If the influx of THC beverages has you confused, you’re not alone.
This summer, a state law went into effect allowing Minnesotans 21 and older to buy certain beverages and edibles containing small amounts of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces the “high.” This has created a big new opportunity in the form of THC-infused seltzers, and Minnesota breweries are diving in head-first.
It’s an ideal fit — most are already making hard seltzers with alcohol, and it’s a small step to replace the alcohol with THC. Plus, breweries are accustomed to handling adult beverages. But the law’s vagueness has created a messy situation around these drinks.
“The Wild West comparisons are accurate,” said Daniel Wellendorf, co-owner and head of marketing at Modist Brewing in Minneapolis. There is little regulation on who can sell THC beverages, leaving many breweries hoping for more regulation in the upcoming legislative session, an odd thing to hear given past battles the industry has waged to lessen regulation.
“You can sell it anywhere,” Wellendorf said. “Except for places that the law says you can’t sell anything other than this list of items, like liquor stores. There’s no better place to sell a 21-plus product, and THC is still a 21-plus product. You would want people selling that substance that are used to selling controlled substances.”
There’s no special manufacturing license for THC products, either, so practically anybody can make them, Wellendorf explains. “With someone making THC gummies in their basement, who is going to monitor that? There’s nobody that monitors that right now. These are the regulations that we would look forward to.”
With more and more breweries getting on board, the selection of THC-infused beverages in the state is huge. The maximum dose per serving is 5 milligrams, although brewers are allowed to put up to 50 milligrams of THC in a package — as long as the package contains 10 servings. Most of those available range from 2 to 10 milligrams per package.
Getting creative with THC
Most breweries are adding THC to standard seltzers, with the biggest difference from one to the next being flavor intensity. There are, however, a few notable exceptions.
Eschewing the typical fruit purées, Fair State Brewing Cooperative in Minneapolis uses terpenes — one of the compounds responsible for the unique flavor and aroma of various designer marijuana strains — to flavor its Chill State THC beverage. “We went the direction of terpenes for Chill State because we love ‘beer flavored beer’ and making weed-flavored hemp seemed natural and fun,” said head brewer Joseph Wells. The terpenes in the mix are lab-synthesized using very sophisticated chemistry. “It would be illegal for us to use marijuana-derived products in our seltzers,” he said. “But this allows us to use the flavor and impact of high-end marijuana strains.”
The result is a delicious explosion of grapefruit and resin aroma and flavor that resembles a cross of marijuana and American hops. “The similarity between these terpene flavor profiles and classic American hops flavors is both by design on our part, since we love American hops, and by biological fact — hops and weed are close genetic cousins and have a lot of similarities in flavor and aroma,” Wells said.
As the name implies, Kite Soda from St. Paul’s Burning Brothers Brewing brings a sugary soda-pop twist to THC drinks. Available in root beer, citrus and ginger ale flavors, Kite Soda is sweet, but will appeal to those who enjoy an ice-cold pop. Ginger ale is my favorite, with a sharp, fresh ginger character that helps cut through the sugar. Citrus strongly resembles a lemon-lime soft drink like Sprite or 7-Up. Root beer is boldly flavorful but leans too heavily on wintergreen for my palate.
With Paloma, Venn Brewing Co. in Minneapolis has opted for the cocktail route. Made with grapefruit purée, lime flavor, dextrose and sea salt, it is rich in body and full in flavor. Grapefruit and lime citrus shine with a hint of acidity. There is no tequila — it’s illegal to combine alcohol and THC — but it tastes enough like a cocktail that one can imagine it’s there.
Minneapolis Cider Company’s Trail Magic Half & Half is a classic Arnold Palmer that will give you a buzz. Both tea and lemonade come through clearly. Slight sweetness is countered by a tannic tint from the tea. This went down very easily. Trail Magic also comes in Berry Basil and Hop Water flavors.
Traditional with a twist
Highlighting the exceptions shouldn’t detract from the more traditional seltzers. There are plenty of good ones to choose from, with flavors that range from very light to moderately intense.
Modist Brewing Co. has two lines of THC seltzer; Tint has 3 or 5 milligrams of THC per 16-ounce can, and Melt has 10 milligrams.
Tint, the lighter flavored of the two, comes in three flavors: blackberry-lime, mango-passion fruit and raspberry-pineapple, which is my go-to. Raspberry and pineapple are clear and distinct, while being well melded and balanced. Berry tartness balances the pineapple’s tropical sweetness.
I didn’t expect to like Modist’s blood orange-raspberry-vanilla flavored Melt. Drinks with vanilla are often too cake-like for my taste. But this one is like a delicate confection — angel food cake with a tart orange-berry sauce. Ginger-lime is also good, with fresh ginger hitting firmly up front and lime juice lingering in the finish.
Excelsior Brewing Co. has paired up with Hastings-based hemp oil extract company Küribl for its 421 Water THC-infused seltzer, and 421 is among the lightest of the seltzers I tried. It comes in three flavors — Tangerine Dream, black cherry and lime. Both citrus varieties are quite refreshing with fresh-squeezed fruit flavors that include juice, pulp and pith. Plans are to expand the partnership to include THC- and CBD-infused sparkling waters under the Küribl brand name.
Two Good from Indeed Brewing Co. in Minneapolis is a low-dose option at just 2 milligrams per can. The lavender-lemon flavor leans heavily to lavender, but not so much as to make it overbearing. The lemon makes a good partner, bringing a light, bright acidity.
High & Dry from Eastlake Craft Brewery in Minneapolis is another subtly flavored option in three flavors — passion fruit, lemon and pineapple. The flavors all reminded me of hard candies, but without the sugar. Lemon has a lemon drop character; pineapple and passion fruit taste a bit like tropical fruit Life Savers. All of them were quite pleasant.
Tetra from Bauhaus Brew Labs in Minneapolis has perhaps the lightest flavor of the bunch. Coming in grapefruit and lime, it has a similar intensity to La Croix. Both are refreshing and delicious with the aroma and taste of fresh citrus juice and peel.
Michael Agnew is a certified cicerone (beer-world version of sommelier) and owner of A Perfect Pint. He conducts private and corporate beer tasting events in the Twin Cities, and can be reached at email@example.com.