Denver native Keith Villa’s first experience with cannabis was not particularly enjoyable. It was in 1983, while in college and he remembers the harsh smoke causing a nonstop coughing fit.
After graduation, he thought he would become a pediatrician, but life took a different turn for the now-58-year-old family man. He became a doctor all right, a beer doctor. Dr. Villa earned a doctorate in brewing science and fermentation biochemistry from the University of Brussels in Belgium, one of the few such degrees bestowed in the world. His education served him well over a 32-year career at MillerCoors, where he created the wildly popular Blue Moon Belgian-style beer, first brewed at the 10-barrel Sandlot Brewery inside Denver’s Coors Field, and often served adorned with an orange wheel garnish.
Dr. Villa’s first experience with cannabis stayed with him over the years. After retiring from MillerCoors in January 2018, he was convinced there had to be a better way to consume cannabis than to inhale smoke or consume edibles.
Later that year, he launched CERIA (rhymes with “area”) Grainwave non-alcoholic Belgian-Style White Ale infused with 5 mg of THC, and Indiewave non-alcoholic IPA infused with 10 mg of THC and 10 mg of CBD. The start-up brewery made history as Colorado’s first cannabis-infused beer and was accepted into the beer collection at the History Colorado Museum in Denver. Currently available at around 100 Colorado dispensaries, the brand enters the California market in summer 2021.
“When my wife and co-founder Jodi tried that first batch with me, it was our Edison lightbulb moment. What a pleasant surprise—it was a nice, relaxing experience with no alcohol. A great-tasting craft beer and the pleasurable sensations of THC. We thought this could revolutionize cannabis consumption.”
Little did they know then how popular CERIA’s cannabis-infused beer would become.
Toasting With Gummy Bears
From coverage from CNBC, CBS News and Forbes, Dr. Villa has been making news with CERIA cannabis-infused beer for three years.
Beer has always enjoyed an essential role in our culture at the center of celebrations, connections and even relaxation. A non-alcoholic (NA) beer microdosed with THC helps people of all legal ages stay in control.
“For one thing, it’s much more sociable,” he says. “We wanted to bring cannabis to the masses in a more socially acceptable format, especially with available alternatives to smoking. Whether it’s tobacco or cannabis, there are a lot of people against smoking and those with asthma or other conditions who can’t smoke or be around smoke.
“Then along comes COVID-19, and the entire world changed, which has led to increased awareness about the importance of respiratory health and how inhaling hot smoke is not the best choice for cannabis consumption,” he said.
“Now you can enjoy cannabis while consuming America’s favorite adult beverage. Think of a wedding reception or backyard barbecue. It’s hard to toast with gummy bears or swoosh hash brownies in a glass.”
Dr. Villa also says interest in better health and wellness, active lifestyles and a reduction in alcohol consumption is fueling the cannabis-infused beer trend.
“More people are finding they can enjoy life just fine, thank you, without alcohol.”
Brewing With Cannabis
Dr. Villa spent most of the COVID-19 lockdown at home like the rest of us, using his time productively to work with Brewers Publications, a division of Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, to produce the definitive guide to brewing with cannabis. Available nationwide on August 1, 2021, Brewing with Cannabis: Using THC and CBD in Beer examines the convergence of marijuana and brewing.
In addition to practical instruction and recipes, Dr. Villa’s new book explores the unique characteristics of the cannabis plant and its similarities to the hop plant, as well as the physiological effects of terpenes and cannabinoids.
Brewing with Cannabis is an easy-to-read, science-based guide for brewers at any scale, providing the information they need to learn about cannabis and to legally and responsibly enjoy a different type of beer. It takes the mystery out of small-batch growing and brewing.
Growing and Brewing at Home
The book devotes chapters to growing and harvesting cannabis at home to ensure the optimal production of terpenes and cannabinoids, especially THC.
Before getting started, Dr. Villa advises that anyone wanting to grow cannabis should first check local laws to make sure it’s legal to do so.
Homebrewing can be divided into two types: all grain and extract. Beer is made using the sugars from malted (partially germinated) grains. In all grain brewing, the homebrewer, via a series of steps, extracts these sugars from milled grains. In extract brewing, the homebrewer uses ready-made malt extract, skipping the sugar extraction process entirely as it has already been done, according to HomebrewersAssociation.org.
Extract brewing is a good starting point for most new homebrewers because the process requires minimal beer equipment and techniques while still producing quality beer. In fact, a Brewmaster Deluxe Home Brewery Kit from Quirky Homebrew in Northglenn, Colorado, for example, is one of the homebrew supplier’s most popular starter kits and costs only $119 (quirkyhomebrew.com).
You can always add fancier brewing gadgets after you’ve brewed for a while and decided it’s something you love.
The book then clearly describes options for infusing the homebrew with cannabis, including a process called emulsification—the forced mixing of two liquids that normally do not mix together, such as oil and water.
With its review of current regulations, growing advice and beer recipes, Brewing With Cannabis encourages enjoyment of cannabis-infused beer and other beverages, wherever recreational adult use is legalized—currently in 19 states “and counting,” Dr. Villa added hopefully.
He writes, “Cannabis represents an enigma that has been loved, hated, prohibited, legalized, criticized, and praised. It has made some people wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, while others serve years in prison for daring to partake. Sometime in the future, many years from now, perhaps people on this planet, will wonder why there was so much fuss about marijuana.”
Written for professional craft brewers and avid home brewers alike, Brewing with Cannabis: Using THC and CBD in Beer is on sale now at BrewersPublications.com and available for preorder at book retailers.