Oregon is one of nine states, plus the District of Columbia, where recreational marijuana is legal. Like Colorado and California, we also have a robust craft beer market. Findings from BDS Analytics, which tracks cannabis industry trends and presented findings at the Beer Institute’s annual meeting, show that 72 percent of cannabis users consume alcohol. Thirty-one percent drink craft/local beer. In addition to consumption overlap, cannabis and hops share an agricultural connection, both being members of the Cannabaceae family. Combine those connections and it’s not a stretch to see them coming together in drinkable form.
Coalition Brewing, established in 2010 by Kiley Hoyt and Elan Walsky, has done just that — creating beers utilizing two components of cannabis. Two Flowers IPA, released in early 2017, was the first commercially produced CBD beer in Oregon. (CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis and THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that produces a high). The beer was well received and as they have released other CBD beers, they learned more about the product and how to use it in a manner that enhanced their beer. This led to exploring the use of another, perhaps less-controversial component: Terpenes. Both CBD and terpenes are produced in the resin gland of the cannabis plant, however, terpenes are also found in many other plants. Coalition’s Phillip Boyle explained the taste connection saying, “The fundamentals of terpenes are why people like hoppy beers.”
Coalition started working with Portland’s True Terpenes to source these ingredients “from the get-go.” In addition to being local and convenient to collaborate with, True Terpenes shares Coalition’s interest in educating consumers about their products. They offer a wide range of terpenes for consumer sale with indica-only blends, sativa-only blends and hybrids. Each varies in its effects — from sedative to energizing. According to Ross Hunsinger, director of innovation in the food and beverage space at True Terpenes, terpenes offer people “the cannabis experience without getting high.”
While 95 percent of True Terpenes products are sold for the vape market, their work with Coalition to find the terpene blend that is most complementary to a particular beer recipe is only the start of collaborations with other food and beverage companies. But Ross’ beer knowledge made partnering with Coalition a natural fit. He attended the brewing academy Siebel Institute, which has helped him overcome the greatest challenge — creating cohesive flavor in the final product.
Feedback from Coalition’s customers on their terpene test beers was as positive as the CBD beer and validated the extensive process they went through to find the right concentration that would enhance the beer (that amount is less than 1 percent). The first terpene beer in their Ensemble Series was introduced in mid-June. Named Pineapple Upside Down, the 4.3% ABV wheat-based brew contains a sativa blend called Pineapple Express, along with the actual fruit, creating sweet, tropical and cedar notes while producing an uplifting, euphoric feeling in a consumer. The release marked Coalition as the first Oregon brewery to commercially produce a terpene beer.
While Coalition’s beers to date have used terpenes from cannabis, they are also working with True Terpenes to find terpenes from non-cannabis plants that can provide the same flavor profiles. Should they succeed, they may be able to avoid future regulatory challenges put forth by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). To date, the back and forth between Coalition (with supporting documentation from True Terpenes) and the TTB regarding CBD- and cannabis terpene-containing beers, tedious as it may be at times, has satisfied the necessary requirements and allowed beer production to continue. This development could open a door to a whole new style of beer to explore. •