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Cannabis beverages have come a long way in a short time. When recreational sales started in 2014, the selection was mostly limited to unsavory sodas and fruit punches laden with heavy doses of both sugar and cannabinoids. In the past six years, brands have widened the playing field. Let’s take a look at the latest trends in cannabis drinks. 

The dawn of session drinking

Blue Moon Brewing founder Dr. Keith Villa joined the cannabis industry after retiring from Molson Coors. In 2018, he and his wife Jodi launched Ceria Brewing Company. Villa believes cannabis beverages will soon experience exponential sales growth and non-alcoholic cannabis beer will be one of the most popular options. The trick is to capitalize on the public’s familiarity with beer and the rituals built around its consumption.  As Villa says, “Beer has been a part of Western Civilization for 5,000 years and I don’t think it’s going away.”

Ceria brews a 12-ounce Belgian-style white ale containing 5 MG of THC and only 77 calories. Their IPA contains 10 MG of THC, 10 MG of CBD and just 99 calories. Ceria intentionally infused an elevated dosage of THC into an IPA-flavored beer to mimic the high alcohol content normally found in IPAs. Villa says, “We wanted to mirror that experience to make it easier for a consumer to transition from their alcohol behavior to their cannabis behavior.”  

Villa says the cannabis industry is still learning how to deliver sessionable dosages that allow consumers to have a drink or two during a get-together without inducing effects that might diminish their ability to be social. Although Ceria beers are packaged and sold individually, Villa believes they’ve developed sessionable beverages that will appeal to consumers with varying cannabinoid tolerances.

Microdosing and the cannabis seltzer

Seltzers are enjoying their time in the limelight, and Spherex created Phyx to meet consumer demand. The seltzer is sold in four-packs of elegant 8.5-ounce bottles that have 2.5 MG of THC, 2.5 MG of CBD and zero calories. Most users feel the effects of Phyx in ten minutes. Spherex CEO Dan Gardenswartz says that Phyx was developed for the “canna-curious” consumer who prefers a microdose of cannabinoids.

Unsurprisingly, Celebrities are getting on the cannabis seltzer bandwagon. In an on-brand move, Gwyneth Paltrow is endorsing a microdosed seltzer water called Cann, which contains 7.5 ounces of water, 2 mg of THC, 4 MG of CBD and 30-35 calories. Actress Rebel Wilson sums up the appeal: “Cann is perfect when you’re having a dinner party or a few friends over and you want to serve an adult drink that is also healthy and has natural ingredients.”

Giving consumers a choice of dosages

Stillwater Brands has manufactured cannabis beverages for years. Their Ripple powdered cannabinoids can be mixed into any food or beverage. Ripple also provides cannabinoids for Oh Hi seltzer water.

The stand-alone powder wasn’t Stillwater’s first beverage offering. Originally, Ripple powder was designed to be mixed with loose leaf tea and sold in teabags. Eventually Stillwater developers realized that the flavorless, zero-calorie, water-soluble powder could be effectively mixed into anything. They retired the tea and focused on perfecting Ripple. Nikki Kujawski, Senior Brand Manager at Ripple, says, “the tea was a little too early for its time.”

Ripple is now sold in three dosages: 10 MG of THC, 5 MG of THC and CBD and 20 MG of CBD/0.5 MG of THC. Kujawki says these offerings give consumers, “the flexibility to dose the way they want.” 

Looking to the future

Dr. Villa from Ceria believes the evolution of cannabis beverages is just beginning. “There are so many other cannabinoids that have not been studied thoroughly. We’re only scratching the surface of what cannabis [beverages] can be.” By introducing novel cannabinoids and terpenes into beverages, brands will begin to develop functional, flavorful products that promote specific effects. We’ll drink to that!