To Make Dank Beer, Brewers Forced to Get Creative

Of all the nontraditional ingredients America’s craft brewers have imbued into beer—from squid ink to pizza dough to goat brains—the one with the closest natural harmony to hops teases brewmasters and riles federal regulators the most.

That oddball ingredient is Cannabis sativa, the scientific name for two controversial plants—marijuana and hemp, hops’ closest botanical cousins.

Most parts of Cannabis sativa plants are illegal to brew with, but select elements of marijuana and hemp are allowed, including terpenes, essential oils brewers have begun using to engineer cannabis aromas, flavors, and effects in craft beer, which, thanks to heaps of herbaceous hops, bursts with complementary floral, citrus, pine and earth notes that enhance beverages and influence drinkers’ noses, palates, and bodies.

But brewers can no longer use one of Cannabis sativa’s most popular compounds— cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid known to have many healthful benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and pain-relieving properties.

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