- Keith Villa, creator and former head brewmaster of Blue Moon Brewing Company, has launched a new company, CERIA Beverages. The company plans to introduce a line of cannabis-infused nonalcoholic craft beverages.
- CERIA will differentiate itself from other cannabis-infused beverages by using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical from cannabis plants that creates the “high,” versus cannabidiol, which is “not the component most consumers look for,” Villa told Brewbound. Ceria will brew a batch of beer and then use equipment to remove the alcohol from the beer. After that, it will be sent to a licensed marijuana dispensary and infused with extracts that contain THC., which it will source from ebbu, a cannabinoid research firm.
- The drinks are expected to be available in three strengths – light, regular and full-bodied. The light beer will be targeted to novice users (one to six milligrams of THC); regular will be in the 10-milligram range; and full-bodied will be in the 15-milligram range.
In the six years since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana — Canada also is on track to allow its citizens to legally buy recreational marijuana later this summer — a bevy of cannabis-infused businesses have taken advantage of the novelty. Even beer giant Constellation Brands jumped in with its recent $191 million deal with Canopy Growth to develop cannabis-infused beverages.
While early rollouts have leveraged the opportunity to include cannabidiol oil to sell CBD-infused beer, Keith Villa and his wife Jodi, along with ebbu, are figuring out a process to include THC, the active ingredient responsible for causing physical changes in a person and altering the individual's perception of reality.
This rollout could further impact the standard beer industry, which is facing declining sales and increased competition from wine and spirits, not to mention marijuana in legalized states. IRI analysts predict that if marijuana is legalized across the U.S., the beer industry could lose up to $2 billion. The survey also found that recreational marijuana could take 7.1% of the beer industry’s revenue.
While cannabidiol beers provide plenty of intrigue to catch the attention of curious consumers, THC beverages will provide what many of those consumers are chasing — the high.
Villa also is smart to introduce three different strengths, including a light version to capture the attention of the casual drinker. The majority of the public is likely going to view the beverage with some degree of skepticism, at least at first, so giving them a light version might be enough to get them to at least try the beverage. The trick will be getting them to keep coming back for more.
"The opportunity and the demand are here, inviting Americans to enjoy a more social way of consuming cannabis — by drinking rather than by smoking it or through ingestion of edibles,” Villa said on his website.
CERIA Beverages could find initial challenges getting its product distributed, which will significantly cap its growth. The beer will be bottled or canned, and sold in licensed dispensaries throughout Colorado, according to Brewbound. Eventually, the product could be sold in other states where recreational marijuana use is legal. The publication said the process to brew the beer, remove the alcohol and then add ebbu’s extracts that contain THC, among other ingredients, is complicated. This process, along with the ingredients added to the brew, could result in a higher price tag for the beverage that might further slow adoption.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the company will be getting the taste right. Villa said the beverage will maintain a craft beer taste and aroma. If he can pull that off, it also will ease beer consumers into the experience, which will justify his high optimism. Villa, who announced his retirement from MolsonCoors in January 2018 after 32 years of service, has the beverage knowledge that could help him in his new endeavor. But he could find that introducing a new brew in the crowded beer space is a lot easier than a line of cannabis-infused nonalcoholic craft beverages with THC.