Cannabis and craft beer have been close buds for decades, but more and more the dynamic duo is being used together in beer recipes. Florida in particular is a market where weed-themed beer is trending. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has taken notice. This month, it sent cease and desist letters to the likes of Invasive Species Brewing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Devour Brewing Co. in Boynton Beach, Fla., for brewing beer with cannabis terpenes oil (the fragrant oils that give cannabis its aromatic diversity but not its wonderful high). It’s something brewers in the Sunshine State and beyond have been experimenting with for some time.
Yet, the TTB did not tell these breweries to stop because these beers would get you both high and drunk. These breweries had not followed TTB procedures for non-exempt ingredients. TTB regulation 27 CFR 25.55 and TTB Ruling 2015-1 say a brewer must submit a formula for approval by the TTB when producing any fermented product with a method or ingredient that is not generally recognized as “traditional,” which cannabis terpenes oil is not. Here is a list of exempt ingredients and processes determined to be traditional by the TTB. There’s a list below of the processes that are and aren’t exempt from formula requirements.
In an interesting sidebar: While the likes of Devour Brewing canceled plans to hold its 4/20 party, others were moving full steam ahead with terpenes oil beer. From the NY Daily News.
Kyle Jones, owner of the Fort Lauderdale brewery LauderAle, says he didn’t receive a cease-and-desist letter from the TTB, and on Friday plans to host Project Terpene, a festival featuring four beers with cannabis terpenes oils.
“You can’t deny it’s a trend right now and everyone’s doing it,” Jones says. “For people who’ve never drank it, they can experience flavors they never experienced before. It’s a really great meeting of molecules.”
I can’t argue with any of that logic, but even with the option of the federal government offering to review your formulas, even those once approved have also been denied. An example: In 2016, Colorado’s Dad & Dudes Breweria announced it had secured TTB formula approval for a CBD-infused beer (THC’s non-psychoactive cousin, cannabidiol, or CBD); here’s the difference between cannabinoids and terpenes. Yet in December of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency concluded that marijuana extracts that contain cannabinoids are considered a Schedule I drug, thus D&D Breweria was forced to stop production of its CBD-infused beer. So, good luck with your submittal.
Ok, a reminder:
Brewers must file a formula for a fermented product using any of the following non-traditional processes (read the entire source right here):
- Removal of any volume of water from beer;
- Filtration of beer to substantially change the color, flavor, or character;
- Separation of beer into different components;
- Reverse osmosis;
- Concentration of beer; or
- Ion exchange treatments.
Brewers are NOT required to submit formulas for the following traditional processes:
- Filtration prior to bottling;
- Filtration in lieu of pasteurization;
- Centrifuging for clarity;
- Carbonation; or
Additional Formula Requirements
Except as listed in the chart below, brewers must also file a formula for a fermented product:
- To which flavors or other nonbeverage ingredients (other than hops extract) containing alcohol will be added;
- To which coloring or natural or artificial flavors will be added;
- To which fruit, fruit juice, fruit concentrate, herbs, spices, honey, maple syrup, or other food materials will be added; or
- That is designated as saké, including flavored saké and sparkling saké.