Brewers like to describe super-hoppy IPAs the way that they might talk about marijuana: “dank,” “resinous,” “sticky.” It makes sense, after all: Both cannabis (pot) and Humulus lupulus (hops) are members of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants, and both rely on compounds called terpenes to provide their essential flavors and aromas.
While breweries have tried to mimic the flavors of marijuana in beer — see Lagunitas’s the Waldos, DC Brau’s Smells Like Freedom and Oskar Blues’s Pinner Throwback IPA — few have actually attempted to brew with marijuana extracts.
Last week, Lagunitas debuted Supercritical, an IPA made with marijuana terpenes provided by CannaCraft, a California company that makes cannabis vape cartridges called AbsoluteXtracts.
“These are created using a combination of dozens of terpenes that we isolate and refine during cannabis extraction, and they are what give our strains their unique flavor and sensory profiles,” says Kial Long, the vice president of marketing for AbsoluteXtracts.
Long says a number of terpene blends were prepared “with the Lagunitas-style taste in mind,” and Lagunitas brewer Jeremy Marshall selected one that was a mix of the Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookies strains, and then picked six different kinds of hops, including Summit, Tomahawk and Zeus, to match and balance the flavors of the cannabis terpenes.
In return, Lagunitas, which infamously had its license suspended by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in 2005 after an employee was caught rolling a joint at a brewery party, collaborated on a line of vape cartridges flavored with a mix of hop terpenes and cannabis oils.
“We really just wanted to pool our resources to see what we could create,” Long said.
Because Supercritical is made with the terpenes that AbsoluteXtracts removes from cannabis plants, it doesn’t contain THC, so any pleasant buzz that drinkers might feel comes from the alcohol, not the cannabis. Karen Hamilton, Lagunitas’s director of communications, wrote in an email that the beer is tested in the brewery’s lab, and “lots of people have had the beer, at this point, and NO ONE has experienced any psychotropic effects (to the dismay of some!)”
The beer itself is a dank, odoriferous IPA, checking in at just 6.8 percent alcohol by volume, with grassy flavors, a decent amount of earthy hop bitterness and a noticeably sticky finish. It’s not much different from other IPAs designed to mimic weed’s characteristic flavors, though the taste is slightly greener.
Lagunitas is viewing Supercritical as an experiment and produced only one batch of 60 barrels, or 120 kegs. Those went to bars across California, primarily in the San Francisco area, by late last week. (A full list is available on the Lagunitas website.) “There may be more SuperCritical coming in the future, and this time to other areas in the U.S.,” Hamilton said.