With everything from coffee to mascara getting the CBD treatment, it’s no surprise that UK breweries are taking advantage of a market that’s predicted to be worth almost £1bn by 2025, according to The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC). After all, as UK brewery Hop & Hemp points out, hops and hemp are ‘old friends’.
One of several UK breweries that specialises in producing craft beers infused with cannabis oil extract, Hop & Hemp Brew Co partnered with CBD experts, The Drug Store, to launch their new range of vegan CBD beers back in August 2019. After over a year of development and months of tastings and trials, they gave us the golden pilsner-style Lowdown Lager and Easy Times, a full-on IPA with aromas of grapefruit and lemonade from the triple addition of American hops – both of which have an ABV of 0.5% and contain 8mg of CBD per 330ml bottle.
With the proportion of young people choosing to drink alcohol at its lowest on record – the ONS reports that 20% of UK adults also now don’t drink – and a rise in mindful drinking, Hop & Hemp wanted to create brews that were big on flavours but didn’t see you write off another Sunday. The result is the world’s first CBD-infused, low-alcohol range, which contains 0% THC (the psychoactive chemical component of the plant) and a viable alternative to regular ABV beers and hangovers this Christmas.
Brothers in farms
Since hops and hemp are related – they are both members of the Cannabaceae plant family – breweries and bartenders alike are identifying that concoctions that combine the cannabis plant and alcohol are often tasty and distinctive, creating a grassiness that enhances the bitterness of the hops. In addition to offering distinctive textures and aromas, they also offer health benefits such as relieving anxiety, stress, and depression.
Clemens Böninger from The Drug Store said: “Interest in CBD has skyrocketed this year, with many people using it within the health and wellness industry. It’s exciting to be incorporating it with a product as well loved as beer, and one we really believe is a natural fit.”
This latest range follows on from High Flyer – the UK’s first organic Session IPA brewed with cannabis oil extract – which hit shelves in the UK in late 2018. Brewed in the UK by Green Times Brewing, High Flyer is a flavoursome 4.3% craft beer that contains high levels of CBD, five essential cannabinoids and over 40 terpenes for those looking for more of a punch this party season.
In addition to a unique full-spectrum organic CBD formula that is exclusive to Green Times Brewing, every bottle fuses high-quality malts and exotic flavours for an easy-drinking IPA that has a powerful hop hit and refreshing citrus aftertaste.
Green Times Brewing sees Thierry Florit team up with Carl Boon, the owner of the established CBD supplement company CBD Ultra Ltd, which sells a range of health and wellbeing products from CBD teas to CBD oils. Together, they wanted to produce a unique beer infused with cannabis oil extract that would be both delicious and relaxing. They also used Carl’s connections to source High Flyer’s exclusive organic CBD.
Thierry Florit, Green Times Brewing’s Managing Director, said: “Beer holds such a celebrated place in society, and by combining beer with CBD, which is a well-known health and wellbeing supplement, we can offer a tasty and nutritious product that is a true enhancement of one of the nation’s favourite drinks. We are now looking forward to distributing High Flyer to bars and specialised craft beer shops across the UK.”
Enter the major players
As well as growing interest from the UK’s national retailers and a string of UK pub groups, the CBD beer market has understandably also caught the attention of the brewing world’s biggest players. Constellation Brands, the creator of Corona and Modelo, was the first to make its move, completing a $4 billion investment deal with Canadian cannabis company Canopy Grown in November 2018 with the intention of producing THC-infused beverages to Canadian consumers initially.
Rob Sands, Chief Executive Officer, Constellation Brands, said: “Over the past year, we’ve come to better understand the cannabis market, the tremendous growth opportunity it presents, and Canopy’s market-leading capabilities in this space. We look forward to supporting Canopy as they extend their recognised global leadership position in the medical and recreational cannabis space.”
Since then, Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewing Company has also joined the race, launching Hi-Fi Hops, an IPA-inspired, THC-infused sparkling water that comes in two versions — one with 10mg of THC, and one with 5mg of THC and 5mg of CBD – in California.
In collaboration with AbsoluteXtracts, a manufacturer of cannabis-based products, this is the first big beer brand to enter the US’ psychoactive drinks market and marks a major moment for the future of CBD beer.
While there is clearly much more to come, for now it’s the small CBD brewing companies that are leading the way this Christmas and keeping you hangover-free.