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Politics

Cannabis Craft Beer? 'Beerijuana'? Feds Tell Florida Brewers, Don't You Dare

April 23, 2018 - 6:00am
Devour Brewing
Devour Brewing

They're not concocting what brewers in Colorado are, but a handful of craft brewers in South Florida are floating what they believe is an exciting new trend -- pot-tasting beer.

A number of beer makers in the region have been working on new formulas involving an extract from marijuana plants. They figure, maybe it's illegal to sell edibles, but nobody said anything about potables that contain neither no inebriating or medicinal properties.

The marijuana taste is the thing, they say. 

But last week, government officials stepped in to harsh their brews.

Owners at Invasive Species Brewing in Fort Lauderdale, as well as Devour Brewing in Boynton Beach, received cease-and-desist letters from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade offices. The breweries were told they could not sell their latest variants, which were made using cannabis terpenes oil. Even though this element contains none of the mood altering components from the plant -- specifically tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC -- government officials clamped down on the new product.

Terpenes oil is what gives the product its distinctive, pungent aroma, but it lacks any of the recreational or medicinal properties from the plant. Instead, South Florida brewers are finding the oil delivers new flavor profiles for their products and have been making numerous styles to appeal to customers looking for the flavor of marijuana. Most of the batches were begun during the holiday season, in the expectation of having the beer ready for celebrations last week.

In Colorado, where medicinal and recreational cannabis are already legal, Keith Villa, the inventor of popular Blue Moon beer, has just developed a craft beer that gets you high. Villa isn't using CBD oils, which have a relaxing but buzz-free effect, to brew his beer -- he says that's been done before. He's going full THC, meaning his brews will give you the same effect as marijuana.

In South Florida, Invasive and Devour's cannabis beers are all flavor, no psychoactive chemical compounds.

“If (they were anything but harmless), I wouldn’t be talking to you over the phone right now. I’d be in jail,” Devour co-owner Chip Breighner told a SouthFlorida.com reporter. “It’s superstrong, has a pungent flavor, and it smells and tastes just like the real thing.”

But it’s not the real thing, Breighner adds. Early test batches of Apricot Haze and Florida Thunder, which he released in mid-November, drew positive reactions and sold out “within days,” he says.  

The feds didn't see it that way.

Brewers say the primary reason the agency blocked sale of the product is because the law stipulates the beers need to be successfully submitted for formula approval first. Tests must be conducted because the terpenes derives from a controlled substance, and the product needs to be verified that it does not contain THC. 

Arrival of the letters had the breweries wrestling with solutions. Both locations had events planned for Friday, April 20 and announcements had gone out about the new-product roll-out celebrants could expect. Devour Brewing was contemplating a cancellation, but in the end, the show went on. Only, no beer with terpenes oil was tapped that night.

The head brewer for Invasive said he was instructed not to make any more of the beer (the letter stated they had to “stop production”). Both breweries have applied for formula approval.

One other area brewer, Lauder Ale, has a line of cannabis-infused labels but had escaped the eye of the feds. They had not received any of the letters demanding a halt to production by Friday. Those who attended the brewery's Friday celebration were offered four different beers crafted with the elemental oils. 

 

Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.

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