Beer bong

Lagunitas releases ‘brew’ laced with THC

When voters made it legal to grow and sell cannabis in California, it was only a matter of time before a brewery began using the plant, and it shouldn’t surprise many people that the first beer producer to come forward with a THC-enhanced product was Lagunitas Brewing Co. The Petaluma brewery—founded 25 years ago by Tony Magee, a man whose reputation is imbued with the lingo and imagery of marijuana culture—has released a sparkling water infused with THC.

Billed in a press release as “an IPA-inspired sparkling beverage,” Hi-Fi Hops sparkling water will not give you a traditional beer buzz, for it contains no alcohol (as well as no carbohydrates, sugars or calories). Combining THC and alcohol in one product is still prohibited by federal law. However, it seems probable that if you drink a can of Hi-Fi Hops, you will enter an altered state. It comes in two versions—one with 5 mg of THC per can, one with 10. Karen Hamilton, who handles media relations for Lagunitas, said the effects of Hi-Fi Hops “will vary for each individual.” The product comes July 30, so you will soon be able to find out what that means for you—if you can make it to a county with a dispensary. (No, it can’t be sold in beer coolers.)

Hi-Fi is also made with hops—marijuana’s cousin in the Cannabaceae family—which leave a faint but swampy greenish hue in the water and give the beverage the distinct aroma of an IPA.

This is not Lagunitas’ first brewing venture into marijuana. In 2017, the brewery released SuperCritical Ale, a hoppy beer brewed with aromatic terpenes from cannabis. That beer contained alcohol but not THC.

Magee is famous for saying “it takes a lot of good weed to make great beer” when he founded his brewery, and it’s a motto he’s apparently run his business by ever since. In 1999, Lagunitas kicked off a tradition of weekly lounge parties that started at 4:20 p.m. Brewery staff even installed a ventilation shaft specifically to usher the fumes of the then-illegal drug out of the building. A few years later, federal agents shut down the weekly pot smoking parties. This would inspire the brewery’s popular seasonal beer, Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale.

And in 2001, the brewery’s “Kronic” beer was censored by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for its reference to marijuana, prompting Lagunitas to rename the beer Censored—a label the agency accepted.

Hi-Fi Hops comes along as Lagunitas’ latest, and probably most strident, venture into the realm of marijuana, and there are other brewers poised to join them in the THC game.

Former MillerCoors brewer Keith Villa—who developed the Blue Moon brand, for better or for worse—is now in the process of doing something cool: He’s launching a lineup of nonalcoholic beers infused with THC. Villa grabbed headlines for his endeavor in March, although the products for his Colorado-based Ceria Beverages company—all brewed as beer and then run through an alcohol removal process—won’t be available until the fall.

It will be interesting to watch and see how beer snobbery responds to these products. Individuals of the craft beer intelligentsia—high-end journalists, media-savvy brewers and tactful promoters—like to say that getting a buzz is not why a sophisticated person drinks beer. Believe that if you want. But it’s pretty clear that a “beer” that contains no alcohol but is laboriously laced with THC is made, packaged, marketed and sold for one undeniable reason: to alter your mind.