, 30, and 100 milligrams of THC. Riefler said each version of Reeb has been carefully developed with flavor in mind.
“We want our products to be able to stand on their own two feet based on their sensory and culinary experience,” Riefler said. “We don’t want our products to be liked because they have cannabis in them. We want them to be liked because they are great beverages that happen to have cannabis in them.”
Tarukino also makes the popular Happy Apple infused sodas and Pearl2o, an infused mineral water. The Seattle company licenses its products to pot businesses in markets outside of Washington and Riefler said Reeb could soon be for sale in California, Nevada, and Canada.
I tried a sample of Reeb when I was at Lemonhaze’s pot convention in Tacoma last month and while I don’t think it’s going to win any beer competitions, it tasted like a decent pale ale. I had a THC-free sample so I can’t speak to its intoxicating effects, but if it’s anything like my experience with Pearl2o (I got stoned after I ate instant ramen I boiled in the mineral water) I think it’ll get the job done.
Riefler said it's taken months of work with the state's Liquor and Cannabis Board to get the product approved. State rules do not allow any mixing of alcohol and THC and Riefler said the state was very particular about how the product is marketed. There's no mention of beer anywhere on the label unless you count the product's name, which is (duh) "beer" spelled backward.
Riefler framed Reeb as offering health-conscious people a way to make a healthier choice, by offering a product with a buzz, the taste of beer, but no alcohol.
“If you look at what happens in your body when you’re consuming alcohol versus what’s happening to your body when you consume cannabis, I think it’s going to be a fairly informed choice,” Riefler said. “We see it as a potential additional choice in terms of intoxication.”
Are infused beers a fad or the future of backyard barbecues? We'll soon see.