The man who became a disruptor in the beer industry back in 1995 has come up with a new concept of the beverage — by integrating the psychedelic component of cannabis. Alongside his wife Jodi, Keith Villa is now establishing himself as one of the first to create a marijuana-infused beverage that actually contains THC, the cannabis chemical that produces a buzz. And if it sounds enticing yet nerve-racking for those who haven’t experienced a marijuana high before, there will be three levels of the brew to try out.
After developing and overseeing the Blue Moon Belgian White brand under Coors Brewing for 23 years, and working with MillerCoors for more than three decades, Villa was ready for something new. Similar to his idea of bringing a Belgian beer to the States, his new venture is all about pushing the boundaries in terms of what beverages people might not yet know they want. For a country where marijuana is still federally illegal, a drink that gets you high certainly falls under that category.
“It really is a step back in time to just after Prohibition,” he told Forbes. “Back in 1933 you had a stigma with alcohol. After so many years of being illegal it took years to get over that. But once that goes away for cannabis, it will be a huge part of our economy.”
Getting a head start on that market, Villa believes, presents him with the opportunity to work out all the kinks in the process of making a cannabis-infused beer. And by establishing his and Jodi’s brand Ceria Beverages around this product first, they don’t have to fear spoiling an established brand by irritating regulators — a likely possibility, as the concept is a bit controversial.
Although Villa is calling the beverage a “beer,” federal law prohibits alcohol and THC from being mixed. It’s why all previous “marijuana-infused” branded beers lack the psychoactive compound, and instead infuse (nonpsychedelic) hemp extract into the drink to give it a marijuana taste.
“What we found is consumers of cannabis want the real deal,” Villa told the Forbes. “Giving them a beer with hemp or CBD is almost like giving a craft beer drinker an alcohol-free Russian Imperial Stout and telling them, ‘This is good enough.’”
Ceria Beverages’ “beer” will do the opposite, by brewing a regular beer, removing the alcohol content, and then injecting the THC. The process is something that cannabinoid research company Ebbu has figured out. In partnering with Ceria Beverages, the pair has decoded how to infuse the THC to result in varying levels of highs, and with specific feelings or effects. The best part is that they’ve equated the effects of the marijuana to the effects of certain volumes of alcohol content, so that your high won’t be any more elevated than your drunk.
Although the light, medium, and heavy-duty beers will be sold exclusively in Colorado this fall, Villa and the team expect to expand as the legality of marijuana does.
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