Craft beer terpenes are among the latest innovations in the brewing industry. These are aromatic compounds found in many plants, often associated with cannabis, which contain terpenes in high concentration.
Obviously craft beer cannot contain THC. That remains against the law. But recent advancements in technology have allowed brewers to work with other botanical terpenes that mimic the tropical-fruit aromas of cannabis. Brewers like Blue Point, which released Legalize Wheat in celebration of the 4/20 holiday earlier this year.
Legalize Wheat is a 7.0% ABV Hoppy American wheat ale made with a Pineapple Express terpene blend, mimicking the famous cannabis strain. For a deeper dive into terpenes, we recently spoke with Adrian Hot, Innovation Manager at Blue Point.
Beverage Dynamics: What’s up with the rise of craft beer terpenes?
Adrian Hot: I think it’s a fun conversation. Hops obviously have a bunch of terpenes themselves. And with recent technology, you can use botanical terpenes and plant-based aromatic compounds to help increase the aromatic experience of a craft beer.
We first experimented with this with our double IPA, Peripheral Drift. We used mango terpenes to emulate the aroma of Mango Kush cannabis. We were impressed with how well balanced it made out beer. It provided a huge pop on the nose that every IPA drinker is looking for. And brewers love to try to outdo one another with how complex of a nose can we create with different hop profiles.
BD: Legalize Wheat is an amazing pun. Where’d this beer come from?
AH: With April coming about, we wanted to do something with 4/20. So the concept of Legalize Wheat came about as a more approachable version of our terpenes DIPA. Legalize Wheat has a wheat base, soft and fluffy, easy to drink. It’s more of a 6-pack-kind-of beer. It has the intense aromatics of an IPA without the bitter finish.
With both of those projects, we were interested in how the terpenes could enhance the tropical fruit notes and dankness that we’re going for.
BD: What is the demo for beer with terpenes?
AH: When you make these beers, you’re targeting the beer geek who loves the nitty-gritty details, who loves the science behind brewing, who’s interested in how we make these aromas. These also speak to the hop consumers looking for more complexity in their beers.
BD: How has recent technology benefited terpenes beers?
AH: The technology actually already existed in other beverage categories, but the craft beer consumer has started looking for more complexity. That’s why more beer companies are now looking into terpenes.
With this technology, you can vapor-distill for clean, isolated terpenes, for the exact aromas you’re after. You can reformat terpenes to recreate and blend together cannabis flavors like Mango Kush. We can take a cannabis strain and see its individual cannabinoids and then reformat that using mint, basil and other botanicals — without using cannabis at all.
BD: How much do consumers understand terpenes?
AH: Terpenes in craft beer are still very novel at the moment. Obviously we want to stress the legality of this. We don’t want to mislead anyone. We want to allude towards cannabis strains without misleading anyone into thinking that there’s actual cannabis in our products.
With the broader legalization of cannabis, terpenes overtime could become more normal in beer. In the meantime, these are all TTB-approved. There are certainly some extra conversations with the TTB to make sure all our i’s are dotted and our t’s crossed.
BD: What’s next for craft beer terpenes?
AH: We’re in the process of doing a few different Legalize Wheat and Peripheral Drift variants with different terpenes blends. There’s a whole world of terpenes that you can reformulate to create different experiences.
Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece What Canada Tells Us About Trends in Cannabis Beverages.