Colorado Makes Weed-Infused Beer

In 2012, Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, pioneering a movement that continues to dominate the national political conversation. While there’s still a long way to go before marijuana is made legal nationwide, there is no doubt that cannabis is having a moment. It’s even found its way into a pint glass.

Aurora, Colorado-based Dude’s Brews is launching the country’s first federally approved line of cannabis-infused beer after a massively successful test release of their first brew last year.

“The state of Colorado was founded by pioneers with an adventurous spirit,” founder Mason Hembree says. “That spirit has continued to thrive to today. Just like legalization, combining cannabis and craft beer was inevitable.”

The brewery is kicking off their General Washington’s Secret Stash line of marijuana brews (named for the brand’s revolutionary nature and because the general grew hemp for textile production) with an India Pale Ale infused with a cannabis sativa extract, which contains high levels of non-psychoactive cannabinoids. That means that the beer won’t have any of the usual physical or mental effects associated with marijuana. (It also means it’s legal in all 50 states.) But why include cannabis in the beer at all?

Hembree believes that cannabis “belongs in our beer” since cannabis sativa and hops come from the same cannabaceae family and both produce similar organic aroma compounds known as terpenes. But while the cannabis infusion does impart a subtle aroma, the beer’s “dank,” weed-like smell actually comes from a carefully crafted blend of hops.

Hembree also believes that cannabis could be a healthy addition to beer. He cites research that suggests cannabinoids might metabolize lipids that cause liver damage, as well as acting as antioxidants and antipsychotics.

But the real drive behind the brewery’s choice to include cannabis in beer seems to be the desire to see marijuana legalized across the country. It’s the brewery’s potable political statement.

“We believe our beer will help bring the [marijuana] debate to the local bar, tavern and liquor store,” Hembree said in a press release. “What better way to introduce the softer side of the plant than through a beverage America already loves and accepts?”

Dude’s Brews will be pouring the Secret Stash IPA at their “breweria” pizza restaurant and bar, and the Denver Great American Beer Festival in October—with plans to go national if their Kickstarter campaign is successful. In the meantime, Hembree has high hopes for the brew’s future in his home state.

“With a well informed community, I believe Colorado will not only appreciate what we are doing with beer, but help to inform other communities as to why it matters,” he says.