Tara Leo wrote an interesting article for the Craft Brewing Business blog entitled “Here’s a quick overview on the process of extracting cannabis to infuse in beer.” (It was published on April 17, 2019.) It answered some common questions about the process for making a quality beer with cannabis. I’ll summarize some of it here, but I encourage you to read the article.
Currently, there are 3 components in cannabis that are being infused into beer. Each has a different purpose. THC is infused for its psychoactive effect. (However, this is not legal in most places.) CBD is infused for its medicinal benefits, primarily its “chill effect.” Terpenes are infused for their flavor profile. Terpenes give cannabis/hemp its unique flavor. Whichever component is used, they must extracted using professional processes that satisfy regulatory standards for food and beverage manufacturing. To be clear, simply tossing some buds into the brewing process won’t do the trick. You need to extract the components, usually cannabidiol oils from hemp. For concentrates, a closed-loop extraction system must be used. The two most popular extraction methods are butane hash oil and supercritical CO2 extraction. It may be best to purchase your supply from a quality manufacturer of CBD extracts and oils.
There is an art and science as to when to add CBD during the brewing process. And as you might imagine, not all artisans and researchers agree on what is optimum. One school of thought is to add it to the wort while it is boiling. This is not only effective for production but also can reduce the flavors and aromas of the CBD in the final product. CBD has a distinct earthy flavor that not all people will want in their beer. However, if the CBD flavors are a desirable quality, CBD oil or tinctures can be added to cooled wort or even to the fermented beer right before bottling. The best part is that there is an opportunity for innovation and experimentation.
Currently CBD is illegal as an additive to food and beverages. I am a realist and know this isn’t stopping everyone from doing it anyway, especially given the desire to cash in on the hot trends. If you are taking some risks, it might be a good idea to discuss them with your attorney and understand if there are things you can do to mitigate the risks and the “worst that can happen” if you are the subject of regulatory compliance proceedings.