I have a terrible confession for my doctor: I can’t drink IPA beers much anymore.
Two or three strong ones, and I get a hangover headache that night. The horror.
“There’s nothing wrong with your liver,” doc’s gonna deadpan. “Welcome to being 38.”
Arriving in the nick of time for this personal tragedy, though, is Hi-Fi Hops—a new, THC-infused sparkling hop water from Lagunitas Brewing Company in northern California. It looks like cloudy Sprite, smells like an IPA, and tastes like a La Croix frolicked in a hop field. Zero alcohol, zero calories, zero carbs, and either 5 or 10 milligrams of THC, cannabis’ main active ingredient. Hallelujah.
Leafly scored a taste test on Wednesday, and it’s legit. Lagunitas and their cannabis partner, industry leader AbsoluteXtracts, have a hit on their hands. Alcoholic lightweights like me are legion.
That includes AbsoluteXtracts’s founder Dennis Hunter, 46, of Santa Rosa, CA. “I’m the same way,” he said. “I get super bloated when I drink beer.”
On Monday, July 30, Hi-Fi Hops is set to begin appearing in select, licensed California recreational cannabis stores—a new high point in the fusion of cannabis and craft beer culture.
Match Made in Cannabis Country
Lagunitas founder Tony Magee is a daily wake-and-baker who started his company in 1993 believing that “It takes a lot of good weed to make great beer.” Heineken bought the company in 2017 at a valuation of around $800 million.
Based about 90 minutes north of San Francisco, Lagunitas has the world’s most successful cannabis growing region, the Emerald Triangle, right on tap.
Their weekly brew parties kicked off at 4:20 p.m. And after their “Kronik” craft brew was censored by the US Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, Lagunitas simply renamed the beer “Censored.”
The feds eventually busted up the weekly after-work parties due to the smoke, and temporarily shuttered the brewery. It didn’t slow Magee down. In 2011 he made “The Waldo’s Special Ale” with the locals who coined the international term 420.
Lagunitas culture and AbsoluteXtracts culture aligns, said Hunter. “They’re literally down the road from us in the same county. Their history is very similar to ours.”
For Hunter’s part, AbsoluteXtracts parent company, CannaCraft, began in 2014 and has dominated California medical and now adult-use shelves with tightly dosed, ultra-professional tinctures. Check out their CareByDesign brand and vaporizer cartridges as “ABX.” Before he was a CEO, Hunter once served six and half years in federal prison for growing. He once ran from Johnny law in a plane. In 2016, local Santa Rosa police raided ABX headquarters for cannabis manufacturing code violations, later settling the issue without charges.
“They were pushing it in their early years, and we have, too,” said Hunter.
In 2017, Lagunitas and ABX swapped terpenes, creating both a SuperCritical beer with cannabis aroma; and a SuperCritical cannabis oil cartridge with the smell of hops.
“It was amazing the amount of attention it got,” said Hunter. “People just really loved the terpenes, which gave it a different buzz.”
Hi-Fi Hops grows out of Hunter’s love for Lagunitas’ other weird creation—a hop-infused sparkling water dubbed “Hop Water.” “They’re so refreshing. It’s hoppy-flavored, sparkling water. You can drink them all day and stay hydrated without having the alcohol in it.”
The teams then realized, “we can infuse it with THC and CBD,” Hunter said. “It’s that next iteration.”
Next-Gen THC Bevvie
Hi-Fi Hops comes in two strengths: 5mg THC / 5 mg CBD, and a 10 mg THC / 0 mg CBD version. Retail: $8.
This isn’t some fly-by-night, amateur’s jungle juice. This is contemporary consumer beverage tech mixed into every 12-ounce can, which retails for $8.
Superb labeling explains that in every unit, there’s 5 milligrams of THC, plus 5 milligrams of CBD, which won’t get you stoned, but may help reduce anxiety and make THC’s euphoria more tolerable for newbies.
Pop the childproof top and the aroma is light, subtle, and mouth-wateringly hoppy. It’s trippy when the stuff pours a lightly milky white color. But I just said “screw it” and started chugging, because that’s what you do when you’re thirsty, and, really, 5 milligrams of THC shouldn’t even register for a veteran smoker.
Dammit, Dennis, it did taste refreshing. The sparkling water conjures a La Croix. Evanescent notes of cucumber and citrus play hide-and-seek in the bubbles. A pinch of stevia and a drop of olive oil smooth over any bitterness or biting mouthfeel. That classic nasty, astringent, cannabis-oil-distillate taste? Nowhere to be found. I straight quaffed the stuff, swishing it around—consequence-free IPA revelry.
“It makes me just want a regular beer,” my wife said. But she can dust a magnum of champagne. My salad days of boozing are done. Five milligrams of THC and CBD feels like a shot of vitamins compared to 8.5% ABV, double pale ale ouch town.
“I think there’s a lot of people like me that are going to find this as a really great alternative, so they can be enjoying that time having a beer with others,” said Hunter. “I think you’re going to see a lot more of these.”
Cheers to that.
Fifty-four percent of legal cannabis users report consuming less alcohol when using cannabis. Nine percent of legal cannabis users report consuming more alcohol when using cannabis. —BDS Analytics, 2018